REVIEW: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Steve Zaillian (screenplay), Stieg Larsson (novel)
Starring: Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, Stellan Skarsgard and Christopher Plummer

Everything surrounding this American adaptation of a best-selling Swedish book seemed like a perfect fit.  Who better to chronicle a dark story about a serial killer that involves a clever computer nerd than David Fincher?  It’s a combination of everything he’s done so well as a director, from Zodiac to last year’s The Social Network.

Add in a cast full of talented character actors and a breakthrough star performance from the unknown actress Rooney Mara, and it sounds like a filmmaking and financial grand slam.  Though Fincher weaves his distinct visual pleasures through Steve Zaillian’s condensed/slightly altered version of Stieg Larsson’s bulky narrative, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a long movie filled with many names, twists and bursts of violence.

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REVIEW: Moneyball

Moneyball
Directed by: Bennett Miller
Written by: Steven Zaillian & Aaron Sorkin (screenplay)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Chris Pratt

Moneyball is a movie preordained to be an Oscar contender simply by the marketing.  Brad Pitt is in a sports movie, and he’s at his Brad Pittiest.  The odds are in this movie’s favor to be a contender, though, not to win (yet).

Billy Beane (Pitt) would not like that.  He is a man who needs to have the last word, to win the last game.  As the manager of The Oakland A’s, one of the poorest teams in professional baseball, he’s willing to grapple with a new strategy: play by the numbers, not the players.  Along with Yale economics alum Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), they shift the focus of recruiting new players to computer-generated results to acquire overlooked players on the cheap.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Zodiac

Zodiac
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: James Vanderbilt (screenplay), Robert Graysmith (book)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and John Carroll Lynch

Unsolved murders haunt us.  As the detective played by Mark Ruffalo remarks at one point in Zodiac, there were 200 murders committed since a serial killer left his brutal mark on the zeitgeist.  Those murders were explained, though, and as a result they are boring to us.

There are several fictionalized versions of the story of The Zodiac Killer, because finding a narrative that rewards a viewer would be daunting and it would miss the point.  This is a story that is not about rewards.  There is obsession laced within every frame of it, driving all of the principal characters and not just the psychopath.  A need for justice, a need to definitively know lies buried beneath the daunting surface of this David Fincher masterwork.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Social Network


The Social Network
Directed by: David Fincher
Written by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, and Armie Hammer

There are girls playing PlayStation in the next room, and you’re uploading internet code.  Such are the ways of kings in the 21st century, and one of the keenest insights made in David Fincher’s The Social Network.

As you probably know by now, this is “The Facebook Movie.”  It’s also a potent drama, fueled by stories and themes as ancient as both stories and themes.  Betrayal, identity, and the nature of friendship are all at the core of Aaron Sorkin’s stunning screenplay.  The Sorkin/Fincher pairing, however unlikely, pays off in spades.

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And the winners should be… 2011 Oscar Predictions (Luke’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win: This year has quite the list of great stories and well-made films. But this list lacks the crown jewel of 2010 that stands apart from the rest. Probably no film made in 2010 will end up on a best of the decade list in 2019. For this reason The Social Network should take it away for being more so relevant than The King’s Speech and more skillfully made than the rest of the list.

Will Win: It is between The King’s Speech and The Social Network. Does the Academy want to be hip and cool? Probably not, but The Social Network will have the most to gain from placing second and third place for voters who stray other ways from the royal snore.

Snubbed: This is a solid list, but a nomination for a solid, well-made genre film like The Ghost Writer or The Town would have been fantastic.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter Continue reading

And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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REVIEW: Catfish

Catfish
Directed by: Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman
Written by: N/A
Starring: Yaniv Schulman, Angela Wesselman, and Ariel Schulman

Catfish, the documentary yin to The Social Network’s yang, begins innocently and romantically enough.  Yaniv Schulman, a photographer from New York, begins a romantic relationship online with a girl from Michigan named Megan.  Of course, for the movie to be interesting or even worth releasing, it can’t stay that simple.

The tone of this documentary is not quite journalistic, but leans more toward the Michael Moore style of documentary filmmaking.  In essence, that means it takes a point of view beforehand, and opts for entertainment rather than insight.  When this relationship with Megan delves into the creepy, the filmmakers aren’t quite willing to take that unbiased leap.  We don’t explore the world of Angela Wesselman, Megan’s “mom,”  as much as we observe her as if we were at a zoo.

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