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In search of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

In search of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Lisbeth Salander, the heroine of Stieg Larsson’s internationally bestselling “Millennium” trilogy, is an impossible, irresistible figure of fiction. A tattooed, pierced, brilliant, bisexual hacker with Asperger syndrome and an eidetic memory, Salander is something between cyberpunk superhero and avenging feminist angel. Battered by life and, more pointedly, by flawed bureaucracy — Salander is a ward of the state, declared incompetent to manage her own affairs without the oversight of a guardian for reasons unexplained until the second installment — she never fails to have her revenge on anyone who sees her as a potential victim.

Those people are, invariably, men. “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the first book in Larsson’s trilogy and the source material for Niels Arden Oplev’s workmanlike film adaptation, has a Swedish title that translates to the far blunter “Men Who Hate Women.” It’s technically a murder mystery, an investigation into the disappearance of 16-year-old Harriet Vanger 40 years ago from her wealthy family’s island compound, but it’s just as much the story of how the abused, asocial Salander is lured in like a gone-feral housecat by Mikael Blomkvist, disgraced journalist, the only man in her life who she can’t run circles around, and a fanciful character in his own right.

The popularity of Larsson’s trilogy — the final installment of which isn’t coming out until May 25 in the U.S. — explains why Swedish production company Yellow Bird Films adapted all three parts in one fell swoop, with Niels Arden Oplev directing this first installment and Daniel Alfredson the second two. It also explains why Oplev and screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg take a cautious, “Harry Potter”-style approach to transferring their source material to the big screen, keeping close to the text, smoothing out a few extraneous narrative snarls and casting an able unknown, Noomi Rapace, as their beloved protagonist. The sinewy Rapace is able to get a lot out of her glare, which is good, because Salander isn’t much of a talker, and she doesn’t actually meet up with Blomkvist (played by an amused Michael Nyqvist) until the film’s halfway mark.

03012010_girlwithdragontattoo2.jpgThe reason is that, plotwise, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” still has way too much ground to cover. Crammed into that first hour (the film come in at just under two and a half) are the initial scandal that results in Blomkvist resigning from his magazine, Millennium, after being sued for libel; the reveal that he seems to have been set-up; the introduction to the Vangers, an aristocratic den of snakes; the background on Harriet, who turns out to have childhood tied to Blomkvist; Salander’s battles with a new, vicious guardian.

Really, these are just hurdles to be leaped on the way to uniting Salander and Blomkvist, the hacker punk and the boy detective grown up (as evoked by Blomkvist’s nickname, another of “Pippi Longstocking” creator Astrid Lindgren’s characters). Together, the pair have a funny, bemused crime-solving chemistry — their strengths are in research, which makes this the rare thriller content to have much of its drama involve someone hunched over a laptop. The film, thankfully, slows down to savor Salander and Blomkvist’s strange relationship, the side-effect of which is the feeling it would be a better pilot for a (non-existent) TV show than a stand-alone feature.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” takes place in what at times feels like a wintry alternate universe where every other person in a place of power is revealed to be a secret sadist, neo-Nazi, crook or serial killer beneath a respectable surface. Larsson, a radical journalist who devoted his career to battling right-wing extremism, and who died in 2004 at age 50 before any of his novels were published, has a mercilessly grim view of corporations, his country’s past and, in general, authority figures. Tempering that is a quixotic faith in the power of documentation — all it takes to vanquish a teeming substratum of corruption is exposure to the light of day in a feature in a magazine.

A final note — neither of the sequels “The Girl Who Played with Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” yet have U.S. distribution, possibly because of a planned American remake. Never mind — Music Box announced in late February that they’ll release the other two films in the trilogy this summer. Screenwriter Steven Zaillian is attached to work on the U.S. adaptation.

“The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” will be released by Music Box Films on March 19th.

[Photos: “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” Music Box Films, 2010]

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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GIFs via Giphy

Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.


IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.



IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on and the IFC app.

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G.I. Jeez

Stomach Bugs and Prom Dates

E.Coli High is in your gut and on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Brothers-in-law Kevin Barker and Ben Miller have just made the mother of all Comedy Crib series, in the sense that their Comedy Crib series is a big deal and features a hot mom. Animated, funny, and full of horrible bacteria, the series juxtaposes timeless teen dilemmas and gut-busting GI infections to create a bite-sized narrative that’s both sketchy and captivating. The two sat down, possibly in the same house, to answer some questions for us about the series. Let’s dig in….


IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

BEN: Hi ummm uhh hi ok well its like umm (gets really nervous and blows it)…

KB: It’s like the Super Bowl meets the Oscars.

IFC: How would you describe E.Coli High to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

BEN: Oh wow, she’s really cute isn’t she? I’d definitely blow that too.

KB: It’s a cartoon that is happening inside your stomach RIGHT NOW, that’s why you feel like you need to throw up.

IFC: What was the genesis of E.Coli High?

KB: I had the idea for years, and when Ben (my brother-in-law, who is a special needs teacher in Philly) began drawing hilarious comics, I recruited him to design characters, animate the series, and do some writing. I’m glad I did, because Ben rules!

BEN: Kevin told me about it in a park and I was like yeah that’s a pretty good idea, but I was just being nice. I thought it was dumb at the time.


IFC: What makes going to proms and dating moms such timeless and oddly-relatable subject matter?

BEN: Since the dawn of time everyone has had at least one friend with a hot mom. It is physically impossible to not at least make a comment about that hot mom.

KB: Who among us hasn’t dated their friend’s mom and levitated tables at a prom?

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

BEN: There’s a lot of content now. I don’t think anyone will even notice, but it’d be cool if they did.

KB: A show about talking food poisoning bacteria is basically the same as just watching the news these days TBH.

Watch E.Coli High below and discover more NYTVF selections from years past on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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