The Social Network (2010)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

To this day, I’m still not quite sure why the creator of Facebook is a billionaire. First of all, the company only became profitable a year ago. Second of all…maybe he is some sort of coding prodigy and a very smart guy, but–and perhaps this is purely ignorance speaking–what’s so great about Facebook?

Hell, I use it, so I’m not going to pretend that I don’t. But early on in the film when some characters approach Mark Zuckerberg about coding a social networking site, Zuckerberg asks the question “why?”, when the world already had a Friendster and MySpace. The movie never sufficiently answers that question. It doesn’t aim to, because the film isn’t about that, but just the same, it bothers me.

Facebook became popular, basically, because it was there at the right time (MySpace was already becoming “uncool”, because of all of the crap on the site, but this was after MySpace had stolen the bulk of users from Friendster and left it a ghost town) with a clean interface. It was basically social networking for grown-ups. And while I can appreciate, I guess, a certain cleverness in this approach, it’s just a matter of historical chance that Mark Zuckerberg was the one to reap the monetary reward. I mean, any web developer could design a social networking site that’s as good as Facebook was in the early days.

Anyway, with regard to the film, itself, I did enjoy it, though apparently, it doesn’t, necessarily, bear any resemblance to reality. It was based in large part upon a book (The Accidental Billionaires) that, itself, is heavily fictionalized, and then further embellished/dramatized by Aaron Sorkin, who has gone on record saying that he wasn’t at all concerned with fidelity to the true story. And fair enough, I suppose, because the dramatic irony in Sorkin’s story (a guy who connects hundreds of millions and is, himself, so lonely) makes for a good film, if not honest docudrama.

Whether or not Mark Zuckerberg is kind of a dick, as portrayed in the film, isn’t really important (though frankly, was kind of a dick move, so we do know that, if nothing else). In fact, nobody in the film comes out of it smelling like roses. I’ve seen The Social Network described as the anti-Facebook movie, with some criticizing it for taking a sort of an old fogey’s stance on social networking. I think anybody who would make that claim is reading way too much into The Social Network. It’s just the story of a guy who’s kind of a dick and pays a personal price even while becoming insanely successful.

Anyway, sorry for all of the editorializing. I’ll just make a few random comments.

Jesse Eisenberg. When this kid first showed up, he struck me as the go-to actor for when you couldn’t get Michael Cera. But now I realize he’s much better than Michael Cera, or at least a quite different actor. He nails the performance of the bitter genius who can’t quite seem to figure out how not to be an asshole.

David Fincher. He’s in love with visual trickery, even when it’s not necessary. He has one actor play twins, and though it’s absolutely seamless, and you’ll never question it, I’ve got to ask, “Why?” Aren’t there any twins who act? Maybe not. Anyway, funny story about this–afterward, I told my wife that it was the same actor playing both of the Winklevoss twins, and she said, “Oh, they were twins?” She knew they looked alike, but she didn’t realize they were twins. I’m not telling this to embarrass my wife (I thought it was extremely cute, actually), but merely to emphasize how you absolutely can’t tell that you’re looking at a visual trick.

Also, in my wife’s defense, it literally took about five hours to watch this movie, because Juliet would only sleep for about ten minutes at a time, and when she was awake, we’d sometimes try to watch the movie, but she wants a lot of tending to. So I’m amazed she even noticed that the characters looked alike.

All right. Enough about that.

Piranha (2010)

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Tough to know how to rate this one, but I will say this: Piranha is exactly the movie the filmmakers meant it to be. And it’s meant to be a ridiculously stupid movie devised exclusively to shock viewers with more gore than you’ve ever seen. Seriously. Goriest…movie…ever.

But just because it’s the film it’s meant to be doesn’t mean that it’s good. This is a film in the vein of Snakes on a Plane, except that it takes itself way less seriously, even, than that film did. But you have the general idea: it’s a B horror movie for the sake of making a B horror movie–no pretensions to anything else. For the record, I preferred Snakes on a Plane, perhaps because it seemed a little bit more like a real movie instead of just a bunch of gore enthusiasts fucking around. Piranha has only the thinnest semblance of a plot and pretty much wastes the talents of Ving Rhames and Adam Scott.

I’ll just mention one scene as an example of the kind of film Piranha is. The movie starts with a cameo by Richard Dryfuss playing a fisherman named Matt, and he’s singing “Show Me the Way to Go Home”. Then he gets eaten by giant, prehistoric piranhas, with a classic bloody hand rising from the water shot before he’s finally done in. In other words, everything about this movie is tongue-in-cheek.

It’s enjoyable on a certain level–I certainly laughed a few times, mostly because it was so incredibly over-the-top–but it’s so frivolous that I’m a little stunned that it was reviewed so well by critics.

Oh, also, there are loads of naked breasts if you’re into that.