I Hated It, and I’m Right

What do you mean you don’t think this is great acting? I’m not moving, not blinking and I’m speaking brilliant sarcasm as fast as humanly possible.

One of the perks about storytelling is that you get to create the rules of whatever universe you place the story in.  You create characters in your own image or someone else’s as desired, and you don’t (technically) have to stick to historical facts, or any other kinds of facts.  There are laws saying you can’t write untrue stories about the private lives of ordinary people, but they don’t apply as much to famous people, and hardly at all if you are writing about dead people.  For many decades all that’s been required is to stick a label on the work that (in legalese) says, “If this story resembles something or someone real it’s an accident.  We meant it to be FICTION.  It’s all made up.  Can’t sue us, neener-neener.”

It’s kind of pointless to use a term like “best” when you are estimating the quality of a movie.  Movies are collaborative, and many kinds of work done by many people go into the finished product.  Still, let’s take a look at three likely Oscar contenders for this past year’s BEST PICTURE:

1.)  The Social Network, which is about famous and non-famous living people and some fictional characters.  It concerns real and current events, uh maybe.

2.)  The King’s Speech, which is about famous people who’ve died.  It also concerns real events from the 1930s, mostly, probably.

3.)  True Grit, which is an adaptation of a novel that was also a famous movie 40 years ago.  It concerns fictional characters and events, but tries to make them seem as real as if they actually happened.

So, how do you pick which one’s best?  All three films are effective, though aimed at different audiences.  Is the one that surmounts the biggest creative challenge the best, like when you give extra points for degree of difficulty in diving?  How do you even determine that?  True Grit is entirely made up, though it was the novel’s author who made it up first.  It took a lot of work to infer the motives and actions of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg (Social Network) from public facts such as the way his past friends are suing him.  Social Network is based on a “non-fiction” book.  The King’s Speech is adapted from an unproduced play.  It’s the most accessible story; how a reticent heir to the throne of England must overcome his speech impediment because radio is the new medium and war with Hitler (best villain ever) is about to begin.  No one knows what the king and his speech therapist really said to each other.

Another view is that the audience should get to pick what’s “best” by buying the most tickets.  That’s how a GRAND ENTERTAINMENT like Titanic wins.  It’s happened a lot, though not always.  When a good movie not many people saw (like Crash) wins, it upsets people who hold the “majority rules” view.  These people assume Social Network should win, since “everyone’s talking about it” and maybe because so many people use Facebook, proving somehow that it must be an important subject.

As a critic, I assert that it makes no difference what you, I or anyone else thinks about which one is the best picture.  All that matters is the basis upon which you made the choice.  When you read a review, try to read between the lines to discern the biases of the reviewer.  I’m an optimist, I love westerns because they employ a heroic myth structure, and I’m a sucker for a well-acted story of how someone overcomes their limitations.  Therefore I loved True Grit and The King’s Speech and hated The Social Network.

I’m not saying The Social Network isn’t clever.  It’s very hard to make scenes where people talk about typing interesting.  There are big ideas being presented in the film.  For how much money would you abandon and betray your friends?  Zuckerberg did become the world’s youngest billionaire.  The nature of real life versus online life is also under examination.  It’s got a great, ravey/vibey innovative score and razor-sharp dialogue.  It even has one oscar-worthy performance, Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker (aka Satan, the Tempter).  It’s a movie worth seeing.

However, I hated it because it’s so full of characters that are SCHMUCKS!  Every “based on a real person” person in the film is morally challenged by weakness, arrogance, repressed anger, avarice and/or dishonesty.  The central character, the “hero” based on Mark Zuckerberg is the WORST of them all!  If I hadn’t already loathed the idea of using Facebook, this movie would have convinced me, if only to keep my meager consumer dollars out of this guy’s hands.  The only character I liked was the ex-girlfriend who tells Mark what a terrible thing he did by trashing her online.  Apparently that character wasn’t based on a real person, and the event never occurred.  Too bad.

I’ll admit that Aaron Sorkin’s script is great work.  I would vote for it.  The lines are so biting and acerbic they elevate the pedestrian performances offered by most of the young actors.  The writer’s view that what these guys were up to was immature, vicious behavior is superbly placed in the mouth of the (imaginary) ex-girlfriend.  Sorkin makes the audience perceive the success story of Facebook as ironic.

If you want to argue with me about why I should consider this the best film, go ahead. I’m not jealous of the real guys though.  I have no desire to be uber-rich.  I think it’s awful that they all got rich either by stealing each other’s ideas or through lawsuits, and that the thing that made them all rich is now just another portal by which merchants get personal info about you in order to sell you things.  (Don’t worry; they only want to sell you things you need, right?)  I hope all the real people involved grow older and wiser real soon, but I’m not holding my breath.  That is, if it ever happened at all.


Filed under Acting, bad movies, Cinema, humor, Money, Technology

10 responses to “I Hated It, and I’m Right

  1. Yay, I’m not late to the party. I bet you would like a few minutes of FB every day and you can share pics and articles with your friends. Several of my blog pals are friends on FB. Most of them keep their chat closed b/c I suppose of the amount of friends they have, or maybe they just block me from chatting with them. Ha! They needn’t have worried though, one on one chat w/ anyone who doesn’t initiate it is something I’m too scared to do. I can talk to people fine like this or in a chat room, but initiating a convo? There are people i would love to talk to, that is chat one on one with but even in typing I’m socially anxious. I’m terrified of a.)being a pest b.)being rejected b/c I feel it. And drat it all to heck, I’ve gone off on another tangent again.
    Great post. I think Social Network is the only one I’d like to see just cause i do the FB.

    • LOL, I only posted it an hour ago, Lisa. I use the telephone, email (including pics and videos), and go visit people in person. If you FB, they sell your email address and info from your profile to merchants. It’s bad enough that telemarketers call me on the phone and try to spam my blog. I don’t want to make it any easier for them to do! But the movie’s worth seeing, as I said.

  2. Like you Mikey, I think Facebook is overrated. I joined for a few months, logged on 3-4 times in total and had my email inbox saturated with people wanting to be my friends. That would be fine with me if it were private, very private, a place to chat and show people far away photos of the kids. But if I become someones friend then my details show up to their other friends and these friends friends and so on, so then what’s the point? basically the whole world can see via via. I posted nothing and then closed the account when privacy issues surfaced about the site.
    I’m happy I did, I don’t miss it.
    I think that “Best” becomes relative, if you have ever seen some foreign language films or non mainstream films then you will see many stories that are beyond brilliant. They just never reach the masses that uber hyped, marketing machined, glossy gushy inflated “Blockbusters” do.
    Often I think that “best” means the film that best appeals to the widest common denominator, and premiered on the most favourable weekend.
    The ” Night in the Museum” movies are not in my opinion brilliant films (they are OK, but far from brilliant) and the secret to their success probably more due to them being the least offensive of films on offer that parents desperate for a kid-suitable movie make do with, during the school holidays.
    I agree too, any company can grow both large and popular but the morals used to build it ARE important and I hope that the people (fictional or otherwise) get the appropriate karma for their actions in the long run.

    • Good point about favorable weekends. I bet that matters a lot toward ticket sales and awards. That thing you mentioned about wide common denominators is referred to as “LOF” in the biz – Low Objectionability Factor. If a film or TV show has it, it’s often successful even if the work is unexceptional. It means nothing in the work will make people object to it strongly, therefore they will be mildly amused and be comfortable seeing it.

  3. Pie

    “I hope that the people (fictional or otherwise) get the appropriate karma for their actions in the long run.”

    We can only hope so, Kiwi, but we could be in for a long wait…

    I use Facebook from time to time (by the way, you can set the privacy options to not have friends of friends see your stuff), but that doesn’t mean I would rush to see The Social Network. Why would I want to spend a couple of hours watching a fictionalised account of a bunch of geeks being nasty and suing each other at the drop of a hat? I’m thinking about The King’s Speech, but as much as I like Colin Firth (his performance in A Single Man was exquisite), I wonder if I should spend time watching yet another British costume drama. You’d be forgiven for thinking we can’t do anything else. True Grit is the one I’m interested in. I saw the trailer a couple of days ago and I intend to watch it. Not only because it’s a Coen brothers film and I’ll watch almost anything they produce, but because it looks properly meaty and although it’s pure fiction, I know I’ll be sucked in. It has Jeff Bridges in it, for goodness sake. I think he’s taken the crown from Kris Kristofferson for playing gritty old men.

    Although I’ve been exasperated with the awards season at times, there are moments where big money and a high box office count doesn’t automatically get you loads of trophies. Titanic won loads of Oscars in 1998 and I didn’t understand what the fuss was about. When it eventually started showing on TV, therefore saving me shedding my hard earned for it, I concluded the last half hour was the best bit because we knew how it was going to end. I don’t think it should’ve won so many Oscars, but there you are. Another James Cameron film, Avatar was slaughtered at the Oscars last year by The Hurt Locker. I still haven’t seen that film, but I feel fairly confident it will be much better to watch that, than blue people coming at you in 3D.

    • I agree with you about Colin Firth. Another bad Oscar tradition is to give people who should have won the previous year an award the following year, so I think he’ll win Best Actor. King’s Speech is more of a buddy film, though, between Firth and Geoffrey Rush who is always worth seeing. One delight in True Grit is that they made it because the previous version didn’t rely enough on the “voice” of the book, a style of imitation-Victorian (highfalutin’) speech that Americans used in the old west. It’s both funnier and darker than the 1969 version.

      I’m afraid I’ve already blown a gasket writing about James Cameron and his films in several previous posts, so I’ll leave him alone except to say that yes, the 3D in Avatar is notable, but the movie’s much longer than it should be.

  4. Hi Mikey, your concerns about privacy and Facebook are well placed. I am aware of them but I use it anyway. It’s great to see people in person, but if they are in another country or I am feeling sick (chronic mono for 2 years) that doesn’t work so well. I’ve also gotten back in touch with people I haven’t seen in years (and had no other way of finding) as well as got to know people better I only knew superficially.

    I don’t make it to a lot of movies so I haven’t seen any of them. I have no desire to see “The Social Network” as the trailer looked boring, and the screenwriter admits he made almost everything up. I hadn’t heard about the “True Grit” remake before. I do want to catch “The King’s Speech” because the acting looks awesome.

  5. I thought King’s Speech was very ably performed, but the 14 year old actress, Jeff Bridges, and Matt Damon (in True Grit) were equally good, while also having to perform an odd dialect, ride and shoot.

    Chronic illness is certainly no picnic. If FB helps you connect, I’m happy for you, Jennifer. Thanks for stopping by.

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