Lisa Marie Picks The 50 Best Films of The Past 3 Years


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As of this month, I have been reviewing films here at the Shattered Lens for 3 years.  In honor of that anniversary, I thought I’d post my picks for the 50 best films that have been released in the U.S. since 2010.

Without further ado, here’s the list!

  1. Black Swan (directed by Darren Aronofsky)
  2. Exit Through The Gift Shop (directed by Banksy)
  3. Hanna (directed by Joe Wright)
  4. Fish Tank (directed by Andrea Arnold)
  5. Higher Ground (directed by Vera Farmiga)
  6. Shame (directed by Steve McQueen)
  7. Anna Karenina (directed by Joe Wright)
  8. The Cabin In The Woods (directed by Drew Goddard)
  9. 127 Hours (directed by Danny Boyle)
  10. Somewhere (directed by Sofia Coppola)
  11. Life of Pi (directed by Ang Lee)
  12. Hugo (directed by Martin Scorsese)
  13. Inception (directed by Christopher Nolan)
  14. Animal Kingdom (directed by David Michod)
  15. Winter’s Bone (directed by Debra Granik)
  16. The Artist (directed by Michel Hazanavicius)
  17. The Guard (directed by John Michael McDonagh)
  18. Bernie (directed by Richard Linklater)
  19. The King’s Speech (directed by Tom Hooper)
  20. Bridesmaids (directed by Paul Feig)
  21. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (directed by Thomas Alfredson)
  22. Django Unchained (directed by Quentin Tarantino)
  23. Never Let Me Go (directed by Mark Romanek)
  24. Toy Story 3 (directed by Lee Unkrich)
  25. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (directed by Niels Arden Oplev)
  26. Young Adult (directed by Jason Reitman)
  27. Sucker Punch (directed by Zack Snyder)
  28. The Master (directed by Paul Thomas Anderson)
  29. Incendies (directed by Denis Villeneuve)
  30. Melancholia (directed by Lars Von Trier)
  31. Super (directed by James Gunn)
  32. Silver Linings Playbook (directed by David O. Russell)
  33. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (directed by Edgar Wright)
  34. The Last Exorcism (directed by Daniel Stamm)
  35. Skyfall (directed by Sam Mendes)
  36. Easy A (directed by Will Gluck)
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2 (directed by David Yates)
  38. The Avengers (directed by Joss Whedon)
  39. How To Train Your Dragon (directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBois)
  40. Win Win (directed by Thomas McCarthy)
  41. Les Miserables (directed by Tom Hooper)
  42. Take This Waltz (directed by Sarah Polley)
  43. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (directed by Werner Herzog)
  44. Rust and Bone (directed by Jacques Audiard)
  45. Cosmopolis (directed by David Cronenberg)
  46. Ruby Sparks (directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valarie Faris)
  47. Brave (directed by Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  48. Martha Marcy May Marlene (directed by Sean Durkin)
  49. Jane Eyre (directed by Cary Fukunaga)
  50. Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman)

If Lisa Marie Determined The Oscar Nominees….


The Oscar nominations are due to be announced on Tuesday morning so I figured now would be a good time to play a little game that I like to call: “What if Lisa had all the power?”  Below, you will find my personal Oscar nominations.  These are the films and the performers that would be nominated if I was solely responsible for selecting the nominees and the winners. 

For those who are interested, you can check out my picks for last year by clicking on this sentence.

Please understand, as you look over this lengthy list of deserving films and performers, that these are not necessarily the films I expect to see nominated on Tuesday morning.  In fact, I would be hard pressed to think of a year in which I have disagreed more with the critical establishment than I have this year.  For whatever reason, the films that truly touched and moved me in 2011 appear to be the films that are totally and completely off the Academy’s radar.  These are not my predictions.  Instead, they are my personal choices and they should not be interpreted as representing the opinion on anyone else affiliated with this site.  So, if you’re angry that David Fincher’s Girl With The Dragon Tattoo didn’t receive a single imaginary nomination, direct your anger at me and me alone. 

Best Picture

The Artist

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Higher Ground

Hugo

Shame

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Young Adult

Best Actor

Michael Fassbender for Shame

Brendan Gleeson for The Guard

Gary Oldman for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Michael Shannon for Take Shelter

Rainn Wilson for Super

Best Actress

Kirsten Dunst for Melancholia

Vera Farmiga for Higher Ground

Elizabeth Olsen for Martha Marcy May Marlene

Saoirse Ronan for Hanna

Charlize Theron for Young Adult

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks for Drive

Bobby Cannivale for Win Win

Jonah Hill for Moneyball

Patton Oswalt for Young Adult

Andy Serkis for Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Best Supporting Actress

Anna Kendrick for 50/50

Melissa McCarthy for Bridesmaids

Carey Mulligan for Shame

Ellen Page for Super

Amy Ryan for Win Win

Best Director

Vera Farminga for Higher Ground

Michel Hazanavicius for The Artist

Steve McQueen for Shame

Martin Scorsese for Hugo

Joe Wright for Hanna

Best Original Sreenplay

Bridesmaids

The Guard

Hanna

Shame

Young Adult

Best Adapted Screenplay

Higher Ground

Hugo

Incendies

One Day

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Animated Feature

Kung Fu Panda 2

Puss in Boots

Rango

Rio

Winnie the Pooh

Best Foreign Language Film

(Please note that I do this category a bit differently than the Academy.  Whereas the Academy asks nations across the world to submit a nominee, I’m simply nominating the best foreign language films that I saw in a theater last year.  Those who follow the Oscars will note that I’ve both nominated and awarded the brilliant Canadian films Incendies, which actually was nominated for a real Oscar in this same category last year.)

The Double Hour

Incendies

Of Gods and Men

The Skin I Live In

13 Assassins

Best Documentary Feature

Bill Cunningham New York

Buck

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Jig

Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Best Original Score

The Artist

A Better Life

The Guard

Hanna

The Tree Of Life

Best Original Song

“The Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger

“Mujhe Chod Ke” from DAM999

“The Keeper” from Machine Gun Preacher

“Man or Muppet” from The Muppets

“Pop” from White Irish Drinkers

Best Sound Editing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Sound Mixing

Drive

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

Best Art Direction

Bunraku

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Cinematography

The Artist

Hugo

Melancholia

Shame

The Tree of Life

Best Makeup

Beastly

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Insidious

Sucker Punch

X-Men: First Class

Best Costume Design

Bunraku

The Help

Hugo

Sucker Punch

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Best Editing

The Artist

The Guard

Hanna

Hugo

Shame

Best Visual Effects

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Hugo

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Sucker Punch

The Tree of Life

List of Films By Number of Nominations:

10 Nominations – Hugo

7 Nominations – Shame, Sucker Punch

6 Nominations – Hanna

5 Nominations – The Artist; The Guard; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2; Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy; The Tree of Life

4 Nominations – Higher Ground, Young Adult

3 Nominations – Bridesmaids, Drive

2 Nominations – Bunraku, Incendies, Melancholia, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Win Win

1 Nomination – Beastly, A Better Life, Bill Cunningham New York, Buck, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, DAM999, The Double Hour, 50/50, The Help, Insidious, Jig, Kung Fu Panda 2, Machine Gun Preacher, Martha Marcy May Marlene, Moneyball, The Muppets, Of Gods and Men, One Day, Puss in Boots, Rango, Ressurect Dead, Rio, The Skin I Live In, Take Shelter, 13 Assassins, X-Men: First Class, White Irish Drinkers, Winnie the Pooh

List of Films By Number of Oscars Won:

3 Oscars – Hanna

2 Oscars – Bunraku, Shame, Sucker Punch

1 Oscar – Beastly, Bridesmaids, The Cave of Forgotten Deams, Dam999, Higher Ground, Hugo Incendies, Melancholia, Puss in Boots, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Super, Young Adult

So, will the Academy agree with my picks?  Well, probably not.  Indeed, it’s probable that they won’t agree at all.  And to that, I say, “Oh well.” 

The Academy Award nominations will be announced Tuesday morning.

What Lisa Marie Watched Last Night: The 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards


Last night, I watched the 69th Annual Golden Globe Awards.  I also got on twitter and made a lot of snarky comments.  People seemed to enjoy it and for that reason, I say, “Yay!”

Why Was I Watching It?

Because I am an awards show junkie!  Seriously, those glue sniffers on Intervention don’t have anything on me when it comes to craving the excess, glamour, and foolishness of a big, silly Hollywood awards show!  Add to that, this is still a fairly wide open Oscar season and the Golden Globes are, as they always say on E!, a “precursor to the Oscars.”  Winning a Golden Globe usually guarantees at least an Oscar nomination.  Plus — Ricky Gervais was back to host and like a lot of people last night, I spent the minutes before the ceremony asking myself, “What ever will he say!?” in feverish anticipation.

What Was It About?

For the past 69 years, the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association have thrown a big banquet in January and given out a lot of awards to various TV and movie stars.  Nobody’s really sure who the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association are and, to be honest, the Golden Globes always have a slightly unsavory air to them.  There’s always more than a few nominations that mostly seem to be designed to get famous people to show up at the ceremony,  Last year, they nominated the Tourist, this year they nominated The Ides of March.  Anyway, the Golden Globes are distinguished by the Oscars by the fact that they serve alcohol during the show and, in the past, someone’s always ended up giving a drunken acceptance speech or launching into an incoherent political rant and, for the past few weeks, we’ve been told that with Ricky Gervais returning to host the 69th annual banquet, anything could happen and probably would!  Yay!

What Worked

Last night, I mentioned on twitter that if nothing interesting happened on the Globes or if Ricky somehow failed to deliver the expected amount of snark then I would devote this section of my review to talking about my boobs. 

With that in mind, what can I say except that they’re a little big and heavy and they pretty much ended my dreams of being a ballerina but I like my boobs, or as I call them Pride and Joy.  They go great with every outfit I own and I’m pretty sure that they’re also the reason why I’ve never had to pay a speeding ticket.  Plus, they allowed me to say stuff like, “I should be Ms. Golden Globes!” while I was watching the show last night…

Actually, I’m being a little bit unfair to the Golden Globes (the awards ceremony, not my boobs).  The tribute to Morgan Freeman was well-done and was probably the high point of the ceremony but then again, how can you go wrong with Morgan Freeman?  Seriously, when I’m on the verge of doing something silly (like using a review of the Golden Globes to show off my boobs) , I imagine Morgan Freeman saying, “Now, do you really think that’s a good idea?”

Fashion-wise, I saw a lot of red dresses last night and that made me happy because I look really good in red.

Among the winners, Christopher Plummer (Best Supporting Actor for Beginners), Jean Dujardin (Best Actor In A Comedy Motion Picture for The Artist), Martin Scorsese (Best Director for Hugo), and Claire Danes (Best Actress In A Dramatic TV Show for Homeland) all gave good and classy acceptance speeches that made me feel good to be alive.  And Uggie the dog was so adorable up there on stage when The Artist won Best Motion Picture Comedy.  Actually, speaking of The Artist, it was kinda nice to see so many French people accepting awards last night.  (Oh, stop it!  I love France!)

I enjoyed it when Madonna won for best song because she was so shocked that she forgot to speak in her fake accent. 

On an admittedly petty note, Rooney Mara did not win Best Actress for David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and that amused me greatly because I knew that all the little AwardsDaily Fincherites were torn about how to whine about Mara losing with coming across as if they were criticizing Meryl Streep for winning.

What Did Not Work

So, let’s start with the main problem.  Last night’s Golden Globes ceremony was so respectable and predictable and slow that it might as well have just been the Oscars.  Ricky Gervais started out the ceremony by telling us that he had signed an agreement to not make any offensive or outrageous statements and then he did just that.  What’s especially annoying is that Ricky didn’t seem to be neutering himself as an act of protest or anything of the sort.  Instead, he just came across like he was too smug and sure-of-himself to realize that he was bombing.  It was as if he just expected his reputation to convince us that he was being funny and outrageous without actually being funny and outrageous.  Last year, Ricky Gervais skewered Hollywood phonies.  This year, Ricky Gervais was a Hollywood phony.  I sat there waiting for him to say just one thing that could potentially end his career and he refused to do it.

But Ricky wasn’t alone.  Seriously, where were the drunk winners launching into incoherent politically themed rants.  I mean, it’s an election year for God’s sake.  People on twitter were using the occasion to make all sorts of silly and naive political statements but the actual celebrities — the people who we depend on to act like a bunch of dumbasses — just sat there in this sort of placid anxiety like they were waiting for someone to show up for an intervention.

BLEH!

The majority of the night’s acceptance speeches were neither good nor bad.  They were just boring.  Listen, Meryl Streep is a great actress and I have no problem with her being recognized and awarded for her talent but oh my God, I nearly fell asleep trying to listen to her.  Now, if Meryl (or any other winner) had gotten up on stage and started slurring her words or making dirty jokes or something like that, it would have made for great television.  (Though I do have to give Meryl some credit for being the only winner to get bleeped.) 

The Descendants won Best Motion Picture Drama but seriously, it’s hard for me to accept that this well-made but essentially unchallenging and rather forgettable film is now the Oscar front-runner.  Seriously.  Much as with every other award it has won, The Descendants felt like something of a compromise choice and, considering that Scorsese won best director, it’s hard to gauge just how much momentum the Descendants is going to get from this victory. 

Oh!  And another thing that sucked — how did George Clooney win a Golden Globe for essentially playing the same character he always plays while Michael Fassbender’s brilliant work in Shame was ignored?  What type of game is that?

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

To quote Joan Crawford, “I’ll show you a pair of Golden Globes!”

Lessons Learned

This is shaping up to be one of the worst Oscar seasons in recent history.  Seriously, if just one deserving film or performance wins in February, I will be amazed.

Why Lisa Marie Wasn’t Going To Review David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo


Originally, I wasn’t even going to write up a review of David Fincher’s rehash of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo because, quite frankly, if you follow me on twitter or if you’ve read any of the GWTDT-related articles that I’ve written on the site, then you already knew that I was going to hate this film.  I knew I was going to hate it.  So, I figured — what’s the point of me repeating what you already know about how I feel? 

So, don’t call this a review because I’m certainly not going to.  This is just how I, as an individual viewer with my own oft-stated prejudices, reacted towards Fincher’s remake.  Take it for what it’s worth.

I knew that I would hate this film because I so loved the Swedish original and, unlike the people who write for sites like AwardsDaily.com, I am willing to be open and honest about my prejudices.  AwardsDaily.com is one of the many sites that decided that the remake would be one of the best films of the year solely because it was being directed by David Fincher and, in their eyes, Fincher can do no wrong.  These are the folks who declared that Rooney Mara was going to give the performance of the year before even seeing the film.  Why?  Once again, the key is Fincher. 

See, that’s the dirty little secret about most film reviewers and cinematic bloggers.  For the most part, they don’t so much critically review a film as they just jump on the bandwagon.  Right now, the bandwagon says that you must love Fincher and, by God, that means you’re going to love Fincher even if the last truly challenging film he made was Zodiac.  To his credit, in interviews, David Fincher comes across as being a lot more level-headed and honest than those who are currently insisting that you must love every movie that he directs simply because he directed it.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  This is not an attack on David Fincher.  David Fincher is a talented director and his films are always watchable.  He’s a director who deserves to be seen and his version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is certainly watchable but, at the same time, is it one of the best films of the year as so many of the Fincherites out there are currently declaring?

Not hardly.

If anything, this is David Fincher on auto-pilot.  This is Fincher being dark because that’s what Fincher does and not because of any sort of sincere artistic impulse on his part.  This is a well-directed film but it’s a dreadfully insincere one.  If you want to a sincerely dark film, see Zodiac.  If you want to see a film specifically designed to appeal to an audience that wants to brag about how brave they are for going to the movies, go see Fincher’s remake of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The big question, of course, is who is the better Lisbeth — Rooney Mara or Noomi Rapace.  Ever since Fincher was first announced as the director of this film, there has been a steady conspiracy to 1) shove Rooney Mara down our collective throats and 2) make us forget that it was Noomi Rapace that made the original film special and that she was truly the only reason to see the two sequels.  At times, the conspiracy was almost ludicrously obvious.  For instance, as soon as Mara was cast in the role, the editors of AwardsDaily.com suddenly decided that Mara was a lock to get a best supporting actress nomination for The Social Network.  Because, the bandwagon logic went, she had to be the greatest actress of her generation or else why would Fincher pick her?

Well, you know what?  Rooney Mara does fine playing a girl who happens to have a dragon tattoo but she’s not Lisbeth Salander.  She is a male fantasy, a tough girl who needs a man to come through for her.  Rapace’s Lisbeth was a true outsider.  Mara is a little girl lost and all of you Fincherites out there can watch her and fantasize about rescuing her.  Rapace’s Libseth was almost defiantly  asexual.  Mara looks at the camera and silently asks the male viewer to guess what she looks like without all those piercings.  The difference between the two Lisbeths is that Rapace truly doesn’t need a man but Mara is secretly begging to be rescued.  One of the strongest and most independent female characters in film history has been reinterpreted as a male fantasy.  They should have just called this film The Girl With Rooney Mara’s Face.

I suppose that makes the film easier for patriarchal American audiences to swallow.  Perhaps that explains why the audience I was with found it so hilarious when Mara got raped.  Nobody laughed when Rapace got raped but then again, that’s because the rape in the original film was a true violation where the rape in Fincher’s version is just further fuel for male fantasies.

As for the rest of the cast — well, can we just be honest and admit that Daniel Craig isn’t that interesting of an actor?  His version of Mikael is certainly a lot more aggressive than the character is portrayed in either the books or the original movie.  Then again, Daniel Craig’s a big star.  Daniel Craig is James Bond.  You can’t just expect Daniel Craig to play passive.  Daniel Craig’s the man, after all.  As for Stellan Skarsgard and Christopher Plummer — they’re both great actors but how many times they are going to keep playing the exact same freaking characters?

Ultimately, the only real reason for Fincher’s film to exist is so American audiences can watch the story of Libseth Salander without having to read subtitles.

Enjoy it, America!

As I said before, this isn’t a proper review of the film because I’m prejudiced and you know what — if you didn’t enjoy the original Swedish films, you might love Fincher’s remake and more power to you.  You are free to sincerely disagree with me and I will not hold that against you as long as you’re not a condescending toadsucker about it.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. David Fincher)


I’ve probably gone back and rewritten this review multiple times over the past few hours. I’ve been struggling to come to a final conclusion to how I felt about the film. On one hand it is a hollow crime thriller, all polish and no substance, and on the other it is an exceptionally crafted dark and mysterious tale of sex, corruption and murder that oozes with atmosphere. One could make the case for either, and many critics have argued in favor of one side or the other. After a lot of contemplation, I’ve come to decide that it actually seems to rely on both being hollow and atmospheric, but what continues to conflict me is whether the former can truly be overlooked even if crucial to the final product.

‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ stars Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who has recently come under a lot of scrutiny after being accused of making up a story about a wealthy executive and losing the case of libel brought upon him. Facing financial and credibility problems he is hired by Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) a wealthy entrepreneur  who wants Mikael to solve a ‘cold case’ that has haunted him for forty years, that being the disappearance of his grand-niece Harriet who he believes was murdered by a member of his corrupt family filled with Nazis and recluses. As Mikael delves deeper into the mystery of her disappearance he hires the assistance of Lisbeth Salander, a goth-hacker with a dark past who has her own personal issues to deal with, specifically a financial guardian who wants sexual favors in order for her to access her money. When they are finally brought together they discover the dark secrets of the Vanger family and its links to a serial murderer case that begins to threaten their own lives.

David Fincher, who directed ‘Zodiac’ and ‘Se7en’, is no stranger to graphic and dark thrillers so it is no surprise that he handles the creation of ‘The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo’ with a level of competence few other directors could have. Along with the help of cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth and being set in Sweden the film has a very dark and cold (often literally) tone, making an atmosphere just as chilling as the subject matter and beautiful to look at. Sadly under the gorgeous and dark visuals and the bleak and mysterious atmosphere there isn’t much to be had. There is a real lack of emotion and soul.

I can only assume that Fincher’s intentions from the beginning were to avoid any real substance, and to make a film just as hollow and sadistic as the story is was trying to tell. There is just about no emotion and so no reason to be attached to anyone except Lisbeth, but our empathy for her stems more from the vial acts we see acted upon her and less from truly knowing who she is, and why she is so emotionally restrained. It is not until the last twenty minutes that she gets any sort of development, but was it too little too late? Again I cannot decide. One could argue that this insight into the character earlier on would have made us care for her more, which I can understand. But I also question whether or not she could have even opened up the way she does at the end without having first gone through the events of the film, in particular the relationship she has with Mikael. Either way, I’m just glad Fincher went with Rooney Mara to play Lisbeth.

It is hard not to compare both film versions of the Lisbeth character, and even harder to choose which was better. This is mainly because both films, although similar in many ways, have very different tones. The Swedish version is a much more straight forward thriller and Rapace’s Lisbeth fits that film in being just a strong and tough individual, though there doesn’t seem to be too much below her surface and most of the development of her past is shown. Mara’s Lisbeth is a much more complex character, and although the film doesn’t give her much depth in terms of story until the very end, Mara gives off hints of a disturbing past just in the way she talks and moves, especially when men get too close to her. In reality she is a much weaker character than in the Swedish version. I personally liked that soft side because it makes her feel more like a vulnerable woman so when she fights back it feels more powerful.

It is this humanization that really helps propel Fincher’s adaptation over the Swedish version in my eyes. Even Daniel Craig, who put on a very good performance, is given a lot more to do and a much more interesting personality. He gives the character a bit of charisma, and wasn’t just a monotonous individual, like in the original, making it easier for us to care for both him and Lisbeth. It also makes their odd but provocative relationship seem more genuine and intimate.

All of this stuff I loved…but then I fall back to feeling like it was all for nothing. I mean it looks pretty, and the mystery is intriguing and the atmosphere is dark and cool, but once it is all over nothing really sticks other than the technical aspects. This isn’t helped by the fact that it over stays its welcome for the last few minutes, even if it adds to the characters. Luckily the pacing is done well enough to never make it feel boring but it does end up being rather anti-climactic. But I feel a second viewing is necessary.

With that said, as conflicted I am about everything else one thing that I can say for certain was fantastic is the score. It was crucial in the creation of the moody and dark atmosphere. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, who did the Oscar winning score for ‘The Social Network’, continue to impress and help give the film a pounding and chilling heartbeat. Also the ‘Bondesque’ opening credits, a brilliant animation of dark tar, leather and gothic imagery set to Karen O’s cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’, was absolutely stunning.

So overall I will say that it is an incredibly well-crafted and dark thriller with fantastic visuals and a wonderful performance by Rooney Mara and because of that it certainly deserves a lot of credit but below the surface it is a rather hollow and anti-climactic story making it hard for me to love it as much as I might have wanted to. It also did not help that going into it my anticipation was at an all-time low due to the hype that was built up around it and by how much I liked the original. So for now I’ll just say I enjoyed it for what it was, it certainly is well crafted enough to deserves the praise it is getting, but a second viewing will determine whether or not I truly thought it was a great film. Still I recommend it for those interested.

Quick Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (dir. by David Fincher)


Addendum: Leonth3duke has added his own thoughts on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which are worth reading. Lisa Marie has also added her own viewpoint on the film.

I think had I not seen the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, this would be a far easier review to write, really. I tried reading the book a number of times, and found it really tough with Larsson’s exposition to stay with it. As such, this review is somewhat biased, perhaps heavily so, and it may be a little spoiler-ish. My assumption here is that with the novel having been available for some time now, and a separate movie to watch, there are very few people who don’t know what the story’s about.

A funny thing happened while watching David Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo the other night.  In the middle of the film, the projector turned off. After I calmed down, eyeing the exits and thinking the Blob might have made it’s way into my theatre, the audience had fifteen minutes of quiet to wait and give their thoughts on the movie.

One fellow stepped down from the seats, ready to ask for his money back when he stopped and turned around.

“Does anyone know what the F this movie is about? ‘Cause I’m frickin’ confused!” he raised his arms to the audience, pleading for reason.

“It’s about a girl with a Dragon Tattoo.”, Someone yelled back.

“What is supposed to mean!?” The angry man replied, sounding a lot like Rooney Mara in The Social Network. “All I’ve seen is Bond shiver his butt off and this chick type away on her laptop. This is garbage.” And with that, he left.”

“Yeah, this is some bulls—.”, Another fellow said as he left.

Needless to say, the movie resumed. There was a problem that caused their fire alarm to shut off and it stopped every film in the theatre. I’m not sure how much I may have missed, but I’ll probably see this again during the weekend.  I know, it’s not the best of review lead ins.

The simplest thing I can say about The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is this:

– If you read the book and saw the Swedish film, this version only puts on a coat of Fincher Paint on the story. From the opening credits that rival the one in Se7en to the fade to black, it’s all distinctly Fincher’s touch on things.  You could almost argue that it feels like a Bond film, the way they did it. This basically means that the lighting might be dimmer in some places and the film may be more stylized. It comes across feeling more like a motion picture than the Swedish version, which to me felt a little more like a tv movie.

If you never read the book, I would highly recommend the Swedish version first. It’s on Netflix, and as some of the material is delicate, doing so would give you the freedom to hit the pause or fast forward button should you find yourself uncomfortable. That’s kind of hard to do in a movie theatre without walking out on the money you spent on a movie ticket.

And if you saw the Swedish Version, missed the book and are wondering if you should spend your money on this, Rooney Mara really is the only reason to give this a try. It’s essentially the same story, but with a different ending that’s tighter and closer to the book than the Swedish Film. While Rooney’s Salander may not be hard hitting as Noomi Rapace’s Salander , she deserves so much credit for throwing herself into this as deep as she did, and helping to create her own version of Lisbeth.  Daniel Craig, on the other hand, seems to be more restrained here.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the story of Mikael Blomkvist, an editor in chief of a magazine called Millenium in Sweden who is dealing with a mishap on a libel case against a magnate named Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. His recent notoriety catches the attention of Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer, who’s really having a great year), who asks him to investigate the 40 year old murder of his niece, Harriet. Of course, prior to asking Blomkvist to take on the case, Vanger’s lawyers perform a background check on him with the help of Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Salander happens to be both an ace Hacker and sports a photographic memory, which makes snooping into Blomkvist’s files a cinch.

Eventually, through his investigation of the Vanger Family on their private island, it becomes apparent that Blomkvist needs a little assistance, so he asks the lawyers if Salander can be brought on to work with him. It’s when the two characters meet that the story really picks up some steam.

While I loved it (I’m going back to see it again over the weekend, I think), there was the odd feeling that something was really off. At one point in the film, I find myself quirking my brow, because it occurred to me that there was just a little too much sex in the movie. I understand that’s not something one should complain about, but the Swedish version of the film led me to believe that Salander’s motives for any kind of passion were just a “want, need, have” and move on. In this version, she came across almost needy. It’s not even the right word. Where Rapace’s Salander felt cold and calculating even though the later parts of the story, Mara’s Salander feels like she’s warming up to Blomkvist emotionally. Of course, this could be attributed to screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List, Searching for Bobby Fischer) playing the story closer to the book than the other film, but it was strange for me in that sense. Fincher, who is notorious for control over his scenes may also be to blame here. If you have access to the behind the scenes for The Social Network, you can watch some of his interviews on the behind the scenes to get an idea of just how much he likes to control where a scene goes.

I don’t hate Fincher. I own Se7en, Fight Club and The Social Network and love all three of these, but even I have to admit that as cool and as stylish as the film is, something’s just off. I loved the film, but it’s just different.

The movie was advertised as the ‘feel bad film of the year’, and in that sense, they’re not lying. Keep the kids home, please. All three versions of the story contained a rape scene. Fincher and Co. Don’t pull any punches here, making it all a little disturbing for anyone not actually prepared for it. One standout to the film has to be the score, developed by Oscar Winners Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (something I’ll never be fully able to handle saying, having been a Nine Inch Nails fan since the mid ‘90s). The movie has no clear-cut theme to it, but the music that fuels the scene add an extra layer to things. That I really enjoyed.

So, overall, the remake didn’t really need to be made, but it does make me interested to see what Fincher and Zaillian have in store if they decide to continue the Millenium Trilogy. My hopes are that they give Lisbeth Salander a bit of a sharper edge than she already has. Mara herself, they don’t have to worry about. She’s a definite lock as Salander, and I’m happy for her on that. It’s where they choose to take her that I’m concerned about.

Film Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (dir. by Guy Ritchie)


One of my favorite films of 2009 was Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.  I saw the first (of probably many) sequels to that film this weekend.  Now, I have to admit that I was kinda worried about Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  As much as I loved the first film, it definitely had the feeling of being a happy accident.  There were so many obvious ways to screw the film up that I found myself suspecting that that’s exactly what would happen with the sequel and I worried that a bad sequel would make it impossible for me ever to really enjoy the first film.  Well, having seen Game of Shadows, I can see that no, it’s not as good as the first film.  However, it’s still  pretty good.

Game of Shadows picks up the story a bit after the end of the first film.  Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.) is still doing cocaine and solving mysteries in London.  Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is still his best friend and is still planning on getting married and, not surprisingly, Holmes is still not happy about the idea of losing him.  Holmes is also still investigating the mysterious criminal mastermind, Dr. James Moriarty (Jared Harris).  Holmes discovers that Moriarty is behind a series of world-wide anarchist bombings and, with the world on the verge of war, Holmes and Watson attempt to both figure out why and to thwart Moriarty’s scheme.  While I haven’t read enough Sherlock Holmes to say for sure (I read the Hound of the Baskervilles in high school and that’s about it), I get the feeling that, plotwise, this film was probably more James Bond than traditional Sherlock Holmes.  But no matter, it’s an intriguing enough plot and director Ritchie wisely doesn’t spend too much time trying to hammer home that similarities between Moriarty’s scheme and certain modern-day conspiracy theories.

If the first Sherlock Holmes was a comedy with some action scenes, this sequel is definitely an action film with a lot of comedic relief.  Whether or not this increases or diminishes your enjoyment of the sequel really depends on how you feel about the action genre in general.  To be honest, most big budget action films bore me several shades of silly and Game of Shadows pulls out all the usual tricks — slow motion explosions, fist fights full of jump cuts so quick that it becomes impossible to really keep track of who is actually fighting who, and the whole zooming into the barrel of a gun just as the trigger is pulled routine.  And yet these action sequences didn’t inspire my usual eye rolling, if just because it was obvious that the film itself understood just how over-the-top and silly all of it was.  The film has the decency not to demand that I take it seriously and for that, I’m more willing to accept the predictable parts than I would be with a film like Battle L.A.

Besides, even with the increased emphasis on action, the filmmakers still understand that what made the first Sherlock Holmes work was the chemistry between Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law.  Seriously, Downey and Law have some of the strongest chemistry in the movies today.  Certainly, there a more believable couple than Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher.  (It’s probably not a coincidence that the film, very early on, establishes that Watson is getting married and that Holmes is still mourning Rachel McAdams from the previous film.)  You buy their friendship and it’s just fun to watch these two actors bouncing lines off of each other.  Downey still comes across more like Robert Downey. Jr. than Sherlock Holmes (and that’s just fine with me) but Jude Law actually gets a chance to act in this film and he brings a lot of life to a character who, on paper, would just seem to be the prototypical sidekick. 

Joining the cast in this installment as Jarded Harris as the evil Dr. Moriarty and Noomi Rapace as the gypsy fortune teller who gets caught up in Moriarty’s latest scheme.  Now, you may be surprised to hear this with the current efforts to brainwash us all into being Rooney Mara-compliant but Rapace was the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and, regardless of the film establishment’s attempts to revise history, she is the one who made Lisbeth Salander into an icon.  Unfortunately, Rapace doesn’t get to do much here but I was happy to see her if just to know that the Hollywood establishment hadn’t succeeded in erasing her from history.  As Moriarty, Jared Harris doesn’t have a lot of scenes but he still totally dominates the entire film.  Harris’s Moriarty is truly serpent-like, outwardly smooth and calm but, on the inside, always ready to strike.  He makes Moriarty into such a memorable, genuinely threatening villain that he ends up giving the film an extra dimension that otherwise wouldn’t be there.  It’s a great performance and hopefully, when the inevitable third Sherlock Holmes film is made, Moriarty will be back and Harris will be playing him.