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Fargo (October 23, 2014)

Fargo is in many ways the picture in which Hollywood finally recognized the achievement of the Coen brothers. Up till 2014 they have been nominated five times for writing Oscars. Fargo was the first writing Oscar that they were nominated for, and the first of two that they have won – the other was for No Country for Old Men in 2007. They have been nominated for directing Oscars three times, Fargo again being the first, though the only one they’ve won was for No Country for Old Men. They’ve been nominated twice for editing Oscars. Fargo was, again, the first. It was the first of the four movies they’ve made that were nominated for best picture. Again No Country for Old Men was the only one to win. But Frances McDormand, the lead actress in Fargo, who is married to Joel Coen, won the best actress Oscar for her performance here. And the picture burned itself into the American consciousness, so much so that the title, if not the actual storyline, was given to a cable television series running today.

The film itself features images of violence made disturbing because they happen, sometimes in a comic way, to characters we meet, and in that it follows the lead of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, made two years earlier. Aside from McDormand, actors also featured include William H. Macy, Coen brothers’ film regular Steve Buscemi, and Harve Presnell. Music was again by Carter Burwell, and Roger Deakins again did the photography. Production/art/set/costume design were by Rick Heinrichs, Thomas P. Wilkens, Lauri Gaffin, and Mary Zophres. It was released in March, 1996. It cost $7 million to make and is estimated to have made $60 million in worldwide initial release. The Coens, Minnesotans themselves, seemed to delight in the wintry settings and the regional accents so familiar to them.

Gary Thompson in the Philadelphia Daily News wrote, “You have to grant the Coens their due as creators of suspense, mood and plotting, and for their ability to color the most monstrous crimes with an undeniably funny sense of the absurd.” Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune wrote, “In a way, Fargo is sort of a '90s riff on Bonnie and Clyde. The romance of crime has faded, the killers are anything but stylish, the leading lady is pregnant, and the failed finances of a car salesman -- rather than a merciless banking system -- trigger the story.” I hope you enjoy watching Fargo with me tonight.