Sunday Morning Coming Down

I’ve written before on these pages about my admiration of the TV series Fargo, and I’ve spent the evenings of the last week binge-watching the fourth series (airing on Channel 4 and streaming on All4 in the UK).

Here’s what wiki has to say about the idea behind the show generally:

Fargo is an American black comedy/crime drama television series created and primarily written by Noah Hawley. The show is inspired by the 1996 film of the same name, which was written and directed by the Coen brothers, and takes place within the same universe. The Coens were impressed by Hawley’s script and agreed to be named as executive producers. The series premiered on April 15, 2014, on FX, and follows an anthology format, with each season set in a different era and location, with a different story and mostly new characters and cast, although there is minor overlap. Each season is heavily influenced by various Coen brothers films, with each containing numerous references to them.

Basically, if you like the Coen brothers’ movies, then chances are you’ll like this too. But, since the body count piles up in all four series, then perhaps avoid it if you’re even slightly squeamish.

Which would be your loss, for each series features fine interweaving multi-strand storylines, where you’re not always immediately sure how they are linked (plot-wise, they’re not afraid to throw not exactly a twist (although there are plenty of them) but a total curveball in from time to time too), and has been exquisitely filmed, often with gorgeous overhead tracking shots. You can tell not just by the cast of each series (Series 1: Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Colin Hanks; Series 2: Kirsten Dunst, Patrick Wilson, Ted Danson, Jesse Plemons (if you don’t recognise the name, I dare say you’ll recognise him when you see him); Series 3: Ewan McGregor, David Thewlis, Carrie Coon, Mary Elizabeth Winstead; Series 3: Chris Rock, Jason Schwartzman, Jessie Buckley, Ben Whishaw) but by the look of the show that a lot of money has been thrown at the production of each series.

Here’s the spoiler-free plot for the current series (again from wiki):

In 1950, the Cannon Limited, led by Loy Cannon (Chris Rock), threaten to usurp the Fadda Family, led by Josto Fadda (Jason Schwartzman), as the ruling crime organization in Kansas City, Missouri. In an effort to maintain peace, the groups agree to honor a tradition of trading the youngest sons between the two households. However, the alliance is jeopardized by the arrival of Josto’s brash brother Gaetano (Salvatore Esposito), as well as the unorthodox actions taken by a nurse named Oraetta Mayflower (Jessie Buckley). Meanwhile, Oraetta’s teenaged neighbour Ethelrida Pearl Smutny (E’myri Crutchfield) discovers her parents are in debt to the Cannon Limited, which gets her entangled in the criminal activities of Kansas City.

I have to say Rock – who I’ve only ever really encountered via his legendary stand-up routines – is an absolute revelation in his role, which is not to detract from any of the others; there’s not one duff performance on show here.

And, as when I last mentioned the show, there’s the soundtrack, a mix of blues, gospel, country and bluegrass guaranteed to pique the interest of anyone who regularly reads this series here.

As an example, this features in the current series, and it’s an absolute beauty:

Ola Belle Reed – High On A Mountain

More soon.

Late Night Stargazing

1986, and Norwegian pop dreamboats a-ha released a remixed version of the title track and fourth (or fifth if you count Take On Me twice, since it flopped on its first release) and final single from their debut album, Hunting High and Low.

I had bought the re-released Take on Me on 7″ single (partly, admittedly, swept up by the magnificence of the ground-breaking video), didn’t buy but loved their only UK #1, The Sun Always Shines on TV, wasn’t particularly fussed about Train of Thought, but on hearing Hunting High… I was inspired to go and buy the album.

It’s a song which is all too often over-looked in favour of Take on Me (because of that video) and The Sun Always Shines… (because it was #1), which is a shame, I think, because, as I will say at least another two times before the end of this post, it’s just lovely.

Locked away in a part of my brain I have yet to recall the security code for, there is a memory of me – briefly – wearing, or at the very least considering wearing, leather laces as bangles, in the somewhat desperate hope it might make me look a bit like lead singer, Morten Harket, and therefore irresistible to members of the opposite sex. I don’t think I actually went through with it, but there’s enough doubt in my mind, and enough recognition of the daft lengths I would go to (try to) achieve the same goal when I was a teenager, to make me think I may well have done.

A case in point: at around the same time as a-ha were becoming famous, I went on a camping and canoeing trip to Norway, organised by my school. (To be clear, we did not canoe to Norway.) I knew very little about Norway, except I’d heard it was largely inhabited by blonde, blue-eyed beauties. And so I decided that what I needed to do was dye my hair blond, because that was clearly what Norwegian girls wanted from their overseas visitors: more of the same.

A friend and I duly purchased a bottle of Sun-In hair dye; we read the instructions, applied the lotion, rinsed and then…decided it hadn’t worked and did it again. And again. And then once more for good measure. So that by the time we boarded the ferry taking us to Norway, I was not the mousy brown-haired teenager I normally was, but neither was I the blonde sex god I had hoped for. No, my hair was a kind of muddy orangey red, and I looked as gorgeous as that sounds.

The female half of Norway was not in the slightest bit interested, needles to say.

Anyway, despite this traumatic memory, whenever I hear this song, it still makes me go “Ahhhh….” in the same way as it did when I first heard it, because it’s just lovely:

a-ha – Hunting High And Low (7′ Remix)

See? Just lovely.

More soon.