A pre-review of “The Social Network”

I have not seen The Social Network, or at least I have not seen any more footage than is in its theatrical trailer. Like many many people, I found the trailer to be unintentionally hilarious, given the dramatic weight given to a movie about the website that lets you poke people and play Farmville.

But now, I see Rotten Tomatoes, the movie database that gives films a grade based on the percentage of positive reviews it receives, has given The Social Network, the drama based on the “true story” of Mark Zuckerberg’s founding of Facebook, 97 percent. But. I find it odd that while many critics praise “Social Network” to the skies, they also attach enormous qualifiers questioning its viability as the work of realism it aspires to be.

I wonder if it will become some kind of aborted classic; a film that is met with ecstatic reception on first viewing, but upon further inspection or repeat viewings. I’m thinking of “Titanic” and “Pulp Fiction.” “Titanic” won a lot of praise, treasure, and awards, but I get the impression it isn’t taken seriously anymore; now that people have had the time to think about it, they recognize it’s a sappy romantic melodrama grafted onto an undeniably masterful technical achievement.

“Pulp Fiction” was also called groundbreaking at its time for its experimentation with cinematography, nonlinear storytelling, and for its fusion of its supposed fusion of high and low art. It was a serious film, but with a vein of profane humor throughout, and a genre film (neo-noir) that drew upon or “homaged” film’s trashiest subcultures, grindhouse and ‘70’s style exploitation cinema.

It was predicted that the film would be influential, and it has been—only it has produced no film even equaling its caliber, but only mainstreamed ultraviolence and inspired countless third-rate knockoffs. And, upon revisiting, I don’t find the film to hold up even on its own merits. I was impressed when I watched it the first time as a teenager; but when I revisited it again last summer, I couldn’t even finish it.

It was…boring. It wasn’t that the plot failed to excitement, tension, or a sense of peril. But there were no three-dimensional players involved in the action. Characters didn’t have personalities; they had quirks. Or rather, they had idioms, or rather individuated dialects within Tarantino’s own idiom, one of sarcasm, allusion to trivial things, and manic detachment. The film draws attention to the artificiality of its world, and strains the suspension of disbelief, while giving us nothing and no one interesting worthy of our belief.  

What, then, do I think will condemn The Social Network to mediocrity? Most agree that, while it is impeachable as a work of drama, as a piece of storytelling, it does not tell the story it purports to. Though it film’s advertising purports to be “based on the true story” FB founder Mark Zuckerburg’s early struggles to create the site and protect his sovereignty from the grasping claims of hangers-on, director David Fincher has admitted much of the film is pure fiction. More damningly, Fincher has freely admitted he does not know much about the Internet, and, according Lawrence Lessing, it shows. Harvard men like Nathan Heller have also pointed out he gets the university’s culture wrong as well.  

So we have possibly the first serious film to treat at length the revolutionary information platform which will forever distinguish our age from all human epochs before it—the Internet—and it is made by a self-professed Luddite. So it will not work as a “time capsule” film as The Graduate does for the 1960-70’s, or The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit did for the 1950’s.

I will not say how exquisite the film’s portrait the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg is until I myself see the film. But I am skeptical he will become an iconic film character with an existence all his own. Other masterful performances will likely stand out as the meticulous character studies of this decade—Daniel Day-Lewis’ Daniel Plainview and Noomi Rapace’s Lisabeth Salander come to mind as likely candidates.     

Of course, a film doesn’t have to be a timeless classic to be a good one. But I think a weekend is too short a time to test a work of art’s greatness. I suppose it would be a lie to say I’m approaching the film with an open mind, considering I just wrote 600+ words about without having actually seen it. But I approach it skeptically, which is to say I approach it keeping in mind the possibility I might be wrong.

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Redefining “news”

Fox News devoted eight minutes of airtime to debating whether Biblical prophecy predicted the recent economic meltdown. There is video evidence:

At 1:55, the reporter mentions the apocalyptic conspiracy theory that bar codes are the “mark of the beast”. This is a reporter for the most-watched news network in the country, giving sympathetic airtime to religious fanatics ranting about a “one world government” and trying to tie Social Security to the Book of Revelation. Why do one in five Americans believe Obama is the Antichrist? Because the fucking news all but says as much.

You want to “restore” the country to Founding Fathers’ vision? Take a cue from Thomas Jefferson:

It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it [the Apocalypse], and I then considered it merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherences of our own nightly dreams…There is not coherence enough in them to countenance any suite of rational ideas….What has no meaning admits no explanation and pardon me if I say with the candor of friendship that I think your time too valuable and your understanding of too high an order to be wasted on these paralogisms.

-letter to General Alexander Smyth, Jan. 17, 1825

Google’s blacklist

Via 2600:

Google Instant is the latest incarnation of the search engine that fills in potential responses as you type them into the Google search bar. Some people think this is great while others feel like Google is reading their minds and are freaked out by it. We believe it’s fun for at least one reason.

Like everything these days, great care must be taken to ensure that as few people as possible are offended by anything. Google Instant is no exception. Somewhere within Google there exists a master list of “bad words” and evil concepts that Google Instant is programmed to not act upon, lest someone see something offensive in the instant results… even if that’s exactly what they typed into the search bar. We call it Google Blacklist.

Give it a try. Go to the Google home page. Type in “puppy” and see the many results that fill your screen. Now type “bitch” and admire the blank screen. In this case, the two words could mean the exact same thing. But Google Instant is erring on the side of caution, protecting the searcher from seeing something they may not want to see.

Obviously, all you have to do is hit return to get the results like you always could. However, even when your request isn’t blacklisted, you’re not getting the SAME results that you would get by hitting return. Entering “murder” into the search bar gets you suggestions of mostly band names. It’s only after you hit return that you can learn the other sinister meaning of the word. What we have here is a demonstration of how content can be filtered, controlled, and ultimately suppressed. It is indeed a good thing that Google isn’t evil.

Some of the “banned” terms I had never heard of before. (Did you know that “bastinado” refers to a torture technique involving the whipping of the feet which has been adapted into an erotic practice? If so, you’ve lead a more adventurous life than I have–though I imagine you’ve limped more.) But the overall trend is predictable; “disembowel” and “how to commit suicide” are A-okay, “vibrator” and “clitoris” are not. Mutilation and death are a-okay, but human anatomy is a no-go zone.

Neither is “lesbian” or “bisexual,” which is odd, because “gay,” “homosexual,” and even the slur “dyke” are all kosher.

Sexual menace used to advocate chemical labeling

Is this supposed to be funny? I think it’s supposed to be–investing your advertising campaign on the fear of being harassed by anthropomorphic, lascivious cleaning agents doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. But then again, neither does invoking the shame and fear of sexual harassment for way too long for a flippant commercial.

News Corp. gives $1 million to Republican Governors Association

News Corp., Rupert Murdoch’s company which owns and operates the Fox News network, gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, making the corporate entity the single largest contributor to the GOP organization. Fair and balanced!

But, you see, it’s just like that time the owner of MSNBC Jeff Zucker gave $1 million to the Democrats. Or, not, because that never happened.

But a bunch of liberal journalists and columnists had each others’ email addresses, so they’re the outrageously biased ones.

My fourteen-word review of “Inception”

After eleven years, the Platonism of The Matrix is finally given a worthy rebuke.

“The Word Warrior” is the number one result for the Google image search for “communist party”

For this post. To celebrate, here’s a picture of classical economist Jeremy Bentham:

Just once one of the top five Top Posts was popular because of something I actually, like, wrote, and not because there’s a funny picture with it. But I guess it’s better that Google directs people here than to a communist sympathizer.