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A Tale of Two Tattoos

Every now and then, The Nostalgia Critic does what he calls “Old vs. New”. What he does in these segments is compare two movies: one original and one remade. Some examples include “Batman vs. The Dark Knight” and “Ralph Bakshi’s version of The Lord of the Rings vs. Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings“. I will do something similar except with nothing exactly nostalgic but rather something that stirs debate today: which version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is superior?

Frequent visitors of my blog know my review of David Fincher’s adaptation as well as my opinion of him; if you’re new to the site, simply scroll down for the review. I hadn’t seen the original Swedish version of the movie until just recently out of the recommendation of a friend (thank you, Nicole Rothschild). I know that so many people defend the original as a “classic”, a movie that needn’t a remake. These people dismiss Fincher’s adaptation as unnecessary garbage even before they see it. I made the statement that it isn’t a wise choice, a statement that I still defend, but who’s right? I must compare the two movies in five aspects: Mikael Blomkvist, Lisbeth Salander, supporting cast, direction, and overall movie. Which one is the better movie?

Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist vs. Daniel Craig): Hearing that Daniel Craig would play Mikael in the American version didn’t pique my interest so much. I don’t think he’s that great of a Bond, and I never really saw much of his acting to appreciate him. After watching him, he really did pull off a good performance, one of the best he’s done. Michael Nyqvist has the benefit of authenticity: he doesn’t have to work too hard on playing a convincing Swede because he really is Swedish. Craig playing Swedish provided some challenges, namely a convincing accent. His mumbling didn’t really help much either. These little details attribute only to the actors, never the character, which despite being of the same story are different in both editions. The problem with Blomkvist in the book is that he lacks some character; we know he battles the shame of a failed libel case, but we know very little about him as a person. This lack of character really shows in Nyqvist’s Blomkvist (try saying that five times fast, non-Swedes). Nyqvist plays him rather realistically but also rather passively, more like a MacGuffin of a character rather than somebody important. His realism convinces the audience that he is Bomkvist, but it stands in the shadows a mere shadow on the wall. Craig actually made Blomkvist take full control of everything, even added some character to the…character. Craig plays Blomkvist as someone defensive, keeping things close to the chest. And we can see why he would: he was just publicly humiliated. The scene where he finally meets Lisbeth is a good example: he bursts in with coffee and breakfast telling her to kick Mimmi out. Nyqvist didn’t do that; he just came in and said “hey, I know you did this. Wanna help?” Nyqvist may be more realistic and closer to the book, but Craig’s Blomkvist stands out as stronger, more interesting.

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace vs. Rooney Mara): Could there be a more kickass girl in literature than Lisbeth Salander? Noomi Rapace’s performance as the heroine (or anti-heroine however you define it) received widespread recognition and praise from critics and fans alike…but then again, so did Rooney Mara’s. It does make things easier when your character is written the way Lisbeth is. Rapace is still relatively unknown in the United States, her most known role in America outside of Tattoo is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and that wasn’t released until after the former. Mara stunned people in The Social Network despite not having much screen time. The famous opening scene in that movie was half her, and it was a strong half. So who is the better girl with said dragon tattoo? Like Blomkvist, both actresses play Lisbeth differently. Rapace plays her very defensively, more like a punk than really a victim. She’s the kind of girl that always keeps her fists up no matter where she goes. Mara plays Lisbeth defensively as well, but she makes Lisbeth out as the outcast, antisocial savant that Stieg Larsson created. She keeps things close to the chest, and the audience gets the feeling that she experienced her fair share of pain, explaining her character. You don’t really get much of that in Rapace’s character. She plays Lisbeth as someone you want to leave alone. You don’t mess with her, and she won’t mess with you, but Lisbeth also makes some moves that don’t make sense. She has sex with Mikael and then throws him aside; he kisses him and then walks off. She’s one confusing person. Mara makes Lisbeth more sympathetic in the movie, even falling in love with Mikael, which makes the audience feel for her even more. Both films share the same back stories, and yet both Lisbeths come out differently. In the end, it all boils down to which Lisbeth you prefer: the feminist punk in the Swedish film or the victimized girl who’s had enough in the American film. As for me, I find Mara’s Lisbeth connectable and therefore more interesting.

Supporting Characters: While the American version has what appears to be the stronger leads, the supporting characters may not be too easy to pick. For starters, not one movie has all the better supporting characters; where one movie may have a better x, the other has a better y. Case in point: Henrik and Martin Vanger. Christopher Plummer played Henrik very well, probably just as recognizable as Mara did Lisbeth. He even introduced his entire family better than the original which, don’t get me wrong, did well. Both made Henrik rather likable, but Plummer’s Henrik had better dialogue. Martin, on the other hand, has the reverse effect: the original did better than Stellan Skarsgaard. Martin never changed with the adaptation, but Peter Haber made him more interesting and even more threatening. Skarsgaard had the better scene with Blomkvist but still kept him rather deadpan and didn’t show too much of a threat. Haber controls his scene, dancing along that line between genius and insanity and showing no resentment for what he’s done. He even celebrates his “accomplishments”. Skarsgaard’s Martin didn’t really kill anyone except one girl. Haber’s version is closest to the book. To stray away from the Vangers for a moment because there are too many of them to single out, Advokat Nils Bjurman deserves some recognition. The slimeball lawyer gives Lisbeth some “grief” and even gives her the opportunity to show her strength, but the American version makes him more disgusting and loathsome. For one thing, Bjurman in that movie is fat, so having Lisbeth perform on him? Well let’s just say the original seems easier to handle. Speaking of which, Peter Andersson doesn’t really catch that level of disgust for what he makes Lisbeth do; in fact, he looks more like a porn star and a blackmailer than really disgusting. Again, which one do you prefer: the more realistic or the more effective? The original had the better Vangers outside of Henrik and Dirch Frode, but the American version had the better Bjurman and Erika (which didn’t really have much in the original).

Direction: I have sung Fincher’s praises enough, so forgive me if I sound redundant in this. Because the story in both movies are the same, I will instead focus on the way they are told. The original director, Niels Arden Oplev, went more for Swedish realism in his version, which makes sense considering his low-budget. Realism works on certain occasions, i.e. horror, suspense and mystery, but too much realism and not enough intrigue make the movie less exciting. Fincher does the opposite: more intrigue and less realism. He attacks the book for its investigative potential, even showing the exposition as its being told rather than have people tell us like Oplev did. Fincher told his investigative moments in the same style as The Social Network and Fight Club: showing us what’s happening as its being explained. This leaves more of an impression than just hearing about it. Both movies use the investigation that propelled Larsson’s book to phenomena, but the changes in both films either lead to the story’s strength or weakness. In Oplev’s version, Lisbeth makes the big discovery regarding the names in Harriet’s diary. How she managed to make the connection is a bit of a stretch: she might be good, but she couldn’t be that good as to know their actual connection, especially since she doesn’t show any knowledge of its supposed background. Fincher keeps it to the book and therefore has Blomkvist’s daughter make the connection. This works because of her innocence, and that innocence proves enough to send Mikael towards solving this case. Fincher proves to be the superior director not just in capturing intrigue but also in shooting the scenes that don’t seem that far fetched.

Movie: and now for the final aspect of this comparison. The direction differs from everything else in this, even though the director did call the shots. This section covers the writing, editing, score, etc. The technical aspects of the storytelling. First to the writing. While Fincher keeps the book’s story intact, it seems that Oplev keeps the book’s writing and dialogue intact, the same writing and dialogue that American book critics found mediocre. It really does show in that version as the dialogue has some really weak moments, specifically with Henrik Vanger, Erika Berger and Nils Bjurman. Bjurman in the American version had some weak lines as well, but he didn’t have as much. The tattoo that Salander writes on Bjurman in the original also needed modification; for one thing “I am a sadistic pig and a rapist” sounds like she added that last bit at the last minute. It doesn’t pack as much of a punch as “I am a sadistic rapist pig”. In the editing, where the American version moves so quickly that it doesn’t feel like two hours, the original moves more slowly and even edits awkwardly. Some scenes cut at some strange places. The scene after Blomkvist discovers the truth with Harriet ends after she makes a weird face. Other edits feel sloppy and very unprofessional. The same can be said about the scores. The original score seemed louder, something typical of suspense movies; Reznor and Ross’s score in the movie actually blended in with the atmosphere like it actually considered itself part of the movie.

So after all of this, I consider the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to be the better film. I thought it had the better Blomkvist, the better Lisbeth, the better direction and the better…everything else. So my question is what do some people see in the original? I guess is people love it for its “authenticity”. They think that because it was filmed by Swedes for Swedes in Swedish, it truly is a Swedish movie. As authentic as it may be, that alone doesn’t cloud the little details in a movie. A foreign language and foreign people don’t automatically make the movie better. But I am one of a million people with one of a million opinions. While I found the original to be underwhelming in comparison to the people’s response, I can’t rule it as a bad film. Fincher is an amazing director and shouldn’t be ruled out regarding his movie. This is something I’ve tried to tell people: you can’t underestimate him.

If I don’t convince you, then at least see it how I saw it.


Film Like Me: The King’s Speech vs. The Blind Side

Welcome to a new segment that I like to call “Film Like Me” which I have taken from the title of the novel Black Like Me. This is where I take an acclaimed film that either I or somebody else claims to have similarities with another film prior to its release. That being said, I think it’s best to talk about 2010’s “Best Picture” The King’s Speech.

Before I start, let me be honest and say no, I’m not too upset that The Social Network lost. I knew that was going to happen. I’m more upset that the Academy picked Tom Hooper for Best Director instead of David Fincher. Anyway, set in the years leading up to World War II, The King’s Speech is about Albert, Duke of York who has a bad stutter and must make speeches. He meets an unorthodox speech therapist, and the two develop a friendship that strengthens as much as Albert’s speaking. Sounds motivating, but as I saw this film, I noticed a lot of similarities between this film and another film nominated for Best Picture the year before: The Blind Side, a film about Michael Oher and his development from boondocks basket case to gridiron hero which also happened to be a surprise hit. (Notice a trend?) For those of you who never saw The Blind Side, Michael Oher, who is now the offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, is portrayed as a character from a rough neighborhood who is adopted by a white family the Tuohys (pronounced TOO-wee) and matures into a future college football player as opposed to living a life in the ghetto.

So now I’m going to bring up the top five comparisons made.

1. Both the films subject matters are hopeless cases with obviously great destinies – This one was probably the biggest one for me. Albert has a problem that he must make speeches and has a bad stutter, so that makes him afraid to talk. Except that which makes him so special is that he’s the son of the King, and it’s quite obvious he will one day take up the mantle of his father, so he has to make speeches and improve his speaking. Michael Oher has been passed around from high school to high school with poor test grades, testing in the bottom of his class, but he excels in protective instincts and is placed in a private high school. Those protective instincts make him destined to be an offensive lineman in football and apparently one of the greatest. Both these characters seem out of place in the situations, and even they feel the same way. Albert is afraid to speak because of his stammer; Michael is afraid to speak because he’s shy and doesn’t like people thinking he’s stupid.

2. Both undergo unique and different means that happen to make them excel – In the role that won Sandra Bullock the Oscar, Leigh Anne Tuohy sees Michael Oher walking to a place to stay and decides to let him stay over her house. She eventually adopts him as one of her own and helps use his protective instincts for good. What makes this so unorthodox (and even controversial to some critics) is that Mrs. Tuohy is a white Southern Christian woman adopting a black child. That alone raised a few eyebrows. Lionel Logue is a speech therapist who gives Albert therapy to help control his stutter. However, some of his methods are considered unorthodox such as making him shout obscenities, making him sing his thoughts, and breathing with his wife on his belly. These means may not be entirely similar, but they are considered unorthodox to the time’s standards. The previous methods used to better the two characters were shown to be failures. Michael Oher never really passed high school and was passed around from school to school until finally graduating. The traditional, old-school means of controlling Albert’s stutter led to him furiously giving up. Of course, both methods seem to work. Mrs. Tuohy helps Michael pull off a high enough GPA to get into college, and Albert realizes how much he’s progressing with Logue.

3. Both are hesitant about the idea at first and leave, and consider leaving again due to a misunderstanding – At first, Michael Oher spends the night at the Tuohy’s because he really didn’t have a place to go. He really didn’t consider staying with them after Mrs. Tuohy confronted him about the idea. After Logue tried to get Albert to read Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” monologue while listening to music, Albert gets frustrated and storms out, but after listening to a recording Logue made of Albert while he was reading, and realizing how well he spoke, Albert returns to Logue for more coaching. They had different results, but both eventually led them continuing on. Albert leaves again out of frustration and doubt but eventually  returns after seeing what he’s about to become. As both characters seem to excel in their development, something happens that almost breaks them apart. Michael is given the impression that he was raised by the Tuohy’s so that he could play football at their alma mater Ole Miss and runs away, but afterwards he beats up his old friends and contemplates going back. Mrs. Tuohy tells him that if he wanted to play for Tennessee, she’ll be cheering for him regardless (but she won’t wear that dreaded orange. I can relate to that.) Albert doesn’t leave Logue when it is found out that Logue isn’t really a doctor and is advised to dump him for a certified speech therapist.  Logue is able to demonstrate to Albert his progress (in Westminster Abbey, of all places!) and Albert reconsiders his reaction to replace Logue. He even is there when he makes the speech at the end of the movie.

4. Both came from rocky backgrounds – While on the opposite ends of the poverty line, the idea is that these people didn’t have the greatest of childhoods. Michael came from the boondocks of Memphis and was taken away from his real mother, who was a meth addict, as a child. His friends are all thugs, and some of them even dropped out of school. Albert admits that his childhood wasn’t exactly fair to him either. He was left-handed but forced to be right-handed, people made fun of him because of his stutter by calling him “B-B-B-Bertie”, and he couldn’t do all of the things that he loved to do because his father forced him to be more like a Duke, such as building model planes. This is supposed to make us feel sympathetic to the characters and even relate to them to some extent. As cheap as it is, it apparently never gets old.

5. Both subject matters have strong, capable women supporting them the whole way – as broad of a statement that sounds, it is pretty true. Michael Oher technically had two, if you think about it: Mrs. Tuohy, and Miss Sue, a tutor that the Tuohys hired to help educate Michael. Miss Sue further helps Michael in his studies and even gets his GPA to a 2.52, which is high enough to get into college. Albert has his wife Elizabeth, who isn’t that strong but gets him to Logue on her own. She proves to be by his side through thick and thin, as does Miss Sue to Michael. They prove the cliche of “Behind every successful man is a woman”or “No one acheives greatness by themself”.

So those are my five comparisons. Summary: The King’s Speech is just an Oscar-worthy version of The Blind Side when you get down to it. The things that separate them stand out, but they are little in comparison and aren’t big enough to separate the films. If what I’m saying is true, then the Academy Awards should have given the Best Picture Awards not to The Hurt Locker but The Blind Side in 2009, or did someone learn a thing or two for the 2010 Academy Awards? Oh well, The King’s Speech may have won the Best Picture, but it will join the ranks of the 75% of Best Pictures that have been forgotten in ten years’ time, such as How Green Was My Valley (which beat Citizen Kane) and Shakespeare in Love (which beat out Saving Private Ryan) because another movie with the EXACT SAME MORAL will come out and take the Best Picture Oscar for that year.


Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards are almost here! Time to acknowledge the “best” of 2010 because that’s what the Academy does. This is the second time now that we have ten Best Picture nominees, and just to follow up with other critics’ predictions, I’m going to give my own as well in a game of “Will/Should”. I won’t cover all of the categories, but I will cover the majority of the major ones.

Best Picture:

Will: The King’s Speech

Oscar-bait with a capital “O”, this movie has heart, the advantage of being a period piece, and not being modern. This win will still perplex me because this means that The Blind Side should have won the last award over The Hurt Locker. Oh, wait! That took place in modern times, and politics trump all in the Academy Awards. My bad. Anyway, Speech has the right amount of sentimentalism and historical input to make it a favorite for the Academy.

Should/May: The Social Network.

I said enough, and if I need to explain why it should, then read some of my other blogs that defend this movie fervently.

 

 

Best Actor:

Will/Should: Colin Firth

For the same reasons as to why The King’s Speech will win Best Picture, Colin Firth will win Best Actor. He gives us the traditional underdog but dressed up in royalty and bearing a stutter. However, the part of me that says he should is the believability in the character. Firth does make his portrayal of King George VI convincing and doesn’t make the stutter seem fake, and again he has the right amount of sentimentality. Having said that, there is a downside to winning this: winning the Best Actor, I read, is basically when your career has jumped the shark. A lot of big name actors have won the Best Actor Oscar only to not really release any good or successful films since. Robert DeNiro has done some off-beat roles since winning for Raging Bull but none as memorable. Al Pacino, what has he done lately? Tom Hanks is an exception because of Toy Story, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan, but who else managed to pull through? So because of Colin Firth’s age, believability, and the possible peak of career, I say he’ll probably win it and why I didn’t put Jesse Eisenberg in the “should”.

Best Actress:

Will/Should: Natalie Portman

Black Swan was one of those movies that just makes you sit back and go “what the hell is wrong with these people?” much like Fight Club. In fact, I consider this to be Darren Aronofsky’s Fight Club. Natalie Portman put in a lot of effort to make this movie just that because she truly grasped the dynamic character that was Nina Sayers and did it with much grace like…well, a ballerina. Sure, she did come across as melodramatic at times (such as crying a lot), but what good is a psychological thriller with deadpan acting? (next month, Keanu Reeves in Somebody’s Watching Me) Portman’s performance has picked up a lot of momentum with critics, the Globes and the Screen Actors Guild, so why anyone would snub her after this would be crazy.

May: Annette Bening

Which is where Bening comes in. Her portrayal as the lesbian equivalent of the “man of the house” in The Kids are All Right has defense from Peter Travers and some other critics, and the Academy has a track record of giving acting Oscars for gay performances. Tom Hanks won for playing an AIDS victim in Philadelphia; Phillip Seymour Hoffman won for playing Truman Capote who was openly gay, and Sean Penn (unfortunately) took it away from Mickey Rourke for playing Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician (and he had no qualms in politicizing his acceptance speech either). Another factoid that I found is that she has been nominated many times before without success, so she’s considered “long overdue”. But, like the Best Actor Oscar, this win could also make her career jump the shark. Portman’s, however, has some steam left so she’ll be around for a while.

Best Supporting Actor

Will: Christian Bale

I haven’t seen The Fighter, so I can’t judge. However, I can’t deny the momentum Bale’s performance picked up early in the season. Bale is himself a pretty good actor and has Christopher Nolan to thank for really making him well known. Whether or not he deserves the Oscar I will never know.

Should/May: Geoffrey Rush

I have seen The King’s Speech, so I can judge this. I may have my reasons not to like this film, but Rush made this movie incredibly entertaining. In the theater I was in, everybody laughed at just about everything Rush said to Logue, most of which was actually funny. Geoffrey Rush is a great actor, and his career is still somewhat healthy thanks to Pirates of the Caribbean and Finding Nemo. Hell, he did a great job in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. This movie is no exception, either. Firth may have the buzz of being best actor as George VI, but it was Rush, much like Lionel Logue to the future king, that made him better.

Best Supporting Actress

Will: Melissa Leo

See Christian Bale and a bit of Annette Bening (the overdue bit). Melissa Leo has picked up the Screen Actor’s Guild Award, the Golden Globe, and a lot of accolade for her role. She may not have won the BAFTA, but that may not stop her from taking home the Oscar. She was nominated for Best Actress for Frozen River and lost, so this may put her in the “overdue” category. I’m not really sure. Leo, unlike Bale, isn’t really a big name in Hollywood, so I don’t really know much about her.

May: Helena Bonham Carter/Hailee Steinfeld

What may stop Leo is a possible controversy regarding funding for her own campaign to win the Oscar. Carter won the BAFTA for The King’s Speech and as a result combined with the lack of controversy may win the Oscar for playing Elizabeth. While I find it unlikely if this is the only reason why, it’s not necessarily far fetched. This wasn’t her best role, in my opinion. I still liked her in Sweeney Todd, Fight Club, and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit as opposed to Speech, but those roles weren’t what you would consider “Oscar-worthy”. A number of “experts” say that Steinfeld could win for her role as the girl in the Coen Brothers’ version of True Grit, but this is her first movie role, and she’s only fourteen. Tatum O’Neal may have won it at a young age (she is still the youngest recipient in Oscar history), but that eventually led to a rocky career. Maybe the Academy’s learned its lesson, or maybe they believe the grown ups should handle it.

Best Director

Will/Should: David Fincher, The Social Network

Because of his win at the Director’s Guild of America Awards, some magazines and predictors say Tom Hooper will win it, but that’s an unfair statement in my honest opinion. Tom Hooper had Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Gambon, Guy Pearce, and Timothy Spall in his ensemble for The King’s Speech. These are all medium-to-big named actors even over here in America. We all know they can act, so that would make Hooper’s job easier. Fincher, on the other hand, had Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Armie Hammer, and Brenda Song. These are medium-to-no named actors. The biggest name in the bunch is Timberlake, and it’s not for acting. Fincher took this rag-tag team of young actors and made them blend in with their characters to the point where we all recognize them now. Eisenberg as Zuckerberg? Amazing. Hammer as the Winklevoss Twins? Outstanding. Hell, even Timberlake did a decent job as the arrogant Sean Parker. Fincher is known for his meticulous directing, and it shows not just in The Social Network but his past films as well.

May: Tom Hooper

However, since most people believe the Director’s Guild of America Awards to be a more accurate predictor to the Academy Award for Best Director, they say the honor will go to him. But an interesting thing I read from Scott Feinberg is that the DGA is composed of mostly TV directors who may not have the final verdict come the Academy Awards.

Best Original Screenplay

Will: The King’s Speech

Heart power, and they want to make its win for Best Picture seem stronger.

Should/May: Inception

Wake up, Academy! (pun actually intended) Inception may not be THAT original, but it’s the MOST original of those nominated added by the fact that it’s one of the highest-grossing films of the supposedly “worst year of cinema”. Just about everyone hates you for snubbing Christopher Nolan for Best Director (I don’t because I know your type), so give him the honor of Best Original Screenplay because let’s be honest, it’s still a very strong story, much stronger than the British Blind Side that probably will win it. The only reason I put the dream theater in the “may” column is that the Academy “may” be unpredictable and give it to Nolan for this, but I don’t think it’s likely even if  I do want it to happen.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Will/Should/May:Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network.

Some audiences cry “overrated”, but even they can’t deny that Aaron Sorkin’s script is just top-notch with great lines from just about all of the big characters and many clever moments. The script gave us some pretty good lines, especially the last line in the film which was just the best I heard in a long time. There’s no contest: Sorkin will win hands down.

 

Best Animated Feature:

Will/Should/May: Toy Story 3

Do I even need to explain why?

 

 

 

 

Best Cinematography:

Will Win: Black Swan

Natalie Portman’s acting was one of the many things that made the movie work; the cinematography was the next thing. The camera played a lot with the mirror motif and gave the idea of the other side of the personality along with some of the other gimmicks that the movie threw at us. Having said that, the camerawork and the little effects behind it truly brought out the schizophrenic feel to the subject matter and more into Nina Sayers’ mind. The King’s Speech really shouldn’t have a chance because the characters were off center and out of focus when they didn’t need to be. That works when trying to get a bigger picture using scene, but the characters were in front of blank walls, so why do it?

May Win: Inception or True Grit

Black Swan has the benefit of artistic value and Darren Aronofsky being one of the most respected directors out there (I can’t fight statistics), but Inception has the benefit of scope. It’s cinematography really did bring the dreams to life and made everything more interesting while the special effects just made them look cool. The cinematography made the movie with a complicated story make sense. I haven’t seen True Grit, but there has been some buzz around it and it did pick up the BAFTA for Best Cinematography. Who knows? But critics are predicting Grit to get this one. 

Should Win: Black Swan or Inception

Anything is possible, and I’m fine with either one winning. Swan was effective in turning ballet into a nightmare, and Inception was effective in literally making dreams come true.  However, considering the Academy Awards, I’m keen on putting my money on the former because it’s not so “blockbusting” in its approach.

 

Best Film Editing

  Will/Should: The Social Network

 It won the American Cinema Editors Award for Best Picture, the BAFTA for Best Editing, and the Golden Globe for Best Editing; and I don’t blame it for winning those awards. The movie goes back and forth between the past and the present without you knowing it until after the first thirty minutes, and it does it without leaving the audience confused. The Social Network just leaps back and forth while still progressing the tale and bringing up to speed as to how the two situations came to be. You first take a glimpse as to who Mark Zuckerberg was and immediately find out who he is, so now all that matters is how he got there. The editors just made the movie move quickly and also separate the interesting scenarios between the introversion of Mark Zuckerberg and the growing need to be social and how he somehow managed to combine the two to create a “social introversion”.

Best Original Score

 Will: The Social Network

Inception has the problem of being too epic with its music, as if it’s trying so hard to make this movie even more awesome than it is. Hans Zimmer is a great composer. We’ve known this since day one. Hell, he won for composing The Lion King, but Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross provided a score that wasn’t so brash and yet somehow brought out the technological world that we became and would become as well as the cool speed of the movie. The score was just one of the things that made this movie very hip and modern. Plus, they haven’t won an Oscar yet, so Zimmer may be out of luck on this one.

Should: The Social Network or Inception (TRON: Legacy)

Why is TRON: Legacy in parentheses? Because really it should be the one to get this award, but the Academy snubbed it. Everyone may be upset with Nolan getting the shaft for Best Director, but I’m more upset that Daft Punk didn’t get the nomination for their score. It was truly the first movie score that I actually wanted on CD. Anyway, I’m pulling for The Social Network as much as I can, but for the same reason I think Inception won’t get it, I think it may have a chance. Sure, it’s more ostentatious, but it’s grand and puts the world in a bigger scale. It really is awesome, but it doesn’t have to be that awesome because the movie does a good job of being that on its own.

May: Inception

It’s too awesome to not get the award, even though it is unnecessarily awesome.

Best Visual Effects/Sound Mixing/ Sound Editing

Will/Should/May: Inception

There’s no contest in any of the three categories. Predict a sweep in the technicals from Inception. The visuals were what made the movie seem plausible from the folding city to the floating in the hotel room. It was just cool to watch even if it is a bit overwhelming.

Best Documentary Short

don’t care.

Best Documentary

also don’t care.

So here are some of my predictions. We’ll see this weekend to find out if I’m accurate.



Macbeth in a Facebook Movie

I read the comments on this article, and really it made me mad:

http://www.theawl.com/2011/01/the-social-network-is-a-pack-of-lies-that-conveys-nothing-about-our-time

One of the biggest criticisms of The Social Network that I have found over the past couple of days is that it’s not the true story about Facebook, which is really starting to make me angry. Think about it: people were skeptical about a movie on Facebook when they saw the trailer; now the movie’s out, and people are “it’s not the true story.” So wait, you actually WANTED to see a movie about Facebook?

I love this movie. Love it. I think it is an amazing movie that was well done on numerous accounts; so why the hate? It really is a good movie in terms of performance, writing and directing. But all of you who are legitimately sensitive on the “liberties” implied, think about this:

Macbeth, Shakespeare’s most famous drama, is about a real king of Scotland who actually existed, but none of the things that happened in the play were true. Macbeth never met witches, he never killed Duncan to take the throne, and wasn’t killed by a man named Macduff. Where’s the constant backlash about that, huh? It’s still heralded as Shakespeare’s greatest piece of drama. Why? Because the writing is good, and the character’s themselves are so powerful and haunting that you can’t help but feel a level of amazement.

Ray, the biopic on Ray Charles that got Jamie Foxx his Oscar for best actor, also played with certain liberties. In the movie, it said Charles was banned from playing in Georgia because of his refusal to perform in a white-only concert for civil rights reasons, where in real life that wasn’t the case. He wasn’t banned from playing in Georgia but rather that concert hall. But, of course, it adds for dramatic appeal.

300, the movie about the Battle of Thermopylae, was also heavily romanticized. The Spartans didn’t fight with that get-up, nor did King Xerxes look like the pierced androgynous giant that the movie portrayed him as. It was all a matter of replicating the comic book, but that didn’t stop it from being the first blockbuster of 2007 and one of the ultimate man-movies.

Braveheart, considered one of the greatest movies of all time, played a lot with historical inaccuracies. For example, kilts weren’t worn at that time, nor did the great William Wallace seduce Isabella of France because she was really three at the time and didn’t give birth until years after his death. But still, it motivated that anyone can take your lives but never your freedom, and that’s all that matters.

The Runaways, a movie about the all-girl punk band that gave us the likes of Cherrie Currie and Joan Jett, changed the name of one of the members to Robin because she wouldn’t allow any depiction of her in the movie. There was never really a member named Robin. Oops.

And yet, so many people are pissy because there wasn’t really a girl named Erica Albright? Here’s a question: did you really want to see a movie about how a website got founded, or are you just looking for any reason to destroy this movie because it’s getting so much accolade and recognition that Inception isn’t getting? This really isn’t the first time that a movie played heavily with the facts, even though a good number of things in the movie did actually happen, such as the court cases. Sure, Zuckerberg had a girlfriend for a while and still does, but that really isn’t the point. Facebook was just a plot scapegoat if you really think about it.

So for all you “fact-checkers” of this movie: leave the movie alone. If anything, this serves as creative nonfiction and should be looked as fiction. Just forget about the facts and see it as the movie it is and appreciate it for everything that everyone else appreciates it. Sure, it’s based on events that happened, but there is such a thing as “creative nonfiction”, and if all you care about is fact and not fiction and feel as if for some reason you got pure entertainment as opposed to education, then maybe you should reconsider the History Channel or Biography as opposed to Hollywood because Hollywood can and will do anything to make an entertaining movie, even if it means playing with the liberties.

 


2010 in Time

2010 has been stated in both the Wall Street Journal and Moviefone as possibly the worst year for movies, the latter pointing out how many movies have stuck to formula while others relied on 3-D technology to make a quick buck. USA Today made the observation that ticket-sales were the worst since 1996. Looking back on the year, was it the worst for Hollywood? Possibly. Producers have banked on a lot of stupid ideas such as a remake of Clash of the Titans and having Taylor Swift try to act. There have been some big flops and big successes, but how much of those successes were actually deserving?

Now, even the worst year for the box-office has produced some gems. 1996 gave us Fargo, Jerry Maguire, and the blockbuster Independence Day. Surely, 2010 has brought us some good movies, but which ones will actually stand the ultimate test…time? I have constantly said that a movie is good if it has people still loving it after ten years and is still gathering fans. Many films have stood the test of time and are still being hailed as some of the best, such as Jaws and ‘The Godfather. It’s hard to decide which movies will stand the test of time nowadays. Hell, it’s hard to predict which movie will become successful. There have been movies that were flops in the box office only to become some of the biggest hits after being released on DVD. Who would have thought Fight Club or The Boondock Saints would develop such reputations?

What were some of the best films of 2010? Critics everywhere agree it’s The Social Network, the movie about the founding of Facebook and the turmoil caused by it, however some people say it won’t survive the test of time. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said it “defined the decade”, but viewers say otherwise. While Facebook is currently the biggest thing to hit the internet, the main reason it wouldn’t last so long is because there could always be something that will take its place. Facebook may not exist by the time we’re forty. However, also take into account Citizen Kane; that movie was about a newspaper mogul. If print is supposedly a dying breed, then why is this movie still around? Granted, newspapers have been around long after the film came out, but the point is not the subject matter but the story. It’s the idea of being overambitious and losing track of what’s really important.

A movie some say will stand the test of time is Inception. I admit, it was a pretty awesome movie with some really cool special effects and an ingenious idea, but is this what the times have become, solely special-effect oriented? Movies like Independence Day and Jurassic Park have been remembered mostly for their effects than they do their actual story. Even Tron and Avatar have been remembered mainly for their effects than they do their story. Back in the sixties, some of the greatest movies were more script-conscious and relied solely on acting, and those movies never appeared dated. Films such as A Streetcar Named Desire and The Godfather never had special effects, and they’re still being heralded to this day.

Jaws, on the other hand, did rely on an animatronic shark that today does seem a bit obvious, but still it is good movie mainly for the buildup, story and lines. Effects change every decade; there are more and more advancements that make even the most ridiculous seem possible. I admit, decent special effects can really take a movie a long way, but it’s not the only thing that can make a movie good. There are movies that rank among the highest-grossing, but about half of them really don’t deserve it. 2012? Star Wars Episode II? Are we really just suckers for the visuals?

I’m probably one of the few people who didn’t think Transformers was that good of a movie or thought Avatar was enjoyable, but who am I to judge?

Honestly, while I do think Inception has a chance to last, I don’t think we should count out The Social Network. Granted almost all of the Best Picture Oscar winners are forgotten, but I still think that Facebook has made enough of an impact that’ll keep this movie alive. I also think that Toy Story 3 has a chance of surviving the test of time not because it’s a Toy Story movie but brought out a wonderful ending to the franchise. It was a movie that connected to younger viewers but also maintained the connection with those who grew up with the franchise, so it has the potential of being one of those “pass-down” films.

So will there be movies in 2010 that will last, or was it truly the worst year for films?


Scott Pilgrim vs. Kick-Ass

For those who don’t know me or read my review, I loved the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It was the most fun I had in a long time. It’s action, cinematography, and comedic timing were definitely among the best I’ve seen in 2010. Yet, I still don’t understand how such a good movie did so poorly. In fact, of all the people who saw it, almost everybody liked it. What gives? Well, among the biggest criticisms of this movie is that it is too much like Kick-Ass. Really?  Kick-Ass?

Now I’ve seen Kick-Ass, and I thought it was okay. It wasn’t bad, but it was underwhelming. I just expected more from a movie about a kid dressing up as a superhero and fighting crime. While the girl who played Hit Girl definitely stole the show, it really didn’t say much compared to the actual show. It’s about kids wanting to be superheroes, so they dress up as superheroes. In fact, this movie should be compared to Watchmen. Oh well. I’ve seen both films, and I can prove that these two films are not the same thing.

1)      Kick-Ass is a superhero movie; Scott Pilgrim is not – Kick-Ass seems more like a parody of comic book superheroes because it’s about a kid named Dave dressed up as a superhero who always gets his ass kicked, probably because of how stupid his name is. Come on, “Kick-Ass”? The Thing had a better name than that. Anyway, Kick-Ass fought crime in the streets from thugs to crime lords. Scott Pilgrim fought evil exes that were bent on controlling Ramona Flower’s love life. If anything, it’s a romantic action comedy that looks like a superhero movie. Scott Pilgrim didn’t dress up as a superhero; he was the bassist of a rock band. If anything, he was Joe Schmo Toronto. Also, Scott Pilgrim portrayed the titular character as more of a video-game hero while throwing in some comic references.

2)      While both think they’re awesome when we’re supposed to know they’re not, the timing and context are off – Dave knew he was a nerd in the beginning; that’s why he became a superhero in the first place. The girl he wanted never recognized him in the beginning and never did until she thought he was gay. He thought he was awesome when he was Kick-Ass because he thought Kick-Ass was awesome because he thought superheroes were awesome. Scott Pilgrim thought he was awesome from the beginning, and we knew he wasn’t because we saw him as this little twerp (probably because it’s Michael Cera). He thought he was awesome because he was in a band and had a girlfriend until he found Ramona. When he was around Ramona, Scott started feeling more like a nerd and felt less and less awesome the more he fought the evil exes.

3)      The love interests are two different people – Dave’s  girl, Katie, was a high schooler who worked at a clinic and never recognized the guy behind Kick-Ass until he took the mask off in front of her. We knew really little about this girl except that she seems like you’re typical high school crush. Ramona, on the other hand, is not typical. She dyes her hair numerous colors; she moved to Canada from New York City; she has a load of baggage that comes back to haunt her apparently; and she was caught in the middle of a love web. That gives the character more apparent value. While Scott Pilgrim dated a high-school girl in the beginning, she wasn’t the love interest. Ramona also fought one of the exes until Scott had to finish the fight. Katie never did jack squat to anybody except doing Dave in the back of a comic-book store. Ramona was such a value to the exes that she became under the control of the last ex. Neither Kate nor Hit Girl were considered valuable ransom material to the boss; Kate’s life wasn’t in danger, so Dave didn’t really fight for her. Scott, on the other hand, fought all the seven exes so that he could have Ramona’s hand.

4)      The gangs of villains aren’t even remotely similar – Kick-Ass fought street thugs and crime boss thugs because he was trying to be a superhero. These were just random people off the street and expendable cronies, much like the thugs in the rest of the comic book world. We don’t know who they are, and it’s not important. Scott Pilgrim fought seven of Ramona’s exes that composed themselves as “The League of Evil Exes” because he wanted to date Ramona, and they wanted to stop him. They were six guys and one girl. I’m not lying; Ramona had an ex-girlfriend. These were people that ranged from a movie star to a vegan bassist with psychic powers to a record dealer. These people had back-stories and details around them that made them more dimensional than any thug. While they considered themselves a “league”, the evil exes had no boss. Gideon Graves, the final ex, composed the league, but each ex fought independently with similar intent. The thugs were under the control of Frank D’Amico, a crime lord.

5)      While one can argue that both thought they were superheroes, the context is opposite – Dave literally tried to be a superhero, as in had a suit and nunchucks. He literally fought people and literally made headlines. He garnished nationwide attention for the stuff that he did. Scott Pilgrim, while he thought he was somewhat of a hero, didn’t actually pretend to be one. Everything that happened in the movie most likely was through his mind. He kicked ass because he thought he kicked ass, using logic, fight moves and killer music. Only a giant neon gorilla fighting a dual-headed neon dragon would be metaphorical if it obviously looked like it didn’t happen. That was the beauty ofScott Pilgrim: its visuals and sight gags weren’t meant to be taken literally. Kick-Ass, however, wanted us to believe that a kid fighting crime dressed up as a superhero was actually possible.

6)      While both had girls with pink hair, they are not similar – If I find out this is a reason let alone THE reason why people compare these two, I will hurt somebody. Let me break it down: Hit Girl was a thirteen-year old girl with a tongue that could make a sailor blush raised by Nicholas Cage and pretended to be a superhero; Ramona was eighteen, lived by herself, and fought one battle without finishing it. Also, if you actually saw the movie, you would know that Ramona’s hair wasn’t always pink; in fact, it was only pink for the first part that we saw her, then it turned blue and green. Hell, she even admitted that she changes her hair every week-and-a-half. Hit Girl wore a pink wig as a part of her costume; her real hair is blonde. She fought all her battles and kicked more ass than Kick-Ass; Ramona had someone fight for her (for her heart not instead of her) and had more ass kicked to get her.

7)      Kick-Ass was a comic book nerd and therefore was more akin to comic books; Scott Pilgrim was a gamer and therefore was more akin to video games – Dave hung around with his friends at a comic book store, where he got his idea to become a superhero after contemplating how no one in real life actually dressed up as superheroes and fought crime. Scott Pilgrim played video games such as a Dance-Dance styled Street Fighteresque game. Scott Pilgrim had more video game references than comic book references, and the comic book references were because Scott Pilgrim WAS a comic book series. Think about it: every time Scott defeated an ex, points would show up, and the exes would turn into coins; Scott defeated each person with a “K.O.”; each fight had a versus in the middle like it was Street Fighter; and the ending featured a “Continue?” countdown like at the end of the arcade games. Oh, and his band is called “Sex Bob-Omb”, something known from the Mario world.

8)      Kick-Ass didn’t really kick that much ass and Scott Pilgrim kicked everyone’s ass – you know that Kick-Ass was way in over his head when you see his ass getting kicked more than he is kicking ass. He didn’t really defeat anybody outside a gang of thugs and the actual crime boss. This spoofed the idea of a superhero because we knew this probably would happen in real life. In fact, they even satirized the whole “super-strength/superpower” aspect by having his entire skeleton realigned with metal. Scott Pilgrim fought all of the evil exes and defeated every single one of them; he kicked more ass than Kick-Ass. Yes, there were moments when we had his ass served to him on a silver platter, but eventually Scott Pilgrim won the fight one way or another. Kick-Ass won his battles with nunchucks, but he still lost more fights and even almost got killed in front of millions of viewers until Hit Girl came in and saved him. Yes, Kick-Ass defeated the boss but with a bazooka. Scott Pilgrim kicked the final boss’s face in with some help from his ex-girlfriend Knives.

9)      Scott Pilgrim had to fight baggage of his own and therefore had internal struggle – another thing about Scott Pilgrim is that he seemed to have conflict with his own exes but in a different way. Among Scott’s exes were a high-school girl named Knives, a rock goddess, and the drummer in the band. Scott broke up with Knives to be with Ramona, and as a result she tried to win him back. The rock goddess returned to Scott’s life trying to play both hard-to-get and to crush Scott entirely by showing off her new beaux. The drummer, while didn’t do anything, threw in some snide remarks at Scott and apparently held something against him but in the end respected him after he apologized to her for dumping her in the first place. Dave didn’t have any extra baggage or internal struggles. He was just simply trying to stay alive and stop crime. Although Nicholas Cage met his untimely end possibly symbolizing what will happen to those pretending to be superheroes, there was no big fight within Dave as whether or not he should be a superhero. Yes, he quits in the end, but he decides that after defeating the boss. It’s similar to if Superman were to hang up his cape after defeating Lex Luthor: it’s not that symbolic; the job’s done.

10)   With the comic book and video game undertones, Scott Pilgrim really wasn’t meant to be serious – I’ve said this before about three times now, so I’ll sum it up: Kick-Ass apparently served as a more tangible critique of the superhero than Watchmen was by having somebody dress up as a superhero and show what would happen to him if he did and what needed to happen in order to survive as one. Scott Pilgrim was probably about one kid’s fight to win someone’s heart as if it were explained by the titular character and someone took it literally. The whole idea of beating up “evil exes” with random martial arts and having random ideas popping out of nowhere like psychic powers and vegan cops obviously can’t happen in real life, but that’s what made the movie funny. Scott Pilgrim was obviously created for entertainment’s sake and didn’t mean to be taken literally, whereas Kick-Ass was supposed to show why no one in real life runs around pretending to be a superhero.

So there you have it. I have now given ten reasons as to how the two movies are not similar, and the criticism saying otherwise is therefore incorrect. Now if you get the chance, check out Scott Pilgrim vs. the World when you can because it’s out on DVD, and the movie is really cool.