Coen brothers search for vintage Twin Cities

Joel and Ethan Coen, shooting in Minnesota for the first time since "Fargo" in 1995, are working fast, cheap and personal with "A Serious Man," a dark comedy about a Jewish academic family similar to their own, set in their hometown of St. Louis Park, circa 1967.

"It's a story inspired by where they grew up, things that they remembered from their childhood," said Bob Graf, the Coen brothers' longtime producer.

The film is ambitiously re-creating a vanished era of bell-bottoms, family restaurants, pristine suburban ramblers and San Francisco rock music. "It was a huge project," said assistant art director Jeff Schein. "It's a mental travelogue of 1967, and for me, since I grew up near the Coens in St. Louis Park, it's a childhood story."

The location department not only had to find neighborhoods of unaltered 1960s homes, but they had to be in areas where storms had knocked down most of the mature trees. When they found an appropriately retro block on 4th Avenue S. between 84th and 85th Streets in Bloomington, the production resurfaced the street, resodded and landscaped eight yards, poured new driveways and added false chimneys, new facades and decorative brickwork.

"I couldn't believe how many things have been sanitized in Minnesota," said Anne Healy, a St. Paul-based location consultant. "We are in such a hurry to tear everything down and remodel."

It's even hard to locate an old-school family restaurant, let alone one as quaint as the defunct Jolly Troll smorgasbord in Golden Valley, she said. "If you want to find an old Mr. Steak, it's now a Thai restaurant that hasn't redecorated. It looks exactly the same, it's just not a Mr. Steak anymore."

The film will be shot in Edina, Northfield, St. Paul and Minneapolis through early November. Meanwhile, the Coens have followed up their Oscar-winning "No Country for Old Men" with the star-studded comedy "Burn After Reading," which opens Friday.

  • Colin Covert

The hunt for the right Oktoberfest

We're only halfway into September, but it's already time for Oktoberfest, that big celebration of German beer culture. While some 6 million people visit the massive Munich festival each year, the Twin Cities is stacked with its own share of Oktoberfests.

It starts Friday with Minneapolis' annual celebration along St. Anthony Main. Besides traditional food and beer, there'll be Hammerschlagen, a wiener-eating contest and the Dachshund Dash.

Looking to celebrate at a bar? Gasthaus Bavarian Hunter in Stillwater has one of the largest tent parties.

The Bierstube in Inver Grove Heights celebrates with the Jägermeister girls and something called "the Bavarian Challenge." (8 p.m. Sat. 6434 Cahill Av., Inver Grove Heights. 651-451-8073,

One of the most beloved tent celebrations happens at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit in northeast Minneapolis. Remember to bring your own mug for a better deal on the beer. 

Beer haven the Happy Gnome returns with its tent party in St. Paul. (Sept. 19-20.)

The Black Forest Inn goes all out, with 10 straight days of Oktoberfest mania. Standouts include the "Decadent Weimar Republic Cabaret Night" on Sept. 27 and "David Hasselhoff Night" on Oct. 3.

New Ulm, Minn. -- home of Schell's brewery -- hosts its 27th annual Oktoberfest with two weekends. (6 p.m.-1 a.m. Fridays and noon-1 a.m. Saturdays, Oct. 3-4 and 10-11. 2101 S. Broadway, New Ulm. 1-877-359-2941,

The family-friendly St. Paul Oktoberfest, with music and food, happens outside St. Bernard's near the corner of Rice St. and Rose Av. (Oct. 11. 197 W. Geranium Av., St. Paul,

  • Tom Horgen

RNC: Taradise

A proud, young, unidentified GOP woman interrupted the band at the "It's a Wrap Party" at Landmark Center after the Republican National Convention wrapped up late last week. "The celebrities aren't always on our side," she said. "But Tara Reid is here." People cheered for the enduring Hollywood party girl. "Someone buy that girl a shot," ordered the lead singer of Boogie Nights, an oldies cover band from Las Vegas. "I want to dedicate this to Tara." Then the band played "Centerfold" by the J. Geils Band.

  • Jon Bream

Prom of the dead

It looks as if the Twin Cities' zombie population will be busy again this fall. The big zombie pub crawl is still coming. But first is the '80s Zombie Prom at industrial nightclub Ground Zero. It's the first in a monthly series of zombie-themed nights at the club (next month is a zombie pajama party). Cash prizes will be given out for sexiest zombie and most disturbing zombie. (10 p.m. Fri.)

  • Tom Horgen