The Social Network “takes [Facebook’s] success story and turns it into art,” says Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, “[in] much the same way Orson Welles took the story of William Randolph Hearst and turned it into Citizen Kane. Was it really Hearst’s story? Not exactly. Is it an American story? Absolutely.
“Sorkin is on fire with this script. There is not a fatty piece presented, not a glossed-over sappy moment. It turns out that his collaboration with Fincher is a match. Fincher’s coldness and Sorkin’s passion are combustible. Both are obsessive compulsive with their projects and have harnessed their collective fervor into a story about a similar obsessive.
“For parts of this thing, you might feel like you can’t breathe. It’s a heavy-metal song. It’s an aria. It’s a two-hour drum solo. And it doesn’t let up.”
David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin “hold up a mirror that says ‘this is who we are in 2010.’ Or maybe this is who we are, period.”
I’ll go Stone one better. The awards-season progress (or failure) of The Social Network is going to be significantly determined by generational favoritism. This is the first big-time award-calibre movie about GenY types, and is brought alive on-screen mostly by GenY actors. There will be many who’ll get that this film represents not just a kind of generational self-portraiture — a very significant one at that — but also forecasts a cultural sea-change in Hollywood. It’s a movie that says “the game belongs to us now.” I haven’t developed (i.e., refined) this thought to its proper distillation, but I know I’m onto something here.
The only people, I suspect, who are not going to get on the Social Network train are the pre-cyber, still-don’t-get-it 60-and-overs. A significant percentage of this group will support The Social Network, of course, because they don’t want to risk being seen as out-of-it (and therefore less employable). The hold-outs, I suspect, will rally round The King’s Speech, which is a fine film for what it is. But it’s not as important as The Social Network.
The Social Network “is possibly one of the most important movies of the decade,” declares PopEater’s Jett Wells in a 9.15 post. “It not only unveils the stage and strings behind the biggest cultural phenomenon since the invention of the internet, but also how one of the most era-defining companies started with backstabbing and betrayal. It’s dark, tragic and unfolds like a classic Greek play jacked on amphetamines and Red Bull.
“After taking in an early preview of David Fincher‘s [film], several scary thoughts come to mind, including: (a) Mark Zuckerberg comes off like an Adderall-fueled sociopath, and (b) Justin Timberlake might actually get an Oscar nomination out of this. JT appears to have finally shaken the awkward pop star-making-movie-cameos phase of his career, and seems poised to become a force to be reckoned with in Hollywood.
“If Timberlake already rubs you the wrong way, then watching him as Napster co-founder Sean Parker should be cathartic. If Jesse Eisenberg (Zuckerberg) is like Anakin Skywalker, a freakishly-talented kid swallowed by ego and obsession for power, then Timberlake is the Emperor, pushing Zuckerberg into full-blown madness. I’m not saying JT is going to win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, but Network is certainly the biggest turning point in his acting career.
“Then there’s Eisenberg. He always plays socially awkward characters who look like they stayed up all night playing World of Warcraft (The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland, Zombieland), but here, for the first time, he uses his awkwardness in a sinister way to portray Zuckerberg. He’s cold, ruthless and downright scary — don’t cross him unless you want to get the most scathing blog post written about you.”
For whatever reason the MPRM people did nothing during TIFF to encourage my interest in John Cameron Mitchell‘s Rabbit Hole (not a single invite, appeal, cajoling…nothing), so I missed last Monday night’s premiere and party and everything else. Thanks, guys! But I caught up with it this afternoon, and it’s not half bad. A bit more than that actually. It isn’t quite A-plus or A but a solid A-minus, and it may begin to penetrate as a Best Picture contender down the road.
It also contains Nicole Kidman‘s best acting in a long while (and I didn’t have a single thought about her facial work). Aaron Eckhart, as her emotionally subdued if not submerged husband, runs with his best part since his nice biker guy in Erin Brockovich.
Rabbit Hole is a restrained/contained middle-class grief drama in the vein of Ordinary People (i.e., dead son), and yes, it does seem curious (although perfectly fine and allowable) that Mitchell has made such a quietly effective MOR drama without so much as an allusion to wang sandwiches or semen facials or that line of country.
David Lindsay-Abaire‘s screenplay (based on his play) never lays it on too thick, but doesn’t hold back too much either. It’s a process drama about keeping the trauma buried or at least suppressed, and about how it comes out anyway — a little hostility here and there, odd alliances and connections, a little hash smoking (a la American Beauty), stabs at organized grief therapy, questions of whether to keep or get rid of the son’s toys. It finally explodes in a bracing argument scene between Kidman and Eckhart, and then it subsides again and comes back and loop-dee-loops and finally settles down into a kind of acceptance between them. Not a peace treaty as much as an understanding that overt hostilities will cease.
A few people applauded at the end of this afternoon’s press screening. I haven’t heard any clapping at all at any TIFF press screenings so far, so this probably means something.
There’s a wonderful scene in which a Kidman disses a group-therapy couple who’ve also lost a child. They’re sharing the notion that God has a plan and He needed their child so he could have an extra angel in heaven, blah blah, and Kidman just shoots that shit down like Sgt. York. Perfect
The only jarring element in the whole enterprise is the casting of the chubby, big-boned, dark-haired Tammy Blanchard as Kidman’s sister. They don’t just look like they couldn’t be sisters or cousins — Blanchard doesn’t look like she’s from Kidman’s genetic family. She might as well be Aborigine for all the lack of resemblance. The only explanation (and if it was offered I apologize for missing it) is that Blanchard was adopted or sired by a different dad than Kidman’s. Their mother is played by the always spot-on Dianne Weist.
Is Rabbit Hole a Best Picture contender? With ten nominations, yeah. Any film that inspires critics to clap has a shot in this game. So I think it’s in there. It’s a very decently made film that, the Blanchard casting aside, never gets anything wrong, and gets a lot of things right. It’s not in the class of The Social Network or Black Swan or Let Me In or Biutiful, but it’s a well honed, entirely respectable, honestly affecting drama.
Sandra Oh gives a fine performance (her best since Sideways) also as a divorcee whom Eckhardt develops a certain interest in.
John Madden‘s The Debt, which I bailed on at the 40 minute mark, had, by the time I left, administered several self-inflicted wounds. Bruises, scratches, cuts, scrapes — they kept coming non-stop. The biggest wince was realizing early on that all the actors — principally Sam Worthington, Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Ciaran Hinds, Jessica Chastain, Martin Csokas — had been urged to “act.” There wasn’t a moment in the portion that I watched in which they didn’t seem to be (a) speaking lines and (b) using every thespian trick in the book to let us know how their characters are feeling. There’s nothing that kills a movie faster than this.
I especially hate it when actors exchange ominous “looks” in a scene. Looks in which actor says to another, “Are you sensing the same vibe I’m sensing?” Or “I’m getting concerned about how things are going — how about you?” Scenes in which an actor conveys his/her feelings about another by looking at them longingly or angrily or coldly or playfully are, for me, mute nostril agony.
And I think it should be carved in stone that you can never have an older actor or actress be portrayed in a younger incarnation by another younger actor/actress, or vice versa. It never works, and always kills the movie in question. In this film — a thriller about three young Israeli Mossad agents who captured an Adolph Eichmann-like Nazi war criminal in mid 60s East Berlin, and their older selves dealing with lingering consequences — we are asked to believe the following pairs: (a) Worthington aging into Hinds — ridiculous, absurd; (b) Chastain aging into Mirren — laughable, in a pig’s eye; and (c) the 44 year-old Csokas, speaking with his usual bizarre New Zealand-by-way-of-Hungary accent, aging 40 years hence into the 61 year-old Wilkinson, his speech patterns utterly devoid of the Csokas patois.
I felt angry and insulted. My feelings wouldn’t have been any different if Madden had come up to where I was sitting during the showing and urinated on my leg. There’s no getting over this aspect. It alone kills The Debt, although there were may other assists in this regard. I could describe four or five others but I’d just be describing variations on the same sprawling green lawn composed of identical blades of shit grass.
I meant to link to David Poland‘s 9.9 review of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s Biutiful last week, but better late than never. And he’s right on in saying that Inarritu has “probably done the best work of his career here. He’s finally abandoned the triptych.
“So even though Javier Bardem‘s character is still engaged in multiple stories, the film feels whole. It’s the beginning, middle, and end of the story of this piece of this man’s life. And in just weeks of time on screen, there is a real arc…and it doesn’t feel forced.
“There is still plenty of pain and, yes, urine in the film. But unlike previous efforts, it never feels like a stunt or an intentional test of the audience’s tolerance. It feels almost like a documentary about one man — a unique man, allowing for metaphor — and what he might do when faced with singular circumstances after a life of turmoil.
“As a new father, the movie is often brutal, even at its kindest. Futility is a big theme. And the children in the film, including the big one inside Bardem, are endangered repeatedly. But the film allows no easy judgments. There is no black or white. Just a life of gray.
“Personally, just the grime of the walls, floors, everything was hard to watch. And I’m not a neat freak. But the idea of living in that dirty way, and of not really having a choice, was painful. Some days are better that others in that world, but at best, there will always be a grim coat of muck lingering on the surface. Horrifying. And real.
“But there is no denying the beauty, the craftsmanship (a visual theme that is defined late in the movie shows up very early on in very subtle ways…watch the mirrors), and the great passionate storytelling that permeates every scene.
“Consider buckling up and seeing this one in a theater where you can’t hide when it hurts. And it will hurt. You don’t have to love the pain, but you certainly have to respect it.”
I decided to catch an 11 am public screening of John Madden‘s Israeli Mossad guilt thriller The Debt, so I waited in front of Toronto’s Elgin for nearly a half-hour in hopes of finding one of the film’s publicists and mooching a free ticket. The nearby TIFF volunteer waited 25-plus minutes to inform that talent (i.e., Helen Mirren, Tom Wilkinson, Sam Worthington) wasn’t expected. And therefore no publicist. So I paid $15 Canadian bills for admission and it’s now about to begin.
And here’s John Madden arriving onstage and offering remarks. So the volunteer gave me a bum steer. Thanks.
Today’s films include Richard Ayoade‘s Submarine, Adam Wingard‘s A Horrible Way To Die, John Madden‘s The Debt, Tom Tykwer‘s Three, John Cameron Mitchell‘s Rabbit Hole, Justin Lerner‘s Girlfriend and perhaps a peek-in revisiting of Alex Gibney‘s Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer. Of these seven, I may see three. I’m blowing off The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town (i.e., the Bruce Springsteen doc) as it’ll be on cable fairly soon.
This is probably the Thin Red Line shot that inspired the line “I’ve never met a leaf I didn’t like.” I don’t know who originally said it, but this line stuck in the same way “a movie about cufflinks” stuck to Martin Scorsese‘s The Age of Innocence and “a movie about a man walking through the woods” stuck to Anthony Minghella‘s Cold Mountain.
(a) “Polls say we’ll be throwing the Democrats out in November and bringing back the Republicans. Which is like hearing the words Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and saying ‘I’ll take Frankenstein'”; (b) “Not all the troops exiting Iraq are coming home. Some are going to Afghanistan in order to fight those who attacked us on 9.11, who are now in Pakistan. It’s all perfectly logical if you just don’t think about it.”