Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Recommend: 'Game Change' Book, 'The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo' (US)

(Image courtesy of HarperCollins)
My last Recommendations of the Week were a few weeks ago. And I apologize for the long wait. I didn't realize it had been that long, and I can't believe how busy I got. Fortunately, I'm back this weekend for another go-round.

But I'm changing it up just a little bit. Ever since I started this recommendations segment back when this blog launched in January, it has always been called Recommendations of the Week. And the reason why it was called that was because it did start out as a weekly segment. But I don't always have something to recommend every single week, so the title doesn't necessarily fit anymore. During the next couple weeks or so, I may test out some different variations of the same name (as well as a few formatting changes). It may be "I Recommend" or possible "My Recommendations." I'll let you know when one sticks for good.

So let's get right into it. Here is what I Recommend this time around:

Jeff Dodge's Recommendations:

Game Change by John Heilemann & Mark Halperin

Ever since I found out that HBO was going to make a film based on the John McCain and Sarah Palin campaign from 2008, I knew I had to watch it. But I found out along the way that the film would be based on a short section from a book of the same name, Game Change, by journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. I've gotten to know know the two authors, particularly Halperin, from watching MSNBC's Morning Joe (and reading TIME). I had heard that this book provides a very detailed and in-depth look at the 2008 presidential election, from start to finish. And boy does it ever...

I read Game Change recently, and I will go on record and say it is one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read. That's a strong statement coming from me, considering that the books that I usually consider to be my favorites are fiction (even though I do read a good handful of NF's every once in a while). The two authors got unprecedented access into the campaigns, being able to interview and talk with various campaign staff and related inside people to get the truth about everything from all angles and on all sides.

We all know how the 2008 election turned out: Most of the action was on the Democratic side, with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battling it out, and John McCain quietly making his way to the nomination on the Republican side. Then once that part of the election settled down, we had the conventions to get to and the general election, where we saw the emergence of Sarah Palin, the crash of the economy and Barack Obama's inevitable win in November by an electoral landslide.

But as much as we were tuned into everything that went on, I found it fascinating to find out even more, and to read up on why certain things happened and the various behind the scenes action going on to get ahead, to tamper scandals, etc. I know this is a little trivial, but one of the things that stood out to me from reading Game Change was seeing how much everyone swears. And I'm not talking just about the campaign staff, but with the candidates themselves. The F-bomb went around quite a few times by all the major candidates at some point.

Another thing that stood out to me was the process behind picking Sarah Palin. Now, as I've said before, this is not a political blog, so I won't bring in my political views here. But it's a given by people on both sides that Palin was not vetted properly. And I won't give everything away -- I want you to read the book and experience it for yourself -- but I was shocked really at just how little time they spent looking at her. Joe Liebermann was apparently going to be McCain's running mate choice all along, but after the surprise leaked, they went a different way. They only honed in on Palin a week before their convention, and had only five days to vet her. Something that you almost can't help but laugh and drop your jaw in astonishment at the same time is that once Palin was announced and reporters were calling the campaign to find out about her, campaign aids didn't know anything about her, so they, the campaign people themselves, resorted to Googling Sarah Palin.

I can't say this enough. This is one of the best political and non-fiction and behind-the-scenes and investigative books you'll read. It's a fascinating, and very real, tale. And I can't wait until it comes out on DVD for me to see the film.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (US)
(Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures)

Last summer and fall, I read the Millennium Trilogy. Then this January, I watched the Swedish films. And now I have finally watched the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and I enjoyed it just as much as its Swedish counterpart. When reviewing the Swedish one, I said this: "[The climax] didn't feel long enough; I would've sworn there was more to it in the book." I felt that this scene in the American one is done to better effect, meaning it was broadened out a bit and didn't feel short. And an added touch with the plastic bag over the head was horrifying to watch, but made the scene feel even more real and disturbing, which is a plus.

I've gotten used to Noomi Rapace playing Lisbeth Salander. But one of the drawbacks, as I said in January, was that "she looked a little older than she's supposed to be." Rooney Mara plays the titular role in the American one. And now that I've seen both interpretations of the character, I think I prefer Rooney Mara, mainly because she looks and feels more like the character. Lisbeth is supposed to look younger than she actually is, and Rooney fit the bill in that regard. Also, I feel that Rooney brought something extra to the role, a sort of vulnerability that is very hard to notice but creeps in a few times throughout ever so slightly that makes the character feel even more real.

Daniel Craig also stars in the film, and I didn't find myself going, oh, that's Daniel Craig. Having such a big star in the role didn't detract from my enjoyment. Because you know how sometimes that can happen when big stars are in these types of movies where you don't want something as distracting as that? Speaking of Craig, I did have one little thing to nitpick. In this version, Craig's character has a daughter, though I don't believe that ever happened in the book. I'm still trying to figure out why they added that bit. It wasn't any sort of a huge storyline added or anything, just a few things thrown in. But it didn't feel necessarily since the new role wasn't a big presence. Maybe the filmmakers wanted Blomkvist to feel more human or something? I don't know.

My main issue, and I feel I should bring it up even though I enjoyed the movie enough to want to recommend it, is a part at the end with finding Harriet Vanger. They changed that drastically. Blomkvist in the book I believe had to go Australia or somewhere like that to find Harriet. But during one scene near the end, he is talking to a blonde woman who I thought was a character we had already met, but it turns out is Harriet until something is mentioned about it. That kind of shocked me, and I'm not sure if those who haven't read the books will understand what is going on here.

But no matter, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a fantastic film on many levels. The opening title/credit sequence is fascinating to watch, the score fit right in, and I loved the ending. For those who don't know the story, I won't spoil it too much here. The ending with Lisbeth in the blonde wig jetting all over and dealing with those bank accounts, if I'm remembering right from the books, weren't those scenes at the start of the second book? If so, I didn't mind that they stuck it here, because it fits better in a way; it's relevant to the story in Book/Movie 1. This American version didn't make a whole lot of money domestically, but did better overseas, if I remember. So I hope they are able to continue the franchise and make the second and third.

Connecticut Primary (Tuesday)
Delaware Primary (Tuesday)
New York Primary (Tuesday)
Pennsylvania Primary (Tuesday)
Rhode Island Primary (Tuesday)

I don't care which candidate you vote for or in which party, but I urge you to do your civic duty and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE! Inform yourself of all the candidates' positions and vote with your head. I participated in my local presidential caucus last weekend, and I recommend getting yourself involved in whatever way you can.

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The BizzNiz

Jeff Dodge Blog:
Recommendations of the Week: The Adventures of Tintin, Hugo, Titanic 3D

BuddyTV Articles (Articles/Recaps I've Written):
'Smash' Video Previews from 'Hell on Earth'
'Glee' News Round-Up: 'Big Brother' Details, Jesse St. James Returns and Saturday Night Fever
'Glee' Video: Darren Criss and Matt Bomer Perform 'Somebody That I Used to Know'
Matt Bomer on 'Glee' Guest Role and Kissing Jane Lynch, Plus New Promos
Video Previews: 'Glee' Cast and Creator on Bravo's 'Inside the Actors Studio'
'Glee': Listen to Three Songs from Episode 3.15, 'Big Brother'
'Smash' Video Previews from 'Understudy'
'Glee': Listen to Two More Songs from 'Big Brother,' Dianna Agron Responds
Video Previews: 'Glee' Cast and Producers on BIO's 'Glee: Keep On Believin'
'Glee' News Round-Up: 'Saturday Night Fever' Details, Rebecca Staab and a One Direction Cover
'Glee' Recap: Is Quinn Alive?
'Glee' Videos: Will and Sue's Tribute Idea, Plus the Girls Take on 'Disco Inferno'
'Glee': Listen to Songs from Episode 3.16, 'Saturday Night Glee-ver'
'Glee' Video: Blaine, Brittany and Mike Perform 'You Should Be Dancing'
'Smash' Video Previews from 'The Movie Star'
'Glee' News Round-Up: Whitney Songlist, a NYADA Shocker and Damian's Uncertain Future
Track List for 'Glee's Graduation Album Reveals Upcoming Songs
'Glee' Recap: Serenading the Past Inspires the Future
'Glee' Cast Hits New Milestone with 200 Songs on Billboard Hot 100
'Glee' Video: Rachel, Kurt, Mercedes and Santana Perform 'How Will I Know'
'Glee' Casts Perez Hilton and Rez Lee as Nationals Judges Alongside Lindsay Lohan
'Glee' to Air Two-Hour Episode on May 15, Storyline Revealed

The BizzNiz Articles (Recaps I've Written):
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 8 Perform
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 8 Results
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 7 Perform
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 7 Results
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 7 (Redux) Perform
'American Idol' 11 Recap: Top 7 (Redux) Results

#1 Recommendation: Game Change Book

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