Category: Movies

Noah Hawley’s FARGO, and the Gospel of the Coen Brothers

(Note: This piece was originally published in Film Inquiry.)

Film buffs everywhere had healthy skepticism when FX announced a Fargo television show. The classic 1996 film by Joel and Ethan Coen, that blends the genres of dark comedy and crime, is sacred ground for many. A television adaptation of sorts might cynically be considered as just a money grab, capitalizing on a well-known title. To everyone’s surprise however, the anthology show, helmed by novelist Noah Hawley, exceeded all expectations.

The series recently completed its third season, with a possible fourth cycle possible, but unconfirmed as of now. Acting as a companion to the original film rather than a retread or remake, this show tells a new story of small town Minnesota crime with each season. Fargo looks to its source material as thematic and visual inspiration, with a couple of overt plot references peppered in. Yet, Hawley uses a broader palette of inspiration, utilizing elements from Joel and Ethan Coen’s entire filmography. Whether these references in the show are nuanced or blatant, Hawley avoids simply copying the Coen brothers, and rather shares a vocabulary with their work.

By examining each season of Fargo and their main sources of inspiration, we can understand this shared vocabulary even more, and define what makes the work of the Coen brothers unique.

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When A Sequel Is Better Than The Original: The 7 Categories Of Movie Sequels

Aliens (1986) – source: 20th Century Fox

(Note: This piece was originally published in Film Inquiry.)

A good piece of art will create a following, and with that following is a desire for more – a desire for continuation. In the medium of film, these continuations usually come in the form of movie sequels. But whether due to high audience anticipation, studio interference, or simply a dry creative well, follow-ups often fall short of its predecessor’s greatness. The motto “the sequel is never as good as the original” is a common motto for moviegoers.

But an avid film buff will always be prepared with a list of films that prove the contrary. For instance, The Godfather Part II broke ground not for just being one of the first numbered sequels, but being the first sequel to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Irvin Kershner’s Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back in particular is celebrated by fans, and has been a guiding light for many blockbuster directors. The list of good sequels can go on, but for every quality sequel will come several bombs.

With each summer adding more sequels, remakes, and reboots to the pile, it’s difficult to find anything original and exceptional in the movie theater. Some of these sequels are worth the time, but the rest serve as evidence for the aforementioned motto. In an attempt to guide audiences through the sea of unoriginality, I’ve created the following categories to classify the many different types of sequels.

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Iron Fist Didn’t Have to Be Asian, But I Sure Did Want Him to Be

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While I am the son of Filipino immigrants, growing up in a mostly white suburban area created a distance between myself and my racial identity. I wasn’t in touch with my roots, and for the longest time, my own perspective of identity politics was quite limited – a result of both apathy and even ignorance to the state of things.

But leaving that bubble helped to open up my mind and look at my identity from a different viewpoint. But what has driven me even more to embrace my Asian-American label is looking at the lack of representation of Asians in the media – I am motivated to not only promote this issue, but to help fill that void as an artist. With the recent release of Marvel and Netflix’s Iron Fist generating discussions on this topic, I’d like to share how my personal experiences have led me to where I am now.

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Review: Hidden Figures

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This is a film that makes its mission very obvious from its title. When we think of the great accomplishments we’ve made in human history, often there are individuals – and groups – whose contributions go unnoticed. In the case of Katherine Goble Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monaé), these women faced both sexism and racism while working at NASA, as astronaut John Glenn (Glenn Powell) prepares his historic space flight.

“Hidden Figures” is an important film for a multitude of reasons – not only are stories about women of color rare in mainstream Hollywood, but women and women of color face a number hurdles when going into STEM that men do not have to. This movie is also a reminder of what racism looks like – we often see racism as loud and overt, but implicit racism can be just as ugly and damaging. “Hidden Figures” is a real crowd-pleaser, one that doesn’t need CGI spectacle or witty one-liners, but is instead carried by strong performances and powerful truths.

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