Unlike the troglodytes of 1980’s American Cinema and their more stoic, brooding heirs in the past decade, the 1990’s leading man in American cinema is annoying, boisterous, or whatever adjective you’d like to call them. But there’s also a steak of conscientiousness within these character actors. Brad Pitt is one, making up the holy four of Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey, and Pitt’s co-star Edward Norton in Fight Club. But in that movie Pitt lets Norton’s character – his name is Rupert – do all the slapstick comic relief, since Pitt’s Tyler Durden is already outlandish as it is with his funky outfit and spiky hair, his look of running opposite of his anti-capitalistic stance. Despite some yelling fits Pitt, in the younger part of his career, puts some restraint in his character, recognizing that cool is the opposite of overexertion, although he seems to do both and gets away with looking like the latter.
And no, cool doesn’t always mean flattering, Pitt being humble enough to ugly himself up with out without blood on his face. Anyway, sometimes he punches hard but he can also just hit people in swift movements while smoking a cigarette, as if violence, in Pitt’s characterization of Tyler, is a trivial chore, a part of his bigger plan. He’s fraternal with his co-stars, never seeming bossy when he gives a handful of orders to his disciples in Project Mayhem. We the audience can also see this restraint when he preaches to his Project Mayhem members. I keep trying to mourn the lack of elocution in post-studio cinema, or look for traces of it in New Hollywood actors or after, but Pitt has it, declaring Tyler’s political beliefs not with belligerent anger but with the strength to make it enough of unquestionable truth. For a while.
The Second CAST Awards were announced like four months ago and I’m only posting about it now because I had to catch up on my 2011 movies. Or more appropriately, I said ‘Eff it, I’m going to list my top ten even if everyone’s clamouring about The Raid and no one cares about 2011 anymore.’
I’m also using this news because I always take advantage of any opportunity to make fun of Nicolas Winding Refn‘s overrated movie Drive. Because the other CAST voters placed it as their top film. Or maybe, give it a second chance, since the hype of the movie is the reason I started listening to Kavinsky and College (both bands’ instrumental songs are better than the ones with lyrics), which got me thinking about how I don’t tolerate the soundtrack’s use in the movie while Sofia Coppola’s use of anachronistic music is more palatable in her movie Marie Antoinette from five years ago. In a way both movies have us as an audience are layered on top of themselves as audience members, skewing the narrative and interpreting it as their own.
Me and my friend Sasha James of That Sasha James internet fame reenact or interpretation of Drive‘s dialogue of us just saying ‘Hey’ to each other. Since I have to play The Driver – boo ho me – I say my ‘lines’ with the Peter Fonzarelli accent that Gosling mysteriously has now (Hossein Amini‘s script is very descriptive by the way, making me wonder why that eloquence wasn’t used for the dialogue). And because I’m crazy I do these acting exercises to College’s music when it finally clicked, the sensitivity that’s difficult to catch when your mind is in the wrong place. But how does an actor express and externalize longing and loneliness through ‘Hey?’ I still think that the movie doesn’t do this successfully and I’ll probably never watch the movie again. I will also promise never to make fun of Drive again, but the terrible movies this year makes it difficult for me to find a movie to mock. I don’t like easy targets.
I also wanted to make my top ten post into some manifesto on what I like about movies, since the list may be that diverse. But then I got lazy. So here goes.
Blue Valentine – Because Grizzly Bear is that perfect dash to make Michelle Williams more beautiful.
Pariah – Because I like co-opting other people’s cultures.
Shame – Because it combines how good sex is and how frustrating it is to look for it.
Rampart – Because crazy cameraman are the best.
Tree of Life – Because understanding a movie emotionally should be enough.
Win Win – Because casts should also clown cars.
Jane Eyre – Because sometimes, the first few images are enough.
Essential Killing – Because dream sequences should always be in pink.
The Mill and the Cross – Because I’m a closet Catholic.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Because violence should always be presented with that sheen.
Now I’m going to wait for some more money, buy Carnage and Chronicle on DVD, watch Cabin in the Woods and whatever else that has a green Metacritic rating, do some laundry, go to the doctor and sleep. This emotionally shitty year is over, thank God!
I was having an hour-long conversation with a critic who will choose to name himself if he wants to. I choose for his anonymity because my few disagreements with some of his arguments will make me look like the kind of douche who uses the internet to talk back. I have to write about the movie we talked about weeks after I saw it, I guess. Meant no harm.
Our conversation got to his dislike of rape revenges, leading to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He dislikes the book – yay! – Oplev’s adaptation – hated that too! – and Fincher’s version. Wait, what? That movie is gunning for a place in my list top movies of 2011! People who apparently watch this polished turd – my words – wouldn’t be caught dead in an equally schlock-y Saw series.
I agree that Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara) is a false and misguided conception of the left-wing’s more extreme version of himself, stemming from white male guilt that does more harm than good. Speaking of fetishizations it also relies on the concept that rich people makes Charles Manson’s childhood seem normal. I explained to him that as a fifth-generation nobody that the riches are more like the Kings in The Descendants with some of “Revenge’s” Amanda Clarke.
I’m a 90’s kid but that’s exactly the problem, lumping him with other movies I outgrew. Most of what governs my taste as a film viewer is my re-education when I was in college, shoving away the shock violent quirk of 90’s American indie movies. Fincher always has ‘something missing’ anyway. Se7en is elegant yet chooses one form of elitism over another. Fight Club is boy stuff. Zodiac and The Social Network seem cold. TSN specifically feels like a missed opportunity as Sorkin’s one liners feel stunted through an emotionally distant lens. Ben Button is fine.
I was sceptical of Dragon Tattoo because of the bad reviews Alien 3 and Panic Room and if you add TSN‘s yucky gender politics I’d even conclude that Fincher doesn’t know women. But Dragon Tattoo pumped my adrenaline from the opening credits and as the movie continues, I exclaimed yeah! he’s back to form and these people are hitting each other! But why do I like that he’s back to form now even though I stopped liking his form for half a decade now? And why am I responding to this movie that’s supposedly more vulgar than his earlier work?
It’s the mood, isn’t it? Jeff Cornenweth’s cinematography of the snow and the cozy interiors. Lisbeth’s techno-gothic iFetish. Techno-gothic also applies to the howls escaping Martin Vanger’s (Stellan Skarsgard) Frank Lloyd Wright-esque house built on top of a ‘laundry room’ on top of a priest’s house. I can almost hear Trent Reznor pressing down harder on his keyboard. A push and pull from the aesthetic making the subject simmer down.
The performances are also great, Fincher fleshing out scenes while screenwriter Steve Zaillian economizing the characters’ words. Mara is indisputably great under Fincher’s direction, screaming during the right times and deadpan in others. She can be as sexual aggressor as she is a victim, telling her elder cohort investigator/boyfriend Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) to keep his hand under her shirt, coldly demanding affection like Garbo in Ninotchka. The ending also feels relaxed, Martin’s words ‘immigrant whore’ a slightly suitable alternative to the elongated caricature of the book and Oplev’s movie.
This refining of schlock reminds me of Miss Bala, a festival favourite, Oscar-shortlisted version of a drug cartel movie. Same thing with how my family would turn their nose up on jeep gangster movies while Brilliante Mendoza’s Kinatay, gets recognized as the gritty film-making for which Filipino film gets recognized. But whole ‘nother parameters, making me wonder what kind of room cinema has for the needlessly sadistic.
The second part of this conversation is bat shit, which is why I ask you if I should post it.
A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Ronald Neame, 1969)
Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
The portrayal of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the Aaron Sorkin–David Fincher production of The Social Network, is either that of a loser or someone cooler than everyone around him gives him credit for. I still don’t know which side I’m on. Let the debate begin.
The film begins with an unromantic date between Mark and ‘Erica Albright’ (Rooney Mara), where Mark prattles on about the final clubs, which ‘lead to a better life.’ Their words are speedy my now. Erica starting a sentence with ‘From a woman’s perspective,’ a phrase that from my experience a woman might only say when she gets cornered in a conversation by a group with at least two men in it. The date ends badly since Erica has no sense of humour about going to BU, but in fairness, he didn’t talk about her alma mater with a light joke neither.
Mark then goes to his dorm room, goes on livejournal and implies something about Erica’s last name being Anglicized from ‘Albrecht,’ an implication that short-sighted people resort to in hurting times. That won’t be the last time he makes a ‘Hitler youth‘ implication. God knows I would have done worse. Eisenberg narrates Zuckerberg’s lj with dignity, which is difficult since we’re talking about lj here. He also creates Facemash.com. As well as being proud of having better productivity while drunk and forgetting that drinking Beck’s while making a sexist website, like most things you do drunk, have heavy consequences. He gets called out by the ad board, gives them a telling off that doesn’t make the board sympathize with him in any way and gets an academic probation.
What ensues is the body of the film – two separate lawsuits against Mark from the Winklevi (Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence) and from his co-founder and former CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The three wear suits, are mannered, respectful. Mark, sporting hoodies or uncomfortable dress shirts, pays no deference to the legal process and tries to interrupt the testimonies with snide comments. However, the binaries between the plaintiffs and Mark are hazier than that.
The first scene with Erica shows Mark’s clear stance on the final clubs, but he gets less vocal about them as the time line of the film progresses. He does voice his resentment to the Winklevi by rebutting that he was only allowed in the Porcellian house’s bike room, but that speaks more of the twins’ lack of hospitality that it does his wish for inclusion.
Mark drags both the Winklevi Eduardo down, both having to expose their insecurities of exclusion and daddy issues and thinking he’s going through the same. He tells Eduardo that ‘he wasn’t gonna get in anyway,’ and from personal experience, nerds can be hurtful towards normal people. His remarks get a stranger reaction, as Eduardo starts looking for Mark’s approval, routinely updating him about his final club, the Phoenix. When their partnership really sours, Eduardo freezes the $19000 account to get Mark’s attention. Again, Mark has said zip to confirm that his reasons for betraying the three boys is partly because of his exclusion and their inclusion. What happened? Does having a billion dollars make Mark indifferent to these clubs? Did he grow up? Or are the three still right about him, feeling the same resentment that they’ve carried for years?
The film also makes Mark resort to proud begging, never having neither to plead nor apologize to anyone he’s ever hurt. In trying to appease Eduardo after the account freezing business, Mark tells him that he would love for Eduardo to come down to Palo Alto and resume his work as the website’s CFO. This proud begging specifically applies to his treatment of Erica after his harsh words to her in a bar. He never has the chance to apologize about her or to any of his new enemies, really. Neither does he, thankfully, have an Erica shrine to moon over – he has her Facebook page for that. Instead he asks to get food with her, a private conversation, a friend request. Usually for the latter, when bad break-ups are involved, a friend request follows a message for the other person. Yes, he incessantly clicks refresh instead checking it later like the rest of us cool kids might do. I might sound like I’m over-reading but justifying what others see as an obsession, but it’s as if she has to add him first before she gets to hear what he has to say. Or his friend request is a way to meet her face to face, hopefully. It’s both childish and fair at the same time.
The Social Network isn’t the movie of a generation. Thankfully the movie wasn’t like two Judge Mathis episodes. And sure, the characters here are the most layered ones I’ve seen this year. Its rendition of some ideas, like how to introduce an idea to the public, are greatly done. Yet the film limits itself. It also allows no room for believable emotional eruptions nor awakenings and comes off as cold and distant, and this is from a guy who likes ‘subtle.’ The pacing is off, like a symphony that darts you with violins, only letting us rest when the rain comes. Sorkin needs to slow down once in a while. The women, although some have argued as a stand-in for the audience, have the best lines but also the least dimensions. It doesn’t have the same visual punch as a classic film it’s been compared to, Citizen Kane. Despite of those things, we have Mark, a boy who covets, a performance and character that many more will write about.
- Mark Zuckerberg gets portrayed as a joyless dweeb in The Social Network. (slate.com)
- A story that’s hard not to like (washingtonpost.com)
My childhood memories of The American President and its run on late 90’s HBO Asia was that Annette Bening as Sydney Wade is the most beautiful woman on earth, her glow of sanity here is unforgettable. Crazier roles almost made me forget, but rewatching is remembering. She cuddles to President Andrew Shephard (Michael Douglas) in the couch, the country loves her, they get all the votes they need. The perfect couple. I honestly didn’t remember how hostile the movie was.
And I don’t remember Sorkin writing the typical second act of a romance movie where the lovers are driven apart. Their differences are more political, as Shepherd’s Crime Bill conflicts with Wade’s fossil fuel bill. Let me remind you guys that this is 1995, when people still cared about the environment. Then people stopped caring, then Al Gore made people care again. The film’s a product of its left-leaning time. Another conflict within the film is how the Republican men labels Wade a ‘whore.’ How dare they! And she had red hair? And everyone else in this film has red hair?
Michael J. Fox is awesome here too. I never thought he could play an adult, but there you go. Aaron Sorkin is a great but with his characters-as-symbolic ideologies method, he’s not the best writer of TV and film. He does, however, know how to write explosive, eloquent dialogue. His America sounds more true than we think, one that doesn’t pay attention to sexual gossip of the Clinton era nor the Tea Party insanity of today. I just hope my country catches up. Also, Samantha Mathis and Anne Hathaway’s stepmother in Rachel Getting Married is in this movie.
Also, I never watched The West Wing“. I know Peggy’s in it, but I was 11. I liked stuff like Buffy and MTV. Give me a break.
Now to Fincher. I’m not the biggest fan of ubermasculinity and Fight Club is the cinematic version of a hockey bag. Yes, I’m turning down shirtless guys with that sentence. At the same time, I also resent that Project Mayhem promised so much but didn’t really happen, or that it kinda did but people turned away and instead defended the institutions that oppress them. But then again, if I ever joined a radical group like Project Mayhem, I’d cry if they took away my iPod. My whole life is in there!
I’ve had, however, fantasies about this scene, as an Asian who hates his job and secretly wants out.
Fight Club, not The Social Network, is Fincher’s most Wellesian film. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) inherits an empire and wants a newer, more radical, destructive, oppressive one of his own making. It’s liberating to blow up buildings of credit card companies, but a leader taking away individuality casts doubts. Yes, this movie was in my Imperialist Cinema class. This film also fits into my unorthodox education, corporate sculpture and bauhaus bourgeois being shoved away by performance art, performed by Project Mayhem.
And the shot composition, finding unconventional ways to light every shot, and often times there’s symmetry despite its baroque angles. And the colour, just like Se7en.
My mom has harped about how ugly Pitt is, an unfathomable concept to me until I rewatched this movie. As Tyler he’s both sexy and bruised, letting himself go as he sees fit. Speaking of Brad Pitt, this was a date movie. That’s as much as I’ll share.
Thinking this out, Fight Club might become my favourite Fincher instead of Zodiac all along. Also, I need to read Palahniuk’s book.
- Modern Maestros: David Fincher (filmexperience.blogspot.com)
Before I show my answer, I wanna show my back-ups.
The most elegant/scary opening credits.
Detective David Mills (Brad Pitt) reacts to stuff.
Four reasons why Mills is a terrible person are shown/implied in this shot.
I suppose this is the right space to write about my complaints about this movie, on how Mills, a guy who’s worked homicide for five years is still a moralizing optimist. Or that the murders wherever Mills is from can’t be as bad as the one’s he’s about to see in L.A. I also have problems with John Doe (Kevin Spacey) hating fat people but hating skinny people too. I don’t know about California law but around here if a the defence admits to his counsel of being guilty, the fight is over. I’m also sure that the whore he killed has used condoms while she’s on duty.
Thankfully, my latest viewing of this movie is one when the dominant force is Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman), patient, pensive yet jaded. My answer after the cut.
Director David Fincher‘s always known for his low-light sfumato effect in his films. The same goes for Se7en, where even the ‘white’ shots are wedged in contrast with sharp black. There are, however, instances within Se7en when big dots of colour appear, like here, colour shown behind a car window, made translucent by the rain, looking like a Van Gogh.
The neon signs of the city can advertise anything, including, sadistically, this
But my best shots and two that I can expand upon are these.
Green study lamps, aesthetically pleasing. What a way to visualize enlightenment ignored in a dark, seedy, crass city. Bright objects always get to me.
The library guards are on good terms with Somerset, leaving the books all to himself. He chooses a table, sets the briefcase down, looking at all the books that the guards are ignoring. He eventually addresses this disconnect ‘All the knowledge in the world at your fingertips.’ The guards see his bet and tops it by playing Bach on the boom box, making this trip to the library a relaxing time.
It’s been established that Somerset wants to give up his badge. However, it’s stuff like pulling all-nighters that make others, like the guards in this library, think that he’s eternally linked to this job. He absorbs the information on a handful of books neither with young earnestness nor a yawn. No coffee breaks. The film also establishes this scene as if this might be his last trip to this library, and wants to sit down and take his time with the books.
A guard say ‘Hey Smiley, you’re gonna miss us.’ He responds ‘I just might.’ Interesting nickname.
Also notice the lamps in the second shot are pointing different direction, the mise-en-scene arranged in meticulous disarray.
This post is part of Nathaniel R’s Hit Me with Your Best Shot Series.
- Blu-ray Review: Se7en (seattlepi.com)
- Check Out a Classic Scene From the New ‘Seven’ Blu-ray (cinematical.com)