In this video essay I breakdown how David Fincher uses popular music in films like Fight Club, The Social Network and the new Netflix series Mindhunter.
Claudio Miranda has had an interesting career thus far. After working as a gaffer on films like Se7en and Fight Club, filmmaker David Fincher (with whom he’d worked on a few commercials and music videos as a cinematographer) asked him to serve as the cinematographer for the wildly ambitious 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. That VFX-intensive effort scored Miranda an Oscar nomination and led to him then shooting visually breathtaking movies like Tron: Legacy and Oblivion, and of course Life of Pi, for which he won the Best Cinematography Oscar.
Miranda’s latest film reteams him with director Joseph Kosinski for the third time and also marks something of a departure—the true story drama Only the Brave. The film revolves around one unit of local firefighters who battled the Yarnell Hill wildfire in 2013 to tragic results. Josh Brolin leads a cast that includes Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly.
With Only the Brave hitting theaters on October 20th, I recently got the chance to have an extended conversation with Miranda about his work on the film. He talked about his working relationship with Kosinski, the challenges of capturing real fire onscreen, shooting on location, and his approach to shooting realistic visual effects.
But I’m also a big fan of Miranda’s work in general, so the conversation veered off into his early days working as a gaffer for Fincher, and we discussed his “trial by fire” experience shooting Benjamin Button as well as what it’s like to work with Fincher and how his gaffer work with other cinematographers like Harris Savides and Dariusz Wolski has shaped his approach. Finally, with Kosinski next set to direct the Top Gun sequel Top Gun: Maverick, I asked Miranda what the prep has been like on that movie so far.
It’s a wide-ranging and refreshingly candid conversation that hopefully admirers of Miranda’s work, or just those curious about cinematography in general, will find illuminating. I certainly had a great time chatting with the talented DP.
More than any other mainstream filmmaker, David Fincher is the one who has had his finger on the pulse of our generational concerns. If you Google Fincher’s name and the word “zeitgeist,” it will immediately turn up countless think pieces talking about how his films — especially Fight Club and The Social Network — have captured the zeitgeist, reflecting the spirit of their time the way The Graduate did for the 1960s.
But The Game, Fincher’s 1997 thriller starring Michael Douglas, was a necessary primer for Fight Club. With this film, Fincher took the actor who played Gordon Gekko ten years earlier, and he gave that ‘80s zeitgeist figure a light makeover and put him in a post-grunge ‘90s movie.
The Game turns 20 today (it hit theaters on September 12, 1997), so let’s take a look back at what makes it so special: not only for the way it marked a turning point in Fincher’s early career, but also for the way it takes a high-concept story and manages to bake in a fair amount of subtext.
The finale of Game of Thrones seventh season contained a subtle reference to one of cinema’s most iconic stories of transformation, Fight Club (1999), which proves Reek has left and Theon is back. The scene occurred during Theon’s attempt to earn the respect of his fellow ironborn by fighting Harrag, the Alpha Male of the group. The brutal fight scene was reminiscent of two key scenes in David Fincher‘s film, and while a visual reference could be purely coincidental, the thematic significance is spine-chillingly apt to Theon’s character arc.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the American cinema, drinks, and dinner chain, and Mondo are teaming up for a special screening of Fight Club, the “bone-bruisingly hilarious adaptation of author Chuck Palahniuk’s Western culture takedown“, on September 19th in 22 cities: Find & Buy Tickets
One of the most revered films of the last two decades, FIGHT CLUB is much more than an angry screed against consumerism and complacency. Packed with ideas straight from the grimiest depths — basement slugfests, support group tourism, subliminal pornography — it’s also a guide to better living (and what you can do with excess human fat).
And, because clothes really define us as people, we’re happy to tell you that for a limited time, each ticket purchase includes an exclusive “SLIDE” FIGHT CLUB t-shirt designed by Sonny Day / WBYK and produced by Mondo.
Not enough? Mondo and artist Alan Hynes have created an educational and hopefully legal pint glass that you can purchase only with your ticket to FIGHT CLUB. It’ll look great smashed over someone’s cranium or perfectly perched on your perfect Fruktbar coffee table.