Tuesday, September 29, 2009

FARGO is a Coen Brothers Movie

What makes these Minnesota natives so good at making movies? Is it the Minnesota in them? (Burn After Reading)
by Charlie Leck

Sunday’s local newspaper carried a long story about the Coen Brothers and their Minnesota roots that is well worth reading – especially if you like the movies that the Coen Brothers make. The story is by Colin Covert

I like the quote with which the StarTribune story opens. It explains a lot about what has been happening on my blog lately.
" 'Everybody's interested in where they grew up,' said Ethan, 52, the filmmaking team's co-writer and producer. 'As you get older, you get more interested in it as opposed to fading away.'

" 'It's hard for us to imagine a story unless we have a real specific sense of where it's taking place,' said Joel, 54, the writer/director. And there's no place they know better. Minnesota is 'totally part of our identity,' Ethan said. 'The combination of being Jewish -- specifically Minnesotan -- is big and important.'

" 'An actor's body and voice are what they have to work with,' Joel added. 'Being from Minnesota is what we have to work with.' "
I remember the earliest movie by the brothers (Blood Simple). It was called strictly B grade and it appeared that future Coen Brothers’ movies would be the same. I didn’t look forward to anything outstanding out of them.

Then they came with Raising Arizona and, well, they certainly fooled me, which isn’t really very difficult, and they fooled the entire film industry by becoming one of the most popular cinema producing teams in America and, perhaps, in the world. After doing a few – Millers’s Crossing, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy (none of which can I remember), they’ve given us a steady list of really popular and, if I may say it proudly, really wonderful flicks.


The Big Lebowski

O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?

No Country for Older Men

Burn After Reading

I left out The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty, and the Lady Killers, just because I didn’t see them.

Their most recent film is A Serious Man. I’m not going to deal with the movie here because I haven’t seen it yet and you can get a good report on it in the StarTribune story cited above. And, if you want to read some of the reviews of the movie, try any of these:

The Chicago Reader

Hollywood Reporter

A Slide Show from the New York Times

I’ll tell you this: I can’t wait to see it.

Let’s build this as our case: Anyone who can make movies like the list of hits I mentioned above must be a damned good film maker. The Coen Brothers are damned good and I can wait to see how they treat Minnesota in A Serious Man.

Last week they appeared here, at the Walker Art Center, in a reception to honor them and their careers. 600 locals were on-hand there for a preview screening of their new film. Covert gives us a little tease about the movie in his article.

"A Serious Man follows hapless Jewish physics professor Larry Gopnik through his comedically dreadful midlife crisis. Both the Coens' parents were academics, but their longtime producer, Minneapolis native Bob Graf, cautions against mistaking the film for autobiography. Still, said Graf, who joined them on Fargo, ‘It certainly is inspired by the place and time in which they grew up.’ ”

The film had a small budget (15 million), but that never stops the Coens from making a great flick. They don’t go out to create Star Wars type movies. They look for something else and it usually has something to do with the absurd. The brothers have a large cult following now and these movie-goers expect something creative and even strained from the Coen brothers. They’ve certainly gotten their share of Oscar nominations and winners. Film professionals are willing to work for the Coen brothers because they know they’ll have fun and they’ll be allowed to exercise their creative sides.

The brothers also use plenty of local talent and even common, off the street, kind of people. In their newest film they used local teenagers and a local rabbi and a cantor.

I’m anxious for the opening of A Serious Man. I’ll wait a week or so and then go to a senior discount matinee as I almost always do.

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