Home for the Holidays: Hollywood Extremes
Happy Holidays from Team Tallsome everyone! Whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, the Solstice, the beginning of the NBA season, Kwanza, or Rickey Henderson’s birthday that you’re celebrating this holiday season, you’ve probably spent way too much time drinking, eating sweets, disposing of wrapping paper, and explaining to your aging family what it is you actually do for a living (yay technology!).
Well for those interested, we here at the Bro Journey did something pretty wild, highly contagious, and definitely questionable: we actually interacted with one another in PERSON. For those of you who didn’t know, Team Tallsome hasn’t actually been able to bro-out in person since the journey began. Almost four months of long distance discussion covering all sorts of topics ranging from office etiquette to being a Magi to debating the integrity of a blog post written by a supposed office dog, and then finally, we collided.
There was much rejoicing and firm, direct hugging that Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would’ve all been proud of (side note-turns out The Rock, according to some recent holiday activity via Twitter, is a fellow Jew. Who knew that two of the biggest stars in recent Professional Wrestling history (the other being Goldberg) would be members of the tribe?). However, we went our separate ways and while Matt “Big Daddy/Bird/Gene” was off gallivanting in rural Indiana (where he spent the majority of his time taking photos via Instagram on his company iPad (f*cking hipster much?)), I took in two of the most entertaining and polarizing movies of the holiday season, both of which involved some piggish behavior.
The Muppets, written by and co-starring Jason Segel, was, simply put, magical.
Now please know that I love The Muppets. Whenever I was “sick” and stuck staying at home in college, I watched The Muppet Movie. Conversely, I also created an excellent drinking game centered around it, but that’s another post. I remember watching all of their different adventures from childhood: Rizzo the rat and his crew skipping around a New York City diner in The Muppets Take Manhattan, Miss Piggy flying through the air on a motorcycle in The Great Muppet Caper, and the sad, shivering rabbit from The Muppets Christmas Carol (Dickens would be so baffled…) and each of those moments has stuck with me to this day. I still get goose bumps every time I hear the opening plucks from “The Rainbow Connection,” I still laugh every single time Fozzy and Kermit take a left at the (literal) fork in the road while riding in Fozzy’s Uncle’s Studebaker, and I still believe that Kermit’s signature head-throw back/arm flailing expression is the single greatest exclamation that an amphibious puppet has ever performed.
All of that being said, The Muppets hits all of those emotions like I couldn’t have even imagined. When new Muppet Walter stumbles into Kermit’s old office and begins looking at all the old banjos and photos that adorn the walls, I started to get a little choked up. Later when Walter tells Kermit that he’s his hero and Kermit makes one of his signature Kermit-y faces where his eyes sink down and his mouth gets real wide, I got a lot choked up. Conversely, during a musical number in which Gonzo’s chicken contingent perform a cluck-full cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You,” I looked to my left to see my dear mother on the verge of tears of laughter. And that in effect is what The Muppets are SO great at. One minute you’re touched to your very core by something so familiar, nostalgic, and saddening, and the next you’re laughing hysterically at something completely silly and absurd.
Of course, the two most emotional moments of the movie for me came towards the end. I knew ‘The Rainbow Connection” would make an appearance, but I didn’t know when. As the closing to their in-movie telethon came up, I felt the banjo a’coming and lo behold, I could feel something from deep in the past fluttering around my chest. And then as the song hit it’s height, the truest and most honest words describing the experience emerged from Kermit’s fuzzy mouth, “All of us under its spell. We know that it’s probably magic.” It might not have shown, but inside, I was at a loss for words.
Similarly, towards the end of The Muppets, Kermit and company come to the sad realization that things might not have turned out like they had hoped they would and that in fact people had forgotten about them. As Kermit leads his crew out of their old theater, they open the stage doors and before them are thousands of people cheering and fighting just to get a look at The Muppets. The aerial shot showing blocks and blocks of people standing and waiting to receive the Muppets (hell, even writing about it now I’m getting goose bumps) almost put me over the edge, but luckily, a bit of comedy popped out involving an overdue bowling ball incident that brought me back down to Earth. Go see The Muppets. What other movie can make you laugh, cry, and wish you’d been more into puppets as a kid? Jim Henson might be gone, but his legacy as a storyteller, innovator, and entertainer is on full-display with this rebirth of his storied franchise. More Muppets please!
On Christmas Day, however, my family took a much different route, something a little less wacka-wacka and a little more “holy shit, I thought crime in Sweden was non-existent!” Enter David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I’d been eagerly awaiting this Viking land meets serial rape meets cyber punk Volume 1 for quite some time for several reasons. Let’s take a look, shall we?
1. The Millennium trilogy is IMMENSELY popular. It’s crossed all sorts of social/political boundaries and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Repeat, a book centered around murder, rape, and computer hacking, all of which occurs in Sweden, has fascinated and captivated the entire world. I never made it passed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with the books, but what I can tell you is that it flows like an incredibly perilous roller coaster: starting off painstakingly slow, building a deeply troubling story of a wealthy and back-stabbing family and the two investigators hired to solve a 40-year old mystery and then BOOM, over the top and going downwards at 100 mph, boom boom boom boom. Author Stieg Larsson might’ve not been great when it came to narrative pacing (he was a long time journalist in Sweden and ran a publication very similar to the fictional Millennium ran by Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), but man oh man, did he know how to pile on the hit when he wanted to.
2. For those of you don’t see movies with subtitles, the entire Millennium trilogy was already turned into a series of Swedish films, all of which are very good and stay VERY true to the book. Again, I’ve only seen the first movie, but Noomi Rapace’s portrayal of Lisbeth Salander is incredible, she became that character in every way possible.
3. David Fincher is responsible for some of the most enthralling movies in recent memory. Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac, and The Social Network just to name some. He gave us Brad Pitt in a fluffy teacup adorned robe, Jake Gillenhal flirting with the line between an investigation and obsession, and lastly, he put Gwen’s head in a box. Classic. This material seems right up his ally and coming off all of the great response from The Social Network where he made Justin Timberlake actually look like a legit actor, while simultaneously turning Jesse Eisenberg into a star, well, I had high hopes for what he could do with the two leads given to him.
4. They cast James Bond as the rough, beaten-down journalist Mikael Blomkvist. Take a look at the guy who played him in the Swedish version and tell me this casting decision made sense.
Seriously. Now the other lead role is what intrigued me most though. While filming the opening scene for The Social Networkin which Jesse Eisenberg and his “girlfriend,” played by Rooney Mara, argue about the merit behind Harvard, drinking for free, and being an asshole, Fincher had the two actors play out the scene more than 50 times. Think of how complex and deeply sewn the dialogue from that scene is. Than think about becoming the focus of a movie made by such a person. Lastly, think about transforming yourself into a pierced, tattooed, hacker/rape victim/arsonist and having your entire body on display multiple times over the course of the movie. Well, that’s exactly what Rooney Mara signed herself up for.
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was good. Not great, but good. All of the actors are on-point in their roles and the barren Swedish landscape assists in transporting the audience into the cold, frigid world where this sinister series of events plays out. Mara is almost unrecognizable as Lisbeth Salander. Apparently, she showed up to set looking like she hadn’t eaten or been out in the sun for the better part of six months. Additionally, she bleached her eyebrows and went out to get herself pierced all on her own instinct. It isn’t until she puts on a wig and makeup towards the end of the movie that you can even recognize her. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn’t really display the same intensity that Mara does. The pace of the movie is very rushed, even with the run time being over two and a half hours long. Fincher doesn’t allow a lot of time for the story to develop and a few changes in the plot gave him the ability to cut some corners rather than reach for a third hour.
With that in mind, I don’t really blame Fincher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was on a crazy tight schedule and I’m sure Fincher felt a bit rushed trying to get it out in time for Christmas. There’s nothing major to report on the negative front, the movie just didn’t seem as well thought out as some of Fincher’s prior efforts.
The two things that I left the theater thinking about though represent what makes this version so odd. First, they change the ending. I’m not going to spoil it for anyone, but the way in which they end The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo leaves you with a much more ominous feeling than the book or Swedish version do. A different emotion is put on full display to conclude the first chapter and I’ll be interested to see how/where the second movie picks up from.
Second, Daniel Craig’s accent. Everyone, literally EVERYONE in the movie has a Swedish accent. Some are stronger than others (Rooney Mara’s for example completely engulfs her), but everyone, minus the character who might have the most lines in the movie, exemplifies some sort of Swedish tone when they speak. Craig essentially muddles his British accent and tones it down a bit, however, during moments of excitement and fear, it comes back out full force. It’s almost as bad as the Irish-American accent he adopted to play Paul Newman’s son in Road To Perdition. Almost.
I’ll be interested to see if they bring Fincher back on for The Girl Who Played With Fire – Mara and Craig are already signed up, but the director has yet to be invited back. If he isn’t though, who could take the reins? Ron Howard? Paul Thomas Anderson? Judd Apatow? Who knows… The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is brutal, blunt, and dark as hell, but it’s enjoyable and you get to see one of the great, young actresses of our time really put on a show. OH I almost forgot! The rape scenes, how silly of me. They’re really intense, highly realistic, and over all pretty appalling. If you haven’t seen the Swedish movie or read the book and don’t know what’s coming, I’d suggest seeing The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with someone who has. That way they can signal you for when shit’s about to get real (or not, that might be funny too).