The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Why Even Bother with an American Version?

After a long wait, Netflix finally delivered the Swedish version of the movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo based on the famous book of the same name.  Watching it, the main thing I think is, “Why even bother remaking it?”

The movie is so complete that I honestly don’t know how Hollywood believes it can improve upon it. But then again, I’m not searching for the next big moneymaking franchise. Maybe it’s because it will be in English? Maybe it’s because of the actor Daniel Craig in the lead role? Maybe it’s because of the media hoopla surrounding the casting of the unknown Rooney Mara as the computer hacker Lisabeth Salander? All of these reasons I see as major obstacles.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev, the Swedish film is a good and solid adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s story and makes up for where the novel lacks – characterization and setting. And the actor’s do a brilliant job bringing the story to life. The strong and smart character of Mikael (played by Michael Nyqvist) comes across as soft and lonely…vulnerable. This makes the audience care more and the investment in his story is increased. Something that I fear will be lost with the character’s portrayal by Daniel Craig, known for hard, emotionless roles (I mean he WAS James Bond).  The very strange and violent and introverted Lisabeth (played by the fantastic Noomi Rapace) – now here’s the biggest problem. This role is so incredibly well defined by the Swedish actress that I think anyone else’s portrayal will fail in comparison. I worry for the poor unknown. Let’s just hope Mara has the depth, the bravery, to transform herself as well as Rapace and then bring something to the role that hasn’t already been seen. No pressure.

There are other issues – the Swedish film uses the cold, landscape of the countryside as if it were another character in the book. If they film the American version in a different location it could rob the story of an important authentic element. Also, the dialogue in the Swedish version, although subtitled in English, adds an extra an unexpected touch. The rhythm of the language just adds to its authenticity, to its mystique, to what makes the story something special.

It’s a waiting game now to see what the American version director (David Fincher – Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) has in store for this movie. But at least the next Swedish installment – The Girl That Played with Fire – is available on DVD.

South Pacific, Revival of a Classic – Now on Tour

A visit to the theater is a quintessential New York City experience – at least for some…well, let’s say at least for me. And when I am lucky enough to score a ticket to a Tony award-winning revival before it ends its record-breaking run, I think that maybe for once the fates are on my side – which hardly ever happens.

South Pacific at Lincoln Center (another quintessential piece of New York City) is truly worth every Tony it won. There hasn’t been a revival of this Rogers & Hammerstein show for forty years. Probably because of the racially driven undertones combined with a war setting – not the normal happy-go-lucky musical. But I think it was waiting for the director Bartlett Sher to come along and add his special sensibility.  The storytelling is stellar. Some think musicals lack story, but South Pacific – at least this production of South Pacific – manages to weave all stories in a concise and easy to understand manner. It lacks the usual “now let me break into a song to tell you how I feel” type of staging. But let me be absolutely honest…I have a soft spot for musicals, particularly Rogers & Hammerstein musicals so I can’t be completely impartial.

The stage design is innovative and packs a punch. It is the beach of the small island, complete with a view of Bali Hai in the distance. The cast is simply…perfect from the cock-eyed optimist Nellie (Kelli O’Hara) to the terribly sexy with a voice to die for Emile de Becque (my new crush the Brazilian hottie Paulo Szot) to the wonderful Bloody Mary (Loretta Ables Sayre) and the cowardly lion-esque Luther Billis (Danny Burstein). All unforgettable.

I don’t want to give away too much. The show is now on tour. If it comes to your town – go see it. Take your friends. Take your kids. Although it is set in the 1940’s the show is still relevant today, perhaps even more so. But don’t worry – it still has a happy ending.

Laura Linney In THE BIG C – Keep Watching

Cancer is funny…at least it is in Laura Linney’s new show on Showtime, THE BIG C. Linney (You Can Count On Me) plays Cathy, a high school teacher that’s diagnosed with incurable melanoma. Funny, huh? Well, throw in a boyish husband (the fantastic Oliver Platt, so, so love him!) and a truly bratty son (Gabriel Basso) and you have an interesting premise for a show – mainly because Cathy chooses (at least for now) not to tell her immediate family of her diagnosis. This makes the audience believe she is brave in the face of adversity….or maybe just stupid?

Here’s the thing – Linney’s performance is as magnificent as you think it should be, but after viewing the first show it is unclear how Linney can sustain her character’s newfound bravery and not continue to make the other characters on the show seem really out of touch.

It is an interesting choice on the writers’ part to create a story arc of internal conflict. It’s difficult and is probably the reason they have to come up with more “brave” actions to demonstrate Cathy’s new attitude, e.g. giving her student Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe) a good talking to after arriving late to class. Unfortunately, Andrea’s dialogue is lacking in depth, making her for the most part, a bit too cliché.

The pacing is great for a half-hour show. Lots of information is given in a non-expository way, and Cathy’s crazy brother Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) could pan out to be the most interesting and the most comedic. Even though Oliver Platt’s biting into an onion as an attempt for reconciliation is pretty hilarious…and touching.

Tuning in again won’t be hard. Although classified as a comedy, the show has a lot of dramatic push, particularly when you take into account the subject matter. But it’s the extraordinary performances that allow THE BIG C to occupy a slot at the top.

Lisa Bloom – Fanning the Tabloid Fire

Women who want to learn to think for themselves should not read a book on the subject by Lisa Bloom Attorney at Law.

According to Publishers Weekly:

Agent Laura Dail sold North American rights to a book by Lisa Bloom called Think! A Modern Girl’s Manifesto for Staying Smart in a Dumbed Down World. Bloom is an attorney and legal analyst for both CBS News and CNN, and frequents the TV circuit—she’s appeared on everything from The Early Show to Anderson Cooper 360 and is also a recurring fixture on The Dr. Phil Show. In the book, which Roger Cooper and Georgina Levitt at Vanguard acquired, Bloom, a Yale Law graduate, cautions women against paying too much attention to tabloid media. As Dail explains, she tells them to “toss out dusty old myths and dangerous distractions, and start thinking for themselves again.” Vanguard is planning a spring 2011 publication.

The whole announcement seems really hypocritical to me. Lisa Bloom writing a book on how women should avoid tabloid media? Really? I guess I wouldn’t have a hard time with this if every time I turned on the TV I didn’t see Lisa Bloom’s expertly made-up mug pontificating her opinion on almost absolutely everything and everyone. WTF? She’s part of the tabloid feeding frenzy. Every appearance she makes on The Insider, Dr. Phil, CNN Showbiz Tonight adds fuel to tabloid fire. Even the people she chooses to represent (Michael Lohan) are guilty of whoring themselves out for as much fame as they can achieve. And there she is – in the center of it all.

Instead of reading a book by Lisa Bloom, give your time to great literature and truly wonderful female characters that although flawed (who isn’t?) think for themselves. Gone with the Wind. Little Women, O Pioneers! Out of Africa. Eugene Onegin. The list goes on…and on…and on.

True Blood Recap – Bravo, Denis O’Hare!

Oh, how I am loving the storytelling on True Blood this season. I cannot brag about this show enough. SPOILERS INCLUDED. Particularly the new additions…James Frain as the demented Franklin, the magnificent Denis O’Hare as Russell Edgington, and the incredibly underrated Alfre Woodard as Lafayette’s crazy mother Ruby Jean. Sure, last night’s performance was generally a recap on stuff the audience already knows – mainly Eric’s gripe with Russell and the telling of it to the “authority” and the exasperating “heaven-like” world that somehow allows Bill to walk around in daylight. Why? We’ll have to tune in again. Annoying? Yes!  This annoyance hangs around because of the unfortunate problem of having some story lines more interesting than others and the need producers feel to stretch these stories for as long as possible. It was the bump in the road True Blood hit last season with the character of Mary Ann.

There are gems in the latest episode “Everything is Broken” – primarily the schizophrenic Ruby Jean’s statement that “Maybe God loves fags,” after witnessing her son’s afterglow from Jesus. It deepens her character even more since she’s been established as a raging homophobic. But my love for this episode is the story line centering around the brilliant performance of Denis O’Hare. Russell’s descent into madness is truly extraordinary. In a matter of moments the viewer sees Russell’s grief unhinge his already mad-like tendencies and catapult him into full blown lunacy. His gathering of Talbot’s (his lover of over 700 years) remains – gross and gooey as they are- to his chest, proves that even a vampire can experience heartache – even when the heart doesn’t beat. It rivals Eric’s sorrow over losing his Maker Godric, but Russell’s rage is unparalleled. Brilliant. If the Emmys didn’t pooh-pooh sci-fi/fantasy television, I would say O’Hare is definitely a contender for next year’s award season.

My only wish is that James Frain’s Franklin could have had a moment like Russell’s. His delightfully demented performance deserves a more memorable departure. Poor Franklin. I will miss you.

But I will still tune in again. There’s only three episodes left. Like Tara says, “It’s f*cked up…crazy!”