The Meaning of Money in The Game

One Scene

Gina Telaroli
October 7, 2020
Criterion

I have a very precise memory of watching The Game for the first time, of sitting on the couch in the family room of my childhood home, inserting the VHS tape, and being totally taken in. At the time I was overcome by the specificity of the details in the film and the illusion of control that they gave me, making me feel smarter than the movie before ever so delightfully pulling the rug out from under me.

Every time I’ve revisited the film since, it has opened up more, or perhaps more accurately, closed in on itself, collapsed in form to reveal a world, our world today, which, as it turns out, is just a plaything for the rich. What stands out to me now isn’t the detail-laden plot—about a man named Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) and a strange experiential game gifted to him by his brother, created by a company called Consumer Recreation Services—but things like Daniel Schorr, as himself, talking about rising unemployment and a legislative effort to get small businesses to provide health insurance to their workers. Or Van Orton’s utter disgust as he momentarily holds a bag of someone else’s takeout Chinese. While the surface-level pleasures of the film revolve around wondering who in the film is an actual person and who is an actor working for CRS, the foundations of it lie in exposing society’s deep inequality.

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Thanks to Joe Frady.

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.

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David Fincher’s Longtime DP Jeff Cronenweth Has Advice, Insight, and Stories

25th Annual American Society Of Cinematographers (ASC) Awards (2011)

A podcast about how to build a career in filmmaking. No Film School shares the latest opportunities and trends for anyone working in film and TV. We break news on cameras, lighting, and apps. We interview leaders in screenwriting, directing, cinematography, editing, and producing. And we answer your questions! We are dedicated to sharing knowledge with filmmakers around the globe, “no film school” required.

Jeffrey Reeser
August 28, 2020
No Film School

Oscar-nominated camera wizard Jeff Cronenweth sat down with us to talk about his origins in the film industry.

As a young man, Cronenweth spent time on the set of Blade Runner as his father, Jordan Cronenweth shot it. He walks us through the next chapter of his career, starting out as an AC for legendary DP Sven Nykvist and how his longtime working relationship with David Fincher began when shooting pickups for a Madonna music video.

We discuss his experiences crafting the look of Fight Club, The Social Network, and Gone Girl, among other great films. Now in 2020, he is up for an Emmy for his work on the Amazon series Tales From The Loop.

Listen to the podcast:

No Film School
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Art of the Shot: Jeff Cronenweth, ASC on Tales from the Loop & How Story Drives the Visuals

Derek Stettler
April 27, 2020
Art of the Shot

Welcome to the Art of the Shot podcast! Join writer and filmmaker Derek Stettler for conversations with the artists behind the camera on strikingly-shot films, series, music videos and commercials. Discover how they made their careers happen, hear about their creative process, and learn how they make the shots that make us say: wait, how did they do that?

For the third episode, Derek speaks with none other than Jeff Cronenweth, ASC!

Jeff is the two-time Oscar-nominated cinematographer behind many of David Fincher’s films, including The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and their first film together–and Jeff’s first feature film–Fight Club.

(And if you’re worried, no, they don’t talk about Fight Club… much.)

Jeff has also shot numerous commercials and music videos for some of the biggest artists, including Madonna, David Bowie, Shakira, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

And this month marked the release of Jeff’s first foray into television, with the pilot to the Amazon Prime original series, Tales from the Loop: a sci-fi anthology adapted from the paintings of Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag.

What you may not know is that Jeff Cronenweth is the son of legendary cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth, the eye behind the era-defining look of Blade Runner. Enjoy this in-depth conversation about everything from how Jeff forged his own path while following in his father’s footsteps, and his approach to lighting based on story, to working with David Fincher, his work on Tales from the Loop (including how he achieved a never-before-seen lighting effect), and his trick for making sure eye lights look more natural.

Note, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this conversation was recorded remotely, but all efforts were made to ensure quality audio.

The Art of the Shot podcast is brought to you by Evidence Cameras, an outstanding rental house in Echo Park specializing in high-end digital cinema camera packages, lenses, support, and accessories.

If you like what you hear, please subscribe to be notified of future episodes, and share this podcast with others to help grow the show!

Listen to the podcast and subscribe and follow Art of the Shot:

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Tales from the Loop trailer audio copyright Amazon.com, Inc. Used with permission courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter

The Game. Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Academy (UK)

Arrow Academy

Made in between Seven and Fight Club, David Fincher’s edge-of-your-seat thriller The Game remains arguably his most underappreciated film, bolstered by an exceptional star performance by Michael Douglas.

Despite his large mansion and intimidating bank balance, multimillionaire Nicholas Van Orton is haunted by the childhood memory of his father’s suicide. On the day he reaches the same age his father was when he died, Nicholas receives an unconventional birthday present from his estranged brother Conrad (Sean Penn): an invitation to play a mysterious “game”, the aim and rules of which are kept secret. As the game unfolds, Nicholas suddenly finds himself in a fight for his life, assisted by the enigmatic Christine (Deborah Kara UngerCrash) but unsure of where to turn and who to trust.

Presented in a director-approved remaster available for the first time in the UK, the twisty mysteries of Fincher’s pulse-pounding paranoiac puzzle are explored in an exciting array of new and archive bonus features.

TWO-DISC LIMITED DELUXE EDITION CONTENTS

Limited to only 3,000 units

Deluxe packaging including a 200-page hardback book housed in a rigid slipcase, illustrated with newly commissioned artwork by Corey Brickley

200-page book exclusive to this edition includes a newly-commissioned full-length monograph by Bilge Ebiri, and selected archive materials, including an American Cinematographer article from 1997, a 2004 interview with Harris Savides by Alexander Ballinger, and the chapter on the film from Dark Eye: The Films of David Fincher by James Swallow

Arrow Academy Blu-ray including new bonus features and UK home video premiere of director-approved 2K restoration

Universal Special Edition DVD featuring archive extras with cast and crew

DISC ONE – BLU-RAY

2K restoration from the original negative by The Criterion Collection supervised and approved by director David Fincher and cinematographer Harris Savides

High Definition Blu-ray™ (1080p) presentation

Original 5.1 & 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio

Isolated Music & Effects track

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing

New audio commentary by critic and programmer Nick Pinkerton

Fool’s Week: Developing The Game, a newly filmed interview with co-writer John Brancato

Men On The Chessboard: The Hidden Pleasures of The Game, a new visual essay by critic Neil Young

Archive promotional interview with star Michael Douglas from 1997

Alternatively-framed 4:3 version prepared for home video (SD only), with new introduction discussing Fincher’s use of the Super 35 shooting format

Theatrical Teaser

Theatrical Trailer

Image Gallery

DISC TWO – DVD

Standard definition DVD (PAL) presentation

5.1 Dolby Digital audio

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing

Audio commentary with director David Fincher, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, director of photography Harris Savides, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug

Behind The Scenes featurettes – Dog Chase, The Taxi, Christine’s House, The Fall (with optional commentary by Fincher, Douglas, Savides, Beecroft and Haug)

On Location featurettes – Exterior Parking Lot: Blue Screen Shot, Exterior Fioli Mansion: Father’s Death, Interior CRS Lobby and Offices, Interior Fioli Mansion: Vandalism, Exterior Mexican Cemetary (with optional commentary by Fincher, Savides, Beecroft and Haug)

Theatrical Trailer (with optional commentary by Fincher)

Teaser Trailer

Teaser trailer CGI test footage (with optional commentary by designer/animator Richard Baily)

Alternate Ending

Production Design and Storyboard Galleries

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The Cinematography Podcast: Jeff Cronenweth

Jordan and Jeff Cronenweth on the set of Francis Ford Coppola‘s Gardens of Stone

Jeff Cronenweth, ASC on David Fincher, Fight Club, growing up in Hollywood, music videos, Mark Romanek, One Hour Photo, Gone Girl, The Social Network and the new Amazon series Tales from the Loop.

Ben Rock & Illya Friedman
April 22, 2020
The Cinematography Podcast (Cam Noir)

Jeff Cronenweth comes from three generations in the film business and followed his father, cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth (Blade Runner) into a career as a director of photography. Growing up on film sets and working alongside his father enabled Jeff to take a hands-on role in the camera department. He started as a loader and camera assistant, getting into the union while attending USC. He met David Fincher while working on the Madonna music video “Oh Father” as a camera assistant. Fincher gave Jeff his first opportunity to DP for the film Fight Club. Jeff’s collaboration with Fincher later earned him two Oscar nominations- one for The Social Network and one for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. He also began working with director Mark Romanek on music videos, such as EelsNovocaine for the Soul” and Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug.” Jeff and Romanek also worked together on the feature film, One Hour Photo starring Robin Williams. The film presented many lighting challenges since the bulk of it takes place inside a store with flat white lights before the darker undertones of the movie are revealed.

Jeff also shot the pilot for Tales from the Loop with director Mark Romanek, streaming now on Amazon Prime.

Listen to the podcast

Follow Jeff Cronenweth, ASC Archives on Twitter

Reconsidering David Fincher’s ‘The Game,’ a great San Francisco film

“The Game” adds to the cinematic pedigree of a great movie town.

Peter Hartlaub
June 14, 2019
Datebook (San Francisco Chronicle)

The manic 1997 thriller “The Game” doesn’t appear on many “best San Francisco films” compilations. And that apparently includes director David Fincher’s list.

The filmmaker, who directed “Zodiac” and “The Game” in the city, told an Indiewire reporter in 2014 that he probably shouldn’t have made the latter movie.

“We didn’t figure out the third act,” Fincher told Indiewire. “And it was my fault, because I thought if you could just keep your foot on the throttle it would be liberating and funny.”

Perhaps Fincher, like many of us, needs to give the movie another chance. “The Game” isn’t quite a masterpiece, a label applied to just a handful of San Francisco films, including “Vertigo” and “The Conversation.” But it’s one of the most nakedly entertaining pieces of cinema that has been shot in San Francisco. And it has aged incredibly well. Time has vaulted the movie to must-see status.

Read the full article and listen to the podcast

For the Man Who Has Everything: Close-Up on “The Game”

David Fincher’s serpentine thriller exists in a dangerous, hermetic world of chicanery and artifice.

Greg Cwik
March 26, 2019
Notebook (MUBI)

“…from any given body of fictional text, nothing necessarily follows, and anything plausibly may.”

William H. Gass, “The Concept of Character in Fiction”

What is The Game?

“The eternal question,” an unnamed character intones, when he is asked this by its newest player, Nicholas van Orton (Michael Douglas), a middle-aged millionaire unaccustomed to befuddlement. Mainstream critics, who similarly dislike being perplexed, didn’t quite know what to make of the film when it premiered in 1997: responses were tepid and noncommittal, and, despite its $100 million box office draw, it has long been considered a minor work in David Fincher’s oeuvre, ensconced between the seminal Se7en (1995) and the belatedly-loved Fight Club (1999). It is a film that is at once subtle and silly, whose perfunctory reputation belies the virtuosic craftsmanship evident in every shot, and the careful, studious attention paid to diminutive, seemingly insignificant details. The serpentine thriller exists in a dangerous, hermetic world of chicanery and artifice, a solipsistic world of glass towers that glint like grand statements and businessmen with flatlined lips—men who have everything but understand nothing. Nicholas, a successful man in a gray suit, receives a surprise birthday visit from his cut-up brother, Conrad (Sean Penn). Conrad, who wryly goes by the pseudonym “Seymour Butts,” gives Nicholas a special gift, a certificate for an enigmatic “game,” the rules of which are obtuse, and whose purpose is nebulous. What else do you get the man who has everything except something that he can’t understand? Conrad is, essentially, gifting Nicholas with confusion, something with which Nicholas, who lives a sealed-off life, is unfamiliar. The Game is run by a company called Consumer Recreation Services (CRS), whose logo is a Penrose triangle, an intangible object, though this fact goes unmentioned. (The film is replete with such keen minutiae.) Figuring out the object of The Game is the object of The Game, but luxuriating in the details of The Game is the purpose of Fincher’s film.

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Close-Up is a feature that spotlights films now playing on MUBI. David Fincher‘s The Game (1997) is showing March 23 – April 22, 2019 in many countries around the world.

Fincherphilia & Beyond

Cinephilia & Beyond - Logo

Just a small sample of all the precious filmic resources bestowed by Cinephilia & Beyond:

1993. Alien3 01

Alien3: “Take all of the responsibility, because you’re going to get all of the blame”

1995. Se7en

Se7en: A Rain-Drenched, Somber, Gut-Wrenching Thriller that Restored David Fincher’s Faith in Filmmaking

1995. The Game

Downwards Is the Only Way Forwards: Welcome to David Fincher’s The Game

1999. Fight Club

Fight Club: David Fincher’s Stylish Exploration of Modern-Day Man’s Estrangement and Disillusionment

2007. Zodiac

Fincher’s Zodiac As Easily One Of The Best Thrillers Of The Millennium So Far

1982. David Fincher at ILM