345-Word Reviews: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I haven’t seen the Swedish adaptations, nor read the Stieg Larsson books on which they are based, which either makes me hopelessly unqualified to comment on this piece of the franchise, or a blank slate for judging this film on its own terms. All I can say is that I once overheard sections of the audiobook, and it seemed to involve mostly people emailing each other (here’s a full plot synopsis if you need it). After The Social Network, I wondered if David Fincher was going to go one step further and make a whole film about electronic communication. Not quite. Continue reading

Se7en Randomised

I haven’t done one of these in a while, and I remember enjoying writing them, so I thought it would be fun to revisit the Randomised series. You can read more examples here, but the gist of it is that I use a random number generator to select for me some images from a film and use those frames as a prompt for discussion of the film. When I first saw David Fincher‘s Seven back in 1996, I disliked it quite a lot. It wasn’t just that it made me uncomfortable; I was an opinionated, contrarian filmgoer at the best of times, and seeing a packed house for a matinée screening lapping up the lurid details of such a fashionably grim movie wound me up. Dark was the new black. It felt like the film’s downbeat tone was all posturing: it wasn’t the product of a misanthropic worldview, but the shock tactics of a film-maker eager to buck every available trend of  the genre thriller. More to the point, I was sick of serial killer films, fed up of hyperintelligent and meticulous murderers whose preternaturally effective and elaborate schemes, always perfectly executed, seemed more like the manoeuvrings not of believable killers but of self-satisfied screenwriters. The fascination with the process of killing someone was distasteful and dishonest, I believed, resulting in the ultimate ascension of Hannibal Lecter and Dexter to the status of righteous avengers picking off the scum of society (a reactionary fantasy that I still find wholly repellent). I still have some of these reservations, but after subsequent viewings, Seven has, to my mind, matured considerably (as, I hope, have I) into a compulsive and rich work that rewards close scrutiny and transcends any of its modish or exploitative genre-mates. Continue reading

The Social Network

[I wrote this post in 2010, a few days after The Social Network was released. Today, in November 2016, I’m revisiting it because I’m currently teaching the film to my high school students, and because I wanted to find a way back to blogging after another long hiatus. Here, you will find the original review, and below it, some notes on my more recent viewing.]

Review from 10th October 2010:

The big question is “what will Mark Zuckerberg think of The Social Network?” Will he like what is being said about him at the multiplex, which, because it amplifies and magnifies everything in surround sound and Massive-o-Vision, is the most public and uncouth forum for telling an intimate story about private enmities. There’s a definite hint of schadenfreude in the film’s purported laying bare of Zuckerberg’s social ineptitude, his near-autistic inability to engage with friends in ways they can relate and warm to – so the man who made a career out of commoditising other people’s private lives in ways they were ill-prepared to comprehend doesn’t like the way he’s talking about in the pop-cultural echo-chamber? Poor lamb.

Actually, the film is stacked in his favour, with only Eduardo Saverin (played by the eminently sympathetic future Spider-Man) coming off better: Zuckerberg is not friendly, despite his fame arising from his packaging of friendship, but he is preternaturally witty in his defensive verbal quips, outsmarting the more socially and professionally advantaged around him. His accusers, with the exception of Saverin, while not villainised, are emphatically portrayed as the kind of privileged elite we usually find putting nerds in headlocks in movies set at college. His is an automatic underdog story, and you can’t help following the script and feeling for the guy. What does Zuckerberg think of it? Well, according to Aaron Sorkin, the film’s writer, he “really liked the parts he agreed with.”

Continue reading