Mailbag: David Fincher
1. You have to get rid of one of the following David Fincher movies from existence: The Social Network, Fight Club, Se7en, Zodiac. Which one?
Sara D’Amico: Ugh, I hate this question. I have it narrowed down to Se7en and Zodiac, because they seem the most similar of the group. I think I’d probably nix Zodiac, as much as I love it. I appreciate the heady concepts in Se7en – the idea of our sins/indulgences eventually being our downfall – and the thread of cold tension running through the film. It’s a smart story, convincingly told, and it leaves me feeling conflicted about humanity. Zodiac strikes me as a bit more of a procedural film, though it certainly does have its tense and traumatizing moments.
Carson Cook: Fight Club, no question – not a knock against its quality, but Social Network and Zodiac are both masterpieces, and if I’m picking between the other two I’m going with Se7en as the more essential piece every time. Plus, lose Fight Club and you lose all the bros who seemed to have taken the wrong messages about masculinity from Fight Club. Not the worst trade.
Zach D’Amico: DON’T BE MAD. Zodiac is the best movie here, period. Fight Club allows you to identify which men are intolerable because they bring it up on every first date, plus you can also use it to troll the same people who love it. And without Se7en, do we have the Brad Pitt that we have today? Okay, probably, but do we have “WHAT’S IN THE BOX???” No, we don’t.
I don’t need a reminder of how fucking evil Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are. Good job Aaron Sorkin, your screenplay was fairly prescient of the dumpster fire of a decade to come. THIS IS THE ONE THING OF YOURS THAT CAME TRUE?? Maybe if we eliminate it we can change history.
2. On the flip-side: you have the power to award one Fincher movie both Best Picture and Best Director – it has to be for the same movie. Which do you choose? What ripple effects change Academy history in the process? Remember, rewarding a Fincher movie means you take away those awards from whoever won that year.
SD: This seems like an obvious answer. I’d give Fincher Best Picture and Best Director for The Social Network in 2010 (the actual Best Picture was The King’s Speech and Best Director went to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech). Then I’d give Tom Hooper Best Director in 2012 for Les Miserables, stealing it away from Ang Lee (for Life of Pi). Ang Lee already won Best Director for Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and has made very meh movies since then (sorry but it’s true) so I don’t feel badly taking his second Oscar. The Les Miserables win would remind the French how much they treasure French love stories, and they would submit Portrait of a Lady on Fire for consideration in the Best Foreign Language Film Category in 2020. It would still lose to Parasite but, you know, it’s an honor just to be nominated etc.
CC: Again, an easy choice for me. The Social Network should have swept the 2010 ceremony and has stood for me as one of the best films of last decade. The King’s Speech is...fine, but was the boring and disappointing choice. Now, if Hooper doesn’t win here though, I see two possible outcomes. One, Les Misérables wins over Argo in 2012 – this may be my hottest take, but I kinda like Les Mis and I’d for sure rather have that and Social Network over Argo and King’s Speech. Two, Hooper goes Oscar-less, doesn’t go mad with power, and doesn’t end up making Cats: a win for everyone.
ZD: Okay, this is hard. Zodiac is my favorite, but I don’t want to take the Coens Oscar away. Fight Club could make sense – American Beauty and Sam Mendes won that year, and it’s one of Fincher’s best directorial efforts. But my gut tells me that Mendes already having won one helped push last year’s Director Oscar to Bong, so I don’t want to mess with that timeline.
So then it’s down to the two shitty men who won Best Director – and whose films won Best Picture – the same year as two of Fincher’s best. I’ll pick Se7en (Gibson/Braveheart won) over Panic Room (Polanski/The Pianist won).
3. Fincher doesn't typically write his own films or work with repeat writers. Who would you like to see him do a second collaboration with, and who would you like to see him team up with for the first time?
SD: Following hot on the heels of my previous answer, I’d like to see Fincher collaborate with Aaron Sorkin again. Sorkin just doesn’t quite have the directing thing down yet (see Molly’s Game) though he is admittedly getting better (see Trial of the Chicago Seven), and his scripts are often better in the hands of a more objective, more experienced director. Sorkin’s and Fincher’s talents were complementary in The Social Network. I’d like to see that again.
I’d like to see Fincher work with an up-and-coming screenwriter. Maybe Alex Garland, who recently wrote Ex Machina and Annihilation. It would be fun to see Fincher trend futuristic, which is where Alex Garland has historically been heading.
CC: After seeing the work she did on Widows, I’d love to see Fincher reteam with Gone Girl scribe Gillian Flynn for another nasty thriller. As for a new collaboration, he doesn’t often write without directing but I’d love to see what Fincher could do with a return-to-form M. Night Shyamalan script.
ZD: I think Nicole Holofcener and Fincher could combine to create something so scathing but ultimately humane – her writing would temper some of Fincher’s more raw instincts, in the same way that Fincher tempered some of Sorkin’s lofty idealism. That said, after two come-downs in Sorkin’s first two directorial efforts, I’d love to see him return to work with Fincher.
4. What’s your favorite performance in a Fincher movie?
SD: Oh, gosh. I think if I had seen Fight Club more recently my answer would be Edward Norton, because I vaguely remember his performance being absolutely out of this world. But going from recent memory -- it’s a tie between Jake Gyllenhaal in Zodiac (yes I know I erased this movie earlier) and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network.
CC: Honorable mention goes to Rooney Mara in Dragon Tattoo and the entire cast of The Social Network, but for my money John Carroll Lynch’s work in Zodiac is some of the finest I’ve ever seen. It’s a small role, but a crucial one – you have to believe that this man is probably the Zodiac, but also understand that you don’t have enough evidence to actually make that call. It’d be easy to go big, but Lynch opts for a quiet menace that perfectly represents the movie’s atmosphere.
ZD: Oof. Pike in Gone Girl or Pitt in Se7en. Two of the greatest.
5. If Fincher is guilty of one crime based on one of the seven deadly sins, which would it be? What about you?
SD: Fincher is guilty of wrath for disavowing Alien 3. Here is a direct quote from Fincher’s interview with The Guardian regarding his thoughts on the film: “I had to work on it for two years, got fired off it three times and I had to fight for every single thing. No one hated it more than me; to this day, no one hates it more than me.” Sounds like wrath to me.
My crime would probably be connected to wrath somehow too. According to Wikipedia, Dorothy L. Sayers describes wrath as "love of justice perverted to revenge and spite.” I’m not into the whole revenge thing (whether served cold or hot) but I have been known to have spiteful, passive-aggressive reactions to serious wrongs.
CC: Definitely Wrath, in regards to his murder of Ben Affleck. Mine would also relate to Ben Affleck, but more in terms of my Envy of Ben’s awesome back tattoo.
ZD: “Control freak” isn’t a deadly sin, but I think it best equates to pride. The rest of this question is way too personal, but I’ve been known to do stupid things when it’s 2am and I don’t have access to food, so let’s go with gluttony.
6. Fincher has directed a bevy of commercials, music videos, and TV show. What’s his greatest non-movie contribution to the world of entertainment?
CC: Fincher’s music video career is an impressive one, but it’s hard to argue against the iconography and visual mastery on display in Madonna’s “Vogue” video.
ZD: Lame answer, but Mindhunter.
7. David Fincher is receiving a lifetime achievement award at next year’s Oscars. What clip do you play?
SD: This one.
ZD: I MEAN COME ON