Better late than never, here's the Hey Baby, What's Your Sign? Edition of Ticket Stub:

* Zodiac -- I never thought this day would come, but I absolutely loved this David Fincher movie. The man who brought forth the brain-scarring nihilism of Se7en and launched its zillion low-rent imitators topped my list of uniquely loathsome humans for over a decade. Watching his movies was like having him spit in my face, or better yet hiring someone to spit in my face while watching and laughing from a hidden vantage. HOWEVER, with Zodiac he has managed to make me forget all that. Seriously. This is the best movie about a serial killer ever made, including Silence of the Lambs. Seriously. And it's not even really about the killer himself, which is what makes it better than SOTL -- it's about the lure of the unknowable stranger and how an obsession with unmasking him wears down, corrupts, and derails the lives of three investigators. Like his cryptic codes and taunting letters, the Zodiac killer is menacing but essentially meaningless and, like all evils, entirely banal. A man who kills for no reason is, by definition, impossible to confront or rationalize. Thus he makes a fine central void for the film, and around this black hole the police and press struggle mightily and in vain -- as Nat pointed out after every TV commercial for the film, they never caught the guy. The movie comes to certain conclusions, but that's beside the point -- the chase and the embellishments of the public imagination on these brutally basic murders is what compels. Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo are excellent as dueling manifestations of 70's San Francisco machismo, one flagrant and one subtle, both disillusioned by their failure to solve the riddle. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the op-ed cartoonist (!) for the SF Chronicle who became an amateur sleuth to follow the case, a Boy Scout who throws over his wife, kids, and career to stay on the trail. And the trail is what the movie is about, not the gory crimes -- although there are a few scenes of awful violence, best avoided. The film has a lot to say about the interplay of media and law enforcement, and celebrity, and the public's fascination with high-profile crimes, but it makes its points quietly. It's visually gripping, and that helps make a long slow unfinished detective story so visceral -- less viscera, more visceral! There are some tricks reminiscent of Spike Lee or Quentin Tarantino (which is to say Scorcese, really), but the murky moodiness Fincher is known for is here put to serious purpose -- he repeatedly places the central figure in partial shadow or partially offscreen, which makes the one shot of the Zodiac in action, closing in on his prey in blazing daylight, a stunner. Extra points for delightful but not distracting costume and set design, especially Chloe Sevigny's overalls and tortoiseshell glasses, which evoked my early-80's mom perfectly. Also for Brian Cox, of course. One point off for using Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" for the same creepy backdrop as "L.I.E.", which also stars Brian Cox...and hey, Donovan's daughter is in this movie...coincidence?! (A)

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