Random Factoid #556

4 02 2011

How did Mark Zuckerberg turn what looked like a PR nightmare 5 months ago into what’s now a PR bonanza?  “The Social Network” was supposed to make him look like an anti-social a-hole to the moviegoing public has made him a celebrity and household name, something surprising given the site’s country-sized population.  There’s no way that he would have been named TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year had it not been for the movie.

Danielle Berin offers up this theory:

“Oh what a difference an awards season makes. In the five months since opening, the film has lapped up box office success and critical acclaim, and, along the way, Zuckerberg’s image has undergone elaborate transformation. The once Machiavellian Harvard student has become the philanthropic humanitarian…. What began as a negative spin on Zuckerberg and his haughty conquer-the-world attitude had transformed into the most celebratory and useful publicity both Zuckerberg and his company have seen since Facebook’s founding. And to think, all it took was a little Oscar buzz. OK, a lot of Oscar buzz. The past few months of award-winning and Oscar campaigning have done more than cement the genius of the film’s cast and creators. Because of the spotlight cast on Zuckerberg, the young entrepreneur has had a chance to prove he isn’t the socially inept anti-hero portrayed by Eisenberg, but, rather, a benevolent titan of the digital age.”

Patrick Goldstein of The Big Picture wrote this:

“My theory is that all this kumbaya tub-thumping wasn’t just a spontaneous outpouring of awards-season good cheer. It was more likely the product of shrewd Oscar-season strategizing. Sorkin and ‘Social Network’ producer Scott Rudin were forging this rapprochement for one reason and one reason only–they believe that having an appearance of harmony between the film and its subject will help ‘Social Network”s Oscar chances. If Zuckerberg was still running around, bitching and moaning about his portrayal, as he was doing around the time of the film’s release last fall, it would inspire a new round of inflammatory media hit pieces about the film’s veracity, stories that could only do damage to the film’s Oscar chances.”

Either way, this whole ride for Zuckerberg has been fascinating to watch unfold.  I will say that five months ago, I never would have seen this coming.  Heck, the real Mark Zuckerberg could be the true underdog story of the Oscar race.

It’s always nice when we get a surprise.  I get so sick of hackneyed Hollywood plotlines being lived out by celebrities.

Random Factoid #481

21 11 2010

This is totally random, out there, and will probably be discarded as one of those “too personal” posts that probably have no use to the average reader.  But if you made it past that first long sentence, then clearly you give some sort of a care about what I’m writing, so I’ll write it anyways.

For all those in need of a productivity boost, I have a tip that has been working for me a lot recently.  Simply play the track “In Motion” from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ prodigious score for “The Social Network” and feel your fingers get in rhythm with the pulsating beat.  Then curl them up into a fist one a finger at a time, beginning with the pinky, a la Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg hacking into the Harvard network to create Facebook.  And then attack whatever task you need to do.

You may not feel like you are sewing the seeds for a multi-billion dollar company, but it sure feels a lot better than just diving into the task with a frown.

Just my advice.

Classics Corner: “Citizen Kane”

28 10 2010


It’s the secret of “Citizen Kane,” the movie considered by many film scholars and critics as the greatest ever made.  So pardon me for being a little shocked when I got to the conclusion of Orson Welles’ masterpiece and realized I knew the ending thanks to watching AFI’s “100 Years, 100 Quotes” special on CBS.

The search for the meaning of “Rosebud,” however, was still quite enthralling.  Welles’ take on newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst, here under the guise of Charles Foster Kane, is a power chronicle of greed and power are still just as resonant today as they were in 1941.  So relevant, in fact, that many people pointed out the thematic similarities between it and David Fincher’s “The Social Network.”  Curious to see the connection to the chronicle of Facebook I was so highly anticipating, I watched them both on the same day to really have a comparison.

I debated it on the LAMBcast, but I don’t see all that much similar between the two other than the main characters.  Both Kane and Mark Zuckerberg start with humble origins, setting out to revolutionize the way people see the world.  There is success right from the get-go, and there is acclaim.  So both set their sights higher and see no ceiling on their ambitions.  This causes them alienation from friends and loved ones, yet for them this a small price to pay for the success they are having with their ideas.

Perhaps the biggest difference is that Orson Welles completes the story of Charles Foster Kane, a luxury that allegories can provide.  Since Aaron Sorkin made no effort to hide the fact that “The Social Network” was the story of Mark Zuckerberg, however fictionalized, he would lose credibility if he tried to extend beyond what is already known of Facebook’s short history.  He chose to document the site’s origins and the effect that meteoric success had on its founder.

The future of Facebook as is difficult to forecast as the rest of Zuckerberg’s life.  Who knows what kind of life the world’s youngest billionaire will lead?  At 26, he still has a whole life to live, one that would be tough for anyone, let alone Aaron Sorkin, to predict.  When “Citizen Kane” was released in 1941, William Randolph Hearst was 78, and his life work was nearly complete.  While he was still influential (probably more so than Zuckerberg has been in his vehement disapproval of his cinematic treatment), there was a reasonable amount of closure Welles could provide.  Aaron Sorkin left “The Social Network” fairly open-ended, and I found a certain amount of joy in being able to interpret the movie as I wanted.  How I chose to interpret it, however, was very similar to the message that “Citizen Kane” communicated.

It’s a great sign of a movie’s longevity when it can be compared to something as modern as Facebook seven decades after its release, but “Citizen Kane” did more for movies than offer up thematic depth.  The movie was a watershed event in the development of the craft of cinema for decades to come.  It’s easy to look at the movie and notice nothing, but I had heard that the movie was a true revolution, so I looked deeper.  Since I can count the number of movies I have seen from before 1941 on one hand, I went to my good friend the Internet to find out the changes.  According to Tim Dirks, we take a whole lot of Orson Welles’ techniques for granted now.  Notable first in “Citizen Kane” include:

  • Subjective camera work
  • Unconventional lighting
  • Shadows and strange camera-angles
  • Deep-focus shots
  • Few revealing facial close-ups
  • Elaborate camera movements
  • Overlapping dialogue
  • Flashbacks
  • Cast of characters who ages throughout the film
  • Long shots and sequences, lengthy takes

Can you imagine movies without any of these of these things?  What would “The Social Network” be without the overlapping dialogue?  Could Mark Zuckerberg really be like a StairMill to Erica if they paused nicely to hear each other?  Orson Welles did cinema a huge favor with this movie.  While other people have taken these techniques to towering heights, “Citizen Kane” is a necessary watch for anyone who claims to love movies because it is the origin of so much cinematic development.

Random Factoid #432

3 10 2010

First it was “Up in the Air;” then it was “Inception;” now it’s “The Social Network.”  Some movies are just that good that they become a regular Random Factoid topic.  So here we go…

I read a fascinating article in The New York Times on the generational divide that the movie has exposed, particularly around the figure of Mark Zuckerberg.  Here is Scott Rudin, the movie’s producer, on the differing viewpoints from generations:

“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films.  The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”

I don’t want to ruin what’s coming my review of the movie, but I definitely leaned more towards how the older audiences felt.  Does this mean I’m an old person trapped inside a teenager’s body?  Am I somehow abnormal because my views don’t fit the rest of my generation?  Am I … more mature?  More cynical?

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first polarizing movie on the age spectrum this year.  I’ve had a post from The Los Angeles Times bookmarked since August on the reaction from different generations.  Patrick Goldstein observed this:

“The other day I was talking to an old Hollywood hand who was astounded by the runaway success of “Inception.” It turned out that he’d seen the film on its opening weekend in a private screening room with a number of industry elder statesmen, including at least two former studio chiefs and a couple of their young offspring. After the movie was over, the industry elders were shaking their heads in disbelief, appalled by the film’s lack of clarity, having been absolutely unable to follow the film’s often convoluted story.

But before anyone could register their complaints, one of the younger people on hand, flush with excitement, praised the film to the rooftops. To him, it was such a thrill ride that if the projectionist could show the film again, he’d sit through it again right away.”

I can’t even imagine there being one day where I look at movies and wonder what the darned kids see in it.  Why do our tastes have to evolve with age?  I’m scared that if I side with the elder generation on “The Social Network,” I could become some kind of cranky geezer film snob when I get older.