Minnesota's best, and most honored, movie is turning 25. Shot in the winter of 1995 but released on March 8, 1996, Joel and Ethan Coen's "Fargo" earned a pair of Oscars (for best actress Frances McDormand and the Coens' screenplay), spawned two TV series (a brief one starring Edie Falco preceded the FX effort that recently concluded its fourth season) and made the whole country think Minnesotans really talk like that.
The occasion is being marked with a limited-capacity screening at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday at Trylon Cinema, and the publication of Todd Melby's "A Lot Can Happen in the Middle of Nowhere," which is about the comedic crime thriller's shoot in Minnesota. The book has a virtual launch party at 7 p.m. Monday on Facebook. You could grab an Arby's beef-and-cheddar and tune in, doncha know?
For those who celebrate, we've put together a handy A-Z guide.
The fast-food lunch that Norm brings his wife, Police Chief Marge Gunderson. The two eat it at her Brainerd Police Department desk. (It was shot at Edina City Hall; the actual Brainerd department looked too new.)
Home of several characters in "Fargo," including the Gundersons. The Coens claim they originally titled the movie "Brainerd" but executives refused to believe it was an actual place.
Carlton Celebrity Dinner Theater
The venue where Steve Buscemi's Carl meets with a prostitute while Jose Feliciano performs in the background. (It closed in 1987. The scenes were filmed at Chanhassen Dinner Theatres.)
The former St. Paul Pioneer Press movie writer's name is used for a bank employee. (William H. Macy's car salesman role, Jerry Lundegaard, takes his surname from former Minneapolis Tribune movie writer Bob Lundegaard.)
The St. Louis Park outlet of the family restaurant chain is where Jerry meets with his dismissive father-in-law. (The Coens' parents, Edward and Rena, visited the set while that scene was being shot.)
Although it's the title of the movie, none of it was shot there and only the opening scene takes place there.
Many former company members acted in the movie, including John Carroll Lynch as Norm, Sally Wingert as one of Jerry's customers, Bruce Bohne as Marge's colleague and Isabell Monk O'Connor, whose cop role was cut. (Wingert and Bohne both went on as understudies in the Guthrie's "Macbeth," on stage while "Fargo" was filming. Coincidentally, Joel Coen's upcoming movie is "The Tragedy of Macbeth" with McDormand and Denzel Washington.)
In unsnowy 1995, the production had to keep moving north in search of precipitation. A scene with actor Bain Boehlke sweeping a driveway was shot here.
'In Cold Blood'
One of the brothers' standard lines about "Fargo" is that it's like if Truman Capote's true crime masterpiece had been written by humorist Erma Bombeck.
The Twin Cities TV host's presentation of old movies in the 1960s and '70s turned the Coens on to filmmaking.
Now a director/actor, she plays Hooker #1 in "Fargo" and helped McDormand with her movie accent.
Marge interviews the pair of prostitutes at the Mahtomedi supper club, although the interiors were shot elsewhere.
His "Feel So Good" is playing as Jerry meets with his father-in-law to strategize about the ransom. ("Do You Know the Way to San Jose" is in the background of the smorgasbord scene.)
National Film Registry
Old Dutch potato chips
Norm falls asleep with them in his arms. Potatoes loom large in the movie; the kidnappers have a supply of Pringles in their remote lair and the Gundersons are French fry fans.
Accepting her Oscar, McDormand thanked three people: Ethan Coen (her brother-in-law/producer), Joel Coen (her husband/director) and her son, Pedro McDormand Coen, whom she and Joel had just adopted and who she said "made a real mother of me."
Coen movies are always quotable but it's Marge's lament at the end that is most moving: "For what? For a little bit of money. There's more to life than a little money, you know? Don't you know that? And here you are. And it's a beautiful day. Well. I just don't understand it."
A Fargo native, she plays Jerry's unfortunate wife, Jean.
Skin So Soft
Marge orders the moisturizer from the Avon rep at work.
An auto sealant Jerry tries to force customers to purchase.
"Unguent, I need unguent," is kidnapper Gaear's nonsensical line when he hurts his hand while breaking into the Lundegaard home. (He steals some from the medicine cabinet.)
The Coens' claim that their movie is a "true story" is untrue, but "Fargo's" tale is somewhat similar to two notorious Minnesota crimes: the kidnapping of Virginia Piper and the murder of Carol Thompson. Both occurred when the Coens were kids.
In a notably bloody movie, the grisliest scene features Gaear disposing of his partner Carl in a farm implement. The Eager Beaver model has appeared in parades and numerous photo ops. Autographed by the Coens, it's now on display at the Fargo-Moorhead Visitors Center on Interstate 94, along with other "Fargo" memorabilia.
The Lundegaards' dining room prominently features an embroidered "Home Sweet Home" sign, which may have inspired the cover of a 2014 home video release, a cross-stitched image of the movie's first crime scene.
Played by Steve Park (who's in the upcoming "The French Dispatch," also with McDormand, and will participate in Monday's virtual book launch), he's the most mysterious thing in the movie. His dinner with Marge adds texture to her kindhearted character but has little to do with anything else.
The costume designer for "Fargo" and every subsequent Coen brothers movie, she spent a lot of time sourcing puffy coats and ugly sweaters for Marge.
Chris Hewitt • 612-673-4367