20 September 2009

Number 8: "Ah hon, ya got Arby's all over me."

If you can't tell already, I am quoting the fantastic Marge Gunderson in the even more fantastic film, Fargo. I had never seen a single Coen brothers film before Fargo and did not discover it until it was released on DVD years later. The Coens brothers have made some great films such as Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski, and No Country For Old Men, but for me Fargo ranks far above all of their other efforts. Frances McDormand won a richly deserved Academy Award for Best Actress her performance. Even though I didn't see this film for about 7 years after it came out, I remember watching the Academy Awards the year it was nominated. This was the time in my young life when I was just becoming interested in films and I remember wanting Brenda Blethyn to win the Oscar for her performance in Secrets & Lies. Roger Deakins cinematography should have won the Oscar over The English Patient, as it is probably the best cinematography I have seen in recent films. The wintry landscapes of the film are certainly the images that stay with me long after the film ends.

Set in the late 1980s in Minnesota, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy), a financially strapped car salesman, who plans to have his wife kidnapped in order to extort money from his affluent father-in-law. The plan goes awry and a police officer is killed along a Minnesota state highway. Marge Gunderson, the local police chief in her seventh month of pregnancy, begins to investigate the crime on her own. It is too easy to give away critical details by discussing the plot, and by watching the film one wonders how so may things can go wrong. Marge Gunderson is either the smartest detective in film history, or is just lucky to be in the midst of a crime committed by some of the most absent-minded criminals.

Fargo is absolutely a black comedy, which is definitely a reason that I love this film. Dark comedies are definitely more apt to become cult favourites because it is harder for them to be embraced by the general public. Luckily, I am usually someone who loves a dark and odd film. The tone and pacing of the film are excellent. One of the most talked about elements of the film is the accents employed by the actors. Frances McDormand's stereotypical Minnesota accent definitely makes the viewer more empathetic to her quest for justice. Joel and Ethan Coens film Fargo is a perfect piece of filmmaking that should be required viewing for any cinephile.

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