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Episode 77: SEVEN

  

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  1. 1. What's in the box?

    • SEVEN is in the box, and the box is in the Canon.
      138
    • The severed head of this movie, which is not Canon.
      41


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It's disappointing that Amy gets so bogged down with 'yellow scarves' because there are so many legitimate debates to have surrounding this film.

Is this film a parable about nihilism?

Does the film transcend the cop cliches?

Should this be included as one of the few Fincher films placed in the Canon?

But no, let's discuss fucking Aspirin bottles.

 

Its kind of infuriating because I reckon she could have seriously engaged with this film and break down things like tonal choices; script etc.

 

 

Those were exactly my feelings. There's plenty of compelling "no" arguments to be made. Shout out to GeneShallot above who just put up a great counter-argument post. No matter which way you vote I think Se7en invites a lot of good discussion, and I feel like Amy didn't go into depth on what about the film felt short for her.

 

I don't mind episodes where things get heated, but I do feel like it's a waste when the arguments dwell on "for-argument's-sake" topics and miss most of the interesting territory, and I think both of them are at fault for getting hung up on small details this time. I love them both, love the show, but I felt this episode was a bit of a letdown once the sparks began to fly.

 

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And I'd like to briefly disagree with GeneShallot on his final point. Great post, but what I enjoyed about Se7en is how I think John Doe's plan works within the heightened reality of the film. Maybe my biggest pet-peeve of the last decade or two of film is the "mastermind plot." When the villain knows everything, has a completely unrealistic and arbitrary omniscience, and is pretty much god-on-high for no reason other then to make the plot work. Then, because the movie has to end, he usually gets defeated in a way that totally clashes with his superhuman smarts from the rest of the film. It makes the villain flat and arbitrary, it usually makes the hero look like an idiot for a majority of the film, and it feels like a film puts a poorly conceived plot on display when it does that.

 

Se7en stays just enough within plausibility for a few reasons. First, the detectives lose. The smarter-than-God villain angle goes down a lot easier when he doesn't have to get beaten by Joe-Schmoe at the end. Second, the detectives get a win before the climax when Somerset tracks down his apartment. Doe escapes, and the plot doesn't really change all that much, but the film at least gives our heroes enough credibility to keep us invested in their investigation. Otherwise it'd be obvious that watching them is just a bunch of wheel spinning before their arbitrary climactic win.Thirdly, Doe's plan is mostly completed before the police even start investigating. There isn't the dumb trope where the mastermind is captured but has them "right where he wants them" and escapes. The plot doesn't hinge on him being able to predict the police response down to the letter. He plans every murder before, commits three of them before the police are even looking for him, and does the rest in a very short period of time while the police are flailing to get their shit together. His plot isn't based on overmuch on predicting the future precisely until that final kill. And although Mills' murder of Doe does fall in the "perfect prediction" category, it really only hinges on Doe believing that all of the psychological warfare he's committed on Mills works, and Mills actions come as the result of an emotional journey he's been developing the entire film.

 

I can get not being into it for sure. I usually hate mastermind plots. But I think Se7en does much better job then most films at making that element work smoothly within the four corners of the film. And it's another example of Se7en showing a certain care and restraint to its costruction where people like to paint it as a "sledgehammer."

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Big yes from me. This is my favorite Fincher movie although I consider Zodiac to be his finest work though not as entertaining or rewatchable. After maybe 15 viewings of Seven I still love how effectively the filmmakers are playing against our understanding and expectations regarding these "types" of stories. It also may have created a look used by countless imitators, but they still never reach the visual highs that this movie does.

 

I felt as frustrated as Devin listening to this commentary, but I understand Amy's intractability to a degree. When I don't like something I dig in on every single point during a conversation or debate, so I don't begrudge her that. I still don't agree in the least with any of her substantive (or nit-picky) points though.

 

Interestingly, the movie is not as explicitly gory as even Silence of the Lambs. It is often dark and shadowy with gory details in the background or shot from a distance or even described to the viewer rather than shown. Gluttony is kind of gross, but it's dark and we really don't see much of it. Pride is innocuous. Greed is barely on screen and seen in overhead and then through photographs. Lust is never really shown only described. Envy is not shown at all. Wrath is shown from a helicopter and then from a POV looking up at Brad Pitt. The only really gruesome scene that we see in all of its glory is sloth. I feel like we are left to fill in the rest of the ugliness ourselves and we do. The title sequence also does a great job in preparing us for accepting those ideas. I feel like Amy just latched onto that ugliness and darkness and couldn't let it go. Hey, they can't all be Working Girl.

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For the 2nd week in a row, I'm siding with Amy while simultaneously disagreeing with ALL her arguments. I think Se7en is a really good film, but it's not one of the best. I think Fincher is a really great filmmaker, but not one of the best. I don't think we need multiple Fincher films in the canon and, love it or hate it, the Fincher film that clearly belongs in the canon is Fight Club.

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A hugely influential film whose nihilism distinguishes it from Silence of the Lambs, and the first time Fincher really got to be Fincher. Yes.

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I vote a big yes.

 

Just to jump on the Amy hate bandwagon (I'm kidding, I still love you even if your reasoning infuriates me sometimes), if you think Mills is stupid for not knowing Paradise Lost or knowing how to pronounce Marquis de Sade, then you must think that most people in the world are pretty stupid.

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[...]and Fight Club as well (although I'm always kind of nervous to say I like Fight Club because the fans have given it such a reputation).

 

You see, I really want to get past this.

I think in general*, what people refer to as "Fight Club fans" (or, say, "Tool fans" or "Radiohead fans") barely exist in reality. I've been a fan of all three of those things and have never once met one of "those fans". I have been to 6 Tool concerts and 10 Radiohead shows, and the only possible stereotype I've encountered has been slightly-dweeby music nerds. I've never actually met anyone who's encountered the knuckle-dragging Fight Club/Tool fan** that they have strong opinions about, nor the overbearing Radiohead hipster**. And if "those fans" do exist, they are in a vast, vast minority.

[*o.k., there is The Insane Clown Posse, but I think that's something entirely different.]

[**aside from, possibly, in comment sections on youtube videos or something, but that's not reality anyway. Those people don't go to shows. And I'm not going to judge a community of fans based on the foul scribbling of a bored 12 year old in Budapest...and, of course, never read the comments.]

 

Regardless, like what you like. Just because someone you find unfortunate may or may not like the same thing should not diminish a work of art. (hell, I also like opera, and most opera fans are utter bastards)

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I have to say this was one of the hardest episodes to listen to, mostly because it seemed like Amy wasn't willing to meet Devin halfway on literally any arguments or discussions. I find myself agreeing with Amy probably more often than I agree with Devin but this episode was probably her worst. She seemed totally uninterested in hearing anything he had to say and was bringing some of her flimsiest criticisms to the table. The aspirin bottle discussion might be the lowest point this podcast has ever reached.

 

Don't get me wrong, I agree with her assessment that Se7en is overrated, even though I really enjoy the film I do think that it's a lesser Fincher film than Zodiac or Social Network. But boy, did it seem like she had very little to back up any of her points. I try not to let my preconceived notions of the film color my opinion of the episodes when I don't agree with Devin or Amy, but this was just a bad episode about a good movie. I don't often feel bad for Devin because I feel like Amy is usually a great foil for his bullishness but it seemed like he had some salient points and discussions he wanted to get into and he really was running into a brick wall.

 

Se7en is a definite yes for me. Hope Amy is in a better mood for discussion post Cannes!

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This is a yes for me. While recognizing that Amy is often incredibly insightful and a delightful podcast personality, I philosophically disagree with her about cinema as a whole. Over the course of this podcast I believe we've seen Amy make a case that the most, and often overriding, factor in what makes a movie great or not is it's characters, and how the movie serves to make their story interesting in a critical sense. So, when she derides a movie for empty style, she's often just complaining that she doesn't like what a story does with its characters.

 

I think that this devalues the aesthetics of cinema, and turns it into just another storytelling vehicle. While storytelling is important, I do not believe cinema should, in any way, be reduced to merely another way to tell a story with characters in it. I believe Amy often engages in this sort of reductionist attitude, where the things she likes could easily be transposed into theater or prose. She seems to reify the notion of character in a story and elevate it above all else. It seems so many of her complaints are that either she didn't like the characters or that too many things happen in a movie that don't serve the character's story. Obviously there are things I reify or elevate in some sort of arbitrary sense, and I'm not necessarily faulting Amy for that, since I do not believe there are objective standards at play here. Just an observation about Amy's critical tendencies which I disagree with.

 

As an aside, I do think Amy was incredibly condescending when she dismissively said that this movie makes people "feel" smart. It's single handedly saying that the movie isn't smart and that the viewers themselves probably aren't that smart either. I think this movie is smart, and the intellectual things it references aren't just cheap things to make people feel smart, it's an earnest attempt to be philosophical, and it succeeds. I wonder how much philosophy Amy is actually familiar with. I wonder that about a lot of reviewers, actually, but I feel like I'm rambling, so I'll shut up before I make more of an ass of myself.

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I vote a big yes.

 

Just to jump on the Amy hate bandwagon (I'm kidding, I still love you even if your reasoning infuriates me sometimes), if you think Mills is stupid for not know Paradise Lost or know how to pronounce Marquis de Sade, then you must think that most people in the world are pretty stupid.

 

I like Amy, I really do but yeesh some of the trivial things pointed out as reasons for not liking something come off as a little pretentious even if it isn't intended that way.

 

It reminded me of the early Inception episode in which she naturally assumed that all people knew where the name Ariadne derived from and her place in Greek Mythology. I mean come on, really? However I do appreciate the notion that Amy has an optimism that the general population is as switched on as she assumes.

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I've loved this movie for a long time and went into this episode thinking it was a solid yes. While I still think it's great, I found Amy's critiques really interesting and valid. I wish Devin would have at least tried to engage with them instead of repeatedly calling her an idiot like always. That he managed to say, "you're deflecting honest discussion with a personal thing," without an ounce of irony is the most remarkable thing I've ever heard.

 

Back to the point, though, Fincher does have a problem with human emotion. That's not as obvious here as in say, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but it's still something that rings true about this movie. The mood is so convincing and the plot so extreme that it's easy to miss. Fully agree that MIlls doesn't really seem to learn anything. I think Devin's reading too much into the text by saying that his being from a small town makes him hopeful. Tracy is hopeful. Mills is an arrogant hot head and remains so the whole time. That's the point. He's such to slave to his wrath and pride that he can't understand that killing Doe only gives into what the killer wants. He ruins himself because he can't stop himself, which has always been his problem. The only reason we believe Mills might be the good guy in this is because he's played by Brad Pitt, who's a heartthrob and mostly played good guys before and even after this.

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That he managed to say, "you're deflecting honest discussion with a personal thing," without an ounce of irony is the most remarkable thing I've ever heard.

Haha yes! Devin can dish it out but can't take it.

 

On these types of episodes though it's like neither wants to back down, they both want to get the last word. It only takes one person to say "agree to disagree" and move on to another topic. Therefore I blame both of them! Let's get a debate moderator in there! Anderson Cooper or something. Or couples therapy.

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Haha yes! Devin can dish it out but can't take it.

 

On these types of episodes though it's like neither wants to back down, they both want to get the last word. It only takes one person to say "agree to disagree" and move on to another topic. Therefore I blame both of them! Let's get a debate moderator in there! Anderson Cooper or something. Or couples therapy.

 

Righteous.

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I've loved this movie for a long time and went into this episode thinking it was a solid yes. While I still think it's great, I found Amy's critiques really interesting and valid. I wish Devin would have at least tried to engage with them instead of repeatedly calling her an idiot like always. That he managed to say, "you're deflecting honest discussion with a personal thing," without an ounce of irony is the most remarkable thing I've ever heard.

 

 

Additionally, he keeps brings up that whole "yellow scarf" thing as if he is completely unfamiliar with people using examples. I love this podcast, but Devin gets patronizing and mansplaney when he's flustered.

 

As to the film itself, it's fine. Like many Fincher movies, Se7en seems to be aimed at second-semester freshmen who are taking a philosophy class. It is, in a word, sophomoric. The film has a vibrancy that is admirable, but that energy isn't in the service of anything interesting or thought provoking. The insistence to the contrary that the film itself makes leads to a grating viewing experience that I am loathe to undergo again.

 

*The production design is stellar and Paltrow's performance is winning. Pitt gives a valiant effort. Spacey is hammy, yet effecting, per usual.Freeman continues to leave me feeling cold.

 

* I don't find arguments on influence compelling, though I suppose that goes down to whether or not you think this a canon of great films or important films. Furthermore, such arguments are extra-textual, which Devin insists he never traffics in.

 

*Both Amy and Devin were right regarding the three day to retirement trope. While it is true, (or at least seemingly so; i am not researching this point at present) that the retiring officer usually dies, it is by no means uncommon for their world to simply go to shit, with them reaching retirement very much alive.

 

*As far as personal enjoyment goes, I place this film 6th in Fincher's canon. On technical merits, it finds itsself in a tie for 3rd. It and Fight Club seem like two sides of the same laser disc to me.

 

Scorching hot takes, these!

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I love Amy, but this episode was rough.

 

All in the same episode you guys talk about Seven's influence on TV, about how a movie you don't like can hypothetically make it into the Canon. Yet Amy still says Seven isn't worthy...

 

I have a rule of thumb for Amy that applies here. If there's a blonde woman in your movie, Amy's reaction will probably stem mostly from her depiction.

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I have a rule of thumb for Amy that applies here. If there's a blonde woman in your movie, Amy's reaction will probably stem mostly from her depiction.

But Amy liked Paltrow in the movie...(?)

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But Amy liked Paltrow in the movie...(?)

 

Amy likes Paltrow, but not the character.

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Devin, it's almost as if you don't understand that disagreement makes for a more interesting podcast. Debate is the format of The Canon, is it not? Please quit apologising to your listeners as if we'er in agreement with you simply because you can't combat Amy's compelling arguments. I love listening to this show precisely because she so often takes you to school.

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Devin, it's almost as if you don't understand that disagreement makes for a more interesting podcast. Debate is the format of The Canon, is it not? Please quit apologising to your listeners as if we'er in agreement with you simply because you can't combat Amy's compelling arguments. I love listening to this show precisely because she so often takes you to school.

 

Argument for argument sake is not interesting on a film podcast. Playing devils advocate is not a fun listen. I'd even argue that when they agree and are so passionate about a film it is even more fun, especially when you look at the titles they disagree on.

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Easy YES for me.

 

I usually find myself agreeing with points raised by both Amy and Devin. But I've never disagreed with Amy more than on this episode. I found her problems be very nitpicky or a misreading of the film.

 

Pitt plays Mills as braggadocious, not dumb. He's self-assured and brash but recognises he's out of his depth. He reads the Cliff Notes, hence the dialogue;

 

 

SOMERSET: Did you read them?

MILLS: Yeah. Parts of them.

 

He moves the conversation along quickly - not wanting Somerset to enquire further and determine that he cheated and read th Cliff Notes version. This is great character work (Mills developing as a detective and learning off of Somerset) while adding some humour to the scene. Even though the film is dark, there are lots of moments of levity.

 

Amy seems to feel like the audience needs a scene where we watch Mills sitting and reading the Cliff Notes. Pretty boring. I'd rather the economic and funny way that info is communicated in the movie.

 

Same with the empty aspirin bottles. Does every piece set dressing in the apartment need characters pondering aloud to John Doe's purpose? No, I'd prefer the film to hint at these things and tie into the great dialogue/performance from Spacey in the back of the cop car. It's all a game and puzzle to him.

 

Seven is a great film. And it lead to a great episode of the Canon.

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Argument for argument sake is not interesting on a film podcast. Playing devils advocate is not a fun listen. I'd even argue that when they agree and are so passionate about a film it is even more fun, especially when you look at the titles they disagree on.

 

Absolutely agree. I haven't found an episode to be not entertaining yet, but I think I enjoy the ones where they're in full agreement, because when they disagree there's a huge divide on why, but when they agree, it's not always for the same reason, too, which is interesting to hear two smart people agree on things for totally different reasons.

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Amy likes Paltrow, but not the character.

"... she gets to register as a human being. You really get to like who she is in this." - Amy Nicholson

 

Sounds like both to me.

 

 

Argument for argument sake is not interesting on a film podcast. Playing devils advocate is not a fun listen. I'd even argue that when they agree and are so passionate about a film it is even more fun, especially when you look at the titles they disagree on.

I don't know if anyone's playing devil's advocate; it seems like genuine disagreement - which should in theory generate interesting discussion. Nothing wrong with disagreeing.

 

The problem is they sometimes get stuck on one or two points, instead of moving onto other topics (which is obviously easier to do when they agree). It doesn't have to be that way, though.

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As to the film itself, it's fine. Like many Fincher movies, Se7en seems to be aimed at second-semester freshmen who are taking a philosophy class. It is, in a word, sophomoric.

 

Is that something you can elaborate on? I really dislike this specific critique of films, and unless you yourself are philosophically literate I don't see how this even makes sense, There's a naive nihilistic worldview that can be very sophomoric, but that doesn't make the position of nihilism sophomoric as such. What about it's world view did you find sophomoric?

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I tend to agree more with Amy, but she's just wrong here, and didn't have any compelling arguments to back her up. SE7EN belongs in the Canon. It was infuriating to listen to an argument where one side was on the defensive the whole time. I am fine with the more argumentative episodes, but those are only interesting when it's a fight; not a pummeling. Hopefully Amy will come back strong next episode with some of her trademark facts to back up her points. Also, it was hilarious hear Amy say "I don't like empty style. I like style with a purpose" when she started the episode off by singing the praises of MTV, which is famous for being just empty style.

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