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Erik At The Movies: Made In Minnesota


For not being the most famous state in the nation, Minnesota has had a surprisingly rich history in film. In honor of our upcoming statehood day, (and new flag!) I have created a list of 10 movies that were filmed within this great state. My thoughts on them are down below, so please enjoy!

Fargo (1996) =There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here ya are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.” Despite being named after the capital city of North Dakota, this is probably the most famous film to be shot in Minnesota. Used car salesman Jerry Lundegaard (played by William H. Macy) who hires 2 hit-men to kidnap his wife so that he can claim the insurance money. The hit goes wrong, and Marge Gundersson (played by Francis McDormand) has to investigate the bloody outcome. The film has also popularized the stereotypical “Minnesota accent” in popular culture, and also spawned a popular spinoff television show. The Cohen Brothers managed to fully capture the essence of the Midwest, and created a true masterpiece. Highly recommended. 10/10.
Fargo is currently streaming on Max.

Purple Rain (1984) =I never meant to cause you any sorrow. I never meant to cause you any pain. I only wanted one time to see you laughing. I only want to see you laughing, in the purple rain.” When thinking of Prince, many things come to mind, his music, his vision, revolution, the love symbol, and this movie. I’m personally very mixed on the film because on one hand you have one of the single best film soundtracks of all time, filmed with such passion and energy that you can’t help but marvel at the work of a true artist. On the other hand, the script is laughably bad, and everyone (with the exception of the artist formerly known as Prince) delivers a one note and grating performance. Still, it’s easy to overlook the fact that the movie is a glorified visual album when the music is that damn good. For a movie to have given the world the gift of Purple Rain, it has to count for something. It was also filmed at the First Avenue music hall in Minneapolis, and they have a gold star in Prince’s memory prominently displayed. 8/10.
Purple Rain is available for purchase and rental on demand.

Grumpy Old Men (1993) =Kids; can’t live with them, can’t shoot them.” This classic comedy about a love triangle between 3 retirees was shot primarily in the twin cities, and stars Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau as the 2 male leads. They go through life and try to woo the new widow that just moved by them. The witty dialogue and retorts are very hilarious, and make the movie. While there isn’t much more to the film, it’s still enjoyable to watch. 6/10
Grumpy Old Men is available for purchase and rental on demand.

Jingle All The Way (1996) =I want the Turbo Man action figure with the arms and legs that move and the boomerang shooter and his rock’n roller jet pack and the realistic voice activator that says *five* different phrases including, “It’s Turbo time!” Accessories sold separately; batteries not included.” Before he was the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger made a living as an actor, and here is a Christmas comedy in which he stars. He has to search across the whole of the Twin Cities for the last remaining Turbo Man doll in time for Christmas. Interestingly the son actually attends a karate competition at Falcon Heights Elementary School! It may have aged poorly at times, but I still enjoyed watching the film. 7/10.

Jingle All The Way is currently streaming on Disney+.

The Mighty Ducks (1992) =Have you guys ever seen a flock of ducks flying in perfect formation? It’s beautiful. Pretty awesome the way they all stick together. Ducks never say die. Ever seen a duck fight? No way. Why? Because the other animals are afraid. They know that if they mess with one duck, they gotta deal with the whole flock. I’m proud to be a Duck, and I’d be proud to fly with any one of you.” Despite being critically panned upon release, this hockey film has managed to strike a chord with audiences for many years. Emilio Estevez plays a washed up lawyer on community service why decides to coach the local hockey team. The child actors are surprisingly good, and the story is compelling. They filmed one scene in the mall of America. Interestingly, the NHL team “Anaheim Ducks” were actually named after this movie! I don’t know if I will be delving into the many sequels that this film received, but I do recommend the first one. 7/10.
The Mighty Ducks is currently streaming on Disney+.

A Serious Man (2009) =The Uncertainty Principle. It proves we can’t ever really know… what’s going on. So it shouldn’t bother you. Not being able to figure anything out.” After their Best Picture winning film No Country For Old Men, the Cohen brothers decided to return to Minnesota and tell a more personal tale. The story follows Larry Gopnik, a college professor and devoted Jew, who is experiencing his life falling apart around him. A South Korean student tries to bribe him and he contemplates taking the money to pay for his upcoming divorce. He experiences a crisis of faith, and ends up talking to several rabbis in an attempt to get his life back together. The film was apparently filmed in Roseville, but I can’t find the exact locations. It was nominated for Best Picture in 2009, but ultimately left without winning any awards. Still, if you want to watch a good Roseville film, I recommend this one. 8/10.
A Serious Man is currently streaming on Max.

Wilson (2017) =We all want people to love us for exactly who we are but that’s not really possible in this world because we’re just all too unbearable. You know, we gotta make the best of what we have.” This is a painfully bland indie movie that fails to engage the viewer on any emotional level, and its one redeeming quality is the fact that it was filmed in Roseville! Woody Harrelson stars as the eponymous Wilson, an overly talkative man who reconnects with his estranged wife (played by Laura Dern) and attempts to kidnap his long lost daughter. Despite a short runtime, the film moves at a glacial pace, and left me feeling bored by the end. The filming locations that you might recognize include the original malt shop and como town. I wouldn’t recommend this film, but it was at least amusing to see places in my hometown be in a film. 3/10.
Wilson is available for purchase and rental on demand.

The Emigrants / Utvandrarna (1971) (SE) =There are two kinds of folk in America. There are those who become rich because they’ve been here so long and there are some who have come so recently they haven’t had time to get rich.” The Academy Awards have long ignored international cinema, but something interesting happened in 1971, when this film was nominated for best foreign language film: People noticed. People kept talking about it and the following year, this 3 hour long Swedish epic managed to get nominated for best picture the same year as The Godfather, and in my opinion, should have won. Adapted from the books of the same name, The Emigrants tells the story of the Nilsson family, who live in Småland, Sweden, and the hardships they had to endure in feudal society. They then embarked on the long and brutal voyage to the new world, and decided to make their home by Chisago lake up in Stillwater, Minnesota. Max Von Sydow and Liv Ulmann both give excellent performances, and really show the humanity and desperation of immigrants. As Americans, we rarely comprehend how young our country truly is. It was when I was watching this movie with my Grandma, when I realized that as far removed as I am from her, she is from her Grandparents who immigrated from Sweden. We are a country built on the backs of immigrants, people who left their homes, families, and lives behind to live in a strange new world, and we need to be more mindful of the sacrifices of our ancestors. A true masterpiece of world cinema, and one that I highly recommend. 10/10.
The Emigrants is available from the Criterion Collection.

Airport (1970) =‘Have you ever been a stowaway on any other airline?’ ‘Oh, yes. But I like Trans Global the best.’ ‘Well, it’s nice to meet a satisfied customer…’” The highest grossing movie of 1970, Airport centers around a terrorist bombing on an airplane, and mostly plays the scenario for laughs. Despite this premise, I found the film to be quite bland, but the performance of Helen Hayes as the elderly stowaway was quite charming, and she actually won an Oscar for the role! Despite taking place in Nebraska, the whole movie was filmed in MSP airport, and there is a plaque in the airport that Commemorates the film to this day. 6/10.
Airport is currently streaming on Netflix.

The New Land / Nybyggarna (1972) (SE) =Your brother’s children have forgotten their Swedish, and write only in English.” This is the follow up to 1971’s The Emigrants, and we continue to see the Nilsson family adapt to their new home in Minnesota. They manage to build a house and settle down, and how their relatives also adjusted to American life. Later, it also showcased the 1862 Dakota wars, which ended in the mass execution of 38 Dakota men. The filmmakers also collaborated with the Minnesota historical society to make sure that the film was true to real life. Due to interesting release rules, This film was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign language the same year its predecessor was up for best picture. I personally felt that the pacing was far slower than its predecessor, and was lesser as a result, but it was still an excellent film. 9/10.
The New Land is available from the Criterion Collection.

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Erik Larson
Erik Larson, Staff Writer
Hello! My name is Erik Larson and I am currently a staff writer at The Ville who specializes in reviewing the latest and greatest in film. In the words of game director Hideo Kojima: “70% of my body is made of movies.” You can find more of my movie reviews here at my Letterboxd: https://boxd.it/4N1v5

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