My Favorite Movies – Fargo

How we think of movies depends on the atmosphere in which we first see them.

My Favorite Movies:

Fargo (1996)

I first noticed this with books. And I believe it holds up well with movies. Like books, your surroundings and your place in life weigh heavily into your enjoyment. A comfortable couch vs. a slimy movie chair; a freewheeling summer during college vs. a period marred by a difficult breakup; an emotional harmony with the main character vs. a complete dissonance.

FargoMovies are driven by our feelings, and because we’re directly connected to those feelings, movies become real and likable. What seems like a simply visual medium is actually tempered with emotion – an emotion that brings us to tears or sends us into fits of laughter.

For this reason, I never flinch when someone tells me their favorite movie. It could be something I find too traditional or too easy. It could be a movie I saw and hated. Those are my emotions. Not theirs. So what if someone’s favorite movie is Titanic, or Batman & Robin. They have their reasons.

And with Fargo, I have mine.

Fargo is a movie about a blustery cold winter in Minnesota. And a bunch of murders. And a pregnant police woman. And an over-exaggerated accent. It’s a quirky movie about double crossing and crime and trust, and it’s all set on the frozen plains of Minneapolis and Brainerd – an unlikely setting for a classic film, no doubt.

To this day, I still don’t know what stuck so solidly in my mind about the movie. I was blown away the first time I saw it, at a theater in Sioux Falls with a group of close high school friends. I didn’t think movies like Fargo were made, sarcastic and funny and at the same time symbolic and serious.

It was the first time I had ever heard the term “dry humor.” I loved it, and still do. I love the bleak, cold, empty scenes along the Minnesota highways. I love the struggle between Gaear Grimsrud and Carl Showalter, the harebrained schemes, the unraveling of reality and the shocking, yet incredibly funny final scenes.

Ultimately, Fargo is an insanely original film. There’s nothing like it. It brought the mystery back into neo noir and made dry humor popular again. It helped bridge that weird area between late 80s-mid 90s mass produced comedy and today’s embrace of dramedies with indie sensibilities. Fargo was one of a kind, and I rooted for it. I got behind it, like a candidate that had no chance of winning and – surprise! – made a solid showing at the polls.

Maybe that’s the connection. Fargo is wonderful, a movie for the ages, justifiably selected for AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Movies and wrongfully left off of the updated list. It’s a who’s who of character actors and an award winning script. It was an odd choice for classic status, but it forged ahead and made its mark on the landscape, both reintroducing the world to Francis McDormand and saving the careers of the Coen brothers.

And all I could do was root for it, cheer it on as it went on an improbable run through the Oscars and onto the shelves, packaged in a special edition complete with a bloody wood chipper snow globe.

Fargo is everything I like about movies. There isn’t an aspect of the movie that’s out of place. Every item on my wish list is covered. It was the right time. It was with the right people. And it has held up against time itself.

Don’t ‘cha know?

Top Five Coen Brothers Movies that Aren’t Miller’s Crossing or No Country for Old Men

1. Fargo (1996) – See above.

2. The Big Lebowski (1998) – I see how many lists this has made over the past week and wonder why it didn’t make the cut. If I did my eleven favorites instead of ten, it would be on the list.

3. Raising Arizona (1987) – If Adaptation is one of two Cage movies I can stand, this is the other.

4. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) – A great soundtrack mixed with a clever adaptation. This was the beginning of my George Clooney mancrush. Dapper Dan!

5. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994) – It was a big budget failure, but I still kind of like it. It has much lower expectations when first watched on HBO.

This was lovingly handwritten on February 23rd, 2008