Was Fargo based on a true story

Lord of War

Year: 2005
Directed By: Andrew Niccol
Written By: Andrew Niccol

RYAN’S REVIEW

I initially bought this movie for a project I was doing in college.  I had seen it before and had a specific scene in mind that I wanted to use for the project.  While I bought it for the project, I really just used that as an excuse for the purchase.  I liked this movie and really only needed a half assed excuse in order to add it into our collection which was much smaller at the time.  It’s a movie that tells a really interesting story and it gets you more invested on the pretext of being based on a true story.  This is a fictional film “inspired” by true events and that makes all the difference.  There never was any real Yuri Orlov or an overzealous Interpol agent determined to catch him.  It makes for a great story of cat and mouse but it isn’t based in any factual truth.  The character Nicolas Cage portrays is a combination of many different arms dealers and organized criminals throughout the time the film takes place.  The conflicts seen in the film are ones that actually took place but all characters and events we see are fictional.  Nevertheless there is enough of a base truth in this film to give us an idea of reality, or at least something we can learn from.

Whether the movie is actually based in fact or not it still brings awareness to a truth that plenty of people know little about. Everyday there are stories about atrocities that take place in rural parts of the world but we never consider the upper level dealings that lead to these horrible acts.  This movie makes somewhat of a protagonist with the character of Yuri Orlov but in truth the men that he represents are evil men who profit from cruelty and death.  It’s easy for some of us to forget about how fortunate we are when we see a film like this and get a glimpse of what it looks like in some other places around the world. In this film we see conditions in places like Liberia and Sierra Leone where children carry weapons and people fear for their lives at all times.  The President of Liberia and his son are fictionalized for this film but they are based on Charles Taylor and his son who were very real.  These men are intimidating in this film because they are capable of anything and there is nobody to stand up to their own style of authority and justice.  If only half of their portrayal in this film is accurate it is still a scary reality that took place years ago.  Currently Charles Taylor is spending the rest of his life in jail and that is where he belongs.  However, in this film I specifically like that he and his son ride around with women dressed as Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders. It can be hard to grasp the idea that while we are going about our own lives there are evil men out there living like kings and doing whatever they please despite the havoc it creates for others.

This movie touches on several historical and political issues yet ironically I used the film in a college project for neither reason.  At one point in college I took a summer class on History of Pirates in the Caribbean. Let me repeat and clarify.  I literally took a college credited class at a popular North Carolina university on the history of pirates.  A complete BS class but it came with a writing credit and was great because I could apply it to required hours for any of the three required regions of study in a history major which were US, European, and Third World.  It was a vaguely interesting class but I can’t be honest enough in the fact that this class only existed because of how popular that ridiculous Disney film starring Johnny Depp was.  If I’m being honest then I also must add that I only took the class because I was being exceptionally lazy at that point in my college career. This class seemed like an interesting idea but offered very little in real education. The project I used this film for was on a presentation about modern day pirates.  I showed the scene in which Yuri quickly changes the name of the ship he is on as Interpol approaches to demonstrate how illegal activity at sea can take place or something like that. College seems like 100 years ago now.

Since I was a kid in love with action movies I have been a fan of Nicolas Cage.  I have to say that as a 13 year old boy Con Air seemed like one of the coolest movies ever made.  Today I can recognize that one for what it is but I still like Cage because he is capable of so much.  I have never understood his decision making when it comes to choosing roles, which these days seems something like “take every single thing that is offered.” Cage will literally make the most ridiculous movie in the world then turn around and deliver an Academy Award worthy performance.  I don’t think this was his greatest role but he is a great actor that brings something to the table no matter what’s on the menu. Throughout the rest of the movie collection we will have plenty of opportunities to discuss how great Nicolas Cage can be (also see Adaptation) but at the end of the day you just never know when he is going to do this:

When I think of Ethan Hawke I always think of that second string veteran wide receiver in the NFL.  If that guy is in the game you know he is going to do his job and do it right, but you won’t expect anything spectacular from him.  If he was spectacular he would be starting.  I see Hawke as an actor who can act but I don’t think he really has the talent to do anything exceptional. He is a serviceable actor though and he does well enough in this movie. I think Jared Leto generally only gets called when Jake Gyllenhaal has a scheduling conflict.  I have never really been much of a fan but like Hawke, he does well enough in this movie.  I think the best performances came from the men portraying the President of Liberia and his son, Eamonn Walker and Sammi Rotibi.  I don’t know that it was their performance as actors or if they just had the best parts to play but they did a great job in this film.  Iam Holm was exceptional in his role as Nicolas Cage’s rival and competitor. Holm is a good actor but he is slowing down as age catches up with him.  Once his role of Bilbo Baggins is over in a couple of years we probably won’t see much more of him.

This movie couldn’t have come at a better time in the collection because it had been a long time since I’d seen it.  I like this movie and enjoyed watching it again but I don’t think it’s good enough to warrant multiple views.  I like the narration over the film and how that enhances the idea that it actually happened.  While the story is fictional there are probably many things from the film that actually happened to various people, albeit exaggerated as all things in film are.  I have a pet peeve when it comes to films “based on a true story” because there is really no such thing.  I once had to watch Hotel Rwanda in college for a class project and was shocked to find out how much history was distorted in that film.  The way I see it, if you can’t trust a film like Hotel Rwanda to be accurate then there is little room to trust any film claiming to be based on real events.  The key word is “based” because it implies that what goes on in the film actually happened but doesn’t necessarily mean it actually happened that way.  You specifically can’t trust that phrase because sometimes a movie is tagged that way just for effect.  Good examples of this are Fargo and The Strangers.  Both of those films are listed as being based on real events but never happened at all.  The Strangers specifically seems scarier when the idea that it really happened is introduced but it never did.  The writer simply created the stories based off his own ideas about the Manson Family murders of Sharon Tate and her friends.  It didn’t happen anything like what we saw in the movie but the movie wasn’t even based on those murders so it doesn’t matter.  My whole point here is that as a viewer you should never trust that what you are seeing is something that actually happened.  They are movies and movies are about telling a story that will make the studio money. They will tell which ever story is more likely to bring people into the movie theater and pay to see the film.  Despite all this I think this was a good movie and would recommend it if it came up in a conversation. I think it’s worth your time, just take it with a grain of salt and don’t believe it to be something that actually happened.  It should be noted that none of the men Cage’s character represents got arrested and received a get out of jail free card because they had done dirty work for the president.

AMBER’S REVIEW

lord_of_war_ver2I don’t know why I didn’t really like this film. I usually love Nicholas Cage. I think he is a very talented actor. For some reason this movie just didn’t resonate with me. I found it hard to get into and even more holding my attention. Ryan seemed to really like it, and maybe I should give this one another shot sometime, but for now I am standing on the fact that it’s just not my favorite.

This could be my favorite poster to date. I love everything about it. If you didn’t already know, you now know that this movie is about weapons and the trading and selling of them. The designer of this poster decided to build Nicholas Cage in bullets. ALL bullets.

The time and effort that went into this is amazing. I can’t even imagine having the patience to place and color all of them. Even better is the way they take the essential (required text) information and put it around the poster as a border in a very light gray. I wouldn’t dare cover up the bottom of this either, it took too much time! I think that’s a great resolve. My only complaint here is the Lord of War typography, and that may not have even been done by this designer. I feel like Trajan is way over done for movie titles and the little “of” in the middle is way overdone.

Lord-Of-War_2299_4ea5ddbd34f8633bdc0016b5_1320301540

Here is a closeup of the face, Just in case you don’t believe me. 😉

This poster is going into my favorites. I just love the artistry and design behind. The concept and use of design rule-breaking. Kudos designer!

NEXT MOVIE: The Lost Boys (1987)

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Fargo

Year: 1996
Directed By: Joel and Ethan Coen
Written By: Joel and Ethan Coen

RYAN’S REVIEW

I want to start off by letting you know this, Fargo is not based on a true story. I have to say so because for almost 20 years now my dad and I have argued over it relentlessly.  There have been stories in Fargo, North Dakota that parallel the events in this movie but that does not mean the film was based on them.  You can find stories that parallel the story in this film in nearly every city in the US. There are always men trying to kill their wives and coming up with wild scenarios in order to avoid the blame. The Coen brothers labeled this a true story in an effort to get the viewer more emotionally invested in the story.  It worked too because plenty of people believed it to be a true story. For years there were idiot people searching the back roads of the region in an effort to find the money buried by Steve Buscemi‘s character. Of course it hardly matters whether the events in this film ever happened or not, it takes nothing away from the film that it is fictional.  There are many films that claim to be based off a true story though in an effort to get people more interested in it.  The most immediate example that comes to mind is 2008’s The Strangers which claims to be based on a true story.  It most definitely is not to the relief of us all and was actually loosely based off the Manson Family killings of the 60s, which of course happened very differently.  There are several films that use this technique to sucker viewers though, and I urge all of you to know that going into any film.

The thing about that disclaimer at the beginning is that it does set the tone for the film. It tells you that the film portrays events exactly as they happened and everything feels so real after that.  It’s part of the genius of the Coen brothers, they are such good filmmakers. Their use of accents and locations is specifically interesting and part of what makes them so great.  They are also great when it comes to casting. I have always been a big fan of Steve Buscemi and think that he was great as “the funny lookin guy.”  He is a regular in Coen brother movies but this was his biggest and best role of all their movies he has been in. Peter Stormare, as Buscemi’s partner in crime, is specifically good as well in this film.  He is so stone cold and suddenly violent that he really catches you off guard.  He is a bad guy that might do anything at any moment. I have never been a big fan of Willaim H Macy, it’s something about the way he looks. He is great in this movie though and gives one of his best performances. He may get on my nerves but he is a good actor that has played a key role in many good movies.  Frances McDormand won the Academy Award for best actress for her role in this film and it was well deserved.  She plays such a down to Earth and honest character that nearly everyone fell in love with her.  Her accent is so good too. She is the wife of Joel Coen and can be seen in many of his films.

This film is so intense and dramatic.  You can feel the pressure that these characters are under and that is another part of what makes it feel so real. There are so many layers to the story that give it that feeling too.  Such as the vagueness in which Macy’s character is in such dire need of money.  It appears to be him just needing money desperately for the investment he wants to make but at times it is obvious there is much more to it than that.  McDormand’s Marge and her awesome personality. She has a very interesting relationship with her husband and you can see there is more to the story there too. Who is Steve Buscemi’s character and why is he involved? Shep Proudfoot recommended Peter Stomare’s Grimsrud character to Macy, yet is was Buscemi who does all the talking and work. We never learn anything about the true relationship between those two.

This movie in many ways is the Coen brother’s big serious movie of the decade, as much as No Country For Old Men was their big serious movie of the 2000s.  It was a great movie made by great filmmakers as so many of their films are.  We will discuss the Coen brothers quite a bit during this journey through the DVD collection because we own many of their films.  This is one that I always enjoy, it is a great movie. If you haven’t seen it I would strongly recommend it to anyone, it is worth your time.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I can still remember the first time I ever watched this movie. We were in college and Ryan had just introduced me to the Coen Brothers. I was completely blown away by this movie. In true Coen Brothers fashion the movie was extremely slow but captivating. The scenery is dead on, the accents are dead on, and the clothes and hair are immaculate. It is in these small details that really make the Brothers what they are.

My favorite part of this movie is when the cop goes to question the two girls that slept with the bad guys earlier in the film. I just completely love the dialogue that goes on during the whole exchange.

If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s a damn shame. You should definitely make this one a priority.

NEXT MOVIE: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)