Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lightning Across the Pond: FARGO

Here at Dick Lightning's Mixed Bag, we are dedicated to bringing you, the reader, a diverse and eclectic perspective on popular culture past and present. Today, we proudly present a new addition to the Dick Lightning Team, all the way from the United Kingdom, as Tom Jolliffe takes us back to 1996 for the first installment of his personal favorite twenty films. Let's get it started, with FARGO.

Tom writes:
As a movie lover I’ve often had long deliberation about my favorite movies, and also about what I consider the best movies. My enjoyment, for example, of Dolph Lundgren films is something I’ve grown up with, but I’ll readily admit, in the overall scope of cinema, they’re not what you’d consider important works. Masters Of The Universe one of my childhood favourites, is in the cold light of day; a bit crap. I still love it despite it’s craptitude, but it was a failure for a reason. Over the coming weeks I’ll be delivering a review for my top 20 films. This is my most current top 20, which no doubt will change by the time I’ve listed them out. So for your viewing pleasure we shall begin.

To start my top 20, I’ve got a bit of Coen brothers magic. It really was a difficult toss up between this and The Big Lebowski. Heck, Millers Crossing began poking it’s oar in the waters too. However Fargo ended up winning the day with a swift kick in the junk from Frances McDormand.

Fargo’s a great film. It’s dark, funny, intelligent and just downright brilliant. The Coen brothers have crafted a film that’s got both a brilliant script and brilliant directing. It’s got a bit of the caper about it and is helped along by unique and engaging characters.
The film is about Jerry Lundegaard, mild mannered, downtrodden family man who decides one day to have a go at scamming. Not a good move. Lundegaard arranges for his wife to be kidnapped so he can get some ransom money from his tight fisted father in law. Unfortunately Jerry has no aptitude for being a criminal and gets involved with the wrong people. Pretty soon things start going wrong and escalate. Adding to his problems is Marge Gunderson (Frances McDormand) a small town and heavily pregnant sherrif who’s persistent investigation might be Jerry’s undoing. The plot twists and turns nicely and just on the whole, it’s a brilliantly written piece of work.

The cast is superb. It’s always been a Coen’s trademark to pull together excellent casts, and not always necessarily the star names of the time. Fargo is a great collection of characters actors, pulled together and given parts fitting their strengths perfectly. As Jerry, William H Macy is superb. A great delivery of a great character. Despite having his own wife kidnapped we feel Jerry is a character of immense desperation and naivety. Because of the writing and Macy’s own nuances, Jerry remains a sympathetic character right to the end. You just get the feeling he didn’t think things through enough. Then we have Frances McDormand, a fantastic actress, and dang if she isn’t just strangely hot, in that unconventionally hot kind of way. Deservedly she won the Oscar for her portrayal as Marge. Again it’s a character which has been written with such depth and consideration that is brought to life by one of the most interesting actresses working today. It of course really helps to have a character actress playing such a role. In support we have a couple of legendary Coen secondary characters, Carl and Gaear, played by Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare.

As per usual The Coen’s have crafted a visual delight. The film looks great, from the perfect settings to of course the stylish direction. Aided by a superb DP (Roger Deakins) the bro’s manage to really catch the eye here. The cohesion between the material and it’s delivery is note perfect. It’s just magnificent stuff. You always get the feeling that in a Coen film they have the whole movie laid out in their heads by the time the script is finished, and it’s shot to an almost perfect match. These boys know what they’re doing and have an immense attention to detail that guys like Ridley Scott, Kubrick, Cameron have always had. Elsewhere the film is superbly edited, and the score from Carter Burwell is simple and effective.

Overall it must be said, that Fargo is a unique crime thriller, with it’s very own inimitable Coen style. I’m looking forward very much to seeing No Country For Old Men which promises to be one of the brothers finest, and a return to form following a couple of restrained “Hollywood” efforts before it.

Join me for number 19 in my top 20, pretty soon. Later peeps.

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