A personal diary keeping people abreast of what I am working on writing-wise.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


I finally got my pictures from my London trip, and I've put them up on Flickr. I'm afraid they aren't very interesting, so hopefully no one was actually waiting for them.

Much better is me and Terry on Oscar night. I'm wearing my new $26.50 suit. It has matching pants. You'd think it was tailored for me, the way it fits.

I took today off and treated myself to a movie. I hadn't seen Zodiac yet, it opened while I was traveling, otherwise I'd have been there right away. I'm a huge David Fincher fan, so I was very eager for it. I liked it a whole hell of a lot.

One thing that really struck me about the film is how much it looked like a 1970s movie. Not just that it was set in the '70s, but like a film that might have been made back then, something by Sydney Pollack or Alan J. Pakula. Given the nature of the Zodiac case and how it's really just a long string of information that all the characters follow, one clue to the next, I think it required a director with a pronounced fetish for detail. Fincher was as much concerned with the trappings of the story as he was the actual plot elements. At one point in the movie, Jake Gyllenhaal's character, Robert Graysmith, is hunkered down in his apartment surrounded by boxes upon boxes of files and documents relating to the killings. He is completely obsessed with the details, and I imagine at some point, that was also David Fincher in regards to this movie.

It was almost fortuitous that I would see Zodiac the day after I reviewed Jules Dassin's 1948 film The Naked City. That was the movie that invented the idea of a police procedural told in a semi-documentary style, and the director and his writers tried to tell a real police story, one that wasn't glitzed up for the screen. Rather, they wanted to portray the reality of police investigations--the hard work, the hours of chasing dead ends, of going from person to person seeking new intel. Zodiac is a police movie where the cops never draw their guns. They even scoff at Dirty Harry, which riffed on the Zodiac killings. Yet, Fincher still makes it interesting, still gets you wrapped up in the chase.

He also makes the killings grisly and terrifying, somehow putting his audience in the victims' places and making us feel how frightening it must have been. You'd think that would be a pretty tough feat these days, but I think he kind of disproves the notion that we're all desensitized to violence. By mostly staying away from the blood and the gore, he reminds us that the best storytelling technique is to incite our imagination. It's the horrific run-up to the murders that puts us on edge, the feeling of the threat being more palpable than the follow-through. I was truly creeped out in several instances. Now, that's good cinema!

Current Soundtrack: Sarah Nixey, Sing, Memory

Current Mood: thoughtful

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All text (c) 2007 Jamie S. Rich


Travis said...

Yeah, Zodiac is easily my favorite film thus far in 2007...it's a damn shame no one is bothering to actually go see it though.

Jamie S. Rich said...

It opened at #2 and then was #5 the next week, so it's not doing too bad. It seems to be marketed low, and it's also long...and maybe too smart for a lot of people. Joelle said people were walking out midway when she saw it.

eliza said...

you're cute. i love that suit...but seriously. it didn't bother you that downey jr was snorting coke in the bar? hello? that scene was so precious until that...jake gyllenhaal likes girly drinks...

Jamie S. Rich said...

What does that even mean? You think people who snort coke today care where they do it, much less in 1969? It wasn't like he laid it out on the table. Maybe it's your world that's precious, O.C.

eliza said...

obviously, i mean he shouldn't snort coke in movies because he has spent his life a drug addled mess and is now in recovery....right? what's that you say? it's a movie? ooohhhh.
you're precious.

Jamie S. Rich said...

Leave the criticism to the professionals, O.C. ;)

Yeah, I'm not sure that makes any sense, having an issue with a real drug addict doing drugs in the movies. That would eliminate most of Hollywood from such roles, wouldn't it? Likewise, none of them could ever play divorced people.

There was one thing that bothered me about Zodiac, and that was the occasional forced symmetry, the call-back to prior information or things said previously. The most obvious example was the two mentions of sushi. Was that really a festering concern between the cops for four years? That's precious movie writing for you.

ADC said...

I was impressed with the lack of flashbacks, and how the narrative was constantly being propelled forward chronologically.
Fincher's great at messing with our heads and like you said, letting our imagination do the work. That scene where Graysmith is in the basement, and begins to suspect that old fella... Very nice.