Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Different Places" (Critics Awards & Dragon Tattoos)

Please read the title in your best exasperated Nomi Malone voice. Plz and thx. I can't read the words "different places" without hearing Showgirls in my head.

The big critics prizes (Los Angeles and New York) have come and gone but more cities are following suit declaring their bests. Now, by the magic of the expandable post, we can share them all without appearing to be as dull obsessive and monotonous about what we do here at the film experience as those investigations into unsolved cold cases are in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

I've lept from Nomi to Noomi so I pray you're still with me.

I just watched the first film in the Millenium trilogy months after the hoopla and and I'm sorry that I have to ask it: WHAT is the big deal? It's so inelegantly structured as a film and so TV like in its choices. It's also a shade too enamored of the misogyny it condemns. I'd been vaguely curious to see it because audience identification with this violent barely verbal girlwoman fascinates me; what does it say about us that it's been such a great year for aspergers anti-heroes (see also: Social Network)? 

The best moments in the film were rare tossed off funny bits, usually courtesy of Michael Nykvist (who you'll recognize from the great Swedish picture Together or the Oscar nominee As It Is In Heaven)  and a few fine details within Noomi Rapace's leading work as the very popular Lisbeth Salander. You can sometimes catch Lisbeth trying to decipher her own impenetrable emotions as if they're as myterious to her as they are to us, which was a very nice actorly touch. Noomi was recently nominated for the "Critics Choice" and though she's good in the role, I can't say it was the revelation I'd hoped for given the acclaim and the sudden explosion of job offers that followed the trilogy (I'm actually totally weirded out that anyone -- in this case the film's director -- thinks she's been mistreated or cold shouldered by Hollywood).

In other words, I'm interested to see what Rooney Mara does for David Fincher in the same role; every once in a blue moon cover versions are better than originals. We'll see.

Mostly I was disappointed in the writing and filmmaking and that it felt like a television show. Just about the only visual thrill in the long film was the scene where black and white photos are made to move as continuous negatives chase each other. That image is smartly repeated. They must have known that it really worked. The scene haunts like the girl's a living ghost, which is a neat trick given the narrative. We wonder, along with Mikael Blomkvist, what spooked this dead girl and redirected her blurry gaze away from the camera.

In short... Noomi: B/B+ Movie: C Opportunity to See David Fincher Take a Crack At This Material: B- On this last. Fincher is one of my favorite filmmakers but I'd rather he do something else since this film already exists but he's very talented and he'll surely improve on it... though I'll miss the Swedish authenticity given that they're not changing the locale and given that I'm never very excited about people remaking foreign films for America. But my main question is: Why does he want to do yet another unsolved mystery/serial killer story? It's too early in that career to start repeating himself, isn't it?

What were we talking about? 

Oh, yes, critics prizes. If you'd like to discuss Toronto, San Diego, San Francisco and who dared to plant a flag that didn't say "Social Network!" on it >GASP!<, read on.

I'll always hold a soft sport for the San Diego Film Critics for loving Michelle Pfeiffer in White Oleander back in the day (surely one of the most brilliant/least rewarded mainstream performances of the entire decade) so what did the SDFC love this year?

San Diego
Picture Winter's Bone
Director Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
Actress Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
Actor Colin Farrel in Ondine
Supporting Actress Lesley Manville in Another Year
Supporting Actor John Hawkes in Winter's Bone
Original Screenplay Jesse Armstrong, Sam Bain and Chris Morris for Four Lions
Adapted Screenplay Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network
Foreign Language Film I Am Love
Documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop
Cinematopraphy Wally Pfister for Inception
Animated Film Toy Story 3
Editing Jonathan Amos & Paul Machliss for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Production Design Dante Ferretti for Shutter Island
Score Rachel Portman for Never Let Me Go
Ensemble 44 Inch Chest
Body of Work Rebecca Hall (Please Give, The Town, Red Riding)
Kyle Count Award Duncan Shepherd (Film Critic)
  • Congratulate them for at least thinking for themselves. This dangerous activity, thinking for oneself can yield results both beautiful (John Hawkes!) and horrifying (Rachel Portman's aural assault. You are not the lead actress of your movie, Ms. Portman! Let Mulligan do that.)

Picture The Social Network
[Runner up: Black Swan & Uncle Boonmee]
Director David Fincher for The Social Network
[Runner up: Darren Aronofsky & Chris Nolan]Actress Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
[Runner up: Natalie Portman & Michelle Williams]
Actor Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network [Runner up: Colin Firth & James Franco]
Supporting Actress Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit[Runner up: Amy Adams & Melissa Leo]
Supporting Actor Armie Hammer in The Social Network[Runner up: Christian Bale & Geoffrey Rush]
Screenplay  Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network
[Runner up: The King's Speech & True Grit]
Foreign Language Film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
[Runner up: Mother & Of Gods and Men]
Documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop
[Runner up: Inside Job & Marwencol]
First Feature Exit Through The Gift Shop
[Runner up: Get Low & Monsters]
Animated Film How To Train Your Dragon[Runners up: Despicable Me & Toy Story 3]
Jay Scott Prize for Emerging Talent Daniel Cockburn
Special Citation Bruce Macdonald for directing four movies in 2010 This Movie is Broken, Trigger, Music From the Big House, and Hard Core Logo 2
Rogers Canadian Film Award Nominees Denis Villeneuve's Incendies, Vincenzo Natali's Splice and Bruce McDonald's Trigger
  • Toronto's TFCA weirdly decided to honor a real supporting player (Armie Hammer) in one supporting category and then play fraud (Hailee) in the other. Why do critics organization do this? It's not like the Toronto Film Critics Association influences Oscar votes, so why lie? Also isn't it a touch bizarre that Uncle Boonmee (my review) is their runner up best picture AND their winner in foreign film but still can't manage to even be a best director runner up when the only reason anyone loves it so is that it's such a distillation of What Apichatpong "Joe" Weerasethakul does? Joe is the reason people love the movie, period. It's the very definition of an auteur film.
San Francisco
Picture The Social Network
Director (tie) David Fincher for The Social Network and Darren Aronofsky for Black Swan
Actress Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
Actor Colin Firth in The King's Speech
Supporting Actress Jacki Weaver in Animal Kingdom
Supporting Actor John Hawkes in Winter's Bone
Original Screenplay The King's Speech
Adapted Screenplay The Social Network
Foreign Language Film Mother
Documentary The Tillman Story
Cinematography Matthew Libatique for Black Swan
Animated Film Toy Story 3
Marlong Riggs Award for Courage and Vision in the Bay Area Film Community Elliot Lavine who is a teacher, exhibitor and repertory curator for Bay Area programming. He helped revive popularity of film noir and pre-Code feature films.
  • I love the specialized local awards that film critic organizations usually gives. That's a good use of their power. Oscar predictions is not a good use of their power. Just sayin'. Not that that's what San Francisco has done this year exactly... though they probably got a few "right"


Bryan said...

Quite a few surprises here, actually. Armie Hammer, Michelle Williams, Colin Farrell.

In Best Actress, I've been surprised by the lack of dominance by Portman and Bening. Maybe this isn't a pas de deux 'til the end like we all though?

James T said...

But, aren't Fincher's characters almost always obsessed with something? And even from your comment (The Girl and Zuckerberg have somehing in common), it's no wonder he was interested in this particular character. She fits the bill. Serial killing is just one more (more superficial, I'd argue) thing in common with one of his protagonists.

Anyway, I, too, would have liked him to do something else though not what you would have in mind (*cough* Fischer biopic).

I haven't seen the movies/read the books but I don't think I would enjoy either of them. IF the Fincher version comes out and has great reviews I'll probably see it.

Chris said...

"Where are you from?"
"... Back east."
"From where, 'back east'?"
(throws fries) "DIFFERENT PLACES!"

Devin D said...

Go California! San Diego and San Francisco both awarded John Hawkes.

Stenar said...

The Millennium books are far better than the movies. I think audiences who went to/enjoyed the movie were those who'd already read the books and wanted to reexperience it. Nykvist was all wrong to play that character, though.

caroline said...

James T - I'd say less "obsessive" than "socially-rebellious anti-heroes". Fincher characters are always trying to redefine the social structure through unseemly methods.

TB said...

As a mild to moderate fan of the Millennium Trilogy films, I halfway agree with you on the style of the filmmaking, however, I think the unattractive, slightly monotonous style actually works in spite of itself.

If the films had been more aesthetically pleasing, it would have been a tad inaccurate to the tone of the work. For Lisbeth, Sweden, and really life itself, is bleak and depressing. The style of the filming matches the character's view, even if it is completely by accident.

On a totally different note though, major kudos to Michelle Williams! Her campaign is really starting to gear up now that the NC-17 rating has been overturned.

Craig said...

Nate -- I'm on the same page as you re: San Diego, but with an added reason. They honored Michelle Monaghan Best Actress last year for Trucker, and IMHO it was the top performance by an actress in 2009.

It's also great to see Lawrence and Hawkes singled out. You really can't find better acting than that in American films today.

Glenn said...

It's the slamming of the fries that really does it. I mean, her new best friend bought them for her and that's how she shows her gratitude?

Also: I kinda enjoyed Dragon Tattoo, what can I say? I just kinda like mysteries. Also, it IS a TV movie. Right?

Unknown said...

I totally agree with your opinion on "Dragon Tattoo", although I kind of liked Noomi in it. Also, I have met her and she's lovely, so maybe I am biased... Nykvist on the other hand I found boring and miscast.
But indeed: it was conceived as a two-part TV movie, financed by Swedish and German TV stations. So no wonder it has a TV feel to it. Though I would say some of the camera work looks way better than the usual TV stuff. Still: I can't wait to see what Fincher makes out of this!

pomme said...

i think Noomi Rapace is the reason to see the trilogy because i'm so-so about the movies(i dislike the tone and how they use the violence)

it seems Fincher's next movie will be "20,000 leagues under the sea" for Disney(i want to see it)

Anonymous said...

How could you not see the extraordinary performance Noomi Rapace gave? She's the one and only Lisbeth! see all three to understand the full story first!

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Peggy Sue said...

I couldn't finish the first book so I think I'm going to skip the whole trilogy and wait for Fincher's version. At least he knows what to do with a camera... and there`s Daniel Craig!

Timothy said...

Coming into something after excessive hype is always the destination for a letdown. That "what's the big deal?" attitude is the worst way to see any kind of art, or allowing yourself to be so susceptible to outside noise and hype. I loved the novel to "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (currently reading the second book), so I guess I'm biased. I'm not seeing any of the Swedish films until I've read all three novels. I'm a big David Fincher fan, but I am weary of remakes/reboots, and I think he could have picked something original over this. It's also going to annoy me that they're doing this in Sweden speaking English with Swedish accents. I'll still see his versions too, b/c I want to compare Noomi Rapace to Rooney Mara, as well as the films against each other. But if you haven't read the books yet, I'd give them a shot. It might make the films more palatable in general.

Liz said...

We could not be more in sync regarding "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It's basically a feature-length episode of "Criminal Minds" in Swedish. And the use of the violence was so disturbing in both the book (also terrible) and the movie. "Violence against women is bad, and we will demonstrate that for you in the most graphic and sadistic manner possible." Ugh.

And if you think this one was bad, the next movie in the series, "The Girl Who Played with Fire," is a form of slow torture. But maybe that's a good thing, since the books and movies are obviously huge fans of that pasttime.

Scott G S said...

I couldn't agree more with your take on "The Girl Who..." I have to admit that before I saw it I already resented the franchise as it seems to be the ONLY book people will read now that they've finished all the Harry Potters. I thought it a totally average serial killer drama, well made as far as it goes but nothing about the central crime story connected with the two main characters. I cannot figure out why people are so amped about it.

VonCastle said...

Dear Nathaniel,

Though you don't exactly bash Noomi, I must say I don't agree with you AT ALL (and I often do). For me she is "the fresh" breath in movies 2010, even better than Jennifer Lawrence. Great multi-layered performance.

And yes, though the movie is TV-ish (and foreign - only an issue for the US market), I believe it is strong enough to hold its on against a remake (plus, such a short-gap produced one).
I would have refused the challenge, if I was Fincher. But then again, despite some good ones, a remake always seems pointless to me...

cinephile said...

While I thought the movie was entertaining, I agree on Rapace - she was good but not that amazing. I don't really get the BFCA nomination over some greater performances.