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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.

#rooney mara

criterioncorner:

Trailer: Steven Soderbergh’s SIDE EFFECTS

supposedly Soderbergh’s last theatrical film before his retirement (which i still refuse to believe), Side Effects doesn’t exactly look like the most fitting swan-song.

sure, it’s very much in line with his recent output, combining the stuff of Contagion (a Scott Z. Burns script) with that of Magic Mike (Channing Tatum) for a pharmacological thriller that promises to be immaculately crafted, but still looks sort of… thin. sexy, but thin. sort of like Rooney Mara. but hey, i love when Soderbergh shoots in NYC.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE USSSSS…

Side Effects hits theaters on 2/8/2013.

(via The Film Stage)

I think this film will give me nightmares.  

Soderbergh, please never leave me.  Don’t RETIRE! 

Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig 

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I love this image. She’s breathing life into him. 

"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.

The Oscar Race Is On!

Oscar nominations were announced today and I’ve received several condolences for the absence of Michael “Greatest Actor of the Year” Fassbender.  Fassbender’s performance in “Shame” was the most moving, complex, and challenging role by an actor this year.  Alas, I understood the snub as soon as I looked at the list of Best Picture Nominees.  With a list like “The Artist,” “The Descendants,” “The Help,” “War Horse,” “Hugo,” “Midnight in Paris,” “The Tree of Life,” “Moneyball,” and “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” the dark and broken world of “Shame” seems completely out of place. This slate of nominees is pretty harmonious to me.  Two comedies, two children’s book adaptations, and two Brad Pitt movies.  I thought “Tinker Tailor” or “Dragon Tattoo” might sneak in there (I am elated to see these films in acting and technical categories though), but overall I’m pretty satisfied with the list.  

Of the few surprises, I think all of them are positive.  Here’s my take on Oscar chatter:

"Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close" in Best Picture

All morning people have been dogging this Stephen Daldry film.  The film received mixed reviews and was just released wide last weekend. I am sort of glad to see it there.  It’s superbly made with an elegant score by Alexandre Desplat (who was curiously snubbed). “Extremely Loud” is well acted and is a beautiful film about finding your story in the lives of others.  Of course there are dozens of films that deserve recognition over it, but I could say the same thing about “War Horse” or “The Artist” by the simple fact those films didn’t move me. “Extremely Loud” did move me and I think people should see the film for themselves. 

Gary Oldman and Rooney Mara in Best Acting Categories.

Last night, I tried to think of one long shot nomination that would make me happiest and that was Gary Oldman as George Smiley in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Oldman is one of my favorite actors because of his versatility and willingness to take on villains. Oldman veers drastically from his diverse list of characters to play Smiley and make him as exciting and disarming as his previous roles. He’s long overdue for Oscar recognition and I’m relieved his time has come with Smiley. Mara was also a long shot.  The award means we will surely see her take on the next to Millennium books.  Also, she’s brilliant in the role.  Despite being dangerous and aloof, Mara draws you in and earns your trust.  I really admire her work in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and cheer her nomination.

Who is Demian Bichir?

I have no idea.  I skipped “A Better Life” and now I need to watch it. I was sad not to see Fassbender or DiCaprio in that spot, but if the guy is good and the film is worth seeing I’m happy to support it.

"Drive" in Sound Editing

I know most people stop reading nominations by the time things like Sound Mixing and Editing come up, but this nod for “Drive” brought a huge smile to my face. After I saw the film I said it was the best use of sound I had ever experienced in a film.  I said then:

Winding Refn uses his brilliant composition of sound and visuals to abruptly wrest you out of the reverie established by the first half of the film. Gosling agrees to do a job that goes wrong and a character is surprisingly murdered before his eyes.  The shot rang so loud through me I felt as if I had been stabbed in the chest.

No “Bill Cunningham New York” in Documentary Feature

The Academy was already in error for not putting “The Interrupters” on the short list for this year’s Oscars.  I thought for sure that Richard Press’ wonderful documentary about Cunningham would make it into the final cut.  It’s well made and the most inspiring story of the year.  It also would have made for a great Oscar moment.

John Williams vs. John Williams

Williams got two nods for “Tintin” and “War Horse” scores.  Neither are that extraordinary, though I like “Tintin” a bit better. “War Horse” score is beautiful, but a bit jaunty for a war film.  I thought the score was some analog to the stage play music since it was so up-tempo.  I was sad not to see last year’s winner Trent Reznor in there for “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” or Alexandre Desplat for any of the great scores he did this year (Harry Potter 7 and “Extremely Loud” were obvious picks for me). I don’t understand giving two nods to Williams and leaving other great composers out.  

Best of 2011

Out of 101 films, here are my favorites!

1) Midnight in Paris

This film gets better each time I see it. Woody Allen captures the magic of Paris beginning with a beautiful opening montage of the city in bloom. Owen Wilson gives a balanced and brilliant comedic performance as Gil, an aspiring writer who discovers his literary muses on his midnight walks through Paris. It’s easy to pass over how great he is in early viewings of the film, but I think he brings that trademark Woody Allen neurosis while making the dialogue all his own. Corey Stoll, Tom Hiddleston, and Allison Pill are wonderful as Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds. I treasure this film more than any other of 2011 because of the way it admires the magic of cities. The history, personality, and architecture of the great city can enthrall you more than any other art form.  See “Midnight in Paris” and then see it again and then go out and discover the wonders of your city.  

2) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo


Everything from the frenetic and beautiful credit sequence to the last surprisingly heartbreaking scene worked for me in David Fincher’s adaptation. This was my first encounter with Lisbeth Salander having not read the books or seen the Swedish films from last year. Fincher’s camera makes you co-investigator with Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist panning across evidence, collecting important details, and keeping you guessing.  Rooney Mara undergoes a fierce and convincing transformation into Lisbeth.  She gives one of the best performances of the year as the girl you don’t want to cross, but would love to be on your side.  Daniel Craig shows a whole new side as the intuitive and sometimes bumbling journalist and investigator. I would watch these two do just about anything.  The score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross is perfection, particularly Lisbeth’s theme which plays like a haunting lullaby.  

3) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2


The greatness of Deathly Hallows 2 (and the entire series) is rooted in the brilliant production design by Stuart Craig and the consistently enigmatic performance by Alan Rickman.  In the opening Gringotts heist scene, Harry, Hermione, and Ron walk through the wizarding bank lobby which is exactly identical to dazzling sight in the first film. Yet the stakes have completely changed and everything Harry does means life or death.  In the Snape’s memory scene, again we the the delicate blend of continuity and character development through Rickman’s work.  The scene melds new footage of Snape’s past with footage from all 7 films.  We see Snape look at young Harry in Sorcerer’s Stone, noticing now a mixture of disdain and wistful interest. That’s the wonder of JK Rowling’s books: nothing is ever as it seems. The last film was an exhilarating send off for Rowling’s fans. Yet also accessible to Muggles who enjoyed an action packed resolution to Harry’s quest to defeat Voldemort.  Radcliffe, Rickman, and Maggie Smith lead a cast of top notch performances. 

4) Hugo


My favorite director created a film that expresses all the things that are special and wondrous about films. Films not only capture our dreams, but also remind us of who we are and what we want to be.  Films can bring people together and mend broken spirits. Martin Scorsese takes the story of Hugo Cabret and creates something both personal and universal.  The use of 3D in “Hugo” is completely essential. The technology creates greater depth in each frame, enveloping the audience in the comings and goings in this Paris train station. Ben Kingsley is devastatingly good as filmmaker turned toy maker George Melies.  Asa Butterfield is an exciting new performer.  ”Hugo” is the real deal.

5) Shame


Unbroken takes, long silent stretches, and lots of explicit sex make “Shame” difficult to sit through.  Yet, these aspects make the film thrilling to behold. Michael Fassbender gives the best performance of the year as the isolated and broken Brandon. He can barely make it through the day without a sexual encounter. He looks predatory when he’s searching for his next “fix”, yet afterwards he seems empty and confused. His compulsions take him to dangerous places as his volatile sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) comes to stay with him.  Their interactions are so uncomfortable as we try to piece together a relationship plagued by past traumas.  It’s a great film that forces us to relate our own brokenness and loneliness to Brandon’s. 

6) Moneyball


Some people see problems and concede change isn’t possible. Others see problems, find solutions, and decide change is the only way forward.  ”Moneyball” is a wonderful rendering of the true story of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. Instead of accepting the status quo, Beane takes a controversial view and lets it guide his entire approach to managing the team. Instead of looking for flashes of talent, the Oakland A’s looked for the right combination of skills and outcomes to fashion a team that could win at a price they could afford. I’m not a baseball geek, but I could relate to Beane’s desperate love of the game, brought vividly to life by Brad Pitt. Beyond all the baseball minutiae what captured me about “Moneyball” was its theme of embracing overlooked talent.  We all have something to offer and need someone to unlock those gifts.  Pitt as Beane unleashes the talent of Peter (Jonah Hill) to the great benefit of the team.  Hill and Pitt make a great screen pairing; sparring and riffing off of each other.  

7) King of Devil’s Island

This Norwegian film was the biggest surprise for me this year. Based on the true story of a revolt at the Bastoy boys prison, “King of Devil’s Island” is a powerful story of friendship and triumph over abusive power. At every level, the boys of Bastoy surrender their freedom to the oppressive rule of the Governor (Stellan Skarsgård). His power is challenged by a defiant new inmate Erling (Benjamin Helstad) who is determined to escape. When model inmate Olav (Trond Nilssen) begins to challenge the sanctimonious Governor for the crimes he wishes to ignore, the walls of control come crashing down. Despite being opposites, Erling and Olav build a friendship that keeps them from surrendering to despair.  The score by Johan Söderqvist is a haunting and beautiful piece of music.  I want fly to Norway just to buy it.  ”King of Devil’s Island” won Norway’s Oscar equivalent for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Nilssen, and Score. I hope it gets a release in the US.

8) Drive 

My opinion of Nicolas Winding Refn’s violent film has changed so drastically since I saw it. Leaving the theater, I could feel the film pounding against my chest, as if I had been shot. Yet, it has some of the most dreamy and beautiful scenes of the year.  That close mixture of sweetness and savagery makes “Drive” impossible to ignore.  The soundtrack of retro electronic pop ballads have permanent rotation on my iPod. Every time I hear the songs, I’m back in the theater, amazed and horrified by what is on screen. More than any other film, “Drive” got under my skin and finds a way to pop up in my day to day.  As the nameless driver, Ryan Gosling is perfect. His piercing eyes let you know he will never relent.  His sleek white Scorpion jacket becomes stained with the blood of so many enemies who underestimated his silence for disinterest and weakness. 

9) Bridesmaids


No film made me laugh more than Paul Feig’s ”Bridesmaids.”  Screenwriters Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo bring to the screen real female characters and relationships. The fear of being out of sync with the person who knows you best is explored with heart and humor.  Wiig gives a brave lead performance, taking Annie to some dark places for our comedic enjoyment.  The diverse cast of female talent in “Bridesmaids” shows a range of comedic power. In each woman you find something wholly familiar and unique.  

10) Jane Eyre


This was my favorite film for much of 2011.  Mia Wasikowska perfectly brings forth Jane’s fierce integrity and longing for happiness.  Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation brings the right amount of Gothic terror and romance.  His vision brings the dark Thornfield Manor to life, leaving us wondering what is really going on with Mr. Rochester. Michael Fassbender is also great as the brooding and temperamental Rochester.  He and Wasikowska build a cerebral chemistry in their long verbal matches, which explodes into a physical one.  

11) Martha Marcy May Marlene


Sean Durkin’s ”Martha Marcy May Marlene” will have you questioning everything you see and feel.  As Elizabeth Olsen’s troubled character becomes more unhinged between her past in a cult and present with her distant sister, we also become confused. Martha’s paranoia bleeds into the story and film making.  It’s the best kind of manipulation.  Olsen gives a completely open performance.  The camera puts every inch of her under our examination, making this difficult character impossible to not to emphasize with.  

12) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


Forget international espionage and jet-setting to exotic locales. The real danger is the person you’ve known and trusted for years who holds the power to destroy you and your country. In “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” George Smiley must uncover a mole bleeding British intelligence to the Russians. To find the source, he must wrestle his darkest memories and question everything he thought was secure.  Gary Oldman gives a masterful performance as the economical and exacting Smiley.  For the first 20 minutes, he hardly says a word, but when he does he commands the screen.  On the surface, Smiley seems passive and still, yet Oldman brings a steady urgency to the character.  He conveys a sense that this mild looking bureaucrat could take off at any moment.  The supporting cast is full of Britain’s best actors all at top form.  

13) Bill Cunningham New York

The best discovery of the year was meeting the legendary New York times fashion photographer Bill Cunningham in Richard Press’ documentary.  On bike or on foot, Bill Cunningham is documenting the runway of New York streets and finding the eccentric, fun, inventive, and special tastes of ordinary people.  Cunningham could care less about celebrities and lives a life of remarkable simplicity. He lives for his work; dedicating each minute to finding something beautiful on the streets to celebrate.  ”Bill Cunningham New York” is the film I want everyone I know to see and love.  More than that, Cunningham has become a personal hero with his overwhelming integrity and loving personality. 

14) Fright Night


I like my vampires like Colin Farrell’s Jerry: deadly, intelligent, and sexy as hell. “Fright Night” is the most fun I had at the movies.  It builds suspense, while keeping you laughing at the clever lines and vampire mythology.  Anton Yelchin is great as the sardonic former nerd trying to save his loved ones from the bloodsucker next door. Farrell is doubly deadly as he can hunt his victims with reckless ferocity, but gently seduce them into his bloody embrace.  

15) The Descendants


Alexander Payne finds a whole new side to George Clooney’s cool persona in “The Descendants.”  Here we see him failing to connect to his teenage daughter, while becoming unglued as they search for his comatose wife’s lover.  ”The Descendants” makes great drama and tender comedy of the strains in our closest relationships.  The way back for Clooney’s Matt King is forgiveness and Payne takes us on an engaging journey through Matt’s anger, denial, and acceptance of his wife’s indiscretions. Shailene Woodley is a brave new talent as Matt’s caustic older daughter.  

16) Win Win


What does it take to do the right thing? Tom McCarthy’s excellent film “Win Win” answers “Whatever the fuck it takes.” Paul Giamatti plays a small town lawyer drowning in financial troubles of a small practice, broken boiler, and two kids to raise. Everyone is passing him by, taking the short cuts he neglected to become a respected member of the community. Since respect does not pay the health insurance bill, Mike decides to take guardianship of Leo, a disoriented and feisty old man, and pockets the $1500 monthly fee.  When Leo’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up, Mike’s luck begins to change as Kyle makes his rag-tag wrestling team a contender, but complicates the benefits he’s getting as Leo’s guardian. McCarthy’s “Win Win” explores the stresses and the challenges to doing what is right.

17) A Dangerous Method

David Cronenberg’s film creates a full and engaging portrait of a great thinker by exploring the most important relationships in his life. Carl Jung begins the film as the eager healer, teeming with enthusiasm for Sigmund Freud’s talking cure.  The volatile patient Sabina Spielrein allows him to work with his idol, but also challenges his professionalism. These pioneers of human behavior are revealed to be as petty, obsessed, and damaged as we are.  Jung most of all, played wonderfully by Michael Fassbender, is a hypocrite and victim of his pride. Jung tries to reject Freud’s theories, wanting their to be “more than one hinge to the universe” while also engaging in an affair with Sabina that proves the sexual roots to his identity.  The film is seriously funny with a series of quotable lines and verbal skirmishes.  Keira Knightly gives her best performance here, embracing Sabina’s madness, but also her intelligence and grace.  

18) The Interrupters


"The Interrupters" as a film does exactly what you might expect. Through Steve James’ camera we are taken into communities plagued by violence. Yet, "The Interrupters" isn’t an issue film or cultural vegetables to be taken with our noses closed. It’s a film about a city- my city- and the people that live in it. The people featured in the film, especially the three leads Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams, and Eddie Bocanegra, will stay with you long past your screening. I would place the film closer to Martin Scorsese or Spike Lee’s cinematic portraits of New York.  Like "Mean Streets" or "Do The Right Thing" "The Interrupters" agitates the heart not the head and will change how people see Chicago by simply showing it truthfully.

19) We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay’s film adaptation of “We Need to Talk About Kevin” may be one film I love but cannot recommend to anyone. How could I knowingly encourage someone  to witness the unending suffering Tilda Swinton’s Eva goes through? How could I lead a friend to meet the cold Kevin and be forever haunted by Ezra Miller’s murderous stare? Despite the grizzly subject matter, there is great beauty in the film. We float between Eva’s memories of raising Kevin, constantly wondering why Kevin is so dangerous. Between her recollections, we struggle through Eva’s lonely life as a pariah in the community. Eva takes abuse from everyone and never fights back, as if she deserves punishment for giving birth to a murderer.  Tilda Swinton gives one of the best performances of all time.  

20) Beginners

"Beginners" is an incredibly touching and inspiring film that balances quirky indie qualities with great humor and drama.  I was completely involved in the film and affected by many scenes.  There is so much to love about this specific slice of life.  I think by getting the details so right of these people and their conversations, Mike Mills makes an emotionally accessible and enchanting film. 

I could easily rearrange the films on this list or exchange with ones I had to leave off. Just missing the cut were “The Trip”, “Super 8”, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, “Melancholia”, “Attack the Block”, “Tree of Life”, “Higher Ground” and “50/50”.  

Elizabeth Bennet: Zombie Assassin

Not that Lively would make a good Elizabeth Bennet Zombie Assassin, but I’m surprised that no one wants to take this role. The book is brilliant, funny, and gory.  Elizabeth Bennet is one of the greatest characters in all of literature.  I’d like to see Elizabeth Olsen or Emma Watson in the adaptation personally.

totalfilm:

Blake Lively passes on Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

First Natalie Portman dropped out. Then Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, Mia Wasikowska and Rooney Mara passed.
 
Now Blake Lively has become the latest actress to turn down Pride And Prejudice And Zombies.
 
It’s taken her longer than most to pass on the project – she was offered the part two weeks ago – but she’s come to the same conclusion as every other hot property in Hollywood.

[FOR THE FULL STORY, CLICK ON BLAKE OR FOLLOW THIS LINK]

"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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