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The Coen-heads at Home - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
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The Coen-heads at Home
Fargo is on its fourth incarnation.  First was the film- perhaps not as culty-trendy as Lebowski, but certainly well known in the lexicon, particularly among those of us who feel sorry for Steve Buscemi always seeming to acquire roles ending in gruesome death.  Not long after the film, a TV pilot was attempted, with Edie Falco reprising the Marge Gunderson role from the film. The Coen brothers had no involvement in this one (Gwyneth Paltrow's tv-writer dad Bruce was one of the writers), and it never got picked up; not even the pilot ever aired.

Last year, with the Coens' blessing and executive-producing, the third version of the franchise- a later-day-set cable season of the story- aired on FX. None of the original film characters were reprised, although there were homages to characters (Martin Freeman /Alison Tolman's characters sharing similar traits with William H. Macy /Frances McDormand's roles from the original) and at least one largely unresolved plotline going back to the buried treasure from the original. But I found the series a bit one-dimensional: Freeman and Tolman's characters, along with the Devil Himself played by Billy Bob Thornton, wound up dominating the arcs and the screentime, leaving few other characters or stories developed.  This, despite having plenty of other talent in the cast, including a recurring cameo by Key and Peele, whose comedy was largely lost in the crossfire of violence.  That violence wound up taking the lives of Malvo and Lester, and essentially PTSDing Molly out of future crime stories, as well.

So the fourth incarnation, the one airing now, really had nowhere to go in forward gear, so instead it's gone back- and brilliantly.  Once again, there's little character continuity: Molly is now (or rather was then) a precocious seven-year-old, and her dad, retired from the force and pretty PTSD'd himself all along, is in the prime of his police career.  Other than the top-billed Kirsten Dunst and a well-concealed Ted Danson, there aren't many universally known actors in this cast, but it makes for a much better-oiled ensemble overall.

Two main arcs have carried the tale through last night's seventh episode: Dunst's character and her husband having done dirty deeds to, and eventually with, a member of a third-generation-German crime family in the titular Fargo; and the war between that mob and the bigger fish from Kansas City trying to muscle in.  As with last season and the film, the violence is at times over-the-top, but it's usually so overdone as to be cartoonish; there's always a patented Coen twist to make the death go either incredibly quickly or with some gruesomely funny twist to it.

After catching up through the series before last night's airing, I found myself in Wegmans, and did a little decorating in honor of the one deceased character whose demise is at the heart of both storylines:



Among the other actors in supporting roles we've recognised: Jean Smart of Designing Women as the matriarch of the Gerhardt syndicate; Bruce Campbell as Ronald Reagan on the pre-1980 campaign trail; and Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman as the town lawyer/drunk, full of conspiracy theories and the King of Breakfast.

The episodes are also full of references, in plot and soundtrack, to prior Coen works.  This week's alone brought two different renditions of Kenny Rogers's "Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)," and a reference to a weird Minnesota girl named K-nudsen; both of those are Lebowski homages.  No Country, Miller's Crossing and The Man Who Wasn't There have also gotten their moments if you know to look for them.

I'd finished off last season, and the start of this one, on my own, but as I watched one a few weeks ago, Eleanor got drawn back in by the writing, the performances and the sick irony of the Minnesota Nice accent. We go walkin' around for hours after each episode in that singsong, ya know?

The only complaint I've got is that FX has been milking the commercials something fierce.  Early ones required only 90 seconds of commercial-skip on the remote, but these last few have extended to more than twice that at times, with a few wildly inappropriate ones inserted.  Tonight's included, in the same commercial break, a movie promo for the Boston Archdiocese priest scandal expose Spotlight barely a minute before this ha-ha Twitter commercial about the Pope's US visit.

Mea culpa, u betcha!
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bill_sheehan From: bill_sheehan Date: November 25th, 2015 03:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I skipped most of your essay for fear of spoilers, but did want to recommend two beat Buscemi films. The first is one of my all time favorite films, Parting Glances. Buscemi plays a rock musician with AIDS. The bit where the Commendatore tells him to repent is classic.

The second was written by the man himself. Trees Lounge. You'll never forget the last scene.

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