Girl_dragon_tattoo_rooney_mara_1st_lookFinally, critics have started to screen “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” — one of two films, along with “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” that awards pundits have been waiting to ingest before getting definitive in their Oscar predictions.

Sony first showed its remake to the New York Film Critics Circle on Monday afternoon in Manhattan, about three weeks before its Dec. 21 release, under a strict embargo. And while the verdict is still very much out, several people who attended tell Variety that David Fincher’s adaptation of the first installment in the Stieg Larsson franchise should contend for several kudos, but won’t significantly disrupt what’s still an unfocused Oscar race.

“I thought it was a well-made film, certainly flashier than the Swedish version,” one viewer told Variety. “But I don’t see it as being a game-changer.”

Another attendee suggested that the R-rated thriller’s long-range awards prospects are “huge … especially considering what else is out there. Nothing’s coalescing around any one movie.”

The studio hasn’t yet skedded additional critics’ screenings and was keeping mum Tuesday about when reviews or social media opinions would be allowed. Of the NYFCC’s 33 members, 27 attended the Monday screening. At least 10 have active Twitter accounts; each was sticking to the rules as of Monday evening.

“Just left super-locked-down screening of ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’ I’d tell you about it, but studio would sic Lisbeth on me,” tweeted The Star-Ledger/Newhouse newspapers’ Stephen Whitty.

Lou Lumenick, chief critic for the New York Post, posted to his blog early Monday: “I’m heading off shortly to see David Fincher’s ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’ Hope it was really worth the New York Film Critics Circle postponing the vote on its annual awards for a day, until tomorrow. I don’t know when I’ll be allowed to share my thoughts about this one … .”

It’s true that the NYFCC — which moved up its vote this year to ensure it would be the first org to weigh in — delayed its selection by a day to squeeze in “Dragon Tattoo.” NYFCC will poll its members Tuesday, with an announcement of results expected by evening.

Fincher's adaptation is “much more faithful to the book (than the Swedish version),” another person said. “It should have enough of a push between being very arty and very smart … it really does hit that sweet intersection between artiness and commercial appeal.”

As to whether the film’s violence might be a turn-off for Academy voters, bear in mind their history of crowning bloody and disturbing material like “The Silence of the Lambs,” “The Departed,” “Gladiator,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “Unforgiven,” among several others. 

“(The brutality) is much more subdued in this film (than the Swedish version),” one person said. “But it still has a lot of impact.”

And so the extremely early, incredibly limited consensus seems to be: “Dragon Tattoo” is a serious player, but it’s not going to bulldoze its way to awards glory right out of the gate, leaving the Oscar race suspense to build — for now.

With “Dragon Tattoo” now in the mix, Stephen Daldry’s “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,” which opens Dec. 25, is the only major contender that hasn’t screened yet (Warner Bros. is expected to set dates by the end of the week).

One person who doesn’t seem to be counting on Oscars is Fincher himself.

“There’s too much anal rape in this movie” to get nominated, Fincher half-jokingly told Entertainment Weekly. “I think we’re very safe.”

– Josh L. Dickey

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