Tag: David Fincher

Gone Girl (2014)

gone-girl-movie-picture-11-1024x513There’s something rotten in the state of Missouri. Amy and Nick’s picture-perfect marriage has soured and, on the morning of their fifth anniversary, Amy has disappeared in a violent manner. Now Nick must try to find his wife before the police begin to suspect that he was the murderer. Gone Girl is, next to Zodiac, the clearest indicator of what interests director David Fincher. It is a movie about the roles we inhabit in order to woo a mate, and what happens when those roles become a reality. It is a long, hard look at the cracks that form when performances start to break down and reality sneaks in.

David Fincher has always been an obsessive (see Zodiac) and a game player (see, uh, The Game). Gone Girl is no different. It’s his funniest movie in a good while – funnier than The Social Network, even – and it’s there that he tips his hand as to what he thinks of all the gaming and plotting and playing that happens over the course of the 2.5 hour run time. It’s all kind of a joke. It’s a joke on the media, which heightens and examines every detail to the point of absurdity, and it’s a joke on marriages, which often force the couple to change for each other in ways that seem fine at first but soon lead to resentment. And, most importantly, it’s a joke on crazy relationship thrillers. It was a popular genre, once, in the glory days of Fatal Attraction and the crazy-dreamy Eyes Wide Shut, and it resurges here with a delightfully nutty third act that tips over into an insane, supremely dark comedy with plenty of bloodshed. Nick and Amy aren’t every-people, made to be held up as the way normals would act in a given situation, they’re cartoonish funhouse mirrors which reflect only our darkest impulses and desires. In the blame game that will be played by most audience members at the conclusion of the film, the finger needs to be pointed in all kinds of directions.

Gone-Girl-Trailer

It’s a fun game to play, the blame game, because the rest of the film is so well made that it’s hard to talk about the technical aspects outside of praising them for their perfection. David Fincher is a calculating and exacting director, and it’s no surprise when a flashback to a gift exchange involving sheets cuts immediately to Nick’s sister, Margo (excellently portrayed by Carrie Coon, whom you should all be watching in The Leftovers), setting up certainly less-comfy bedding for Nick on her couch. Fincher never misses a beat and, although the movie is lengthy, it never feels slow nor do any scenes stand out as unnecessary. The praise for this smoothness also goes to Gillian Flynn, who adapts her own novel for the screen and does so in a superb manner. Nothing in the film feels novelistic, everything works cinematically to tell and adapt this story in this medium. Fantastic stuff. It would all be meaningless, though, if it weren’t for Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike giving career-best performances throughout. Affleck is suitably subtle and the not-so-hidden anger under his surface seems always ready to bubble over. Pike is astounding as she uses her soft but firm voice in the narration that dominates the opening hour or so to make us feel all the right emotions. She also uses her physical presence as well as I’ve seen anybody do in the last five years or so. These four are operating at the peaks of their artistic prowess and it all gels fantastically into an astoundingly fun neo-noir movie.

Top 100 Films: The _4’s

The 4’s contain, by a lucky coincidence, the oldest and newest films on my list. They span a period of 85 years. Every movie but one is in a well defined genre, the other being mostly just a drama. Besides also containing the longest title on my list,  four of the movies are from before I was born.

94. Hanna (2011)

Directed by Joe Wright. Starring Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett

I just missed your heart.

A fever dream of a movie. Hanna is a coming of age tale with a dark side, told like a fairy tale and impeccably directed and acted. It is always moving forward, whether it be plot driven or character based. An early contender for the best film of 2011.

84. All the President’s Men (1976)

Directed by Alan J. Pakula. Starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford

You’re both paranoid. She’s afraid of John Mitchell and you’re afraid of Walter Cronkite.

When a movie about reporters figuring out a story is so compelling you know the movie is great. It takes a lot to get a movie that involves almost no action to feel so stimulating. Of course, the acting helps, as does the direction. There’s a lot of All the President’s Men in Zodiac, and even though I like the latter better, the former is still fantastic.

74. In Bruges (2008)

Directed by Martin McDonagh. Starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson

I’m sorry for calling you an inanimate object. I was upset.

As dark a comedy as you can get, Martin McDonagh’s feature length directorial debut is one of the best first movies of all time. Intricately constructed and immaculately detailed, it’s got a lot going on so it might take a few times to get everything. But that’s just an excuse to watch it over and over and over again. As if you needed one.

64. The General (1926)

Directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton. Starring Buster Keaton and Marion Mack

If you lose this war don’t blame me.

Buster Keaton is known for incredibly complex stunts that intensify as he goes along. Some of the action scenes here are 15 minutes long. There’s a lot to be awed by, but one of the best elements is how Keaton is able to build a character through these actions scenes. By the end of the film you really know who Johnnie Gray is and why he does what he does.

54. The Quiet Man (1952)

Directed by John Ford. Starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara

I have a fearful temper. You might as well know about it now instead of findin’ out about it later. We Danahers are a fightin’ people.

A good old fashioned love story. Full of kisses in the rain and fighting and dragging your wife across the Irish countryside. Almost mythic in how big it plays the emotions, The Quiet Man is a wonderful romantic comedy with great chemistry between Wayne and O’Hara, perhaps the only woman that could match up to Wayne’s powerful presence. If only there was a restored print that was widely available, the current dvd is a muddied mess that does no service to the beauty of Ireland and O’Hara.

44. The Social Network (2010)

Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield

I like standing next to you, Sean. It makes me look so tough.

When The Social Network hit theaters there was some controversy over whether the movie portrayed the truth of the founding of Facebook. There are exaggerations and outright lies in the movie. Luckily for us, it’s a movie and not a historical document. As a film it is a fascinating study of ambition and the things you lose when you get what you want. It is certainly biased but it is no less of a movie for that.

34. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Directed by Shane Black. Starring Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer

Wow, I feel sore. I mean physically, not like a guy who’s angry in a movie in the 1950’s.

Delightfully meta and self-aware without being too cute about it. The relationship between Downey and Kilmer is the heart of this film. It makes you remember how awesome Kilmer is. Shane Black knows his buddy cop movies and works with the tropes quite well.

24. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

Directed by Andrew Dominik. Starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck

Look at my red hands and my mean face… and I wonder ’bout that man that’s gone so wrong.

One of the half-dozen or so recent westerns that take a more thoughtful track than the typical good guy vs. bad guy idea you see in so many older films of the genre. This movie is about fame and adoration and legend. And it is beautiful. I can’t wait to see what Dominik does next.

14. Sunshine (2007)

Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring Cillian Murphy and Rose Byrne

At the end of time, a moment will come when just man remains. Then the moment will pass. Man will be gone. There will be nothing to show that we were ever here… but stardust.

Sunshine gets a lot of crap for its third act. Allow me to state, here and now and for eternity, there’s nothing wrong with the third act of the film. It’s a different way of explaining the same idea that runs through the rest of the film: what do we do in the face of such power? And the final five minutes are supremely beautiful in both the visuals and the themes they express.

4. Blade Runner (1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer

Fiery the angels fell. Deep thunder rolled around their shoulders, burning with the fires of Orc.

The future never looked so grimy and gorgeous at the same time. This neo-noir is the best sci-fi movie ever made. It’s not perfect, there’s a romantic subplot that I don’t particularly care about, but that’s small fries when it comes to the sheer brilliance of the rest of the film. It’s telling that Ridley Scott started as an art director because the look of the movie is so singular.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section

Top 100 Films: The _5’s

I guess it makes sense that as we go along the movies will get better and better overall. I think this might be my favorite of the bunch so far. We have 6 horror films (well, at least semi-horror for two of them), 5 movies from before I was born, 3 movies that reference a location in their titles, 2 movies in black and white, 2 shots of girls with blood on them, and 1 movie where it was hard to find a shot that wasn’t full of naked people.

95. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)

Directed by Tobe Hooper. Starring Marilyn Burns and Edwin Neal

My family’s always been in meat.

As a kid I saw a few shots from this movie and they scared me so much that I vowed never to see it. Then I grew up and realized that I liked horror films. When I watched it a few Halloweens ago I was terrified. It’s one of the most visceral and immediate films I’ve ever seen. And the scene at the dinner table is truly horrifying.

85. The Fly (1986)

Directed by David Cronenberg. Starring Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis

How does Brundlefly eat? Well, he found out the hard and painful way that he eats very much the way a fly eats. His teeth are now useless, because although he can chew up solid food, he can’t digest them. Solid food hurts. So like a fly, Brundlefly breaks down solids with a corrosive enzyme, playfully called “vomit drop”. He regurgitates on his food, it liquefies, and then he sucks it back up. Ready for a demonstration, kids? Here goes…

The Brundlefly is one of the more tragic characters in movie history. A simple accident melds his DNA with a fly’s and then he begins to lose his humanness as bits of his body turn into a fly. It’s body horror of the truest and grossest sense. Goldblum manages to keep the humanity of the situation in the forefront for as long as he can, which is why the movie is on this list.

75. Manhattan (1979)

Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton

I had a mad impulse to throw you down on the lunar surface and commit interstellar perversion.

I only started to watch Woody Allen movies this year, starting with Midnight in Paris and ending, so far, with Manhattan, with nothing else in the middle. Manhattan is funny and smart and all that jazz, but nobody warned me how good it looked. Allen has a way with the frame, and working with Gordon Willis certainly helps.

65. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick. Starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

I have seen one or two things in my life but never, never anything like this.

A dream of a movie. A surreal comedy about Tom Cruise’s inability to get laid. It’s unfortunate that this movie got caught up in the real life story between the two main actors and Kubrick’s death because it’s a really great film in its own right. Give it a chance.

55. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Ron Pearlman and Doug Jones

Now, see, I love this song. And I can’t smile, or cry. I think I have no tear ducts.

A mix of del Toro’s two modes, Hellboy II is an artsy superhero film and an action filled art film. Clever and thoughtful, tragic and swashbuckling, this movie has everything going for it. And it’s better than that other superhero sequel from the same year.

45. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Directed by John Ford. Starring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell

Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody.

I’m not a huge fan of the book this film is based on, but the humanity brought by Fonda and Darwell in particular make this such a great film. As usual, John Ford directs an excellent film, but it’s these two performances that raise it above the rest.

35. Zodiac (2007)

Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jake Jyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr.

I… I need to know who he is. I… I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.

The first in the second stage of Fincher’s career, Zodiac is much more understated than Fight Club or Panic Room. It follows the obsession of three men as they try to find the real identity of the Zodiac killer, though their quest is ultimately unsuccessful. It says a lot about Fincher that he can make such an unsatisfying conclusion seem like the only way the story could end.

25. Halloween (1978)

Directed by John Carpenter. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence

It’s Halloween, everyone’s entitled to one good scare.

By today’s standards this is barely a horror movie. There’s only a tiny bit of blood at the beginning of the film and the rest is mostly tension building. But it does that mood so well you can’t help but be scared. When you have an audience jumping in their seats because your bad guy steps out from behind the bushes for a moment you’ve got a truly great film on your hands.

15. Miller’s Crossing (1990)

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Starring Gabriel Byrne and Albert Finney

All in all not a bad guy – if looks, brains, and personality don’t count.

One of the few mob-based films that doesn’t annoy the crap outta me, Miller’s Crossing is a genius movie. Gabriel Byrne’s central performance is so strong and he’s surrounded by such a great supporting cast and a great story told wonderfully. Truly the best gangster movie of all time.

5. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano

I see the worst in people. I don’t need to look past seeing them to get all I need. I’ve built my hatreds up over the years, little by little, Henry… to have you here gives me a second breath. I can’t keep doing this on my own with these… people.

What I like to call a character epic, TWBB is half a grandiose tale of oil and religion and half a character study. With an all-time-great performance by Daniel Day-Lewis and a better-than-he-gets-credit-for performance by Paul Dano, this movie needed only to be shot reasonably well to be great. But Paul Thomas Anderson brought all of his tricks with him and we got an amazing movie out of the deal. I have no hesitations calling this a masterpiece.

The other parts of the list:

The _0’s section

The _9’s section

The _8’s section

The _7’s section

The _6’s section

The _5’s section

The _4’s section

The _3’s section

The _2’s section

The _1’s section