David Fincher and the Cinema of Doomscrolling

A conversation with Adam Nayman about the filmmaker’s style and obsessions.

Alex Shephard
January 18, 2022
Critical Mass (The New Republic)

David Fincher’s films are full of doubles, puzzles, and tantalizing glimpses of the director himself. As Adam Nayman writes in his new book about Fincher’s films, Mind Games, “Fincher imposes his presence through the actions and psychologies of thinly veiled proxies: Clockmakers and safecrackers; hackers and terrorists; detectives and serial killers.” These are films that are, like their director, obsessed with procedure and appearance—and intent on puncturing both.

These films are, perhaps because of their complexity or their (at least outward) coldness—or perhaps because of Fincher’s own past as a director of music videos and advertisements—misunderstood or even dismissed. In the past decade alone, Fincher’s The Social Network and, especially, Gone Girl have received radical reappraisals, while Zodiac has been seen by many as one of the best films of the twenty-first century. Mind Games is particularly valuable in its willingness to critically engage with much of Fincher’s less-appreciated output—from his work in advertising to films like Benjamin Button and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. But Nayman, the author of similar studies of the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson, also deepens the understanding of films by situating them in an oeuvre that has been obsessively looking at many of the same themes for decades.

Read the full interview

A short Q&A with “David Fincher: Mind Games” author Adam Nayman about “Gone Girl”

Gone Girl is really an iconic account of a woman sending her husband back to the streets, when you really think about it.

Hunter Harris
January 15, 2022
Hung Up

Leos think about other leos a lot, or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. Tonight, I wanted to think a little bit more about OOMF Back in his Gone Girl Era, or, that specific Ben Affleck quality/intonation/villainous chin that makes everything he says come out all wrong. What better movie is a case study for this than the movie in which it was deployed demonically and perfectly? I am speaking, of course, about Gone Girl.

Tonight: a short Q&A with David Fincher: Mind Games author Adam Nayman about the 2014 David Fincher, um, love story. “Gone Girl is a culmination of one of the things I really like about Fincher: it’s a movie about communication, the way that we kind of self mediate our images online. It was kind of ahead of the curve in that way. It still feels very state of the art — even though it’s not really a Twitter, Instagram movie, and some of the actual social media features on it date it to 2014 — it just feels really post-millennial and contemporary,” Nayman told me.

Devoted Hung Up readers will recall that Nayman and I previously talked about Phantom Thread and his Paul Thomas Anderson book, Masterworks.

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Masters of Color: Ian Vertovec

Cullen Kelly
December 12, 2021
Lowepost & Ravengrade

In this episode, we talk with Ian Vertovec about the art and craft of color grading.

This episode is sponsored by Pixelview, an industry standard and affordable streaming solution for editors and colorists.

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Connecting the dots between Gone Girl, Zodiac and David Fincher

Illustration by Hsiao-Ron Cheng

Mind Games author Adam Nayman discusses the connective tissue between David Fincher’s films and why we can’t help comparing him to Paul Thomas Anderson

Radheyan Simonpillai
December 22, 2021
NOW Magazine

In the David Fincher film Zodiac, cartoonist Robert Graysmith obsessively pours over legal documents, testimonies, and geographic patterns. He connects the dots that won’t necessarily give him conclusive answers regarding the titular San Francisco serial killer but will nevertheless make for a pretty good book that paved the way for a masterpiece film. I like to picture Toronto film critic and author Adam Nayman doing the same for his book David Fincher: Mind Games.

Nayman scans Fincher’s work, from the music video for Madonna’s Express Yourself to last year’s endearing look back at authorship in Mank, writing chapters on each movie with forensic detail and riveting insight. Mind Games, which comes with a lovely foreword from Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho, is the latest in Nayman’s series of comprehensive books on the greatest white male directors of our generation, sitting nicely alongside The Coen Bros: This Book Really Ties The Films Together and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks. And there’s an argument to be made that this book is the most fascinating of the three.

More so than the others, Fincher’s movies inspire divisive reactions. Movies like The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and Mank rack up the most Oscar nominations while being pilloried by many critics. Se7en and Fight Club earn dorm room notoriety, which in turn is weaponized against the films themselves. Some of his greatest work in Zodiac and Gone Girl doesn’t quite get the love it deserves. But Fincher is the kind of filmmaker whose misses are infinitely more fascinating to me than the best that a Christopher Nolan puts up.

Nayman discussed Fincher’s canon with NOW in a conversation about the imprint he leaves on his films and how he compares to Paul Thomas Anderson. The Licorice Pizza filmmaker has a very different kind of career, but feels oddly linked to Fincher.

Read the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

BETA (WPR): The exacting and evolving genius of filmmaker David Fincher

Film critic Adam Nayman’s ‘Mind Games’ explores the successful perfectionism of the ‘Fight Club,’ ‘Se7en,’ ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Zodiac’ director

Doug Gordon, Adam Friedrich
December 18, 2021
BETA (WPR)

In 1985, aspiring director David Fincher was tapped by the American Cancer Society to make a PSA. Riffing off Stanley Kubrick‘s “2001,” Fincher put forth one of the most provocative and memorable commercials ever featuring an in-utero fetus smoking a cigarette to demonstrate the dangers of pregnant smoking.

This PSA was just the beginning of Fincher’s ability to utilize the shared language and visuals of film to express a point. He would move next to directing music videos where he famously invoked Fritz Lang‘s “Metropolis” while directing Madonna’s 1989 video for “Express Yourself.”

Film critic Adam Nayman told WPR‘s “BETA” that Fincher’s cinematic ambition was present in all of this early work before he became a household name directing transcendent films like “Fight Club,” “Se7en,” “Zodiac” and “The Social Network.”

“I think that he was part of a cycle of music video directors who were drawing on movies for the music videos. So, by the time they ended up making feature films, the visual language and the ambition were already there,” Nayman said.

Nayman is the author of “David Fincher: Mind Games,” a comprehensive critical companion book to Fincher’s career output thus far. It’s the third installment of Nayman’s deep dives into generational filmmakers that includes the Coen brothers and Paul Thomas Anderson.

Read and listen to the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Indie Film Hustle: Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC

The Art of Cinematography & David Fincher

Alex Ferrari
December 14, 2021
Indie Film Hustle

Cinematographer Jeff Cronenweth, ASC, is the son of Jordan Cronenweth, ASC, one of the most influential cinematographers in history, most notable for Blade Runner.

He worked with his father as a camera loader and second assistant camera during high school, graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, and worked his way up to first assistant camera and then camera operator until the mid-1990s. He also worked for legendary Swedish cinematographer Sven Nykvist.

The first major motion picture where he acted as a DP was for David Fincher‘s Fight Club. Other notable feature films on which he worked as a DP are One Hour Photo, directed by Mark RomanekK-19: The WidowmakerDown With LoveThe Social NetworkHitchcockThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, and recently, Being the Ricardos, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.

He was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Fincher’s The Social Network (2010) and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011).

Listen to the podcast and read the transcript

The Film Comment Podcast: The Mind Games of David Fincher

David Fincher by Michael Avedon

Devika Girish and Clinton Krute
November 23, 2021
Film Comment

This week’s conversation focuses in on David Fincher—a director whose decade-spanning body of gritty Americana—from the grim moral drama of Se7en to the revisionist Hollywood tale of the recent Mank—has inspired both obsessive fandom and derisive dismissal.

A new book by Adam NaymanDavid Fincher: Mind Games (out November 23 from Abrams Books), offers a canny and timely appraisal of the director’s filmography. Adam writes that, “Over the past thirty years, Fincher has cultivated and maintained a reputation that precedes him of formal rigor and technocratic exactitude, of moviemaking as a game of inches.” Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute invited Adam and critic, filmmaker, and former NYFF director, Kent Jones—who’s written about Fincher many times over the years in FC—for an illuminating deep-dive into the Fincherverse.

Listen to the podcast

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Adam Nayman on David Fincher’s Complicated Auteurism

David Fincher by Jack Davison

Nick Newman
November 23, 2021
The Film Stage

Few film books in recent memory made waves like Adam Nayman’s Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks, a too-rare melange of authorial talent, topical interest, and opulent presentation. Last year Nayman and I spoke at length about the tome that no doubt you’ve seen in bookstores (big and small alike) since.

Nayman has returned with David Fincher: Mind Games, another Abrams-published doorstop on another double-capital-A American Auteur, lined again with essays that surprise in their capacity to find new perspectives and provocative readings on films for which there seemed no more room. Finally able to talk in person—thus, you’ll (please) read, at greater length—we sat down for a talk on writing thousands of words on someone for whom a consistent critical standing is tougher than meets the eye.

Read the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Adam Nayman Talks David Fincher’s Adman Past (And Present)

A conversation with the author about his new book, “David Fincher: Mind Games”

Sydney Urbanek
November 17, 2021
Mononym Mythology

Adam Nyman is a fellow film critic and the author of several books about films and filmmakers, including but not limited to The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together (2018) and Paul Thomas Anderson: Masterworks (2020). (Though we’ve never crossed paths in person, he also teaches in the department where I did my Master’s program.) He opens Mind Games with a dedicated discussion of the decade or so before Fincher ever made his narrative feature debut with ALIEN³ (1992), but then continues to come back to his commercial and music video work for the remainder of it, wisely treating his adman past as, well, more of an adman present. A few weeks back, Adam and I chatted for an hour about Fincher’s short-form oeuvre, but also his features because—again—the two aren’t as discrete as a lot of people believe. Our conversation has been edited for clarity, but not really so much for length.

Read the full interview

Buy the book David Fincher: Mind Games. By Adam Nayman

Cinematography Style: Jeff Cronenweth

Gray Kotzé (Director of Photography)
October 17, 2021
In Depth Cine

In this edition I’ll look at Jeff Cronenweth, who, to a large extent, is responsible for popularising a style of ‘dark cinematography’, through his work on movies such as Fight Club or The Social Network.

0:00: Introduction
1:03: Background
2:36: Philosophy
5:23: Sponsored Message
6:18: Gear
11:57: Conclusion

Music:
Liquid Memoirs‘Through The Portal’
Bosnow ‘Bangkok Rain’
Liquid Memoirs‘Altered States’
Salt Of The Sound‘Awake My Soul’
Liquid Memoirs‘Hazy Evenings’
Ottom ‘Raining In Kyoto’
Trevor Kowalski‘Katydid’

Source: Fight Club (American Cinematographer, November 1999)

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3 Things That Working With Jeff Cronenweth Taught Me About Cinematography

Gray Kotzé (Director of Photography)
June 19, 2020
In Depth Cine