Welcome to my blog! Here I’ll be reviewing movies. New movies and old movies. Movies I loved. Movies I hated. Movies that were just sort of OK. I’m rather new at blogging (by which I mean I’ve never done it before), so bear with me while I get things in order.
Since the Academy Awards season is right around the corner, I thought I’d kick off this blog with a look at this year’s nominees. In this multi-post, I will briefly review each of the Best Picture nominees (at least the ones I have seen).
It is worth noting that Time magazine has picked the King’s Speech to win Best Picture. On the other hand, Newsweek thinks the win will go to the Social Network, so we’ll just have to see…
Best Picture Nominees
Let me start by saying that, since the Academy increased the number of Best pictue nominees from 5 to ten, it has become increasingly difficult for amateur film critics such as myself (particularly if said critics live in small college towns with only one functioning movie theater) to make it to all the nominees before the awards season. Sadly, this year, I was unable to see Black Swan, Winter’s Bone, and the Fighter, all three of which sound not only like very good films, but films I would personally enioy a great deal, since my preference is for the dark and gritty. I did manage to see the other seven nominees, and can honestly say that this has been a very good year for cinema. All of these films are quite good, so picking one will be a real challenge.
The Social Network:
According to Newseek, David Flincher’s docu-drama about Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, is the lead runner in this year’s Best Picture race, and it is easy to see why. I went to see this film mostly because I knew the director and one of the actresses would be involved in an adaptation of one of my favorite books, the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and found myself very much surprised by not just how good, but how fun this movie was. The thing that stood out to me above all else (and that is saying quite a bit) was the screenplay. The dialogue here is sharp and intelligent, serving both as a tool of exposition to move the plot forward and as an entertaining feature in its own right. The characters all sound like the highly intelligent, competent people they are (we never forget we are watching a movie about technological geniuses), but we are able to see their vulnerability and humanity as well as their great intellect. Perhaps the script’s style could be best described as a mixture of Pulp Fiction and Juno—there is a lot of dry wit, and though at times the characters sound a tad unbelievable, perhaps a little too quick with the comeback and too skilled at banter, it hardly matters since you are busy relishing every word that comes out of their mouths.
The dialogue is bolstered from strong performances by all the actors and actresses involved. Though Jesse Eisenberg, the actor that played Zuckerberg, is up for a best actor nod, I was perhaps even more impressed by the performances of Armie Hammer, simultaneously playing two twin brothers named Tyler and Cmeron Winklevoss suing Zuckerberg for idea theft, and Andrew Garfield, portraying Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.
The film manages to be simultaneously horrifying, heart-wrenching, and hilarious, due in large part to excellent writing and acting. It is a film of great depth and nuance, with all of the major players portrayed as simultaneously sympathetic and unsympathetic. Zuckerberg himself is as much villain as hero, but even as we watch him do truly reprehensible things to people (including his best friend, Eduardo) we at least understand his motivations and can perhaps sympathize with his goals. Though the film’s protagonist is ostensibly Zuckerberg, different viewers may find themselves rooting for different characters, and this is, again, a testament to the film’s complexity and realism. The film is rife with subplots, and pinpointing a climax or resolution amidst the jumbled storylines might be a difficult task. Yet in no way is its unconventional format a detriment to this insightful, engaging work.
Though based on true events, the movie is not entirely accurate—liberties have been taken with the character of Zuckerberg, for example. Though the movie shows Zuckerberg as a lonely young man longing for friendship, and, even more, romance, the real Zuckerberg has a longtime girlfriend named Priscilla Chan. Though in general I am a proponent of the ‘storytelling first’ school of filmmaking, and can fully understand screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s philosophy that accuracy must be sacrificed for the sake of storytelling, in a movie based on current events and dealing with real people, such creative license might be somewhat questionable. It’s not easy to walk away with a movie as emotionally charged as the Social Newtork without having your attitudes towards Zuckerberg, Facebook, and even Harvard affected, even if you remind yourself the Social Network is a work of fiction. But as a piece of filmmaking, there is little here for me to criticize. Social Network gets my vote for Best Picture.