July 11, 2011

"Location: MN" - This Weekend @ the Walker

For better or worse, the most iconic Minnesota movie scene that ever was.

If there is anything Minnesotans love more than Minnesota (a big "if"), it's movies about Minnesota. Movies that show us who we really are (Fargo), who we really aren't (Fargo), and who we desperately fear the rest of the world thinks we are (Fargo). That fear being unsubstantiated, of course, because the rest of the world pays no attention to us in the first place (perhaps the greatest horror of all). I digress.

It ain't Hollywood by any stretch of the imagination, but a number of excellent films have been written, produced, and filmed here, and this weekend's showcase at the Walker Art Center, Location: MN, is a rare opportunity to go out and explore the state by going in to a dark and comfortably air conditioned theater. Keep in mind these are only movies filmed in Minnesota, not movies written by Minnesotans (Gran Torino), or written by "Minnesotans" (Juno), or set in Minnesota but filmed elsewhere (Juno, again).

Despite this filtering of the list, there are a handful of movies whose exclusion I find curious, even if somewhat obvious considering the artistic reputation the Walker needs to uphold. I mean, it would be audacious to justify including The Mighty Ducks, or Jingle All the Way, or Grumpy (and Grumpier) Old Men, or Drop Dead Gorgeous, or New in Town, or Little Big League. (Actually a bizarro series featuring those films and others could do decent business here, but the Walker isn't the likely setting for it.)

But what about more acclaimed films like North Country, Untamed Heart, A Prairie Home Companion (my allergy to Garrison Keillor notwithstanding), or A Serious Man? Or what about some of the little indie films that didn't make big splashes but still floated out beyond the local festival circuit, like Into Temptation or Stuck Between Stations?

And, most importantly, what about my favorite - and the most culturally accurate - Minnesota movie of all time: Aurora Borealis (add it)?

To be fair, the Walker's Film & Video team could only choose 10 films to screen in the Walker Cinema between Thursday and Sunday, and truth be told they did an outstanding job rounding out a diverse portfolio. There are nostalgic candy films (Purple Rain), awkwardly aged comedies (Mallrats), lovable local indies (Factotum, Sweet Land), underrated masterpieces (A Simple Plan), and movies I've actually never even heard of (Snow - a no-brainer title for a Minnesota film if there ever was one).

Here is the schedule; check out the Walker's website for details and tickets, and the Walker Film & Video Blog for a "scavenger hunt" of local filming locations:


Purple Rain
Directed by Albert Magnoli
7:00 pm
Directed by Dario Argento
10:00 pm

Directed by Bent Hamer. Introduced by producer Christine Walker.
7:00 pm
A Simple Plan
Directed by Sam Raimi
9:30 pm
Purple Haze
Introduced by director David Burton Morris and cowriter, producer Victoria Wozniak, and actor Peter Nelson
11:59 pm

Northern Lights
Directed by John Hanson and Rob Nilsson. Introduced by John Hanson.
4:00 pm
Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen
7:00 pm
Introduced by director Eric Tretbar
10:00 pm
Directed by Kevin Smith
11:59 pm

Sweet Land
Introduced by director Ali Selim
3:00 pm


I leave with you this magic:

And this plea, because despite the schmaltziness suggested by the trailer, Aurora Borealis deserves more of your attention than it's probably received:


  1. New in Town was filmed in Iowa.

  2. Ah, I stand corrected. Categorize that one instead as a "set in Minnesota but filmed elsewhere" movie. Incidentally I never saw it and don't plan to, but if anyone has and can stand up for it as a worthy Minnesota-themed movie, I'm all ears.

  3. I was gonna say you forgot to mention Sweetland but it looks like the Walker knows what their doing.... Great post! Get out here dummy!!!


  4. May I inquire about your allergy to Garrison Keillor, just out of simple curiosity? If that's explained in a previous post, my apologies.

  5. Beav, you sap - I shoulda knowns you were partial to Sweetland!

    Will...how embarrassing. My allergy to him is not explained in a previous post (that I can remember), and in fact I'm not sure it's necessarily an allergy to him personally, but to A Prairie Home Companion. Satirical as it is, I have the sense that the joke is lost on the audience (even if they're laughing); it's as if they admire it, and not in a self-effacing way, because it celebrates a simpler, more traditional, insular Minnesota. In other words, all the things that frustrate me about the local culture - and all the things that the Coens gloriously harpoon in Fargo.

    I realize this makes me seem rigid or hard-headed or "above it all", and may say more about relationship to Minnesota than the show or Keillor.

    My wife is not Minnesotan (nor am I, though I've lived here half my life), but her father-in-law has listened to the show for years and she took him to see it live at the Fitz last fall. I declined to go along but realized, maybe for the first time, that were I not a "local" I would probably find it an interesting cultural phenomenon.

  6. Daniel,

    Sorry, not entirely fair of me but I couldn't help being curious.

    As usual your response is both gracious and crystalline. You have a gift for transforming the frequently near-worthless "comments" portion of the web into something interesting and worthwhile.

    For the extent to which it is a part of my existence, I don't think very much about being Minnesotan. I think that I can visualize your perspective and frustration and I see how that could connect to PHC.

    I wonder how one can tell the difference between an insular outlook and a value on local community. It isn't hard to understand the difference, anyway, by looking at it in terms of effect. I'd be interested in your perspective on how local and how cosmopolitan or global (different things?) a community perhaps ought to be.

    I like the way your post has the elements to illustrate some MN self-perceptions via our film-selves and how we "view" them (on a number of levels).

    Only defense for GK: if you are going to, more or less, satirize the way of life of your parents and their friends, a complex mingle of nostalgia and even appreciation may be admissible and, if you are going to do so every week, advisable. (Aren't many of us on this trajectory with our own parents?) But for someone to have an allergy to that stew no more embarrassing than smelling mothballs where someone else sees only memories.

    Also, now I think I will have to watch Fargo...

  7. Thanks, Will, as always, for your thoughtful insights. To be honest I have no good answer to the local-global balance. I think I'm drawn to big cities in general because I feel they (obviously) draw more diversity of thought and perspective, and diversity of everything else. That being said, there are neighborhoods or even whole boroughs of New York City that are more insular than Lake Wobegon. So it's not that size is necessary everything.

    Your defense of GK is totally sensible, and of course you have a much deeper understanding of him than I could ever pretend to have!

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts on Fargo in this context, if and when you next see it.


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