Something occurred to me when reading the scathing, brutal reviews of “The Newsroom,” Aaron Sorkin’s new TV show. (This show premieres tonight on HBO, and the critics are largely saying it’s basically everything bad you might imagine from an Aaron Sorkin production, with few of the redeeming qualities that often outweigh his tics/problems.) What if Aaron Sorkin already peaked?
When I saw “The Social Network,” something that stood out to me was the film’s usage of framing. David Fincher relied heavily on capturing the people and interactions in the film through the prism of some kind of frame (notably windows, doorways and, of course, computer screens). To me, this looked like Fincher’s way of articulating how we view everything through a boxy shape (i.e. a computer) nowadays. I figured this was a simple but smart filmmaking style, a kind of shorthand for his overall theme.
Now it looks like I severely underestimated this aspect of the film. Jim Emerson discusses how densely Fincher filled his frames, visually packing the movie with layers of detail. Emerson, writing on his Scanners blog:
This sense of a private/public self is reinforced in nearly every scene, with the presence of a video camera (during the depositions), laptops and monitors, or other frames within frames (screens, windows, doorways, stairways, hallways) through which we can see other people going about their lives, doing whatever they’re doing. (The extras and bit players had a lot of work in this movie.)
Emerson delves into the movie’s masterful visual design, using screencaps to demonstrate just how astoundingly action-packed each frame is despite being the film being just a series of conversations. It’s a terrific read, and really helps show how layered that film really was.
With David Fincher on the verge of his first Oscar for Best Director, this profile of him in the new Hollywood Reporter is a very interesting read. The obvious facts about Fincher are pretty well established (directed music videos, clashed with Fox over the third “Alien,” he’s kind of terrible to work with), but more interesting is the evolution he’s made in the last several years. He emerged with his music videos and had two great films (“Seven” and “Fight Club”) in the mid-to-late 1990s. After “Fight Club,” either because of that film’s lackluster reception or some other reason, he seemed lost; his next film was “Panic Room” in 2002, a complete waste of his time and abilities.
He seemed to reemerge in 2007 a different director: “Zodiac,” followed closely by “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” in 2008 and “The Social Network” last year, don’t display the same bleak, showoff-y guy at work in the 1990s and early 2000s. They show a director seemingly at the height of his powers, able to corral disparate elements and fuse them into something greater (well, “Benjamin Button” was the outlier here, but it was an outlier other directors would kill for: $300 million in worldwide box office and 13 Oscar nominations). For instance, “The Social Network” is a very good movie with a very good script; without Fincher, it could have made a decent film. With Fincher, it is something closer to art. It’ll be interesting to see his take on “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” particularly given the way it fuses the harsh subject matter that has appealed to him in the past with the of-the-now zeitgeist he touched in the Facebook movie. It’s all very interesting because, really, who could have predicted this in 2002? He was the guy who had a rough start and made some memorable movies before disappearing into the abyss of his own ego (circa 2002). Now, he’s legitimately one of the best directors working today. [THR]
This story over on Movieline caught my eye yesterday: “Where Was The Outrage For The Social Network’s Race-Blind Casting?” As I clicked the story open, I sighed a little bit, knowing it was probably some non-controversy ginned-up by Harvey Weinstein or something, just the latest in a neverending salvo of politicized Oscar-related attacks.
But…no. Nothing. The story was, in fact, not inspired by any new development. Nobody complained. Nobody protested. Nobody slipped anonymous quotes to entertainment reporters. It was seemingly just a blog post on the extremely timely subject matter of “two white Englishmen [cast] in the roles of a Brazilian and an Indian American. Folks got worked up into a lather over The Last Airbender this summer; so where’s the outrage now?”
That’s a fair question, wondering where the outage is now, when the controversy should be at its height. Except “The Social Network” opened on Oct. 1, and this story was posted on Jan. 9, meaning a whopping 100 days elapsed between the film’s release and this author deciding he was quite frankly fed up with people not complaining about this.
It is a very, very weird thing to read: in essence, it’s a rebuttal to a complaint that has yet to be lodged. Weird. I wonder if the author had some quota of posts they had to fill yesterday? In completely unrelated news, it gave me fodder for a post, so, kudos. [Movieline]
The National Board of Review has deemed “The Social Network” to be their choice for Best Film, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). Christian Bale, who is quietly headlining the Best Supporting Actor race, took Best Supporting Actor. Lesley Manville won Best Actress for “Another Year,” though I think she’s still unlikely for the Oscars. Of course, last year’s early-season darling “Up in the Air” won Best Film and Best Actor, before going home empty-handed, which is the danger “The Social Network” faces as the early frontrunner. [TOH]
Trent Reznor, working with Atticus Ross, on creating music for a dialogue-oriented movie. “I don’t know the real Mark Zuckerberg,” Mr. Reznor said, “but I understand that character. The act of creation at any cost, I can relate to. The pursuit of my vision of Nine Inch Nails caused betrayals and cost me friendships. But the goal was No. 1. Now as an adult I think I would’ve done those things differently.” [WSJ]
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of “The Social Network” is the involvement of Aaron Sorkin. I love Sorkin’s work. I think he’s beyond talented, leaps and bounds ahead of any other big writer in Hollywood in terms of lyricism, rhythm and sheer quality of prose. So when I heard he was writing “the Facebook movie,” I was intrigued.
Sorkin’s career has been a little rocky since the beginning of the 21st century, when he was the genius behind “The West Wing” and the gone-too-soon “Sports Night.” In recent years, he wrote a Mike Nichols movie (“Charlie Wilson’s War”) that was decent, but not great, and he created and wrote a new TV series, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” which started out swimmingly but soon devolved into pure, utter garbage. (And I stuck with it the entire way, for the same reason I own the two books that collected some of Sorkin’s favorite teleplays from the first four seasons of the “West Wing.” I’m a fan.)
It appears, from all early reports and scene snippets, that he’s back on his A-game with “The Social Network.” It makes sense; when writing about genius upstarts crashing against a traditionalist system, he’s at his best (“A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing”). (Whereas with “Charlie Wilson’s War,” he was delving into foreign policy, never his strongest angle on “The West Wing,” especially in his final seasons, and when it comes to “Studio 60,” the less said the better.)
He spoke with W Magazine (and M.I.A.’s favorite writer Lynn Hirschberg) and the entire thing is tremendous.
“When I first got sober, my biggest fear was, Am I going to be able to write without cocaine? In the past my dealer would come over, and I’d do drugs all night long and I’d write high. I was worried that I couldn’t write with the sun out.” After rehab, to test himself, he took a two-week job polishing dialogue for a Michael Bay movie called The Rock. “I was just writing quips for Sean Connery and Nic Cage, but the first time I wrote in the daytime, I was so proud. Now my firewall is Roxy. I’d let her down if I relapsed.”
There’s much more, and it is all worth reading.
Here’s another look at why “The Social Network” is so off-putting to Mark Zuckerberg. It’s the same reason he disapproved of “The Accidental Billionaires” — it all stems from his breach with Eduardo Saverin, played in the movie by Andrew “New Spider-Man” Garfield. This time, some IMs and other chitchat delve into their split. [Business Insider]
Fresh off the big New Yorker profile of Mark Zuckerberg comes the first wave of reviews for “The Social Network,” the Facebook movie that seemingly precipitated that story. And they’re quite positive!
Devin Faraci, who made CHUD the best movie news site around until he recently departed, had this to say. He calls it:
…a big, chewy movie, one that is about so many things and has so many things to say. It’s dense and deep and often delightful. It’s a great film not just about the founding of Facebook, not just about living in the modern digital age, but also about the very impetus for creativity.
He also makes the excellent point that David Fincher, an obsessively visual director, may have found the perfect creative partner in Aaron Sorkin, an obsessively verbal writer. (For perhaps the first time since they were announced for their respective gigs, I actually understand why Sorkin and Fincher were drawn to this material.)