Thursday, May 4, 2017

Coen Brother Ephemera Remixed in Fargo Season Three - Episode 3

If the first two seasons of Fargo are any indication, series creator Noah Hawley and his writers and directors will have littered the scripts and the corners of the frame with references to the Coen Brothers' entire catalog. As with last year, I will be taking notes on these connections during each episode and sharing them here.

If you see that I've overlooked one, please let me know in the comments (but please wait until after I've added a given week's episode, as I watch with a day or two of delay, and would like to see it fresh. By the same token, spoiler alert!).

Episode 3: "The Law of Non-Contradiction" (5/3/17)

Gloria's trip to Los Angeles means we're in for a lot of Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski, with a a little Hail, Caesar for good measure.
  • Barton Fink:
    • This episode's themes of writer's block and of artistic promise curdling into frustration and failure have appeared a couple times in the Coen's work, most relatedly in Barton Fink, in which a young writer comes to LA, lives out of a hotel, and tries and fails to make it writing for the pictures.
    • The bell on the counter at the WGA rings without attenuation until stopped by hand. I wonder if the WGA lady inherited it from Chet (Steve Buscemi) at the Hotel Earle in Fink.
    • Similarly, the long down-the-corridor shots at the WGA are reminiscent of Fink's hotel.
  • The Big Lebowski:
    • "Moon Shadows on the Trail" echoes the use of cowboy song "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds" in the opening of Lebowski.
    • The LAPD cop responding to the theft of Gloria's bag is about as optimistic about its recovery as his departmental colleagues were about the the tape deck (or the Creedence) from The Dude's car.
    • Gloria telling Donnie to tell New Chief that she saw the ocean and it was wet has a similar folksiness to The Stranger's "I can't say I've seen London, and I ain't never been to France. And I ain't never seen no queen in her damned undies, so the feller says."
    • As a function of being set in postwar LA, there's a lot of Googie architecture around. In Lebowski, this is exemplified by the bowling alley. Here, we get the diner where Vivian works, and the motel.
  • Hail, Caesar:
    • The date that Thaddeus and Vivian go to is set in a very similarly-arranged restaurant (Boardner's) to the one where Hobie Doyle and Carlotta Valdez go on theirs.
    • The aforementioned cowboy song also recalls Doyle's song in his movie that he and Carlotta attend.
There's also a lot of A Serious Man this week:
  • ...with the casting of Fred Melamed, who brings the same mellifluous tones to smoothing out his betrayal here as he did as Sy Ableman in A Serious Man
  • The montage of Thaddeus' fall from grace is set to Santana. Not SantanaAbraxas, but Santana nonetheless.
  • Ray Wise quips that ancient soldiers and their wives spent the war simultaneously in a state of married and not, a twist on Schrödinger's Cat Paradox, previously taught by Larry Gopnik to Clive and his classmates.
And some other miscellaneous connections:
  • "Hold up the dingus!": Extruded plastic dingus. (The Hudsucker Proxy)
  • UFO imagery returns to the Coen universe. (The Man Who Wasn't There)
  • Gloria almost has a Brad-Pitt-hiding-in-the-closet moment in her motel room. (Burn After Reading)
  • The giant poster of a raven suggests Howard Zimmerman is a fan of Poe, though perhaps not as much as Goldthwaite Higginson Dorr, Ph. D. (The Ladykillers)
  • The quantum mechanics talk comes back in the same scene with the elderly Zimmerman, this time more in tune with Freddy Reimenschneider's discussion of Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in The Man Who Wasn't There.
  • Something about Gloria's floral shirt strikes me as being just as out of place in her terrible date with the LAPD cop as Marge's maternity blouse in Fargo.
  • And, like Marge or any other good Minnesotan cop, she can appreciate some hard-earned Arby's.
  • The poster for THEY CAME on Howard's office wall seems to depict a scene from Fargo Season 2 as a UFO descends on a 2-story motel courtyard.
    To be continued...

    Season 3 Episode 2
    Season 3 Intro and Episode 1
    Season 2

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