It's kind of hard to remember now — what with 50 Shades of Grey having bombed through and nip-slipped the world into submission — but there was a time when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was the hot lit-blockbuster adaptation of the moment. We had the renewed invincibility of David Fincher, coming smoking hot off The Social Network, and we had Karen O going "ahhhahhhaAHHHah" on that goose-bump-inducing trailer, and we had ascendant starlet Rooney Mara, making herself over as one who clearly is not fucking around. And then the movie dropped and — it was OK? It was pretty cool? Yeah. Yeah. Totally not bad.
It’s been almost six months since I wrote my first column on the 2012 Oscar race, and we’re finally at predictions week. The ballots are in (or will be by tomorrow); the votes are soon to be tabulated; the hopes and dreams of 80 percent of the nominees are currently being ground into a fine powder. And it’s time to put your money where my mouth is. All this week, I’ll be announcing my guesses and doing my best to simulate an actual Oscar telecast, meaning that I will be starting with the stuff you don’t care about, taking immensely long pauses, and making you wait forever for the whole ugly business to end. Join me, won’t you? Imagine that Billy Crystal has already done his shout-outs to Brad and George in the front row, made a Harvey Weinstein reference (cut to reaction shot of Harvey looking amused/anticipatory/terrifying), and made one really funny joke I can’t think of that will end, “ or, as they’re known in Hollywood, The Help!” Hooting! Approving applause!
Voice-over! “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the stage two of our brightest stars, Cynthia Nixon and Sean Hayes!” No, wait, that’s the Tonys. “Please welcome to the stage ” Hmmm. Who’s big enough for an Oscar presentation but new enough so that you can stick them with the awards nobody else wants to give? Oh, my God, it’s CHANNING TATUM AND EMMA STONE!
As the Academy continues to discuss an accelerated awards calendar for future Oscars (coming in 2013: Goodbye, paper ballots; hello, electronic voting and endless conspiracy theories about hacking!), there’s one thing I hope the Board of Governors will bear in mind: They need to allow one week for generalized postnomination rage. This wasn’t necessary before the Internet, which tends to reinforce in everyone the need to express, via blog, tweet, or status update, the conviction that anyone who doesn’t share their taste must by definition be dumb or corrupt. This year’s anger seems to have taken two forms:
It’s over. No more surges or collapses, no more micro-measurements of momentum, no more fingers to the wind. Voting for the Oscar nominations has closed, and the results will be announced bright and early on Tuesday, January 24, so every day this week I’ll be rolling out my predictions. Take these to the bank! Actually, please don’t. It’s not easy trying to crystal-ball the collective, aggregated taste of Pedro Almodóvar and Ernest Borgnine and Peter Dinklage and Olivia de Havilland and the guy who shot The Wedding Planner and the costume designer of Vanilla Sky. Throw in more than 5,000 other voters and you have, at best, barely educated guesswork. With that in mind ...
If, like me, you haven't yet made it out to the theater to see David Fincher's version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (hey, I sat through all 623 hours of the Swedish originals, so BACK OFF, I had to READ MY MOVIES), there is hardly a better way to spend the next two minutes and thirty-four seconds of your life than to watch the film's opening credit sequence, now available on the Tubes. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, effing craymazing. You know, if HR Giger ejaculating fire onto a molten tar pit is your kind of thing. (h/t @AwardsDaily)
Earlier this month, in an interview with the New York Times on the occasion of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo — in theaters right now — David Fincher had this to say: “I don’t need another serial-killer movie. But I liked the chance to make a franchise movie for adults.”
For the non-Fincher-phile (ha, just came up with that, kind of works?), Dragon Tattoo is our dude’s third serial-killer movie, after Se7en and Zodiac. And it was the latter that I had in mind for large chunks of Dragon Tattoo. For all of this movie’s charms — including, but not limited to, Rooney Mara’s badass performance; Daniel Craig’s “enviable knitwear”; Daniel Craig’s revolutionary eyeglass-wearing-technique; and at least two funny-on-purpose sex scenes — there was one thing bothering me. As the central serial-killer mystery unfolds, I couldn’t help but think: Didn’t Fincher already do this in Zodiac?
I’m going to begin this edition of Oscarmetrics with a cautionary tale about overreaction, backlash, and misbehavior. Appropriately, it comes from one Best Picture nominee, and it’s about another. In the 2005 film Capote, we watch our brilliant, narcissistic protagonist (Philip Seymour Hoffman) experience a friend’s success the only way he can — as a staggering personal humiliation. He attends the premiere of the movie version of his loyal pal Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Afterward, Lee finds him at the bar, magnificently self-absorbed, and, of course, choked with jealousy.
“How’d you like the movie, Truman?” she asks patiently. He can’t even rouse himself to look at her. She finally walks away — at which point he murmurs sourly, to himself, “I, frankly, don’t see what all the fuss is about.” And nobody cares.
As we enter a season that’s defined by a great deal of fuss, of hyperbolic praise, and of hyperbolic dissent, it bears remembering that at some point in the next few months, we’re all going to find ourselves on the losing side of at least one movie argument. And when a film that everybody seems to love leaves us cold, we all, to some extent, risk sounding like Truman Capote — pissy, superior, bitter, bored. This is the time of year when the ridiculous word “overrated” gets tossed around as if it were an actual qualitative property of a movie rather than a silly side argument about what other people thought of it. So my current resolution is to try to be arrogant about movies that I love, but humble about movies that work for everybody else but not for me.
In covering the Oscar race so far, I’ve tried to focus on movies that have already opened. But this week, I’m tossing that approach, because effective immediately, the attention of the Oscar-punditry universe swivels decisively forward. The last eight weekends of 2011 will bring more than two dozen movies with aspirations as modest as a single acting nomination and as grandiose as sweeping the slate from Best Picture to Best Makeup.
So from now until year’s end, the goal of every contender that opened before November 1 is simply survival. Think of the next two months as a tidal wave, and of early hopefuls like Midnight in Paris, The Help, and Moneyball as trees along the shore line. Some of those trees will topple — and a couple of months from now, those still standing may look that much taller. Same goes for the movies in the big wave; some will arrive with obliterating force while others will weaken the closer they get. (Please take the above tortured analogy as my tribute to Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter.) With that in mind, this Oscarmetrics installment is a cheat sheet — a map of the parallel tracks of reality and hype along which the race will now proceed.
Each week, marketers release new movie posters, many for films whose releases are still months away. But for those who know where to look, one-sheets can reveal studios' hopes and insecurities about their products. In this space, we will attempt to decode the hidden meanings of the week's new posters.
It only took the wordless ninety seconds of the movie’s first trailer — and a big assist from Trent Reznor and Karen O’s massive “Immigrant Song” cover — to eliminate any lingering mass-market-paperback stigma from David Fincher’s prestige makeover of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. (The Muppets liked it too: according to their none-too-shabby Dragon Tattoo parody.) And with that out of the way, here comes Trailer No. 2, complete with actual dialogue and plot points. We see Daniel Craig’s Mikael Blomkvist being hired by Henrik Vanger to investigate “the most detestable collection of people that you will ever meet — my family.” There’s Rooney Mara’s Lisbeth Salander, just as unrecognizable from her Social Network days as she was in the advance stills, reluctantly teaming up with Blomkvist to crack open the central murder mystery. And there’s the sepia flashbacks, ominous gravelly voiceovers, explosions, dead bodies, dramatic typing, grisly photos, clues being pointed at, and inevitable heart-pumping fast-cut finale segment. Even if the movie ends up being a disappointment, we at least have this trailer, one of the greatest-ever book commercials.