When David Fincher Changed TV Forever

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

Thanks to ‘House of Cards,’ the man so deeply associated with filmmaking may ironically be best remembered for his impact on the streaming revolution

Alison Herman
September 25, 2020
The Ringer

Try and think back, if you can, to 2013. Obama has just won a second term. “Netflix” still means DVDs in red envelopes. And the idea of a major director deigning to do TV is remarkable enough to turn heads.

David Fincher was hardly the first name-brand auteur to try his hand at the small screen. Most famously, David Lynch brought paranormal dread to primetime with Twin Peaks in 1989; Steven Spielberg directed multiple episodes of his NBC anthology Amazing Stories, with subsequent chapters helmed by Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, and Danny DeVito. But Fincher is neither an irrepressible weirdo prone to counterintuitive career moves nor a middlebrow populist with a family-friendly sensibility. He is, in many ways, a textbook Film Director: an uncompromising visionary who makes dark, violent, and above all, precise movies for adults. Fincher is the last person you could picture taking notes from a network executive, or taking part in the logistical corner-cutting that marks so much of TV production, which naturally made him the first person an up-and-coming entertainment hub would call to signal they’re Not Like Other Networks.

Read the full article

The Everything David Fincher Ranking

What better way to honor the notoriously obsessive director than by obsessively organizing all of his movies, music videos, and commercials?

Amanda DobbinsSean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan
September 25, 2020
The Ringer

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social Network, The Ringer dubbed this past week David Fincher Week.

And to cap things off, noted Fincher fans Sean Fennessey, Chris Ryan, and Amanda Dobbins ranked everything in the director’s catalog—from the movies to the music videos to the commercials—on The Big Picture. What follows is an edited, truncated version of their conversation (slash debate).

Read the full list and listen to the podcast

Before ‘The Last Jedi,’ There Was ‘Alien 3’

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

David Fincher’s entry in the ‘Alien’ franchise was particularly dark and divergent from the tone of its two predecessors. The director has disavowed it. But, in retrospect, the film may not have deserved all the flak it received.

Miles Surrey
September 25, 2020
The Ringer

Here’s my lukewarm take about the Alien franchise: Every single film is good in its own unique way. (Like most Alien fans, I’m going to pretend that the two spinoffs in which Xenomorphs fight Predators do not actually exist—those are quite bad.) Instead of following a regimented franchise blueprint like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the series has given blank slates to its talented filmmakers. But what the franchise has lost in continuity, it’s gained in the creation of some of the most ambitious projects conceived at a blockbuster scale.

For the first Alien, and his second feature film, Ridley Scott crafted a tense, claustrophobic, existential horror movie—one frequently likened to a haunted house in space. Alien remains, to this day, scary as all hell; the chestburster scene is an all-timer. The follow-up, Aliens, directed by up-and-comer James Cameron after his success with The Terminator, is a loud, chaotic action film inspired by the Vietnam War. What Aliens lacks in scares, it makes up for in firepower and iconic one-liners. The fourth movie in the franchise, Alien: Resurrection, is a campy romp from the director of Amelie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet) in which an eccentric space general holds a chunk of his own brain after a Xenomorph takes a chunk out of his skull, Winona Ryder is a robot, and Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley dunks a basketball. When the franchise returned to Scott for the prequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant, Scott used the Alien mythos to ponder the origins of mankind and what happens when an android that looks like Michael Fassbender tries to play God—and wherein Michael Fassbender becomes scarier than the actual Xenomorphs.

Read the full article

The Implied Horror of David Fincher’s Basements

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

The director rarely lets his films slip into full-on gore, but the possibilities he creates within his viewers’ imaginations are even more disturbing

Miles Surrey
September 24, 2020
The Ringer

If you ever had a basement growing up, the thought of descending down the stairs for a menial task could feel like a perilous journey during which a ghastly creature hiding in the darkness could snatch you at any second. Never mind that every other time you’d gone down to the basement nothing happened—that’s exactly what the monster wanted you to think. A kid’s imagination is potent; and Hollywood has a knack for stoking that specific, universal type of fear and paranoia. It’s the basement, after all, where the Babadook ultimately resides. (At least from what I recall: The Babadook is a good movie and I plan to never watch it again.)

It’s within that space of imagining the worst possible scenario that David Fincher wrings the scariest moment from Zodiac, arguably the great director’s greatest achievement. In Robert Graysmith’s exhaustive search to unmask the Zodiac Killer, he meets a man who supposedly has a tip about the serial killer’s true identity, only to discover that two potential clues he had for the Zodiac—that the killer likely owned a basement, which is rare in California, and that he had a distinctive style of handwriting—are right in front of him. The stranger does own a basement; the handwriting Graysmith thought was the Zodiac’s actually belongs to the person whose home he just entered. That Graysmith is successfully lured into the man’s basement on a dark and stormy night only heightens the feeling that something really bad is going to happen. Obsessive curiosity and the search for truth supplant fear and Graysmith’s own survival instinct.

Read the full article

Decoding David Fincher’s Gorgeous, Goofy, and Iconic Music Video Career

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

Before ‘The Social Network,’ ‘Fight Club,’ or ‘Se7en,’ the director made his bones directing videos for the likes of Madonna, Billy Idol, and George Michael. What can we learn from the auteur’s MTV hits?

Rob Harvilla
September 24, 2020
The Ringer

The alien slave rebellion begins, as all alien slave rebellions must, with a salad bowl. “Yeah, the thing opens with this amazing shot of a space dome,” says ’80s pop-star dreamboat Rick Springfield, describing, in a 2013 interview with Indiewire, the plot of the bonkers music video for his 1984 synth-rock ditty “Bop ’Til You Drop,” which depicts, in remarkably vivid and grody detail, an alien slave rebellion led by Springfield himself. “And we were looking at it, and he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a salad bowl.’” The he in this story is David Fincher, who directed the bejesus out of this video and 40-odd others, mostly in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Get a load of the texture on this space dome.

Young Fincher had recently stumbled into a gig doing special effects for the little-seen 1983 underground flick Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi, and he brings just that sort of tactile, grimy, laser-blastin’, Jabba the Hutt–worshippin’ verve to Springfield’s empowering ode to resilience and the power of love. The alien slave masters look fuckin’ rad, man; undaunted, a heroic Springfield vanquishes them all and crowd-surfs his way to liberation. This was a director with a future: Fincher would not often go the sci-fi or action-hero route, and indeed he’d constantly juggle his visual and narrative approaches to avoid pigeonholing of any kind, but every video he shot was unmistakably the work of a wily and steely auteur.

Fincher’s debut feature film, 1992’s catastrophic but instructive Alien 3, was the better part of a decade away—the glories and depravities of Se7en and Fight Club and Zodiac and Gone Girl were further off still. In preparation, he would spend his formative years helming bizarre and/or workmanlike and/or luscious and/or goofy and/or deadly serious and/or iconic clips for the likes of Loverboy, The Outfield, Sting, Ry Cooder, Paula Abdul, Billy Idol, Aerosmith, George Michael, Justin Timberlake, The Rolling Stones, and Madonna. Here, now, is a humble attempt to sketch out Fincher’s MTV filmography and the major motifs therein. As with the hunt for the Zodiac Killer, decoding these clues is the obsession of a lifetime.

Read the full article

Not Many People Have Basements in California …

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

Robert Graysmith visiting the home of Bob Vaughn in ‘Zodiac’ is David Fincher’s most purely terrifying scene. Here’s how it came together—and came to stay in the movie.

Jake Kring-Schreifels 
Jake Kring-Schreifels is a sports and entertainment writer based in New York.
September 24, 2020
The Ringer

On a wet September night in 1978, Robert Graysmith couldn’t resist his curiosity.

A month earlier, the San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist had received an anonymous phone call regarding the identity of the Zodiac, the notorious Bay Area serial killer. “He’s a guy named Rick Marshall,” the mysterious voice told him at the start of an hourlong conversation. The killer’s string of murders in 1969 had gone unsolved, but Graysmith suddenly had a new lead. According to the tipster, Marshall—a former projectionist at The Avenue Theater—had hidden evidence from his five victims inside movie canisters, which he’d rigged to explode. Before hanging up, the nameless caller told Graysmith to find Bob Vaughn, a silent film organist who worked with Marshall. The booby-trapped canisters, Graysmith learned, had recently been moved to Vaughn’s home. “Get to Vaughn,” the voice told him. “See if he tells you to stay away from part of his film collection.”

After years spent independently entrenched in the open case, Graysmith dug into Marshall’s history and found several coincidences. His new suspect liked The Red Spectre, an early-century movie referenced in a 1974 Zodiac letter, and had used a teletype machine just like the killer. Outside The Avenue Theater, Marshall’s felt-pen posters even had handwriting similar to the Zodiac’s obscure, cursive strokes. On occasional visits to the upscale movie house, Graysmith observed Vaughn playing the Wurlitzer and noticed the Zodiac’s crosshair symbol plastered to the theater’s ceiling. There were too many overlapping clues. He had to make a trip to Vaughn’s house. “We knew there was some link,” Graysmith tells me. “I was scared to death.”

Almost three decades later, director David Fincher turned Graysmith’s nightmarish visit into one of the creepiest movie scenes of all time. It takes place near the end of Zodiac, after Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) follows Vaughn (Charles Fleischer) to his home through the rain in his conspicuous, bright-orange Volkswagen Rabbit. Once inside, the mood quickly becomes unnerving. After disclosing that he, not Marshall, is responsible for the movie poster handwriting, Vaughn leads a spooked Graysmith down to his dimly lit basement. As the organist sorts through his nitrate film records, the floorboards above Graysmith creak, insinuating another’s presence. After Vaughn assures his guest that he lives alone, Graysmith sprints upstairs to the locked front door, rattling the handle, before Vaughn slowly pulls out his key and opens it from behind. Graysmith bolts into the rain as though he’s just escaped the Zodiac’s clutches.

Ultimately, the third-act encounter is a red herring. Vaughn was never considered a credible suspect. But in a movie filled with rote police work and dead ends, those five minutes of kettle-whistling tension turn a procedural into true horror. The scene is a culmination of Graysmith’s paranoid obsession with the Zodiac’s identity—a window into the life-threatening lengths and depths he’ll go to solve the case—and a brief rejection of the movie’s otherwise objective lens. “It’s actually so different from the rest of the movie,” says James VanderbiltZodiac’s screenwriter. “It does kind of give you that jolt that a lot of the movie is working hard not to [give].”

Most simply, the basement scene is a signature Fincher adrenaline rush—a moment buttressed by years of intensive research, attention to accuracy, and last-minute studio foresight. Thirteen years after the movie’s release, it still sends shivers down Graysmith’s spine.

Read the full article

The David Fincher You Meet in His Movies

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

The protagonists of everything from ‘Fight Club’ to ‘Zodiac’ to ‘Gone Girl’ have something in common: they’re all cut from the same cloth as their director

Adam Nayman
September 23, 2020
The Ringer

No filmmaker has ever put himself into his work like Alfred Hitchcock. In movie after movie, the director made blink-or-miss-them appearances located at the edge of the frame—crossing a street walking a dog; appearing in a photo for a weight loss clinic—that prompted audiences to play a game of spot-the-auteur. These slyly miniaturized acts of showmanship were simultaneously sight gags and wry reminders of who was really in charge: The so-called “master of suspense” mixed in among the actors he infamously referred to as “cattle.”

David Fincher has not appeared in any of his own films: the closest thing to a cameo comes in 2014’s Gone Girl, a positively Hitchcockian thriller right down to its shower scene featuring a bloody blond. Midway through the film, suspected wife killer Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) is being coached on an upcoming television appearance by his high-priced lawyer Tanner Bolt (Tyler Perry), who’s determined that his client makes just the right impression. During their dressing room prep session, the attorney pelts Nick with gummy bears to sharpen his posture and line readings. Perry supposedly didn’t know who Fincher was before being cast in the part, but that doesn’t preclude the fact that in this scene, he’s doing an indirect impression of his director—a control freak who once said there are only two ways to shoot any given scene, and that one of them is always wrong.

Read the full article

Fincher Moments: The Pure, Painstaking Romance in ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

Many describe David Fincher as cold, but the scene when Benjamin and Daisy meet in the middle is anything but

Manuela Lazic
September 23, 2020
The Ringer

Romance isn’t the first thing that the name David Fincher brings to mind. His work is more often characterized as dark, ingeniously twisted, even cold-hearted. What made Zodiac so striking was its almost neutral approach to its sinister topic, in line with the serious detective work that its protagonists engage in to try to catch the infamous serial killer. No surprise that the director eventually gave his take on the Scandinavian crime saga The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But this calm and collected approach belies a genuine sensitivity and emotional intelligence. Even in Se7en, love was present and essential to the story’s darkness, hidden in a box that was much more than a simple piece of evidence. Some kind of love is also what drives Amy Dunne to trap her husband in an increasingly loveless marriage in Gone Girl. Although the director revels in humanity’s natural bend toward perversion, he understands that deviance isn’t all that interesting without the passion that often spawns it.

Sometimes, however, love remains pure and impervious to the corruption all around. 2008’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fincher’s most romantic film, isn’t about some guy insulting his girlfriend and then trying desperately to add her on Facebook like a 14-year-old; its hero isn’t a washed-up teacher who can’t help but sleep with one of his young students and ruin his wife and life, nor does he need a little push off a rooftop to feel alive again. Benjamin Button (played by a peak Brad Pitt, if you ask me) is a very nice guy who knows how to love a woman well; with his good manners and big heart, he couldn’t be further from a pervert. It’s his genetic makeup that’s gone wrong—a fact that makes Benjamin Button, as lovely as it is, Fincher’s most disturbing film, albeit in an unusual way for the director.

Read the full article

David Fincher’s Lost Projects

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs September 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

The acclaimed director has an unimpeachable body of work, but why isn’t it more extensive? The answer lies in the long list of movies and TV shows that he hasn’t made.

Alan Siegel
September 23, 2020
The Ringer

For a longtime screenwriter, the email seemed too good to be true. “How would you like to work on this TV show,” Rich Wilkes recalls it saying, “and have no one tell you what you have to do?”

The note was from David Fincher.

The two had almost collaborated in the early 2000s, when Wilkes wrote the adaptation of the Mötley Crüe biography The Dirt. Fincher planned to direct the debaucherous movie. But it didn’t happen. “It got blown apart somehow,” Wilkes says. “Which was really frustrating.”

A decade later, Wilkes was surprised to hear from Fincher. “I don’t know if you know who this is, I’m the guy who wrote The Dirt. I think maybe you contacted the wrong person,” Wilkes remembers responding. “And he said, ‘No, no, I know who you are. Do you want to work on this show?’”

The series was a half-hour HBO comedy set in the world of ’80s music videos, where Fincher’s career had taken off after he directed clips like Madonna’s “Express Yourself” and Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” Videosyncrasy centered on a new-to-showbiz production assistant and told the story of the rise of a wildly popular new medium. The first season began with the making of Berlin’s “The Metro” and was set to culminate with the filming of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Initially referred to by its two working titles, Living on Video and Video Synchronicity, the show had a cast that included Charlie Rowe, Sam Page, Kerry Condon, Corbin Bernsen, and Paz Vega.

For the man behind Se7en, Fight Club, and Zodiac, the tone and format of the series was a departure. But the subject matter was not. “The beauty of working on that with him was, one, he had the inside knowledge of how things worked,” Wilkes says. “But he [also] had the relationships to be able to call up David Geffen and say, ‘Hey, can we use this song?’ Once you get one person to say yes, the next people are like, ‘OK. I’d like to be involved with that too.’”

In early 2015, Fincher and his crew shot a handful of episodes of Videosyncrasy. That June, however, HBO stopped production on the series.

Read the full article

Ten Years Later, Mark Zuckerberg Is Still Trying to Overcome ‘The Social Network’

On the cusp of the 25th anniversary of Se7en and the 10th anniversary of The Social NetworkThe Ringer hereby dubs Sept. 21-25 David Fincher Week. Join us all throughout the week as we celebrate and examine the man, the myth, and his impeccable body of work.

How David Fincher’s masterpiece became a tech CEO’s origin story—even if it’s not totally true.

Alyssa Bereznak
September 22, 2020
The Ringer

In 2017, Mark Zuckerberg returned to Harvard for a victory lap that most people can only dream of. Twelve years after the Facebook CEO dropped out of school to run what would become the largest online social network in the world, the elite Ivy League would give him an honorary degree. Facebook celebrated the event as an opportunity to showcase the company’s history and display a more personal side of its CEO, organizing a few public broadcasts ahead of the speech. One of those included a visit to Kirkland House H33, the room where it all started.

“This is the first time that we’ve been back in this dorm since I left,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook Live video that he was filming from his smartphone. With his college sweetheart Priscilla Chan in tow, he directed viewers toward his old desk, and the rooms where his Facebook cofounders (and then-roommates) Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes worked and slept. After some reminiscing about tiny bed sizes and dining hall cuisine, he addressed an incident that has, over the span of the past decade, become millennial folklore.

“One weekend I wanted to build this prank website, FaceMash,” he said with his signature indecipherable smile. “I basically sat here for, like, three days straight, and just coded this thing. And it was a prank. It was kind of funny but also a little bit in poor taste.” He summarized how it spread quickly, froze his laptop, and caused Harvard officials to turn off the entire dorm’s internet connection. “That was probably one of my more memorable moments from Kirkland House, just sitting here, and, like, I’m trying to fix this, Dustin’s trying to do his computer-science problem set, Chris is trying to write some paper for social studies or whatever he’s studying, and all the sudden the internet goes dark.”

As Zuckerberg tells it, the story of FaceMash was nothing more than an innocent college gag that ended in a night of forced unproductivity. But chances are, most people watching that day remember it differently, as the riveting sequence of events at the start of a major Hollywood blockbuster called The Social Network. After conquering the business world, Zuckerberg had finally earned the approval of the elite institution he’d once antagonized. But sitting at his old dorm room desk years later, it seemed his one remaining challenge was to reclaim his past.

Read the full article

The Rewatchables (Podcast): ‘Se7en’

Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan revisit David Fincher’s 1995 crime thriller starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Spacey

Bill Simmons, Sean Fennessey, and Chris Ryan
September 22, 2020
The Ringer

But Seriously, What’s in the Box?

Twenty-five years after the premiere of David Fincher’s ‘Se7en,’ one “mystery” still lingers

The Ringer Staff 
September 22, 2020
The Ringer