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Academy Members Hipper Than Previously Thought, Also Dragon Tattoo Earns Rare Four Star Review from Berardinelli

According to Steve Pond over at The Wrap, David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s opening sequence drew applause — CK Dexter Haven you have unsuspected depth! — this year, because of last year’s win, the Academy are expected to like their spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down but it’s possible they are also craving a little hot sauce with their meal:

That evening, “War Horse” drew a bigger crowd, though the Goldwyn was still nowhere near capacity. (As a member pointed out, the film has been screening aggressively around town for a few weeks.) The film met with good applause at the end, and one voter speculated that the strength of its crafts will help make it a real contender.

Another voter (who loved the film) described the reaction as “no walk outs and applause at the end, although not overwhelming.” Afterwards, the member did report hearing some grumbling that the film was “too perfect and manipulative.”

On Saturday, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” screened at the Goldwyn to the biggest crowd of the five weekend showings (the other two being “We Bought a Zoo” on Saturday afternoon and “Albert Nobbs” on Sunday at noon).

“Dragon Tattoo” not only drew applause at the end of the film, but also at the end of the opening credit sequence, a bracing abstract sequence set to Trent Reznor’s and Karen O’s brutal version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

Fincher’s brilliant thriller was given bad reviews by both AO Scott of the NY Times, and Kenneth Turan at the LA Times.

“Oh, Clarice. Your problem is, you need to get more fun out of life.”

Meanwhile, James Berardinelli gives Dragon Tattoo his first four star review since 2009! He’s my new favorite critic. Sorry Kenneth – after panning this movie, Hugo and Drive – what hath god wrought?

It’s somewhat astonishing that Fincher managed to secure an R-rating for a movie whose depictions of sexual sadism (including an anal rape) and consensual intercourse are so graphic. True to his word, the director does not pull punches and these scenes are as graphic (if not moreso) in the American production as in the Swedish one. One of the early trailers for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo advertised this as being the “feel-bad movie of the season” and there’s some truth to that. This is not the happiest experience one can have in a theater, but its cumulative power to provoke and entice is undeniable. And, as grim a view as it may have of humanity, it offers a compulsively watchable mystery/thriller whose standard elements – clues, red herrings, a limited number of suspects – adds to its entertainment quotient. This is a rare dark movie that can be enjoyed on a visceral level. There’s plenty of suspense and tension in its DNA.

Those familiar with Larsson’s work are aware that he finished two additional books about Mikael and Lisbeth before his death, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These have both been filmed in Sweden. Fincher would like to get a crack at them as well, although the worldwide box office performance of this movie will go a long way toward deciding whether that happens. Personally, I would love to see what this creative team could do with those books (which are inferior to the first one). Regardless of what happens in the future, however, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo can stand on its own as Fincher’s valentine to goth girl power, detective stories, and the grotesqueness of the human heart.

Meanwhile, over at The Atlantic, Robert Levin gets down to Why David Fincher was the Perfect Director for Dragon Tattoo :

Stylish nightmare: Fincher is arguably the modern American master of the stylized, subversive thriller. Movies like Seven and Fight Club have pushed the boundaries of hard-R ratings in stories set against nightmarish backdrops. Seven offers Fincher’s twisted take on film noir, injecting the familiar milieu of cops and criminals with inexplicably gruesome brutality. Fight Club turns the antiseptic, corporatized modern world into a conduit for grotesque primordial rage.

Fincher plays up the contrast between the light white colors of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—well-lit modernist interiors and the snowy Swedish expanse—and the dark secrets eating away at the damaged characters investigating the murderous past of one of Sweden’s distinguished families, the Vangers. At the same time, the violence is depicted with a startling lack of inhibition. It’s unflinchingly brutal at the appropriate times and slyly twisted at others, especially when Enya’s music is brought into the mix.

Investigatory nuts and bolts: Seven and Zodiac are accomplished detective movies that offer hard-edged, realistic depictions of what it means to investigate a crime and become obsessed by it. While movies about police investigations often take less pleasure in the process than its cathartic end, Fincher revels in the day-to-day grind of breaking down and solving a mystery.

Dragon Tattoo is made in that same tradition. With its flurry of facts hurled at the viewer, fast-paced editing, and an overarching edgy, punk-rock sensibility, the film depicts two characters on a dark journey that matters far more than the ultimate destination. The filmmaker brings alive the experience of examining old photos, hacking into computer systems, and conducting interviews, imbuing it with the thrill of discovery.

Strong women: Every Fincher movie, from Alien 3 to Dragon Tattoo, features strong female characters. That’s true even in his most male-dominated films, like Fight Club or The Social Network. It’s no accident that the latter, for example, begins with a dialogue-heavy breakup scene, in which Erica Albright (played by Mara) shatters Mark Zuckerberg’s psyche, providing the impetus behind the initial creation of a Facebook-like website.