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Everybody Wants to be Us

Graduate Student at Loyola University Chicago. Check out the blog for what I'm currently obsessed with in film and culture. Michael Fassbender, Leonardo DiCaprio, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, Christian Bale, Jesse Eisenberg, David Lynch, David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, and Daniel Radcliffe are regulars here.

#Aaron Sorkin

Scene from THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT.

One of the great Sorkin declarations that mixes political lessons with character revelations. 

When I need a pick me up, I watch this scene and feel renewed.

"My name is Andrew Shepherd and I am the President"

OH SNAP!!

See More Favorite Political Films posted here

SOCIAL BASTERDS: Great Opening Scenes *Day 74*

A good meal hits all marks from appetizer to dessert, yet many films put the storytelling weight on the last bits of the middle and end.  The beginning of a piece has often untapped power to really ground audiences in a central character.  Two my favorite films INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS and THE SOCIAL NETWORK achieve this brilliantly.  Both films maximize the storytelling potential of the opening with long dialogue scenes between our central character and a minor player.  These scenes open up the film to the depths of our protagonist and wrap the audience in the rhythm of the film. 

"Welcome to Facebook" : THE SOCIAL NETWORK *Day 100*

You can tell immediately this part of campus is completely foreign to him. Bare walls, florescent lighting, none of the wall hangings and plaques of the other hallowed, historical halls of Harvard University. In this place, it only matters what you see on screens and what you cannot see. Sure, Eduardo Savurin knew how people connected online- sending emails, moving money, sharing music- all in short bursts, interruptions in normative social life. His friend, Mark Zuckerburg is about to change all that.

Now a familiar sight, a binge drinking party in the CS lab designed by Mark to test the mettle of potential interns. Mockingly, Eduardo says, “Which part of the interns job will they have to do drunk?.” Mark snaps back, “I guess a more accurate test is whether they can keep a chicken alive for a week.” Eduardo’s membership in the Phoenix stopped mattering after he forked over their emails to launch the site.

The commotion stops and Mark walks purposefully over to the monitors. Everyone sits poised for Mark to make a move. Without letting on, he turns to one programmer, thrusts his hand saying, “Welcome to Facebook.” The crowd erupts. Mark just became 12 ft tall and as Eduardo stands in the shadows, cheering with the rest for the creator and president of the biggest final club in the world, it’s clear these two friends are on completely different planets.

David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin will have the last laugh. They made a film about how we live and tricked us into thinking it was all about social media. Except for hacking scenes and montages of Zuckerberg creating the initial site, the film takes place off-line, face-to-face, and person-to-person. With Sorkin’s writing, the film makes talking into a contact sport. Take the scene with the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) in Larry Summers’ office. Summers, played by Douglas Urbanski, in a few words cuts through to their core beliefs of entitlement and tramples them to our viewing delight. 

The most transfixing element of THE SOCIAL NETWORK remains for me Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg. He is in nearly every scene or the specter of Zuckerberg hangs over the other characters in his absence. Eisenberg, I feel, uses his fictional Zuckerberg to characterize our cultural obsession with greatness. In the film, Zuckerberg’s ambitions reach beyond impressing girls or even making money. The scene I described above is probably his happiest moment in the film- surrounded by people celebrating his creation. He’s grown beyond the student who wanted recognition among his peers through a final club, he has soared above his peers to be an arbiter of their talent and creator of their enjoyment.  

Mark’s focus on and commitment to Facebook has been read as destructive and malicious, but I never totally agreed.  I didn’t know how to describe his performance until the Jesuit at America podcasted on the film.  Fr. James Martin, a writer I respect on all things religious and cultural, described the Zuckerberg of the film as amoral.  I think Mark is so myopic and so young that he cannot fathom other people would be hurt by his actions.  In the first meeting with the Winklevoss Twins, I could see how little he esteems Harvard Connection. The one kernel of value resides in exclusivity, the dating aspect means nothing to him. With Eduardo, played by Andrew Garfield, you never see Mark relate to him as a business partner or equal in this enterprise. Mark envisages something greater for Facebook and can never communicate that to his friend. Facebook eclipses Eduardo and the betrayal is harsh, yet Mark’s blinders are on full blast and keep him from seeing what is happening. Lastly, with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) Mark seems to have found someone who understands the potential scale of his idea.  Yet, Sean’s recklessness and flash never rubs off on Mark, who remains rigiously focused on the tasks at hand.  

Eisenberg conveys this with such power, that I was incredibly drawn to his level of concentration and steadfastness.  For someone whose emotions rarely get beyond him, Eisenberg brings a lot of nuance to this character.  Sly smirks while hacking and cold glances under interrogation have this magnetism behind them that kept me invested in his character.  When he does explode, it’s completely earned because of the character’s belief in his goal and obsession with it.

 

I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall they have a right to give it a try. But there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention—you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

Here, he’s agitated by people both questioning the work he’s done to create the site and hindering him from taking it even further.  Eisenberg couples this speech with a strong physical performance.  His posture before this scene is detached, but as he drops this hammer, he takes an almost predatory stance, staring right through his challengers. Sometimes, his eyes obfuscate his true thoughts.  For instance at the close of the film, he refreshes a friend request to Erica (Rooney Mara) who sparked Mark to create Face Mash. Does Mark want reconciliation with her, or recognition from her for what he’s created, or to simply test how she views him years later.  Eisenberg never lets on and gives us something to ponder after the film ends.  

THE SOCIAL NETWORK serves as a great film portrait of what we believe about greatness.  We regard individual effort, singular inspiration, and solitary wealth as the ideal of success.  The film takes that idea, translates it through this creation story of Facebook, injects it with incredibly fierce characters played by talented and nimble actors and dares us to deny our own beliefs.  In the person of Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg we find the extreme version of this idea and see it’s not so outrageous to what we would want to find in an entrepreneur of today, even if we don’t like it.  Eisenberg’s performance should force us to rethink this cultural obsession and seek to celebrate teamwork, collaboration, and sharing credit even if his character shuns it.  THE SOCIAL NETWORK will remain, I proffer, one of the greatest films of its time.  My hope is in the future it will serve as a recollection of this time and not a predictor of a future that could use a little less Zuckerberg at the top.

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Moneyball (2011)

Problems are easy to spot, often they lie on the surface so big that looking at them seems defeating.  Many turn away, keep doing things as they’ve always been done.  A few experiment with slight diversions from the original path, only to return to the “devil you know.” Even fewer have an actual solution and the courage to lead others to change.  Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller, is about the latter and is one of the most compelling, gripping, and substantial films to come out this year.  All that and it manages to also be completely hilarious and winning.  

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the manager for the struggling Oakland Athletics.  Like he says, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams…and then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us.”  Beane, a former player, knows there’s something wrong with the game. You can see him inwardly twitching and stewing knowing that recruitment, strategy, and money have all fallen in on itself to keep rich teams rich and everyone else irrelevant.  Beane’s notion is confirmed and emboldened when he meets Peter Brand (played wonderfully by Jonah Hill), a genius in love with baseball who recognizes the same problems in baseball through the statistics.  He knows the potential of every player, on every team.  Together, the man of experience and the man of numbers, decide to turn the Oakland Athletics around, recruiting players based on their stats alone and building a team they can afford and that could win- solely based on data.  

What really connected with me about Moneyball was the central story of two people, one informed by experience and the other by statistics, who see the world in a completely different way and have the courage to change it.  They’re attracted to each other because each represents the missing link in what they know is true.  Billy knows from his experience as a failed baseball player- traded to a half-dozen different teams after being touted by so-called expert recruiters he was a 5 tool player- that the system is broken.  Pete, a mathematical genius in love with baseball, looks past the glamour of star players to what a player can actually do. Players who can achieve runs are being undervalued for quirks- a weird throw or ugly girlfriend- while the shinning stars are completely over-valued. By taking on players that are viewed as damaged goods by the old model, Beane shines a light on unorthodox talent.  His faith in the players, something that has never been bestowed on them before, acts as a catalyst for their performance.  

The relationship Pitt and Hill form on screen was the most wonderful part of the film. They’re exact opposites, yet form this perfect unit- completing each other’s sentences and thoughts.  Also, Beane grooms Peter, training him to make the decisions necessary to run a team.  In another way, the two actors mirror their characters with Pitt as the experienced veteran star and Hill as the rising up start who might have been overlooked for a role in a blockbuster drama. Hill more than rises to the material and should be cast in more mainstream, serious roles.  His Peter is an obvious geek and shy, but incredibly passionate about baseball.  That devotion came through in his performance and made me invested in the story.

Pitt is great here, perhaps one of my favorite performances by the actor.  He’s restrained, but magnetic as Beane.  From his expressions and sly grins, he always gives you the sense he’s three steps ahead of every conversation he’s having.  He looks with amusement at the naysayers on the Oakland A’s, agitating them further against his campaign.  Only in scenes with Jonah Hill and his daughter, played by Kerris Dorsey, does he break to a more open and relaxed demeanour.  With those people, he wants to be stimulated and knows he can trust their criticism and advice.

Pitt also holds scenes, of which there are many, of Billy Beane stewing alone while listening to the games. Pitt conveys in these private moments what it’s like to really love something and invest your entire being in it. His performance draws the difference between professionals who take an interest in their jobs and people who love their jobs.  In the latter, the triumphs are taken with hesitancy while failures hurt with the force of physical injury.  I’ve felt that about the things I care about and could immediately relate to the character’s struggle.  In all, Moneyball really hit me. In the days after my screening I kept turning over the film in my mind and I plan to read Michael Lewis’ book. Not that baseball stats could ever get me riled up, but the idea of taking a chance on under-valued talent is an interesting aspect of the film that I would love to delve into further.  

Moneyball (2011) Coming to DVD January 10th!

myfilmhabit:

Problems are easy to spot, often they lie on the surface so big that looking at them seems defeating.  Many turn away, keep doing things as they’ve always been done.  A few experiment with slight diversions from the original path, only to return to the “devil you know.” Even fewer have an actual solution and the courage to lead others to change.  Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller, is about the latter and is one of the most compelling, gripping, and substantial films to come out this year.  All that and it manages to also be completely hilarious and winning.  

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the manager for the struggling Oakland Athletics.  Like he says, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams…and then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us.”  Beane, a former player, knows there’s something wrong with the game. You can see him inwardly twitching and stewing knowing that recruitment, strategy, and money have all fallen in on itself to keep rich teams rich and everyone else irrelevant.  Beane’s notion is confirmed and emboldened when he meets Peter Brand (played wonderfully by Jonah Hill), a genius in love with baseball who recognizes the same problems in baseball through the statistics.  He knows the potential of every player, on every team.  Together, the man of experience and the man of numbers, decide to turn the Oakland Athletics around, recruiting players based on their stats alone and building a team they can afford and that could win- solely based on data.  

What really connected with me about Moneyball was the central story of two people, one informed by experience and the other by statistics, who see the world in a completely different way and have the courage to change it.  They’re attracted to each other because each represents the missing link in what they know is true.  Billy knows from his experience as a failed baseball player- traded to a half-dozen different teams after being touted by so-called expert recruiters he was a 5 tool player- that the system is broken.  Pete, a mathematical genius in love with baseball, looks past the glamour of star players to what a player can actually do. Players who can achieve runs are being undervalued for quirks- a weird throw or ugly girlfriend- while the shinning stars are completely over-valued. By taking on players that are viewed as damaged goods by the old model, Beane shines a light on unorthodox talent.  His faith in the players, something that has never been bestowed on them before, acts as a catalyst for their performance.  

The relationship Pitt and Hill form on screen was the most wonderful part of the film. They’re exact opposites, yet form this perfect unit- completing each other’s sentences and thoughts.  Also, Beane grooms Peter, training him to make the decisions necessary to run a team.  In another way, the two actors mirror their characters with Pitt as the experienced veteran star and Hill as the rising up start who might have been overlooked for a role in a blockbuster drama. Hill more than rises to the material and should be cast in more mainstream, serious roles.  His Peter is an obvious geek and shy, but incredibly passionate about baseball.  That devotion came through in his performance and made me invested in the story.

Pitt is great here, perhaps one of my favorite performances by the actor.  He’s restrained, but magnetic as Beane.  From his expressions and sly grins, he always gives you the sense he’s three steps ahead of every conversation he’s having.  He looks with amusement at the naysayers on the Oakland A’s, agitating them further against his campaign.  Only in scenes with Jonah Hill and his daughter, played by Kerris Dorsey, does he break to a more open and relaxed demeanour.  With those people, he wants to be stimulated and knows he can trust their criticism and advice.

Pitt also holds scenes, of which there are many, of Billy Beane stewing alone while listening to the games. Pitt conveys in these private moments what it’s like to really love something and invest your entire being in it. His performance draws the difference between professionals who take an interest in their jobs and people who love their jobs.  In the latter, the triumphs are taken with hesitancy while failures hurt with the force of physical injury.  I’ve felt that about the things I care about and could immediately relate to the character’s struggle.  In all, Moneyball really hit me. In the days after my screening I kept turning over the film in my mind and I plan to read Michael Lewis’ book. Not that baseball stats could ever get me riled up, but the idea of taking a chance on under-valued talent is an interesting aspect of the film that I would love to delve into further.  

BEST PICTURES REVIEWED: “Moneyball”

myfilmhabit:

Problems are easy to spot, often they lie on the surface so big that looking at them seems defeating.  Many turn away, keep doing things as they’ve always been done.  A few experiment with slight diversions from the original path, only to return to the “devil you know.” Even fewer have an actual solution and the courage to lead others to change.  Moneyball, directed by Bennett Miller, is about the latter and is one of the most compelling, gripping, and substantial films to come out this year.  All that and it manages to also be completely hilarious and winning.  

Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, the manager for the struggling Oakland Athletics.  Like he says, “There are rich teams and there are poor teams…and then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s us.”  Beane, a former player, knows there’s something wrong with the game. You can see him inwardly twitching and stewing knowing that recruitment, strategy, and money have all fallen in on itself to keep rich teams rich and everyone else irrelevant.  Beane’s notion is confirmed and emboldened when he meets Peter Brand (played wonderfully by Jonah Hill), a genius in love with baseball who recognizes the same problems in baseball through the statistics.  He knows the potential of every player, on every team.  Together, the man of experience and the man of numbers, decide to turn the Oakland Athletics around, recruiting players based on their stats alone and building a team they can afford and that could win- solely based on data.  

What really connected with me about Moneyball was the central story of two people, one informed by experience and the other by statistics, who see the world in a completely different way and have the courage to change it.  They’re attracted to each other because each represents the missing link in what they know is true.  Billy knows from his experience as a failed baseball player- traded to a half-dozen different teams after being touted by so-called expert recruiters he was a 5 tool player- that the system is broken.  Pete, a mathematical genius in love with baseball, looks past the glamour of star players to what a player can actually do. Players who can achieve runs are being undervalued for quirks- a weird throw or ugly girlfriend- while the shinning stars are completely over-valued. By taking on players that are viewed as damaged goods by the old model, Beane shines a light on unorthodox talent.  His faith in the players, something that has never been bestowed on them before, acts as a catalyst for their performance.  

The relationship Pitt and Hill form on screen was the most wonderful part of the film. They’re exact opposites, yet form this perfect unit- completing each other’s sentences and thoughts.  Also, Beane grooms Peter, training him to make the decisions necessary to run a team.  In another way, the two actors mirror their characters with Pitt as the experienced veteran star and Hill as the rising up start who might have been overlooked for a role in a blockbuster drama. Hill more than rises to the material and should be cast in more mainstream, serious roles.  His Peter is an obvious geek and shy, but incredibly passionate about baseball.  That devotion came through in his performance and made me invested in the story.

Pitt is great here, perhaps one of my favorite performances by the actor.  He’s restrained, but magnetic as Beane.  From his expressions and sly grins, he always gives you the sense he’s three steps ahead of every conversation he’s having.  He looks with amusement at the naysayers on the Oakland A’s, agitating them further against his campaign.  Only in scenes with Jonah Hill and his daughter, played by Kerris Dorsey, does he break to a more open and relaxed demeanour.  With those people, he wants to be stimulated and knows he can trust their criticism and advice.

Pitt also holds scenes, of which there are many, of Billy Beane stewing alone while listening to the games. Pitt conveys in these private moments what it’s like to really love something and invest your entire being in it. His performance draws the difference between professionals who take an interest in their jobs and people who love their jobs.  In the latter, the triumphs are taken with hesitancy while failures hurt with the force of physical injury.  I’ve felt that about the things I care about and could immediately relate to the character’s struggle.  In all, Moneyball really hit me. In the days after my screening I kept turning over the film in my mind and I plan to read Michael Lewis’ book. Not that baseball stats could ever get me riled up, but the idea of taking a chance on under-valued talent is an interesting aspect of the film that I would love to delve into further.  

"Welcome to Facebook"

Speaking of Facebook, here’s my review of “The Social Network”

You can tell immediately this part of campus is completely foreign to him. Bare walls, florescent lighting, none of the wall hangings and plaques of the other hallowed, historical halls of Harvard University. In this place, it only matters what you see on screens and what you cannot see. Sure, Eduardo Savurin knew how people connected online- sending emails, moving money, sharing music- all in short bursts, interruptions in normative social life. His friend, Mark Zuckerburg is about to change all that.

Now a familiar sight, a binge drinking party in the CS lab designed by Mark to test the mettle of potential interns. Mockingly, Eduardo says, “Which part of the interns job will they have to do drunk?.” Mark snaps back, “I guess a more accurate test is whether they can keep a chicken alive for a week.” Eduardo’s membership in the Phoenix stopped mattering after he forked over their emails to launch the site.

The commotion stops and Mark walks purposefully over to the monitors. Everyone sits poised for Mark to make a move. Without letting on, he turns to one programmer, thrusts his hand saying, “Welcome to Facebook.” The crowd erupts. Mark just became 12 ft tall and as Eduardo stands in the shadows, cheering with the rest for the creator and president of the biggest final club in the world, it’s clear these two friends are on completely different planets.

David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin will have the last laugh. They made a film about how we live and tricked us into thinking it was all about social media. Except for hacking scenes and montages of Zuckerberg creating the initial site, the film takes place off-line, face-to-face, and person-to-person. With Sorkin’s writing, the film makes talking into a contact sport. Take the scene with the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer) in Larry Summers’ office. Summers, played by Douglas Urbanski, in a few words cuts through to their core beliefs of entitlement and tramples them to our viewing delight. 

The most transfixing element of THE SOCIAL NETWORK remains for me Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Mark Zuckerberg. He is in nearly every scene or the specter of Zuckerberg hangs over the other characters in his absence. Eisenberg, I feel, uses his fictional Zuckerberg to characterize our cultural obsession with greatness. In the film, Zuckerberg’s ambitions reach beyond impressing girls or even making money. The scene I described above is probably his happiest moment in the film- surrounded by people celebrating his creation. He’s grown beyond the student who wanted recognition among his peers through a final club, he has soared above his peers to be an arbiter of their talent and creator of their enjoyment.  

Mark’s focus on and commitment to Facebook has been read as destructive and malicious, but I never totally agreed.  I didn’t know how to describe his performance until the Jesuit at America podcasted on the film.  Fr. James Martin, a writer I respect on all things religious and cultural, described the Zuckerberg of the film as amoral.  I think Mark is so myopic and so young that he cannot fathom other people would be hurt by his actions.  In the first meeting with the Winklevoss Twins, I could see how little he esteems Harvard Connection. The one kernel of value resides in exclusivity, the dating aspect means nothing to him. With Eduardo, played by Andrew Garfield, you never see Mark relate to him as a business partner or equal in this enterprise. Mark envisages something greater for Facebook and can never communicate that to his friend. Facebook eclipses Eduardo and the betrayal is harsh, yet Mark’s blinders are on full blast and keep him from seeing what is happening. Lastly, with Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) Mark seems to have found someone who understands the potential scale of his idea.  Yet, Sean’s recklessness and flash never rubs off on Mark, who remains rigiously focused on the tasks at hand.  

Eisenberg conveys this with such power, that I was incredibly drawn to his level of concentration and steadfastness.  For someone whose emotions rarely get beyond him, Eisenberg brings a lot of nuance to this character.  Sly smirks while hacking and cold glances under interrogation have this magnetism behind them that kept me invested in his character.  When he does explode, it’s completely earned because of the character’s belief in his goal and obsession with it.

 

I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall they have a right to give it a try. But there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention—you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?

Here, he’s agitated by people both questioning the work he’s done to create the site and hindering him from taking it even further.  Eisenberg couples this speech with a strong physical performance.  His posture before this scene is detached, but as he drops this hammer, he takes an almost predatory stance, staring right through his challengers. Sometimes, his eyes obfuscate his true thoughts.  For instance at the close of the film, he refreshes a friend request to Erica (Rooney Mara) who sparked Mark to create Face Mash. Does Mark want reconciliation with her, or recognition from her for what he’s created, or to simply test how she views him years later.  Eisenberg never lets on and gives us something to ponder after the film ends.  

THE SOCIAL NETWORK serves as a great film portrait of what we believe about greatness.  We regard individual effort, singular inspiration, and solitary wealth as the ideal of success.  The film takes that idea, translates it through this creation story of Facebook, injects it with incredibly fierce characters played by talented and nimble actors and dares us to deny our own beliefs.  In the person of Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg we find the extreme version of this idea and see it’s not so outrageous to what we would want to find in an entrepreneur of today, even if we don’t like it.  Eisenberg’s performance should force us to rethink this cultural obsession and seek to celebrate teamwork, collaboration, and sharing credit even if his character shuns it.  THE SOCIAL NETWORK will remain, I proffer, one of the greatest films of its time.  My hope is in the future it will serve as a recollection of this time and not a predictor of a future that could use a little less Zuckerberg at the top.

THIS is how to react after seeing a Broadway Musical.

Felicity Huffman on “Sports Night” 

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