The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Band: Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Album: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Best song: Well, it’s a score album, but the covers of “Immigrant Song” and “Is Your Love Strong Enough?” are actual songs, for what that’s worth.
Worst song: It’s a film score, so it’s hard to pick a bad song. Each composition works within the film.

I use music in this space to give insight on shit only for which I have concern, as this is the ultimate in intellectual masturbation. There’s a small method to this particular madness in that I always considered myself a “music guy,” whatever that means. In fact, in previous times, that was called “pretentious,” a “music snob,” a music nerd,” being into “indie rock,” being into “underground music” and the like (some people use “hipster,” but that’s a young man’s game and it is unidentifiable [this is one of my pet peeves.]). My Rolling Stone blog project sort of shows that definition to be true. Music is a thing for me. 

The Internet has changed a lot of that stuff, in the sense that there isn’t really an underground anymore. Bands like Wilco and the Arcade Fire blow up the Billboard and Soundscan charts. “Mainstream” rock is completely dead — does anyone even listen to that stuff anymore? — and the major/indie label difference is almost nothing.

Which isn’t to say that the circumstances around my definition of myself have dictated said definition; I am still intensely interested in finding new music and exploring said music. I’ve recently gotten into Norwegian black metal, albeit on the most shallow level. Most black metal sucks.

The point remains that curiosity is the first and most important factor in this stuff. I like to use the technology to my advantage in exploring and discovering new music. Services like Last.fm and Spotify make these things much easier, so a ton more music is at my fingertips.

With all of that said, I have become a “movie guy” in the last few years. This started a long time ago because I dated a beautiful girl in high school — she was one year my senior — who ran our school’s film club. She was an actress and had been in movies and found film to be an important part of her life. I was doing the radio and being all music-interested, but she showed me a bit of a love for the different movies, the punk rock of filmmaking.

This urge laid dormant for a long time until the past few years, when I decided I was going to see every movie nominated for the Academy Awards’ Best Picture honor before the show.

Like so many awards, people enjoy debating the Oscars and the nominations. Like voting, I wanted to have some skin in the game and say that I could make a rational, educated judgement when the winner was announced. It’s easy to say that some movie isn’t the best of the year when one has only seen one other movie; I like to have seen all the contenders nominated in order to ascertain whether or not I agreed with the outcome of the awards.

In fact, I remember the point wherein I decided I wanted to do this. It was after the Oscars were awarded for 2007 (so, early 2008) and a friend of mine bitched and moaned about the lack of The Dark Knight getting any recognition for anything other than Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker. His notion was that The Dark Knight was a million times better than anything nominated that year (The Departed won, for example).

I asked him how many of the nominated movies he had seen and he’d only seen one. This seemed, to me, akin to complaining about the president when one had not voted. If one is going to complain about a comparison competition, one should at least have sampled those being compared.

(Yes, I realize this analogy isn’t really all that great of an analogy. No one can see all the movies from a year — film critics, maybe — and having seen a movie does not make one an expert. But, you know. It connected in my mind.)

At that point, I decided that I was going to see all the 2008 films nominated for the next Oscars. And I did, partially to my detriment.

(2008 ruined my notion of what a good movie is. That year contained three of my favorite films of all time — Michael Clayton, There Will Be Blood and, especially No Country for Old Men — and I constantly compare films for each year to those ones.)

One of the reasons I’m late this week and didn’t post last week is because I work for a living and I’m busy there, but another is because I’ve not been thinking about music as much as I’ve been thinking about movies. In the past month, I’ve seen a bunch of movies currently in theaters. This is because I’m trying to expand my judgements to the actor categories and would like to see anything nominated for an acting Oscar. With the Golden Globe nominations having been announced, I take those nominations as a template.

All of this is a runup to say that I saw The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo this week. Holy everloving shit. That movie is amazing.

Not that anyone cares, but I tend to think The Tree of Life was the best, most interesting film I saw this year. It’s introspective and challenging, shot through a dreamy, memorable lens. Terrence Malick created a plotless prayer of a film that explores the nature of existence in a way that Darren Aronofsky failed in The Fountain. It’s eye candy, it made me think and it’s powerful. It challenged me in ways film does not and has not in a long time.

With that said, I don’t know that I enjoyed it as much as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. That film, all 158 minutes of it, took me to another place and had me riveted in the story. Like a well-written Dan Brown book, the movie was paced beautifully, darkly shot and acted well by Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig (and Stellan Skarsgård and Christopher Plummer and everyone else in the film).

The music for the film — the thing which I am ostensibly writing about — works so well. As well as the Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross soundtrack for Fincher’s The Social Network succeeded in setting an atmosphere (it won them an Oscar), this soundtrack better fills the movie’s spaces. Like the Swedish landscape in which the movie is set, the soundtrack moves slowly and sparsely, with piano notes playing sporadically over dwelling codas.

This is all said without the beautiful notion of the film’s title sequence, overlaid by a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

Along with the sublime Bridesmaids, David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was my favorite time spent at the cinema this year. The soundtrack helped propel that long, of course.

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