A letter to Ashland's cinema golden boy

Dear David Fincher,

It's been quite a year for you, big guy.

Finally, it looks like your immense talent is going to be recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences next month when you take home the Oscar for best director and, maybe though not as likely, best picture.

And I gotta say, Finch, you deserve it. "The Social Network" is amazing. As I walked out of it a few months back, I couldn't help but wonder if I was feeling the same uneasy buzz my father experienced 40 years ago after he saw "The Graduate."

For a dude approaching the big 5-0, you certainly nailed this rising generation of nihilistic Ivy League tech geeks less than half your age.

As horrifying as "Black Swan" is, I have to say "The Social Network" is by far the year's scariest movie.

Why? Well, the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world have won. "The Social Network" makes that clear. Facebook has funneled us into neat digital packages, in which we are easily mined for consumer information and marketed to the highest bidder.

As our lives drift more and more from the temporal world and into the digital one, we have gleefully abandoned the concepts of privacy and solitude. Thing is, no one's making us do it. Zuckerberg just provided the map and we took the trail.

It was inevitable, I suppose. Our fate was sealed some half-century ago when a computer sent a simple message over an optic fiber cable.

But the hell with all of that, anyway.

It's incredible that "The Social Network" is your second-best film, Finch. For my money, "Zodiac" is your masterpiece.

It took a wagonload of guts to make that film. A serial killer drama without a single car chase, shootout, kidnapping or a hint of forensic geekery to be seen.

We all know the Academy rarely awards a director for his best work, and this year will prove no different. But at least you didn't have to wait until you're old and running on fumes like Marty Scorsese. Apparently, "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas" left something to be desired, unlike the overly symbolic goofiness of "The Departed." Speaking of running on fumes, won't someone please tell Jack Nicholson exiting gracefully is a desirable quality for an 80-year-old playboy?

I'd say that right now, you're among the most interesting filmmakers in the world, Finch. Not bad for a guy who started his career cutting music videos for Rick Springfield. Dear God.

You had a rough start with your first feature, "Alien 3." That was an impossible act to follow. But I'm going to tell you a secret: I like "Alien 3" quite a lot and so do many of my movie freak friends. I watched it last summer, and it has aged well.

You took your licking and came back with "Se7en," which provides a perfect serial killer-flick bookend for "Zodiac."

Whereas "Zodiac" was all existential dread shot through the lens of the daily grind of police work and newspaper journalism, "Se7en" was a machine of suspense and high plot. The whole thing would have been completely laughable if it weren't for the great acting of Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey.

In between was the underrated "Panic Room" and the overrated at the time, but now pretty damn solid on all fronts, "Fight Club."

This is not to say you haven't disappointed us, Finch. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" was a head-scratcher. I liked the effort, but three hours of a character who, when it was all said and done, turned out to be not that interesting of a guy ... well, that's a tough one. The only person to pull that off was Stanley Kubrick in "Barry Lyndon" and, Finch, you're not Stanley Kubrick.

Yet.

But you are on your way.

Your output has matched his at this point in his career. You both started by rebooting the noir genre through your twisted id, Kubrick with "The Killers" and your very own "Se7en."

You even have your angry young man movie in the "Clockwork Orange" vein with "Fight Club."

It will be interesting to see where you're going with your art.

And now for my complaint. We all know you spent your formative years in Ashland and graduated from Ashland High School before heading off to Hollywood to do this filmmaking thing.

Since that time, you've granted a total of one interview with local media, and that was the Ashland High newspaper several years ago.

C'mon, man. A student newspaper?

So, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you drop me a line for an interview in an upcoming issue of the Mail Trib?

I mean, don't you know who I am? I'm voted as a favorite reporter in the Sneak Preview. I won an award. Once.

So help me out here. I promise I won't ask you about Brad Pitt's sex life or how you've cultivated this reputation for being a harsh taskmaster on the set. I thought it was kinda funny how you nearly made Jake Gyllenhaal cry on the set of "Zodiac."

Anyway, good luck at the Oscars, and don't let any of the geeks tell you "Alien 3" wasn't a good movie.

It wasn't as good as "Alien" or "Aliens," of course, but it was pretty damn good.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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