Thursday, March 19, 2009

Auteur Watch - David Fincher

Now, who's this guy standing next to that giant Oscar statuette? Is it Dennis Hopper with his new toup? Maybe it's Scott Caan prepping for his next role as an undercover cop O-D'ing on all the illegal drugs he confiscates. ...who else might it be? William Atherton's kid? The latest American Idol winner? Wrong, wrong, wrong and WRONG! It's Academy Award nominated American film director David Fincher!!! He's that odd Hollywood bird: the special effects wiz that can also handle telling stories. Those that do it well are so rare: Zemeckis and... well, Spielberg, of course. Then you got the people like Stefen Fangmeier, who make up the bulk of special-effects-wizzes-turned-directors. Works fine with computers and special effects; not so good with actor people. Or like that bastard Kerry Conran! When's HIS next picture?
Anyway, back to Finch. I would have to think the 90s are his favorite decade, directorially speaking. Oh sure, it started off a bit rocky with Alien 3 getting panned by critics and moviegoers alike, and he had one of those moments when he thought he'd never direct again. Much like the Farrellys after Kingpin, or Soderbergh after Ocean's Thirteen... I mean, Schizopolis. Or Underneath. One of those two. But then, the Finchmeister struck gold with Seven. And it turned everyone involved into an instant star. Especially scribe Andrew Kevin Walker, who depressed audiences even more with 8MM and that grisly adaptation of Sleepy Hollow.
So how to follow up on this monster hit? Well, I just saw that documentary about PolyGram films, so I know that his followup was 1997's The Game. It's the one that tends to get skipped over in the short lists of Fincher's work. It also features a fine script by the Terminator 3 & 4 screenwriters. But I enjoyed it nevertheless, and it does continue his neon / blacklight paint tradition, but let us move right along to 1999's Fight Club. Currently at #21 in the IMDb Top 250 with no signs of leaving, it's nothing if not a marvel of editing. The shortest 2 1/4 hr. film you'll ever see.
He took a break from what was becoming his usual 2-year gestation period to make 2002's Panic Room. We can assume a 3-year gestation period if we move 2007's Zodiac to 2005 retroactively, which leaves 2008's Benjamin Button, currently at #147 on the IMDb Top 250. The Unbearable Lightness of Being it's not. Forrest Gump it's not. Well, it is a lot like Forrest Gump, but it's not in the same league. Sure, the special effects make your eyes blur... It makes the digitally "younger" Patrick Stewart in X-Men 3 look like a pile of 0's and 1's, and it makes the young Henry Winkler and Julie Kavner in Click look like bad Photoshop smearing. But at least B.B. swept most of the technical awards. Click never should've been nominated. That's why Sid Ganis had to resign.
Anyway, how do the 2010s look for Fincher? Wide open. Just like Peter Jackson, looks like he's headed right back into obscurity with his Heavy Metal reboot. But he's at least taking a couple other directors with him. So what's Tarsem? Chopped liver? I gotta go to bed.

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