Rewind Review: The Social Network

The Social Network. I’ll put it this way: I think it was probably the best possible execution of a concept doomed to fail. The overwhelming question that kept occurring to me as I was watching it was “Why?” Why is this a movie and why am I watching it? My time may have been better spent playing Farmville, something I rarely if ever do.” I exaggerate only to highlight the doldrums this film dwells in for far too long to call it anything but a bad film. The film’s first scene is a fascinating interplay between Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). This is the apex of the film sadly it comes very early in the proceedings. You get a perfect illustration as to who Mark is but he doesn’t really change.

The film will toy with time going from one deposition in either of the two lawsuits and back in time to illustrate points and there are several cuts that will remind you of Citizen Kane aside from the fact that, you know, Citizen Kane was about something and larger than life and not about a new hybrid between jerk and nerd- a nerd-jerk. Zuckerberg has no “Rosebud” at the end he just realizes maybe I was a jerk and tries to add the girl he offended on Facebook and obsessively hits refresh waiting for her to accept. He hasn’t changed. Thanks.

It’s a film that after a certain point lacks a necessary ebb-and-flow. The question is how the accusations that he stole Facebook come about, once that comes out the question that remains is “if.” In my estimation it’s very clear that he did which is why much of the rest of the film is very academic and uninteresting, just details. It didn’t really hold any surprises.

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The performances help elevate the film to a level which makes at least tolerable. Andrew Garfield is fantastic as Eduardo Saverin and what’s most impressive is his mastery of a Brazilian accent which is not one that registers in the realm of stereotype so he did some serious research it would seem. Justin Timberlake is surprisingly very good in the role of Sean Taylor. It is also worth noting that thanks to some movie magic and really good acting Armie Hammer plays the role of both Winklevoss twins tremendously.  As for Eisenberg what can be said? He plays the character very well it’s just the character that’s a turn-off but judging by the body of work he has you can see he does have the range to play both very likable and unlikable characters.

The film is at times stimulating intellectually and others emotionally but never both at the same time. All too frequently it is neither.

While I didn’t care for it and was on more than one occasion bored I won’t actively lobby against people watching. It’s definitely the kind of movie you shouldn’t take someone else’s word on, but I was resoundly unimpressed and can only accurately convey my opinion. At times I can try and surmise what an audience might feel but I won’t here.

The Social Network

It seems all the defining of generation talk and the importance of the film is being discussed by those who are older than the characters in the film but furthermore the social import of this film is being inferred by Facebook and its impact, whatever you think it may be, and not by the film itself. The film is nothing more than a glorified docudrama full of sound and fury which signifies nothing and not a good nothing like Seinfeld but just nothing. It’s a wasteland, the epitome of cinematic existentialism: why is this here and why am I watching it?

As I stated at the beginning as much as the experience was displeasing just based on the inherent flawed mechanics of the narrative I can only down-grade it so much. Make no mistake about it this film, much like the real Facebook, has no dislike button, but if it did I’d click it.

5/10

Review- Rio

Rio (20th Century Fox)

For any viewer, regardless of your experience, academic acumen or whatever other qualifications you may have, there will invariably be occasions where a film plays into a sensitive area for you where it’ll either excel with flying colors or fail miserably, perhaps to a greater degree than it would otherwise, due to your personal experience. In the case of Rio it was targeted on my radar early on for two reasons: first, and the lesser of the two reasons, for my love of birds and conversely my loathing of smuggling but it hit home more because it’s set in Brazil, a nation of which I am a dual citizen.

Having been one who grew up cinematically with only Carmen Miranda and the anti-Lambada propaganda film The Forbidden Dance as major reference of American interpretations of Brazil onscreen my apprehension is understandable. Not that there’s anything wrong with Carmen Miranda but any icon can be turned into a stereotype in the wrong hands.

Suffice it to say that most of my concerns are addressed by the fact that one of the film’s writers and its director is a Brazilian, Carlos Saldanha. Yet, you also do not get a Disney-fied Saludos Amigos or Three Cabelleros rendition of Latin America, you have in the narrative of this film a setting which actually plays a role, which is rare but also one that is presented without frills and bereft of commentary. You see the glitz and glamor of Rio, the natural beauty, the beach life, the skyline at night, carnaval but also the favelas and in a minor way, crime. It’s a subtle but accurate portrait that doesn’t impose itself above the story. It shows the good and the bad. So with that personal concern overcome I can begin to address the rest of the film.

When dealing with animation set overseas there are invariably headaches of logic. There’s always the minor bugaboo of when do you float a word in said foreign language that English speakers will readily recognize? How many Brazilians and/or actors of Hispanic descent do you include in the cast? Now, there’s only one Brazilian in the principal cast, however, considering that many Brazilian actors have recently been cast as either Hispanic or “Vaguely Foreign” characters (such as Rodrigo Santoro himself in Love Actually) it all comes out in the wash.

In fact, quite a lot the voice talent does quite well either toeing that line or just being convincing that it makes you forget. Jesse Eiesenberg conveys the stressed, caged bird in the wild well and also has the unexpected task of struggling/learning to embrace his newfound culture. Anne Hathaway, perhaps more than any other name actor in the cast, vanishes behind the veneer of her character. Thankfully she is given license to sing and the few seconds of Portuguese she’s asked to speak sounds good.

The rest of the voice cast does rather well as a whole also. One of the most distinctive and hardest voices to overcome is George Lopez’s but his shtick with his wife is funny enough such that you eventually forget. While Tracy Morgan always sounds like himself it works in tandem with his character so well that it doesn’t matter. Will i. am provides the most consistent comic relief and perhaps the most overlooked voice work belongs to Jake T. Austin, perhaps best known for his work on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, he convincingly comes across as not only a Brazilian kid but also one who’s younger than he is.

The story of this film resolves itself quite neatly. It gets just the right amount of complication what with the smuggling plots getting aided with a scene-stealing performance by a Cockatoo (Jemaine Clement, who thankfully is also allowed to sing). Events head for the collision course you hope they’ll have and while there are dueling love plots and a heist everything thing has its proper priority within the infrastructure of the narrative. There’s more going on here than meets the eye with many of the villains not willing to do their own dirty work, such that you can see how it may be described as a mess but it truly does all work towards one end.

And that end is truly one of the more graceful and visual I’ve seen in some time. You realize the film is all but over and there are at least three questions/open ends you’re wondering about that are addressed in a few shots and wordlessly, without any lengthy denouement. It’s a thing of beauty of behold.

Moreover, it’s a musical that’s actually musical, meaning there are a few musical numbers where characters breakout and sing but not once does it seem random and forced. The score is tremendous and very present and when it’s not there it’s replaced by source music, which is usually a new take on a Brazilian standard. It’s another example of the synergy of location. The score is indigenous without feeling forced or trite. Even incorporating Samba beats the score and source music still underscores the action tonally.

I typically leave the 3D commentary for near the end when I do see something in 3D. I did see it as such and my general feeling is that right now animation, specifically animation by the biggest studios (Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks, Fox/Blue Sky) is usually your best bet for getting the most bang for your buck 3D-wise.

The animated feature film has become more of a box office and aesthetic presence than it ever was. It has truly grown in leaps and bounds over the history of cinema as something that was virtually a one-studio specialty to a medium that has become, at long last, a bona fide Oscar category. Having said that the category has been virtually monopolized. It’ll be very hard to justify that this year with Rio entering the fray I think.

As I may have said before, I now treat sitting through the end credits like a standing ovation. Considering the fact that I was so apprehensive about seeing it in the first place, I truly did not expect to watch this film all the way to its literal conclusion. Rio is a tremendously effervescent film that actually manages to capture some of the spirit of the city in a very honest way.

10/10