Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Great Movie Easter Egg Hunt

When I was watching "Spider-man: Homecoming," I was struck by how many little cameos, in-jokes, references, and homages were packed into the film, from the old 1960s cartoon theme song making an appearance during the opening credits, to former Spider-man candidate Donald Glover in a minor role, to the AI of Peter's Spider-man suit being voiced by Jennifer Connelly, who in real life is married to Paul Bettany, who voices JARVIS, the AI of the Iron Man suit.  

These were just the Easter Eggs that I caught myself.  When I went online after the movie, I found a staggering list of additional ones.  Apparently every thug that Spidey runs into during the film is a version of some future supervillain.  The school principal is a descendant of one of the Howling Commandos from the first "Captain America" film, which you'd only know if you managed to catch a glimpse of a photo in his office.  Even the license plates on some of the cars are issue numbers from the "Spider-man" comic book.  And then there's the incredibly obscure "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" reference.

Now, these Easter Eggs in "Spider-man: Homecoming" were handled well, and weren't distracting.  If you didn't happen to catch them, it didn't have much impact on your enjoyment of the rest of the film.  However, there have been many instances lately of Easter Egg heavy films handling these elements badly.  For instance, I think this is a big reason why the "Ghostbusters" reboot was such a clunker.  It felt like every five minutes, the movie had to stop dead in its tracks to acknowledge another famous face dropping in for a cameo, or to not-so-subtly point out another reference to the original film.  Or then you had the "Beauty and the Beast" remake, which seemed terrified to do anything differently than the animated version.   

I can't really blame the writers though.  Frequently, these Easter Eggs generate some of the most discussion about a film.  Watchers of remakes and reboots often are anticipating homages, and there's been a sort of gamification of the viewing experience, as filmmakers are now actively encouraging audience members to pore over every scene in search of the more obscure ones.  In PIXAR movies, we know to be on the lookout for the Pizza Planet truck, A113, and references to other PIXAR films.  Quentin Tarantino films frequently use the same brands, and many of the characters are distantly related to one another.  Fans have spent untold hours figuring out ways to connect disparate films together into vast cinematic universes, often based on the flimsiest of pretexts.

The internet culture around many big movies and television shows is a big reason for the greater scrutiny of media minutiae.  Fans love trivia and sharing trivia, and for a certain segment of them, the more obscure the better.  I noticed a few years ago that trailers were being taken apart frame by frame practically the minute they were released.  It's common now to find Youtube videos and articles detailing the specifics in exhaustive detail.  Filmmakers are responding in kind with more challenging Easter Eggs because they know that the fans are willing to go that extra mile to find them.  The creators of "Westworld" found out last year that even the tiniest clues, like a slightly different logo in a certain scene, could spill the beans on their big twist weeks in advance.  

Mostly, I don't think there's any harm to the greater proliferation of Easter Eggs when they're done well.  Both the filmmakers and the audience members seem to enjoy them.  The trouble comes when the writers lean too hard on the nostalgia, and get too attached to certain elements, leading to some reboots feeling like going down a checklist of all the good stuff from the original.  The reason the "Spider-man: Homecoming" references worked so well was because most of them were practically invisible.  Even if you didn't know that the two student newscasters were based on journalist characters from the comic book, they still worked fine as comic relief.

Personally, I'm not the kind of fan that goes looking for Easter Eggs, but it is fun to spot them when I do.  

Friday, December 8, 2017

"Guardians of the Galaxy 2" and "Spider-man: Homecoming"

Some quick thoughts on this summer's Marvel features.  Minor spoilers ahead.

I had a mixed reaction to the first "Guardians of the Galaxy," since I viewed it as an excellent children's film that was weirdly inappropriate for children.  I've changed my stance, after watching the sequel.  The "Guardians" movies contain plenty of content that kids would get a kick out of, but they're aimed square at adults, and function best as nostalgic, slightly subversive grown-up fun.  So while the sequel has curbed Star Lord's dirty mouth, there's way too much death and brutality involved here to recommend this to anyone under the age of ten or so.

Family matters are the major concern of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2."  Star Lord (Chris Pratt) reconnects with his long-lost alien father Ego (Kurt Russell), while Gamora (Zoe Saldana) continues to fend off her murderous foster sister Nebula (Karen Gillan).  Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is dealing with a severe bout of self-doubt, and winds up unlikely allies with space pirate Yondu (Michael Rooker).  Drax (Dave Bautista) continues to make inappropriate comments and Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) remains adorable.  Pretty much everything that people liked about the first film is back for another round - the '70s soundtrack, the dazzling action set-pieces, and the slightly off-color humor.  Some of it matches up to the prior film, and some of it doesn't.  However, the sense of spontaneity and freshness is gone, and none of the characters manage to summon the same amount of charm as they churn through a by-the-numbers plot.
The one big exception, however, is Yondu, who emerges as the MVP of the film.  His subplot turns out to be the most successfully executed, and gives "Guardians 2" something that the original didn't: heart.  While the other characters' stories all try to tug at the heartstrings, Yondu's is the only one that really connects.  Most of the other Guardians felt shoved into personal arcs that I just wasn't interested in seeing play out, and you can tell that the creators had trouble finding things for everyone to do.  Still, the good parts worked well enough for me to think well of the entire film, even if most of it was pretty mediocre.  I like this one marginally more than the original, but it's not one I'm likely to revisit soon.   

"Spider-man: Homecoming," on the other hand, is my favorite Marvel movie since "The Avengers," and my favorite "Spider-man" movie period.  I wasn't expecting this at all, with the character having gone through so much onscreen and offscreen mishandling over the past few years, and director Jon Watts being a relative newcomer.  Yet somehow, the integration of Spider-man into the Marvel universe has gone seamlessly, and he's been properly set up for future movies that I'm actually looking forward to.   

I think the key decision the creators made was to really scale back Spider-man's super-heroics and go back to basics.  This is the Marvel movie to take the kids to, because it offers something that none of the prior Marvel movies do: a hero who is a kid.  Played by a squeaky, ebullient Tom Holland, this version of Peter Parker is a fifteen year-old high school sophomore who is only just barely starting out on his career as a web-slinger (though Uncle Ben is thankfully never mentioned) and eager to join the Avengers.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who gave Peter a high-tech Spidey suit in "Captain America: Civil War," functions as an often absent mentor, who bails him out of trouble, delivers lectures about risky behavior, and is frequently annoyed by his teenage antics.  

I like that "Homecoming" jettisons so much of what we've come to expect from a cinematic Spider-man movie.  He stays in Brooklyn instead of swinging around Manhattan.  J. Jonah Jameson and the Osbournes are nowhere in sight, but Peter's best friend Ned (Joseph Batalon) is a great new addition.  Love interest Liz (Laura Harrier) is entirely original, but there are plenty of references to other Spider-man universe characters, including reworked versions of bully Flash (Tony Revolori) and gal-pal Michelle (Zendaya).  "Homecoming" also boasts one of the best Marvel villains in the Vulture (Michael Keaton), a small scale, blue-collar weapons dealer who is just the right amount of threat for this film's greenhorn Spidey.

Best of all, the movie is fun.  It's got such a great energy and lightheartedness to it, and I love that Peter Parker really gets to enjoy being Spider-man in a way that his predecessors didn't.  With smaller stakes and plenty of gags and humor, "Spider-man: Homecoming" is a fantastic romp.  And it's exactly what the franchise needed to get back in its feet.    


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

"Life" and "Alien: Covenant" With Spoilers

I wasn't going to write up anything on "Life," which I found a decent, if by-the-numbers space thriller, but then I saw "Alien: Covenant."  The two movies have so much in common, I had to talk about them together.  So, here we are.  Spoilers for both movies ahead.

I liked "Life" more than I was expecting to.  It is absolutely patterned off of "Alien" and other thrillers set in space, but with surprisingly high production values, a strong cast, and some bloody good kills.  I couldn't tell you the names of Jake Gyllenhaal's and Rebecca Ferguson's lead characters, but at least they were compelling enough to keep my attention in the moment.  The monster, a quickly evolving alien organism dubbed Calvin, was plenty memorable too.  Even the predictable twist ending was pretty effectively executed.  Sure, it had the reckless scientists and other plot holes that everyone complains about, but I thought the movie worked pretty well as a slick genre picture.  

What I didn't expect was for "Life" to do "Alien" better than this year's actual "Alien" movie,"Alien: Covenant."  Now, "Covenant" had higher ambitions and some different elements in the mix to complicate things, but the basic formula was the same, and many of the finer details too.  The cast is picked off one by one by an alien menace.  A headliner was the first to be killed off.  The ending appears to nihilistically spell the doom of every remaining good guy and a significant chunk of humankind.  The complications boil down to "Covenant" being a direct sequel to "Prometheus," and therefore another prequel to the original "Alien" that further charts the evolution of the famous Xenomorphs.  

And I have to wonder, what was Ridley Scott's thinking here?  He's clearly more interested in delving into the franchise mythology than making another variant on the haunted house plot that all the "Alien" films inevitably seem to end up being.  "Covenant" fares no better than "Prometheus" at delivering thrills, not even having a standout suspense sequence like the nightmarish medical pod C-section.  All the human characters are uniformly bland, despite being played by a bevy of dependable actors including Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, and Danny Huston.  It all feels like an excuse to bring back the android character David, played by Michael Fassbender, and to pair him up with another android, Walter (also Michael Fassbender), for some darkly philosophical musings on humanity and playing God.

And to its credit, all of that material with the androids works fine.  Fassbender is excellent in both roles, and David continues to be the most fascinating aspect of these later "Alien" films.  The trouble is that he makes a pretty poor villain for the half-hearted creature feature that's happening around him, and the demands of that creature feature end up undercutting much of David's story.  "Prometheus," which I was moderately positive on, raised all these interesting questions about the origins of humanity and the alien race of "Engineers."  "Covenant" provides some answers, but they're very disappointing, compromised ones.  I'd have been much more receptive to a "Prometheus 2" that delved into events that "Alien: Covenant" is in too much of a hurry to gloss over.  

I think "Covenant" is worth a watch for those "Alien" franchise fans who are more interested in the mythology aspects, and maybe Fassbender fans.  The film is well made, and Ridley Scott hasn't lost a step where the actual filmmaking is concerned.  However, those who enjoyed the earlier "Alien" movies for being satisfying genre films may find themselves better served by the simplicity of the chills and thrills in "Life."  "Covenant" is too concerned with advancing  its serialized elements to be much fun on a visceral level.  

What really interests me, however, is the fate of the "Alien franchise" going forward.  "Covenant" leaves the door open for more of the prequel storyline in the future, but recycling the same formula again seems untenable.  Are we finally going to see a larger scale xenomorph invasion or attack in the next installment?  Is a next installment even a possibility after the disappointing performance of "Covenant."  I'd be more forgiving of "Covenant" if it was setting up something larger - but I have no guarantees of any payoff.    


Monday, December 4, 2017

"The Americans," Year Five

Spoilers ahead for the season.

This is the penultimate season of "The Americans," and it's definitely a slow burner. Some in the media have been wringing their hands that they show is treading water, that it's lost a step because so much time is devoted to set-up for the impending finale. Nothing particularly big or exciting happens this year, but there's still plenty of good character work, and a couple of major problems have been addressed. I expect that bingeing the season once it was over was the right way to watch this, since it was easier to appreciate the cumulative effect of the slower storylines.

I suspect a lot of the dissatisfaction comes from the fact that there are so many anticlimactic storylines and dead ends this year. Paige and Matthew's relationship falls apart quickly. Philip's son Mischa (Alex Ozerov) makes several appearances trying to find his father, only to be intercepted and sent home. He's been nicely established as a sympathetic character, but did we need to spend so much time with him? Or what about Oleg Burov, who takes on a new role investigating food suppliers for the KGB? His family dynamics are fascinating, but giving him such a big part of the season felt way too indulgent. Stan and Aderholt's attempts to recruit a new source, Sofia (Darya Ekamasova), could have used more attention.

However, it was nice to get updates on Martha, Kimmy, and Pastor Tim, while Paige and Henry's storylines are definitely progressing. Henry had his best season yet, and it was clever that the show worked the writers' tendency to overlook Henry into the actual plot. Keidrich Sellati actually had a fair amount to do this year, and it all played fine. Uncoupling him from Stan Beeman, however, removed a sorely needed source of tension for the Jennings. Whether new girlfriend Renee (Laurie Holden) is really a spy just isn't as worrisome as Stan becoming Henry's father figure. Paige finally getting to put the Pastor Tim problem to rest was very satisfying arc, though, and I love that she's become the show's biggest ticking time bomb.

As for Philip and Elizabeth, I thought that their season arcs were pretty strong, aside from the plan to return to Russia with the kids in the last two episodes. Frankly, I never bought that it was a real possibility and the show didn't sell it well. More interesting were the two major operations going on this year, the agricultural research assignment that shows the Jennings growing tired of trying to maintain more fake relationships, and their steady disillusionment with manipulating the lives of the Morozova family, where they go undercover as the parents of a teen operative from another agency. Tuan (Ivan Mok) is one of the show's most fascinating characters to date, and he was a big reason why I thought the Morozova plot was the most successful one this year.

Others have pointed out that the larger problem with this year was that the various plotlines didn't intersect much the way that they did in the past. At this point there's almost no feeling of danger that the Beemans will stumble on the activities of the Jennings, even after Henry visits Stan's office. Oleg's work with the Russian food chain ties to the agricultural mission slightly, but the connections are tenuous, and both stories are largely dropped in the second half of the season. Gabriel is the only character who provides any kind of linkage, and he's retired from all the exciting stuff.

This run of episodes does a fantastic job of table-setting, though, wrapping up loose ends and maneuvering everyone into the right state of existential funk where season six can set off some real fireworks. The Cold War's not quite done yet, but all the characters know they're on the losing side. And I do want to see how this all ends. I have every expectation that season six will be worth getting through season five for. I just find it a shame that the "Americans" creators couldn't find more ways to add more excitement this year. I mean, deeply introspective adult dramas are all well and good, but "The Americans" has never quite been that kind of show.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Digging Into "Dirk Gently"

I know I read "Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency" after finishing off Douglas Adams'
Hitchhiker" series, but I don't remember much about it. The book originated from unused story concepts that Adams prepared for "Doctor Who," so it seems fitting that a new version should be coming along now, as "Doctor Who" is enjoying its revival. However, very little of the new television series adaptation, produced by Netflix and the BBC, pinged as familiar, and the bulk of the characters appear to be original. So I'm pretty comfortable saying that the bulk of the credit for this version should go to the show's creator, Max Landis.

If you're familiar with Landis's work, many of his usual hallmarks are here: seemingly ordinary young man caught up in a big genre adventure, lots of flashy, chaotic violence, way too much exposition, and a few noticeably weak female characters. The plot revolves around Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett), a self-proclaimed holistic detective, who doesn't look for clues but instead focuses on the interconnectedness of events, and allows the universe to essentially point him in the right direction. So, to solve the murder of an industrialist, Dirk first recruits Todd Brotzman (Elijah Wood) as a reluctant assistant. Todd is an unemployed bellboy whose life is suddenly beset by an onslaught of calamities. Because Dirk knows there is no such thing as a coincidence, this means Todd is important. Eventually Todd's sister Amanda (Hannah Marks), the industrialist's bodyguard Farah (Jade Eshete), a holistic assassin (Fiona Dourif) and her hostage (Mpho Koaho), two police detectives, several government agents, a gang of anarchists, a dog, a kitten, and a shark all become involved, and these are just the good guys.

There's a slightly worrying sense of chaos to the first episode, where the show just keeps throwing outrageous events and ideas at wide-eyed Todd and the audience willy-nilly, with very little pause to let anything sink in. Dirk initially comes off as a manic weirdo, as though he's trying too hard to evoke the David Tennant version of the Doctor. Fortunately there were seven other episodes to flesh out the characters, sort out all the wackiness, and ensure that everything does make sense in the end. Too many of those characters tend to speak in overly verbose and rambly dialogue, and there are a few points where the good guys just decide out of the blue to be mad at each other or to do something very stupid. But on the whole, it's all very entertaining.

The cast is excellent, helping to ground the frequently ridiculous events in some kind of emotional reality. Elijah Wood and Samuel Barnett are both likeable and charismatic, and play well together. My favorite characters, though, are Bart the assassin and Ken, her poor hostage. Fiona Dourif and Mpho Koaho manage to build up a sweet, if wildly improbable, relationship between the two of them. I had some trouble with more minor characters, though. Farah is one of those problematic heroines who is repeatedly told that she's a badass far more often than she's actually allowed to demonstrate that she's a badass, and prone to losing IQ points whenever the plot needs her to. Hannah Marks is great as Amanda, but the character is also constantly hampered by a convenient chronic ailment.

However, the mystery elements of this mystery show are handled very well, and I'm always a sucker for good whodunits. The explanations are imparted to the audience in neat little chunks, slowly ramping up the absurdity until the final reveals involving fantasy elements paranoid conspiracies make perfect sense. Dirk's not the only part of "Dirk Gently" that reminded me of the modern "Doctor Who." Both deal in high-concept, high energy genre hijinks, but "Dirk Gently" takes advantage of having so much more time to tell this one particular story, to do a lot of good worldbuilding and mythology spinning. Too many other shows never manage to get that right. And the result is a very fulfilling jaunt into a weird, but ultimately comprehensible universe, that I wouldn't mind visiting again.

Definitely room for improvement here, but "Dirk Gently" was a lot of fun, and I look forward to the next season.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

My Favorite Roberto Rossellini Film

Roberto Rossellini was one of the key figures of the Italian Neorealist movement, and the films he made during the '40s in the aftermath of WWII are nothing short of revolutionary. Massively influential for his documentary-style filmmaking and philosophy, Rossellini remains one of the most important figures in Italian cinema. However, his personal life frequently overshadowed his work in subsequent years, particularly his scandalous extramarital relationship with Ingrid Bergman. At the height of both their careers, they became romantically involved and made several films together, starting with 1950's psychological drama "Stromboli."

Based on a real life encounter that Rossellini had in post-war Italy, Bergman plays a Lithuanian refugee named Karin, who is trapped in an Italian internment camp, but finds a way out by marrying an Italian soldier, Antonio (Mario Vitale). He takes her home to the island of Stromboli, which is dominated by an active volcano. Karin experiences great difficulty adjusting to life on the island, which is harsh and barren, and where the insular community of fishermen is suspicious of a foreign newcomer who speaks little Italian. Like Rossellini's other films of the time, nearly all the cast members are non-actors, mostly real natives of Stromboli. The film also features documentary-like segments highlighting various aspects of life on the island.

The film also has strong religious and psychological themes, largely focused on Karin's internal struggle with her isolation and alienation. This is the part of the film that resonated the most strongly with me, the way that the oppressive landscape becomes a character in the film, the environment seemingly insurmountable. The final scenes of Bergman on the volcano, where she finally has an emotional breakdown, are wonderfully affecting. Rossellini's ability to capture the stark nature of the island and its equally stark inhabitants is vital here, but it's Ingrid Bergman's unrelenting performance that makes the movie what it is. There's such a primal, emotional openness to her work here, which helps to make Karin one of my favorite Bergman characters. I honestly can't imagine the film with Anna Magnani, who Rossellini originally had in mind for the role.

"Stromboli" is often considered as the first film in a trilogy, all directed by Rossellini and starring Bergman. Along with "Europa '51" and "Voyage to Italy," they examine the dissatisfaction of independent, strong-minded female characters, who are in unhappy marriages and find themselves outsiders in Italy. In "Stromboli" these themes are the most pronounced, and Karin takes the most drastic actions to confront them. She actively rebels against the social order, eventually attempting a physical escape from her woes at the film's climax. Her screen presence comes off as almost shockingly modern, her character acknowledging complicated desires that threaten the established moral order of the day. The film's resolution is memorably ambiguous, and it's difficult to say where Karin is mentally as she descends from the volcano's crater toward an unknown fate.

It's easy to find parallels between the film and what was going on behind the scenes, where Bergman had to adjust to working with a tiny crew in rugged shooting conditions. Much of the script was improvised, and the non-actors were frequently too intimidated to do much acting and had to be dubbed. Critics of the time were notoriously unreceptive to the film, and "Stromboli" was both a critical and commercial flop despite the raging controversy around the production. However, that didn't stop Bergman and Rossellini from going on to make four more films together, marrying, and having three children. Later film enthusiasts would of course rediscover and rehabilitate the reputations of "Stromboli" and the other films.

Today, "Stromboli" comes across as an unusually experimental, psychologically complex narrative from Rossellini, almost like a precursor to films like Antonioni's "Red Desert" and Teshigahara's "Woman in the Dunes." It displays all the hallmarks of the Neorealist movement and a strong emphasis on some of Rossellini's favorite subjects - spirituality and Italian culture. However, it is also very much an Ingrid Bergman film, and somehow her star power and foreignness didn't overwhelm or take away from the harsh nature of Rossellini's cinema. Instead, the juxtaposition helps to create something unique to their collaborations, which is still immensely powerful all these decades later.

What I've Seen - Roberto Rossellini

Rome, Open City (1945)
Paisa (1946)
Germany, Year Zero (1948)
Stromboli (1950)
The Flowers of St. Francis (1950)
Europa '51 (1952)
Journey to Italy (1954)
General Della Rovere (1959)
India: Matri Bhumi (1959)
The Rise of Louis XIV (1966)


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

"Fargo," Year Three

Overall, I enjoyed the third season of "Fargo" a bit more than the second, but I'm in agreement with the critics that the show's starting to run short of material and the seams are showing. While the story is derivative of the Coen brothers' canon by design, it's also starting to repeat elements of the previous seasons. Yet again, we have a hapless businessman in over his head, an amoral criminal who speaks with a peculiar patter, a heroic female cop, oddly paired henchmen, and an assortment of colorful midwestern side characters playing out another series of tense interactions that lead to a whole lot of people getting killed.

Fortunately, the ensemble this year is one of the show's best. Ewan McGregor plays feuding brothers Emmit and Raymond Stussy, a successful businessman and a down-on-his-luck parole officer respectively. Raymond is dating one of his parolees, Nikki Swango (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and together they hatch a plan to steal a rare stamp from Emmit, but an Ennis Stussy (Scott Hylands) in the wrong town ends up murdered instead. Ennis is the stepfather of Glora Burgle (Carrie Coon), chief of police of the tiny town of Eden Valley, which is being absorbed by the county. She spends her last few days as chief piecing together the details of the crime. Meanwhile, Emmit and his business partner Sy (Michael Stuhlbarg), find their business being taken over by the sinister V.M. Varga (David Thewlis), and his violent associates.

David Thewlis's V.M. Varga and Carrie Coon's Gloria Burgle are the standouts this year, playing roles very similar to the one played by Billy Bob Thornton and Alison Tolman from the first season of "Fargo." However, they're deployed very differently, and are treated in very different ways by the universe. Their clashes are more indirect, and the final battle comes down more squarely on their philosophical views of how the world works. I also greatly enjoyed Mary Elizabeth Winstead's soft-hearted con, and Michael Stuhlbarg, playing a variation on his character from "A Serious Man." Oddly, it's the Stussy brothers who are the weakest piece of this year's puzzle, neither proving particularly sympathetic or compelling, though Ewan McGregor turns in perfectly fine performances for both.

There's something more lackadaisical about the way this season is constructed, how it takes a good five or six episodes for the action to really get going, and how the best episode winds up being a "Barton Fink" riff involving Gloria traveling to Los Angeles to chase a dead end with almost no bearing on the plot. Everything does come together very nicely, and the ending is a pretty daring surprise, but there's also a messiness and a laziness to some of the writing this year that makes parts of the season feel like it's spinning its wheels. Some of the minor characters come off just a little too caricatured, and some of the twists come off as a little too perfunctory. There were plenty of moments that I liked - keep an eye out for Ray Wise's appearances - and there are some especially good characters, but the year as a whole was mighty inconsistent.

Even when "Fargo" is having a slightly off year, though, it's still as well made and entertaining as anything else on television. While part of me is disappointed that the season has so much promise that is never fulfilled, the larger part of me is satisfied with everything it did right. So many little details were perfect, like the hideous state of V.M. Varga's teeth, the spot-on casting of everyone from Frances Fisher to Hamish Linklater, and the reoccurrence of a particular musical cue signalling the welcome return of a particular minor character from the past. The cinematography is still gorgeous, and I love that a good chunk of the story was set during Christmastime and had a lot of fun with the seasonal visuals.

I'm absolutely in favor of a fourth season, though I think the series may want to quit Minnesota for a bit. Maybe it's time for Noah Hawley and company to make their way to Los Angeles to play with the elements of "Barton Fink" and "The Big Lebowski" a little more. Or maybe another period piece, this time in the New York of "Miller's Crossing" and "The Hudsucker Proxy." There are a lot of places "Fargo" could go, and maybe it's time for a change of scenery.