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2009 Movies: A Serious Man & The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

January 20, 2011

A Serious Man (2009)

Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind
Director: The Coen Brothers (No Country For Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Miller’s Crossing, Fargo)
Quick Thoughts: You gotta give the Coen Brothers credit for branching out and taking chances. They follow up 2008’s highly acclaimed and popular No Country For Old Men with a film set in the 1960s with a focus on the Jewish religion and featuring a mostly unknown cast. Stuhlbarg stars as Larry Gopnik, a Jewish college professor whose life suddenly unravels: his kids don’t appreciate him, his brother is unemployed and leeching off him, and his wife announces she wants to be with another man. Larry seeks the advice of various rabbis in order to help him through the hard times, but finds that there’s no sage advice to combat God’s will. Stuhlburg is great as Larry and the supporting cast is solid. The story is relatively confusing at times (I still don’t understand the role of the prologue), but the script is still interesting and funny. A solid, but unspectacular film.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: Might have some… but I’ll probably never watch it again.
Sequel Potential: None
Oscar Potential: Nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Nudity: Larry’s hot neighbor is sunbathing naked at one point, but it’s a long distance shot.
Grade: 5.5/10 (Worth A Watch/Recommended)
Recommendation: This is a tough call… I’m positive this film is not for everyone, but it’s definitely enjoyable and worth watching. If you’re a fan of the Coen brothers, then yeah, I think this is a safe bet.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace
Director: Niels Arden Oplev
Quick Thoughts: Based on the popular Millennium series of novels by the late Stieg Larsson, this film was originally shot as part of a TV mini-series in Sweden. I read the book right before watching this movie, so any liberties taken in the adaptation process didn’t go unnoticed. For the most part, it was a fairly faithful adaptation, but I found some of the changes to be annoying and detrimental to the original story. As is usually the case when adapting the novels, some of the character development is left behind, in this case the character of Mikael Blomkvist really takes the short end of the stick. Seen as a confident, smart, and charming ladies man in the novels, Blomkvist is kind of played as a fool in this movie. That didn’t set well with me and it makes his eventual hook up with Salander much harder to believe. Speaking of Lisbeth Salander, Noomi Rapace kills the role, in a good way. So good, she’s getting some long shot Oscar attention for Best Actress this year (how? when this movie was released in early 2009 in Sweden…) and Roger Ebert even went as far as to lobby for her to be cast in the same role for the Hollywood version of the film. As is, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a dark, solid mystery thriller with a great performance from Noomi Rapace, but with a script that could have easily been better.
Viewings: 1
Replay Value: I’ll pass for now.
Sequel Potential: Swedish versions of the next two novels are already out. The Hollywood version of this film directed by the excellent David Fincher is due out in late 2011.
Oscar Potential: Apparently this film is eligible for this year’s Oscars and Noomi Rapace is getting buzz for her performance. I consider that a deep long shot… but if Sweden submits it as such, this has a shot at getting a Best Foreign Film nom.
Nudity: Noomi Rapace is naked a lot. I wonder if Hollywood’s Salander will be doing the same:
Grade: 6/10 (Recommended)
Recommendation: A good starting point if you’ve read the novels, but personally, I think the Hollywood version is going to be better. David Fincher has been one of the most consistent directors over the past 15 years or so.

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