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September 25, 2010


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Norm Wilner

Were you at the junket screening? That sounds an awful lot like the legendary Earl Dittman.

Glenn Kenny

No, it was the Friday a.m. NYFF screening at the Walter Reade...


That guy over at Wells' site equates the triviality of a movie about Facebook to a (hypothetical) movie about the creation and marketing of 'Hello Kitty' -- maybe it's just me, but I'd love to see such a film!

If the tackling of self-evidently big, important and memorable subjects automatically resulted in big, important and memorable movies, then Richard Attenborough would be regarded as one of cinema's biggest, most important and memorable directors.

But it doesn't, and Attenborough sure as heck ain't.


As good as "All about Eve"? Wow. That's... quite a pronouncement.

It's the kind of thing that publicists would inmediately grab as a blurb for the ad campaign... that is, if more than 5% of current moviegoers knew what "All about Eve" is.


If someone does up an awesome FILM SOCIALISME/SOCIAL NETWORK mash-up, I will buy them a jet airplane. STIPULATION: must have an original theme song by the Sons of Pioneers as sung by Professor Pluggy, in authentic Navajo.

Norm Wilner

Glenn, the junket's happening this weekend -- it's entirely possible they got Dittman into your screening as a scheduling thing. Was he wearing a baseball cap? Did he need two canes to walk? Did he speak too loudly in a vaguely Southern accent?

Seriously, I can't believe there's another person who looks like that (and claps in the same way when he's laughing) in this industry.

Oh, @PaulJBis; just say "Showgirls" instead of "All About Eve". You'll die a little inside, but more people will understand what you're talking about ...


I am somewhat interested in seeing this movie, but from the outside, its subject matter doesn't seem to me to be "unworthy of cinema" so much as "hard to make compelling on film." I guess the story of Mark Zuckerberg, creepy freak, is sort of interesting, but he's a little young for the Charles Foster Kane treatment. I'd be more interested in a movie that told the stories of Facebook users - what they use the site for, and how that breaks down by age, region, etc., without it turning into the equivalent of a Powerpoint demographics report. That would probably do a better job of limning the social change you're talking about in your post - one I believe is very real and very important. I mean, my Facebook profile might as well be a LinkedIn profile - almost all my "friends" are people I've written articles for, writers I've assigned things to while working as an editor, musicians I've written about or met through other musicians, etc., etc. Out of 500-some friends, less than a dozen are related to me, and only one or two are people I went to school with or anything like that. And my wife is not a Facebook user. But we're very much the exceptions, I think.

Glenn Kenny

@ Norm: No, this guy walked without canes, and skewed a lot younger than the fellow you mentioned...who I just Googled and...oh my. Yeah, I've seen that dude, he's all sinister and shit. This guy WAS a lot younger, like a preppie who'd been inflated, and...wow, I can't believe we're talking about this poor unfortunate soul who's not here to defend himself, although, what would he say? "It's glandular, and 'Karate Kid' is awesome"? Who knows?

Coming up in consumer electronics journalism, I became acquainted in the mid-80s with a good number of morbidly obese scribes. All of whom are dead now, of course. I particularly remember one fellow, white of beard, who was known for having incredibly discerning ears and being a terrible, contempt-dripping snob, and he really was...I mean, at my pre-internet worst, I looked like Judah Friedlander in that give-everybody-a-hug Dave Matthews video next to this guy. High-end audio reps would quake in fear as he tooled the hallways of Vegas hotels in his scooter, ready to tell anybody that their $25,000 mono tube pre-amp just didn't quite make it...

Anyway, one year the guy had had his stomach stapled as a potential corrective to his problem of being unfuckingbelievably huge, and if one looked very hard one could see that he had dropped a few pounds, but he was still finding his new regimen, whatever the hell it was, pretty challenging. I had to sit at a table with him at a big RCA dinner (despite his deploring the shoddy products of the mass manufacturers, he was still more than willing to dine on their dime), and I watched in an almost hypnotic state as, before the dinner proper began, he plucked pre-packaged butter pats from a bowl in the center of the table, peeled off their tops, and sucked the still more-or-less frozen butter out of them, one by one. Holy shit.

Norm Wilner

That's ... horrifying. I want to say something glib -- "this is why the terrorists hate us" -- but that's just so very, very awful. I think I need to lie down now.

(Back to the Dittman thing, the guy didn't seem too far into his thirties when I met him a couple of years back on the "Dark Knight" junket.)

(I kinda hate junkets.)


As much as I want to see the movie (read the script, big fan of Sorkin's, with a couple of exceptions, big fan of Fincher's, with one major exception (yes, it was BENJAMIN BUTTON), fan of the leads), I am a little tired of Sorkin's bashing of the Internet. I don't mind his proclaiming this has grander themes than that, because (a) it does, and (b) that may have been his way into the story. But considering how he not only used to be an enthusiastic contributor to the Internet back in the days of "The West Wing," but also how Internet folks were his biggest fans back in the day, it seems more than a little wrong. I mean, yes, he's had bad experiences with it back in the TWW days, but I think that was partly his own fault, and shouldn't turn him into a snob about it.

Glenn Kenny

@ lipranzer: Yeah, Sorkin should basically NEVER do interviews, as it tends to make Sorkin-bashing more justifiable, and more fun. Also, his speaking voice resembles Harvey Fierstein's, which is odd when you think about how much Sorkin would like to think he's an older doppelganger for Aaron Eckhart. But whatever. His script for "Social Network" is, I think, precisely the sort of thing that made his reputation, so it's worth holding your nose about the guy himself.

@ Norm: Well, the funny thing is, this guy really fancied himself rather European, sensibility-wise. I think the kind of consumption he, um, embodied transcended nationalist traits...

Stephen Whitty

Thanks for this, Glenn.

I loved this movie, and was thrilled to see it, although if it hadn't had Fincher's name attached, I admit I wouldn't have looked forward to it so eagerly. (I think Sorkin writes great dialogue, but if you read it on the page, with the characters' names redacted, I wonder if you'd be able to tell who was speaking -- like Woody Allen, a lot of his people sound alike to me).

But, no, I thought the film was top-to-bottom terrific, straight down the line to the Trent Reznor contributions to the soundtrack.

And as for those who wonder that Facebook is too "trivial" a subject for serious art -- well, yes, people use social-networking sites for a lot of nonsense. Just as there are a lot of bad snapshots out there, or awful network shows. But that doesn't mean that photography or television themselves aren't of huge interest in what they mean as media and in the way they changed our culture.

Preaching to the choir, of course, but it's what an artist makes of his or her subject, isn't it, whether it's James Whale and monsters or Douglas Sirk and melodrama? (It's a much more minor example, but I remember having a fine time years ago at "White Men Can't Jump" and "Tin Cup," even though basketball, golf and Don Johnson all pretty much bore me to distraction.)

p.s. And while we're on junket trolls? PLEASE, who is that terrible old man who sits in the front row actually TYPING UP HIS REVIEW on some Radio Shack laptop while the movie screens? And how can he be stopped?


Glenn, you shouldn't have told that story. Today's been unpleasant enough as it is without reading about a guy sucking up frozen butter.

Sorkin, by the way, is the big stumbling block for me. I'm simply not a fine of the guy, at all. His style grates terribly on me, so I can only hope he used some different tools this time around.

Aaron Aradillas

At the promotional screening I attended on Wednesday night, the KARATE KID line got one of the biggest laughs. I think the line works because it comes out of nowhere, yet makes perfect sense within the conversation that's taking place. The line did make me wonder about its origins. Sorkin diesn't seem like the kind of dude who would write a shout-out to an awesome '80s go-for-broke sleeper that changed the lives of every 10-year-old who saw it on HBO throughout their youth.

Another big laugh was when Eduardo's crazy girlfriend asked him, "Why does your relationship status say single?"

I must admit to giving a golf clap when Mark asked, "Does that answer your condescending question?"

NOt to spoil anything, but any true music lover will appreciate Fincher's choice for a closing-credits song. It's a song that has never been featured on any of the band's multiple best-of compilations, but I can't think of a better, more fitting song for the moment.

John M

Yeah, the Karate Kid line got the biggest laugh overall at yesterday's screening at Walter Reade. Because it's funny and surprising. So, maybe leave the overweight guy alone. (And it's not like it was thrown in there among a bunch of high-toned jokes about Adam Smith and Corneille...the movie's pretty easy to follow.)

But also, and perhaps (frankly) the nastiness of this post highlights this, self-loathing and incivility are, I'd say, bigger problems in the film critic community than weight gain. It's easy to lash out at the fat guy when the rest of the world could easily lash out at...for example...bottomless wells of sarcasm and an inability to look people in the eye (characteristics many critics seem to share...to say nothing of the adult acne, the sad pallor, the bad shoes, etc.) I'm not just pointing fingers at Glenn here, who seems aware of the pettiness here, but hey, ridiculing a guy one row behind him...this is a little icky.

I mean, nevermind the junket losers: anyone ever interacted with Jonathan Rosenbaum? Yeah, it's not pleasant. Good critic, but let's just say you wouldn't want to share a foxhole with him.

Paul Johnson

I've yet to have my Fincher conversion moment, but your write-up, along with Fincher's ability to stay on my list of 'interesting, oh yes very interesting, I must admit' directors without ever quite winning my affections, has actually made me eager to see this one. Fincher's skill at fabricating worlds hermetically and paranoiacally sealed off from the rest of history has always been his talent and curse, and it looks like that tendency might fit this narrative especially well. The fawning, carefully sculpted preciousness of Benjamin Button made that movie intolerable to me, but this sounds like it turns a critical, if not unsympathetic eye, to the insularity of its characters and their milieu, so at the very least, it looks unlikely it will be a repeat of the teeth gnashing experience of Button.

Aaron Aradillas

Anyone want to guess the headline of Armond White's review of THE SOCIAL NETWORK?

Glenn Kenny

@ Norm and Bill: Boy. You guys are squeamish. Remind me not to tell you another story from the same era, of breakfast with another morbidly obese consumer electronics journalist, who was also very heavily acne-scarred, and enjoying a hearty plate of sunny-side up fried eggs. Memories...light the corners of my mind...

@Bill: Just go in and don't even THINK ABOUT Aaron Sorkin. I'm 80% sure you'll be fine.

@ John M.: Your comments make me wanna lay into the fat guy even more; how's that for abnormal psychology? But seriously...I know that the "Karate Kid" reference is a legitimate universal laugh line. And it's not as if the guy then burst into tears at "Why does your relationship status say 'single'?" The point, inasmuch as I actually had one, was that this guy was laughing VERY ostentatiously, clapping his hands, making sure everybody knew that he GOT IT and he LOVED IT...exactly as an obnoxious smarty-pants self-styled cinephile might do at a Film Forum screening of "Pierrot le fou" when Belmondo drops Celine's name. Which I found kind of...interesting. Know what I'm saying?

John M

You wanna make fun of him more? Jeesh, poor guy!

I know what you're saying, Glenn. Unfortunately, "laughing out loud to signal that one's retention of the film is greater than others" is a characteristic of many other critics I've witnessed, good and bad, and many serious filmgoers at Forum, Anthology, etc. For whatever reason, a lot of the specimens who go into that world grasp at certain defense mechanisms more baldly than most. As if to say, "Yes, I spend a great chunk of my life watching movies in the dark, but have no fear, I'm really getting it."

The reverse reaction is almost as pathological. Didn't you write a post somewhere about being yelled at for laughing at...some comedy? Now THAT'S funny.

Also, @bill: I know what you mean about Sorkin, but really, yeah, your problems might evaporate during The Social Network. Fincher and his incredibly nuanced performers have digested Sorkinese quite well. (Regarding Franzen, though: you might wanna steer clear. His angry liberals might just...make you angry.)


@Glenn - I am weirdly squeamish about gross food stories/images. Hardee's used to have these commercials that relentlessly and noisely featured people eating burgers, and it made my skin crawl. But I like food! I do! A lot!

As for Sorkin, it is my hope that your advice pays off.

@John M - Eh. I'm at a point where, politicially speaking, I pretty much hate everybody and everything. My personal views haven't changed much, but I don't feel particularly loyal to any public figure or party these days. Which doesn't mean Franzen won't drive my crazy with bloodlust, but I'm still willing to give THE CORRECTIONS a shot.

John M

Yes, bill, in that case, definitely give THE CORRECTIONS a shot. I should also point out that one of the main (and eventually sympathetic) characters in FREEDOM is a Republican.

By the way, whether or not you read FREEDOM or THE CORRECTIONS first wouldn't matter. In case you're excited about water cooler cred, or something--"I've just finished the latest Franzen!"--but I somehow doubt you care.

Tom Carson

@bill: be warned, the opening scene of SOCIAL NETWORK is likely to drive you nuts. It's damn near a parody of rapid-fire Sorkinese, and Fincher doesn't exactly diminish this by using alternating closeups to underline Zuckerberg's isolation and mule-brained social awkwardness. But then, I do believe, things get better. A lot.

Tom Russell

I once ate an entire stick of butter to win a $10 bet. Those are the only circumstances, I believe, in which consuming butter-- just butter, all on its lonesome-- is excusable.

John M

I should maybe throw in a note or two of demurral re: THE SOCIAL NETWORK, as much as I enjoyed it.

Things to discuss: the way the third act just sort of fizzles away. The nagging lack of consequence. The feeling that, after all, this is a fairly run-of-the-mill True Tale dressed up with very fine directing and very fine dialogue. After so much I've read, it really only hints at the greater themes: weirdly enough, Facebook and the effect most fear in Facebook (a breakdown of privacy) get brushed over.

And, yeah, no way does Harvard actually feel like that.


@John M - The water cooler thing isn't something I seek out, but I certainly don't mind it. It's just that the few times I actually try to get in on something on the ground floor, it doesn't work. Due to a mistake at my local Barnes & Noble, I was able to buy, and read, Roth's THE HUMBLING about two weeks before anybody else who's not a paid critic. But then nobody talked about the damn thing (which I liked a lot, by the way).

@Tom Carson - I don't expect Sorkin's style to be completely invisible. That's too much to ask for. I plan on gritting my teeth and hoping for the best.

John M

"It's just that the few times I actually try to get in on something on the ground floor, it doesn't work."

bill, you sound just like a Jonathan Franzen character.


Besides that it's kinda cheap to slap at me without bothering to make your case in any real way, I should point out that I don't think The Social Network is lesser than All About Eve either. And like All About Eve, I suspect that the grandest cult around this film will be an unexpected one.

Like Precious last year, Social Network is a movie that really works best for a group that is not portrayed in the film. Then "smart people" can attach all their stuff to it, even though it's not in the film.

Regardless, as my apparently ridiculous review said, repeatedly, it's a very, very good movie. But I don't see any cultural importance to it, by Sorkin's design. Maybe he thinks he hit the IMPORTANT key, but I have yet to read or hear from a single person who has convinced me that there is more there than meets the glibness. Good character. Good story. Beautifully shot. Well acted. Yay.

The movie doesn't touch on the cultural impact of Facebook in any meaningful way. It would be like saying that Super Size Me explores the impact of McDonald's. It doesn't. It presumes the impact. And because it is so familiar to everyone, that worked. Here, really, there isn't even that much of an effort to connect Facebook to culture. No one in the film is impacted by Facebook except as an object that is in their lives.

And the obsession some seem to have with comparing it to Citizen Kane is the triumph of myopia... 3 years in a 20something's life = an epic life spanning decades of change. Oy.

The only real "problem" I have with this film is not that I don't like it or think that it missed the boat by not being something more or something else. It's the absurd overreaching of the media squad, trying to taking things they like a lot and making them into cultural events.

I will keep reading, hoping to see the error of my ways... especially yours, Glenn. "A film isn't really necessarily "about" what it's about" YES. Obviously. My entire point.

Except that The Social Network IS about what it's about.

No shame in that. But as superlatives fly, I hope some people will plant their flags clearly. Arguments can be had. All I am saying is that I have not read a single piece that created a convincing bridge, for me, from this film to something more than the spectacular skill with which the story is told.


PS Shouldn't we be saving any All About Eve chat for Black Swan?

Victor Morton

Actually, the ALL ABOUT EVE film Ibsaw at Toronto was Alain Corneau's LOVE CRIME. In the Q-and-A, Ludivine Sagnier said, in response to yours truly, that EVE was the only explicit film reference Corneau gave the vast and crew, despite being a cinephilic director with a love for Hitchcock and Lang (the latter of whom you also can really see in LOVE CRIME, especially in a kind of geometric determinism)

Ricardo Cantoral

Please define how the "cinema" was brought to "The Social Network".

P.S. I don't care anything involving Facebook. Call me a snob then.

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