Monday, January 03, 2011

Entry #1

Through some cruel twist of fate, I started feeling under the weather on the first day of 2011. Since then, my symptoms have developed into a full-blown upper respiratory tract infection, but at least without a fever or significant lethargy.

Still, it's a pretty crappy way to start the new year.

For my inaugural 2011 post, I've chosen The Social Network, which I just watched over the weekend ( couldn't find the time to go to the cineplex ).

Having read all the rave reviews and noted its increasing number of major awards wins, I was apprehensive - I always am, when personal expectations threaten to overshadow a film's actual merit.

However, I am happy to report that I enjoyed every second of the movie, despite the many debates out there over just how accurate a depiction it is.

Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed as a major douchebag, and Napster founder Sean Parker as a party animal who also causes a rift between Zuckerberg and his loyal best friend, Eduardo Saverin.

While based on a book by Ben Mezrich ( who also wrote the novel that spawned the film, 21 ), it is a one-sided account reaped from interviews given by Saverin, +/- transcripts of depositions given by the various parties ( I haven't read it, so I'm guessing here ).

As such, I'm pretty certain there's a large amount of liberty being taken, resulting in a biased view of the truth.

So I watched The Social Network with some degree of skepticism, and have no idea what to believe. But I suspect the majority of movie audiences accept what's portrayed on-screen, and can't imagine what effect this has had on Zuckerberg ( one upside: he was crowned Time magazine's Person Of The Year for 2010; not bad for a so-called douchebag :)).

Does the film live up to the hype? Definitely. I'm a long-time fan of David Fincher's work ( Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac ), and he does an excellent job here, coaxing breakout performances from the actors and juggling the different storylines adeptly.

Kevin Spacey said during his interview in Singapore last month, that The Social Network is one of those unique films that doesn't feature explosions or sex, and yet manages to engage moviegoers through a great script and cast.

The two elements certainly complement each other beautifully. Jesse Eisenberg may not be stretching his capabilities that much ( he played another talkative, fidgety nerd in Zombieland ), but he does amp things up a notch, making those lawsuit depositions crackle with tension.

Kudos for casting a relative unknown in a role that was made for him. However, I do wonder if Shia LaBeouf might have been a better choice - less sulky-faced, hence more likeable. Plus, Shia's a few years younger than Jesse.

Andrew Garfield is someone to watch, especially after clinching the Spider-man lead as Tobey Maguire retires. Beside being extremely good-looking ( love that hair! ), he's got some serious acting chops to boot. Look out for a scene where Saverin confronts Zuckerberg at the Facebook office, in front of Sean Parker. Absolutely superb!

Armie Hammer, who plays the privileged Winklevoss twins, also shines. It helps that he has the right background ( grandson of a wealthy oil tycoon ). He walks with a swagger, speaks with a crisp accent, and has the cocky attitude down pat. Let's just hope he doesn't get pigeonholed into similar parts for the rest of his career.

As for Justin Timberlake, I've never been a big fan of his, be it music- or acting-wise. His turn as Parker is fun, but nothing to really gush about. I honestly think he should just stick to singing and dancing.

Aaron Sorkin's screenplay is the first I've truly appreciated, having watched A Few Good Men, The American President and a few episodes of The West Wing. I can't make any comparisons with the actual book ( 'cos I haven't read it ), but he deserves an Oscar for churning out a script that incorporates so many different facets of the Facebook phenomenon, transforming a relatively dry subject into the Superbowl.

The one-liners come fast and furious. Harvard undergrads are portrayed as ruthless go-getters and snooty elitists ( true to a certain degree, no doubt ).

The most refreshing bit, though, is being able to watch a film that features highly intelligent young people talking up a storm and doing things that end up changing the world. College life isn't just about getting drunk and getting laid. Sometimes, staying in your dorm room typing in computer codes is way cooler.

Crossing my fingers that it will win the Best Picture Oscar. Hope Kevin Spacey will deliver a speech! :)

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