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

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “The Dark Knight”

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster film The Dark Knight. As far as films featuring Batman go, this is by far the most dramatic, thought-provoking, and epic in scale. The film boasts an all-star cast of Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman, sparring off against his greatest nemesis, The Joker, played by the late Heath Ledger. Ledger’s performance in this role would earn him a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor.

The film’s supporting cast contribute in no small part to the memorable depths of this film. Gary Oldman portrays Jim Gordon, one of the few remaining honest and incorruptible cops left in Gotham. Gordon is followed by newly elected District Attorney Harvey Dent played by Aaron Eckhart. The two seek to battle crime legally and prove the system can work to defeat the criminals of Gotham. The cast continues with Michael Caine reprising his role as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s stoic butler and father figure. The film’s lead actress is that of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays Rachel Dawes, Bruce’s childhood friend and romantic interest of both Wayne and Dent.

The film is filled with such familiar and iconic themes that make it so memorable to audiences that it will inevitably transcend time and culture. Aside from the classic good vs. evil encounter, the film’s themes run much deeper embodied by our lead characters. We see a tragic hero in that of Bruce Wayne as he forgoes his own happiness and dreams in order to become a symbol of hope and justice for the citizens of Gotham. Contrast that with one of the most iconic villains to ever appear on film: The Joker. This character is deeply frightening as his motivation is so devilishly simple in that his only desire is to unleash chaos on the people of Gotham. The Joker is disgusted by the world with its rules, laws, and order. He sees the world and the people in it as a bad joke. Due to this mentality he has sensed morphed himself into a twisted and disturbing parody of how he views humanity. His aim is to terrify and corrupt the people of Gotham. What makes his motives even more insidious is the fact that he isn’t interested in coming out on top or winning; his only goal is to ensure that everyone loses. As Alfred puts it in his grim take on the Joker: “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

This film features a dynamic clash between Order & Chaos, and how far good people will compromise their morals and ethics before they become the very thing they sought to overcome. The Dark Knight is simply a masterpiece- not only as an action-packed thrill ride, but the themes it expresses through its characters and setting will no doubt be studied and praised for years to come. If you’re watching this film for the first time I’d advise you to hold on tight because it is going be a bumpy ride. If you are giving this a second go, try and appreciate the film’s subtleties.

 

*Note: this film is Rated PG-13 and features some language, intense action, and some frightening scenes. *

**You can check out The Dark Knight trilogy from the library.**