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Jack Graham

Jack Graham wrote about Doctor Who and Marxism, often at the same time. These days he co-hosts the I Don't Speak German podcast with Daniel Harper.Support Jack on Patreon.

19 Comments

  1. Champiness
    January 28, 2016 @ 3:44 pm

    Would I be outing myself as a casual if I called this my favorite Jack article? Regardless, I’m saying it. Some lovely insights here, esp. “normalcy”

    Reply

    • Sean Dillon
      January 28, 2016 @ 3:55 pm

      This feels like an extended version of 15 (which is my favorite thing by Jack), so it could go either way.

      Still, I’d be interested in seeing how he reacts to the TV show, which I think would be an interesting read, especially considering the most recent season and how it deals with Regan.

      Reply

      • Jack Graham
        January 28, 2016 @ 4:23 pm

        Which one is ’15’ again?

        checks

        Oh yeah, the ‘Gridlock’ one. Thanks. When people mention their favourite from The 50 it’s usually the one Phil wrote.

        Reply

      • phuzz
        January 28, 2016 @ 5:46 pm

        I suspect that the series of expressions my face went through as I first realised who was on screen, and who they were playing would have been bloody hilarious to anyone watching.
        An inspired (or possibly mad) choice of casting.
        (I hope that’s vague enough not to be a spoiler)

        I watched series one of Fargo before I saw the film, and now I think I like the first TV series slightly more, if only because it’s length gives it a bit more time for the plot to progress. We should be finishing series two this evening.

        Reply

      • Gavin Burrows
        January 28, 2016 @ 5:56 pm

        I’m with the aye-sayers! Sometimes I feel like you’re taking the half-formed thoughts from my head, articulating them better than I ever would then taking them for a lap of honour. The “little bit of money” speech, I’ve always thought of that as the heart of the film. But “normal decency, rather, is something people make. It’s something they produce, day to day” – that nails it.

        Like Sean, though, I’m wondering if you’ve ever seen the spin-off TV show. To my mind that did take things more in the ‘arch’ direction…

        Reply

        • Aylwin
          January 28, 2016 @ 6:21 pm

          I’ve only seen the first season, but I felt that the shift in tone there was basically a matter of upping the bleakness (it’s pretty much “Fargo meets No Country For Old Men“) and adding a cynical nastiness that the film doesn’t have – specifically, the story’s treatment of Oliver Platt’s character just seemed nakedly malicious.

          Reply

        • Jack Graham
          January 28, 2016 @ 6:25 pm

          I saw S1 and, though I liked it on the whole, I agree that its tone is markedly different to that of the film. Everything in the film is just unlikely enough to be true, whereas the TV show is a pretty standard shaggy dog story decorated in some of the aesthetic trappings of the movie.

          Reply

  2. Megara Justice Machine
    January 28, 2016 @ 4:17 pm

    I’ve always felt Marge’s pregnancy was thematically important, contrasting the life-taking the others were doing. Their way way just screwing up lives ad taking them while she was creating it, nurturing it.

    Great write up.

    Reply

    • Hypo-Calvinist
      January 28, 2016 @ 7:21 pm

      contrasting the life-taking the others were doing.

      Also, as a contrast to other portrayals of cops in media. If you are generous, your average tv cop might be someone you want to solve whatever “imaginary” case the show/film/whatever presents. How few of them would be someone you would want to be the cop pulling you over if you were speeding, or someone you would want as your neighbor, or someone you would want as your mother. So many media cops are monsters outside of the context of the particular story, whereas Marge is literally carrying that outside context with her every where she goes and with every thing she does.

      Reply

      • Gavin Burrows
        January 29, 2016 @ 5:57 pm

        Yes, I think so. Films normally portray being a cop as some kind of calling, akin to being a monk. They’re a breed apart. Whereas not only can you imagine Marge doing another job, she’d even have done it in a similar sort of way, setting out a process then following it diligently until it got to clocking-off time. She could have done Jerry’s job. In fact she’d have done it better than Jerry. Which might have saved a whole bunch of people a whole bunch of time and trouble.

        Reply

  3. Elizabeth Sandifer
    January 28, 2016 @ 10:42 pm

    Random fact, the murder upon which Fargo is based was originally committed in Newtown, and was, for years, the act of violence we were best known for.

    Reply

  4. Gavin Burrows
    January 29, 2016 @ 5:58 pm

    Yes I think so. Films normally portray being a cop as some kind of calling, akin to being a monk. They’re a breed apart. Whereas not only can you imagine Marge doing another job, she’d even have done it in a similar sort of way, setting out a process then following it diligently until it got to clocking-off time. She could have done Jerry’s job. In fact she’d have done it better than Jerry. Which might have saved a whole bunch of people a whole bunch of time and trouble.

    Reply

    • Gavin Burrows
      January 29, 2016 @ 5:59 pm

      Sorry for the stereo effect. Seems even new Captchas have their quirks.

      Reply

  5. Shannon
    January 30, 2016 @ 2:31 am

    Fantastic essay capturing much of what I love about one of my favorite movies. I think the theme of “decent, semi-competent people in contrast to evil (or just greedy) semi-incompetent people” is pretty common in Coen Brothers movies. What’s key is that on both sides, there’s something recognizable there. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t like No Country For Old Men – the actions of the villain were just so incomprehensible and he was so hyper-competent that I couldn’t connect with it.

    Reply

    • Aylwin
      January 30, 2016 @ 10:56 am

      Hmmm. I dunno. Obviously Chigurh comes from the book, but he fits into a wider tradition of implacably capable Coen villains with supernatural overtones – the Lone Biker of the Apocalypse, Karl Mundt, the Sheriff in O Brother Where Art Thou. And Malvo in the TV series strongly resembles a Chigurh with a sense of humour.

      I think what sets Chigurh apart, and contributes to the problem you mention, is the moral blankness of the cosmos he connotes – he presents as an avatar of death or fate, whereas Smalls, Malvo and the Sheriff are demonic (Charlie is a much more complicated kettle of fish). They exist in worlds of meaningful good and evil, whereas the world of NCFOM is just an unreasoning abyss.

      Reply

      • Jack Graham
        January 30, 2016 @ 11:07 am

        Jack may write about NCFOM. This is possible. Maybe I’ll flip a coin.

        Reply

  6. NotLuke
    January 30, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

    Great article! I love Fargo, and hadn’t been even aware of it being accused of being arch or mocking, because I have always seen Marge is such a perfectly, nigh heroically, decent protagonist, and one who is never close to being the butt of a joke. Truly exemplary symbiosis of the Coens’ screenplay anf McDormand’s starmaking turn.

    100% agreed about her behaviour in the conversation with Mike being pivotal. It shows that she is exactly the same person in the context which is much more within average audience member’s “normal” than murders and kidnappings. In fact, this scene always has an extra layer of impact on me, because (without going into personal details) I once have been more or less a Mike, and I was lucky to have “my” Marge be exactly as firm and yet polite as the movie one.

    I’d love to read your thought on No Country. It’s tied with Fargo as my favourite Coens, and they make such perfect companion pieces – similar in some ways and complete opposites in others.

    Reply

  7. Jacob Antos
    April 13, 2016 @ 10:39 am

    It’s truly a great read for me as it comes quite matching with my preferences for a read. What I prefer whenever I read is to have something effective and contributory from the piece and you did the same with this valuable piece of writing. I’m a writer by profession and currently working for a professional resume writing service online (here – http://resumeplus.us). Being a writing person, I enjoy reading a lot and hence you like people are what making such reading sessions beautiful and enjoyable. Thanks for your words here and keep sharing similar pieces.

    Reply

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