Tuesday, February 9, 2016

and here ya are, and it's a beautiful day.

Fargo playing but I just finished live tweeting Terminator Genisys, over a hundred tweets, and looking forward to this, a much better film.

On the Oscars front, Fargo was nominated for seven awards (Best Picture, Supporting Actor (William H. Macy), Director (Joel Cohen), Cinematography (Roger Deakins), Editing (Ethan and Joel Cohen)) and won two (Actress (Frances McDormand) and Original Screenplay (Ethan and Joel Cohen)). Notably, McDormand won as Lead when she's got less screentime than Supporting nominee Macy.

I was thinking about this film just yesterday, about cinematography specifically. Deakins here makes a good show of framing the wide open spaces of North Dakota. Deakins is up for Cinematography again this year--for Sicario. I saw Sicario opening day, four months ago and I'm forgetting how many wide open shots that film--a couple good ones, I suppose. The opening shot, for example, a tract home neighborhood, not the most beautiful of visuals, but the wide shot frames it so we don't know what house matters at first, then armed men come into view and things get interesting. There are some nice shots of a Mexican border town later as well, but it's easier to recall the wide shots of The Revenant (Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezski) or The Hateful Eight (Cinematographer Robert Richardson, taking advantage of the 70mm most in the first act, i.e. when they're still out on the road). And, they're nice but they're almost too obvious. Like, you're out in the mountains, out in the snow, you just do some wide shots. It's a given. Something like Son of Saul, on the other hand, offered something that really stands for me, visually. I mean, still. Saw it a few weeks ago now and the visual style of it has stuck with me. The incessant-bordering-on-urgent use of closeups and POV shots forces the viewer into a corner. It's almost the exact opposite of the wide shots out in nature.

Now, Deakins doesn't just use wide shots. Right now, he's got some good closeups going as Gaear (Peter Stormare) goes after the witnesses that just drove by. It puts us there in the moment, gives us some of that urgency.

(The other two nominees this year, by the way, are John Seale for Mad Max Fury Road and Edward Lachman for Carol.)






And then we come to slow burn introduction of Marge Gunderson (McDormand). Ebert calls her introduction, "the scene where 'Fargo' shows how it is going to take a story about pathetic criminals and make it into a great movie." We're a half hour into the movie--Marge is absent from the first act entirely. And, now we meet our pregnant protagonist...

And I love the slow pace of this thing. It a crime story with only a few fleeting moments of urgency. It's a beautiful thing. Plus, without really explaining why, it gives us a very human story at its center--a desperate man taking desperate action, a comfortable woman just doing her job.

 

 

 

 

 

And then there are scenes like Carl (Steve Buscemi) parking the car, longer than it needs to be but perfect because it lingers.

Or Marge's lunch with Mike Yanagita (Steve Park) from high school. The scene seems like it doesn't belong. As Ebert said on At the Movies, the audience is brainwashed by the assembly line of other movies to want every little thing to tie right into the main plot. On the one hand, the scene does connect tangentially because Mike's lies link right into Marge going to talk to Jerry (Macy) a second time. On the other hand, a scene like this one works because it shows us more of the humanity in the story, especially in Marge Gunderson. That she can so politely interact with this guy who is both emotionally troubled and clearly looking to come on to her is an amazing piece of characterization. For me, it doesn't distract from the film, rather it enhances the character at its heart. And, it supports the fictional notion at the start of the film that this is a "true story."

The local colour dialogue does the same. It grounds the film in something real.

That Fargo lost Best Picture to The English Patient is one of those instances folks might call an upset. And, for good reason.

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