Matthew’s Monday Movie: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

O Brother, Where Art Thou? was released in the year 2000 by the Coen brothers.  It is a comedy/satire based on Homer’s epic poem The Odyssey.  It depicts aspects of magical realism during the depression in Southern Mississippi. The musical score is a driving force that is characterized as “ole timey” Southern Folk music that sets the tone of the film.

O Brother, Where Art Thou tells of adventure, temptation, and redemption. The movie stars George Clooney as Ulysses Everett McGill: a fast-talking, wise-cracking everyman who is always the smartest man in the room and on a mission to be reunited with his wife and children. His two bumbling sidekicks are Pete (John Turturro) and Delmar O’Donnell (Tim Blake Nelson); both are small time crooks who are manipulated by Everett for the promises of fortune. Through their haphazard adventures, they find themselves challenged by roadblocks. The trio encounter characters that are archetypes  straight out of Homer’s Odyssey.  These include: a cyclops, sirens, and a character akin to Poseidon or Satan. Throughout these misadventures, the trio experiences both highs and lows as divine providence (or luck) brings them to redemption.

This film earned 72 million dollars with only a 26 million dollar budget. The soundtrack won a Grammy for album of the year; it borrows heavily from both Primitive Baptist, African-American, Bluegrass, and Delta Blues.  The hit song, “Man of Constant Sorrow” was widely acclaimed by music critics and crossed over into multiple public venues.  It reached number 35 on U.S. County Music Billboard. O Brother, Where Art Thou? is a truly timeless period piece that the entire family can enjoy, and a personal favorite of mine!

*It is rated PG 13 due to some mild language and suggestive scenes.  It is available at the Union University Library.

 

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Fargo”

The Coen brothers have consistently produced groundbreaking and hallmark films, and their 1996 motion picture Fargo stands the test of time.  This film features a dark comedic take on a criminal plot that spirals out of control leading from one disaster to another.  This film stars Francis McDormand, William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare, Harve Presnell and Kristin Rudrud.

The film’s plot revolves around Jerry Lundegaard (Macey), who is a sleazy car salesmen that has fallen into debt due to fraud and money laundering and orchestrated a plot to have his own wife Jean Lundegaard (Kristin Rudrud) kidnapped and ransomed to her wealthy father Wade Gustafson (Harve Presnell). The two small-time bumbling criminals Mr. Lundergarrd entrusts with this scandalous endeavor are Carl Showalter (Steve Buscemi), who plays a tough talking albeit inept wannabe gangster, and his partner Gaear Grimsrud, played by the fantastic character actor Peter Stormare as a soft-spoken sociopath with a thousand yard stare.

The protagonist at the heart of this story is Chief of Police Marge Gunderson played by Francis McDormand. This role would go on to net McDormand an Academy Award for Best Actress. Marge Gunderson is a pregnant police chief struggling to piece together the trail of murder and mayhem left in the wake of the incompetent henchmen that Jerry Lundegaard hired.

What makes this film so memorable is the setting in which it takes place:  the backcountry of Minnesota and the snowy and glamorous metropolitan expanse of Fargo, North Dakota. The geographic location was a key choice for the Coen brothers due to the particular accent that is spoken there.  The dialect featured so heavily in the film is that of “Minnesota nice.” As part of its Wikipedia entry states:

The cultural characteristics of “Minnesota nice” include polite friendliness, an aversion to confrontation, a tendency toward understatement, a disinclination to make a fuss or stand out, emotional restraint, and self-deprecation.

With this in mind, you’ll find yourself incapable of keeping yourself from quoting this film’s unique dialogue.

Finally, I feel that William H. Macey’s portrayal of Jerry Lundegaard is superb. Jerry Lundegaard is a hopeless loser and a sorry excuse for a criminal. He time and again fails to cover his tracks and his pathetic downfall is a great example of why crime doesn’t pay. Marge Gunderson sums it up perfectly in one of her last lines at the end as she laments the calamity of the whole situation. “And for what? For a little bit of money? There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that?”

Fargo is a great dark comedy drama, but it’s not suitable for the whole family as it is rated R for violence and language. Whether you are watching it for its memorable quirky dialogue or its star-studded performances, Fargo is a great film don’tcha know.

****And it’s available for check out at Union’s Library***

*written by Matthew Beyer