Tag Archives: Billy Bob Thornton

Fargo: Season 1 (2014)

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What is up with the people inhabiting “Fargo”‘s universe? Are they as obtuse as they seem? Why do they sporadically speak in riddles? And why is their police force utter bollocks? These questions, and more, befuddled me as I watched the terrific spin-off of the Coen Brothers’ also brilliant 1996 crime thriller.

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Psychotic hitman and sometimes-drifter Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton, who seems born for this role) is bad news- and as he enters the eponymous Midwestern town of “Fargo,” he invades the life of wimpy salesman Lester Nygaard (Martin Freeman, who’s never been better,) and disrupts the location’s quiet proceedings. Shortly after Lorne’s arrival, Lester commits a shocking crime but is initially let off by lax police work on the part of freshly appointed Sheriff Bill Oswalt (Bob Odenkirk.)

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Like the Marge Gunderson of her time, Molly Solverson (Allison Tolman) is on the case. Meanwhile, Malvo casts a sinister shadow over the lives of ‘Supermarket King’ Stavros Milos (Oliver Platt) and his slow-witted son Dmitri (Gordon S. Miller,) assassins Mr. Wrench and Mr. Numbers (Russell Harvard and Adam Goldberg) swoop in on Lester and Molly romances a widower (Colin Hanks) with a spirited adolescent daughter (Joey King.)

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Despite initial qualms about basing a TV series off the film, I soon found “Fargo” to be a captivating show with a terrific cast. Love him or hate him, Lester’s got to be one of the most interesting characters on TV. As for me, I felt bad for him, and even when I came to the realization what a sorry sack of shit he was, there was something fascinating about him- the depths of his cowardice and the refusal to own up to his actions was kind of hypnotic, I guess.

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Molly is a strong female character that shows that women don’t have to be a size zero or wear tight leather outfits to be modern-day television heroines. To my utter shock, I think I like this show a teeny bit better than it’s movie counterpart. There’s mordant humor (Thornton’s Godly alter ego, for one,) tragedy (the fate of Milos’ son comes to mind,) and downright weirdness and wordplay that seems faithful to the Coens.

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Also, Lorne Malvo seems to be a improvement upon the film’s villain Gear Grimsrud. Whereas Gear was loutish, coarse, and stupid, Malvo is smart, expertly cruel, and so fond of fucking with people that it’s a pleasure to see him work. Although I admit most killers are dim bulbs more often than not in real-life crime scenarios, Malvo was too great to pass up.

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The 1st Season of “Fargo” was a fantastic watch and I recommend it to just about anyone. I love the parallels between the film and the show (i.e. the money in the snow,) but you do not need to watch the movie to enjoy the TV series, and vice versa. I think between this, “The Bridge” and “American Horror Story,” FX is becoming my favorite TV channel.

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The Apostle (1997)

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There aren’t a lot of balanced portrayals of Christianity in popular culture. A few really hit you in the head with how wretched and faithless you are. Mostly, though, modern media concerning Christians are vicious and mean-spirited. The storylines in “Saved!” and “True Blood” come to mind. Mostly people try to make you feel bad for being Christian or bad for being an atheist, with very little middle ground. Here’s where “The Apostle” comes in to blow you away. “The Apostle,” Robert Duvall’s pet project about a Pentecostal preacher fleeing the law, played by Duvall himself, is nothing if not balanced.

Sonny (Duvall) is a man with a fire in his soul and a burning desire to spread the word of God. He truly wants to make the world a better place with his faith. He’s also a liar, a adulterer, and finally, maybe even a killer as he beats his wife’s lover into a coma and hits the road. He’s pushy, dominating, and hypocritical, but the thing is the film never stoops to demeaning or ridiculing this man or his passion for the gospel. He is who he is, and this movie is okay with that, without becoming jokey or judgmental.

“The Apostle” is, above all, a character study, as Sonny flees to a small Southern town and starts his own congregation. This is neither the story of how Sonny redeems himself and inspires many or the sad tale of how a backwards preacher-man hoodwinks the townspeople. It’s complicated and tricky, just like life. All the actors do a wonderful job here, and Duvall picks ordinary-looking people to play many of the roles. This is the South as it should be portrayed more often- not ass-backwards and evil, but not glossy and idyllic either. There is racism, there is poverty, but there is also a unity between the people.

Sonny starts romancing a lady named Toosie (Miranda RIchardson,) who doesn’t know quite what to make of the preacher. Although he never physically hurts to or forces her to do anything she doesn’t want to do, there’s a demanding vibe to the relationship, and we can’t help thinking she could do better. Sonny misses what he’s left behind (his kids, his mother,) but is excited for a brand-new future. Will Sonny find the solace he’s been looking for?

This is quite an extraordinary movie. It’s very thought provoking and is appropriate for teens to watch and discuss with their parents, although adolescents might have a short attention span for this kind of film. The scene at the beginning of the movie with the car crash is amazing and, in my opinion, the most powerful scene in the movie. The climax goes on a bit too long, but that is a minor quibble among the many positive attributes the film has. I consider this a Christian-friendly movie that primarily appeals to skeptics, but above all, it is fair-minded and intelligent. An overlooked gem!

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