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DID YOU READ

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” reviewed

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One word describes the tone, setting, and pacing of David Fincher’s adaptation of Stieg Larson’s wildly popular novel, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” That word is glacial. Its portrait of modern Sweden is bleak and bitterly cold, its story is sad and sordid, and its opening and closing scenes are extremely distended. Will fans of the book like the new movie anyway? As someone who’s never read Larson’s work or watched the Swedish films based on his Millennium Trilogy, I’m probably not the best person to ask. Based on my conversations with readers of Larson’s books, Fincher’s film seems like a fairly faithful adaptation. To this neophyte observer, “Dragon Tattoo” plays as an effective and stylish, if someone bloated mystery and that’s about it. It’s not a particularly dynamic film — by Fincher’s standards, the direction is positively restrained — and it’s not a particularly compelling character drama. It really only works as an absorbing detective story, one which I feel like the last person on earth to absorb. Attendance isn’t in doubt; the film will be a big hit. But will the people who come like it? Is it fun rehashing a mystery you already know the solution to?

That mystery begins when a magazine editor named Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) is found guilty of libeling a prominent Swedish businessman. Desperate for an escape from his crumbling professional life, he receives one in the form of an invitation to a remote private island, where another powerful Swedish industrialist makes him an offer. Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer) will hire Blomkvist under the guise of writing his memoirs; in reality, he wants him to solve a decades-old family mystery involving the death of his beloved niece Harriett. Eventually Blomkvist’s investigation requires a research assistant, which is where the titular heroine, an antisocial bisexual goth biker hacker ward of the state named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara), comes in. To this point, Lisbeth’s been caught in her own side story involving abuse and exploitation, one which makes her particularly enthusiastic to help Blomkvist catch what he calls “a killer of women.”

The plot, adapted by screenwriter Steven Zaillian, takes a long time to put its two main characters in a room together and until it does, the whole film — save two infamous and brutal scenes of violence — moves sluggishly. For a while, I was at a loss to understand the material’s worldwide appeal. Then it becomes clear: a badass feminist heroine who strikes back with merciless gusto at her abusers, and an odd couple of investigators as deliciously mismatched — and as resourcefully inventive — as Holmes and Watson. Craig and Mara makes a feisty, funny team, and they both show a knack for making the minutia of historical research look absolutely riveting. Their interplay brings this whole chilly endeavor to life, and even brings the faintest hints of warmth to the film’s arctic color palette. The beautiful way the cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth’s icily gorgeous imagery slowly morphs from blues and grays to yellows and browns is a subtle and clever way of representing how ‘hot’ or ‘cold the serial killer’s trail is at any particular moment.

The raw materials of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” provide Fincher the opportunity to revisit many of the themes that have defined his stellar career to date: the inner workings of a serial killer’s mind from “Se7en;” the anti-capitalistic impulses of “Fight Club;” the sprawling, obsessive investigation of a seemingly unsolvable crime in “Zodiac;” the alluring godlike power of hackers from “The Social Network.” Too bad Fincher doesn’t use that opportunity to say anything new about any of those subjects, maybe because he was expected to treat the novel so reverently that he never really could. Whatever the reason, he handles the material competently, but not exceptionally. As creepy as it might be to say, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” is David Fincher working in his comfort zone (for him, it could be called a discomfort zone). I enjoyed the film to an extent, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. Odds are, you already do.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

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

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.