Director Selective Series: David Fincher Part 1

Hello, Weirdos. As the Sam Raimi installment comes to a close (thoughts on Part 5 below), the Director Selective Series continues this month with the directorial filmography of David Fincher. Fincher began as a music video director. During this time he worked with artists such as Rick Springfield, Madonna, and Nine Inch Nails. Eventually he landed at the helm of Alien 3. From there his film career escalated. His style is cold and drab, often with a yellow tint. Of directing he said, "As a director, film is about how you dole out the information so that the audience stays with you when they're supposed to stay with you, behind you when they're supposed to stay behind you, and ahead of you when they're supposed to stay ahead of you." Using those ideals Fincher has directed iconic films and continues to create noteworthy content as executive producer of House of Cards and Mindhunter. This week I will be looking at Fincher's first three films, which are:

On first watch of Alien 3, years ago, I found it forgettable. However, recently I watched a review from Chris Stuckman and one of his buddies making a case for the film in a positive light. I have a renewed interest in seeing it again. Se7en is a classic, and I'm looking forward to The Game because I do not remember it.

Here are my final thoughts on the Director Selective Series: Sam Raimi Part 5:

  • Spider-Man 3: Of all the Spider-Man movies, 3 is often the least favorite. It is clear why. The first two are great. Part 3 gets bogged down by too many storylines that are so detached from one another. The film focuses on one at a time, resulting in the others being forgotten while they are away. Sandman is a forgettable villain and if removed makes the story tighter. Instead they should have focused on Peter's relationship with Harry and given Topher Grace more time to develop as Venom. Topher is fine as Brock, and when Venom is strictly Venom it works. But when it is Venom's body with Topher's head and unnecessary sharp teeth, it falls apart. Topher is not villainous enough even with the Venom exaggerating his characteristics. A question I had was why when Harry gets hit on the head does he become a lovable dope? I get the amnesia bit (he got hit hard), but then his personality changes. He becomes a Harry that was not in the last 2. Harry was always kind of a jerk, so the goofball angle did not work for me. It is as though the filmmakers wanted audiences to like him so when he dies it becomes more emotional. Then there is the strange jazz dance number sequence. It does mirror a similar scene from Spider-Man 2 when Peter gives up crime fighting and is briefly care free. This scene is heavily exaggerated. Honestly, I enjoy it. I see what Raimi was attempting. The symbiote exaggerates the host, and the audience experiences that through exaggerated scenes. But I understand it does not work with the film, nor does it work with the Spider-Man world Raimi created in the two previous films. There are parts that I like about this movie. The effects look good, the relationship with Peter and Harry is intriguing, and Venom is badass. Spider-Man 3, although visually satisfying and further developing its main cast of original characters, lacks the tightness and focus of its predecessors.
  • Drag Me to Hell: In 2009 when this movie was released, I was an usher at a movie theater. My task for that day was to stand in the theater showing Drag Me to Hell at the edge of the stairs to ensure the underaged movie goers were behaving. My first and only experience with this film had been peripherally, and I was not a fan. On a focused second watch I think it is great. Drag Me to Hell is weird (the plot is an old gypsy woman cursing a loan officer). Also, it is creepy and disgusting with different fluids projecting out of people—some cringe-worthy effects. Parts are laughable and campy. That’s part of Raimi’s style. The practical effects look great. The scene with the goat is super silly but worked for me. I kept asking myself, who let him make this? He got away with it. The ending is fantastic, unexpected, and uncommon. The performances are good—nothing mind-blowing, but nothing terrible. Evil Dead references abound. My biggest problem with it is the computer effects. They don’t look great, particularly the flying eyeballs. I wish they would have gone all practical. Understandably, people dislike this picture because it is strange, goofy, and over-the-top, but those are the things that make it great. A long-awaited return to Horror from Sam Raimi.
  • Oz the Great and Powerful: As the film opens, audiences are given a tight ratio sepia scene combined with modern 3D effects—a culmination of old and new. Juxtaposition of old and new carries throughout the picture. Once audiences land in Oz the ration grows, and the vibrancy of the land is revealed. Although the world is gorgeous, it lacks defining stylistic characteristics that are present in 2010's Alice in Wonderland. Where Burton's Wonderland feels unlike any other world, Raimi's Oz falls short. Raimi combined practical sets with computer effects, which grounds the fantastical elements of the film. Disney got the rights to the story because L. Frank Baum's Oz work is in the public domain, but they could not obtain the rights to the film The Wizard of Oz. Disney could not use Dorothy or ruby slippers, and the Wicked Witch could not have a mole; they even had to make her a different shade of green. With so many limitations, it is difficult to imagine what this film could have been. Instead there needs to be a separation from the original film. Viewers cannot think of it as a prequel, but rather as a stand alone feature. Then it works better. All the performances worked, except Franco's. Maybe Raimi was going for this, but Franco's performance seemed phoned in with the exception of a couple scenes. Even when yelling or filled with excitement it comes off as flat. There are bits of Raimi sprinkled throughout: Bruce Campbell, Ted Raimi, object POV, the evil witches resemble watered down characters from the Evil Dead series, and according to IMDb, even the Oldsmobile makes an appearance stripped down as a wagon. Oz the Great and Powerful is a visual treat, but it attempts to be lighthearted and dark without satisfying either element.

Feel free to share your thoughts on current Sam Raimi and on early Fincher. Look out for Part 2 of the Fincher Series coming next week. And if you have not already Listened to the Christmas Special for Black Star you should. Keep on Creepin'.