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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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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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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 IFC.com and the IFC app.

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