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Posts tagged “my generation

Review: The Social Network


The portrayal of Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) in the Aaron SorkinDavid Fincher production of The Social Network, is either that of a loser or someone cooler than everyone around him gives him credit for. I still don’t know which side I’m on. Let the debate begin.

ph. Sony

The film begins with an unromantic date between Mark and ‘Erica Albright’ (Rooney Mara), where Mark prattles on about the final clubs, which ‘lead to a better life.’ Their words are speedy my now. Erica starting a sentence with ‘From a woman’s perspective,’ a phrase that from my experience a woman might only say when she gets cornered in a conversation by a group with at least two men in it. The date ends badly since Erica has no sense of humour about going to BU, but in fairness, he didn’t talk about her alma mater with a light joke neither.

Mark then goes to his dorm room, goes on livejournal and implies something about Erica’s last name being Anglicized from ‘Albrecht,’ an implication that short-sighted people resort to in hurting times. That won’t be the last time he makes a ‘Hitler youth‘ implication. God knows I would have done worse. Eisenberg narrates Zuckerberg’s lj with dignity, which is difficult since we’re talking about lj here. He also creates Facemash.com. As well as being proud of having better productivity while drunk and forgetting that drinking Beck’s while making a sexist website, like most things you do drunk, have heavy consequences. He gets called out by the ad board, gives them a telling off that doesn’t make the board sympathize with him in any way and gets an academic probation.

What ensues is the body of the film – two separate lawsuits against Mark from the Winklevi (Arnie Hammer and Josh Pence) and from his co-founder and former CFO, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). The three wear suits, are mannered, respectful. Mark, sporting hoodies or uncomfortable dress shirts, pays no deference to the legal process and tries to interrupt the testimonies with snide comments. However, the binaries between the plaintiffs and Mark are hazier than that.

The first scene with Erica shows Mark’s clear stance on the final clubs, but he gets less vocal about them as the time line of the film progresses. He does voice his resentment to the Winklevi by rebutting that he was only allowed in the Porcellian house’s bike room, but that speaks more of the twins’ lack of hospitality that it does his wish for inclusion.

Mark drags both the Winklevi Eduardo down, both having to expose their insecurities of exclusion and daddy issues and thinking he’s going through the same. He tells Eduardo that ‘he wasn’t gonna get in anyway,’ and from personal experience, nerds can be hurtful towards normal people. His remarks get a stranger reaction, as Eduardo starts looking for Mark’s approval, routinely updating him about his final club, the Phoenix. When their partnership really sours, Eduardo freezes the $19000 account to get Mark’s attention. Again, Mark has said zip to confirm that his reasons for betraying the three boys is partly because of his exclusion and their inclusion. What happened? Does having a billion dollars make Mark indifferent to these clubs? Did he grow up? Or are the three still right about him, feeling the same resentment that they’ve carried for years?

The film also makes Mark resort to proud begging, never having neither to plead nor apologize to anyone he’s ever hurt. In trying to appease Eduardo after the account freezing business, Mark tells him that he would love for Eduardo to come down to Palo Alto and resume his work as the website’s CFO. This proud begging specifically applies to his treatment of Erica after his harsh words to her in a bar. He never has the chance to apologize about her or to any of his new enemies, really. Neither does he, thankfully, have an Erica shrine to moon over – he has her Facebook page for that. Instead he asks to get food with her, a private conversation, a friend request. Usually for the latter, when bad break-ups are involved, a friend request follows a message for the other person. Yes, he incessantly clicks refresh instead checking it later like the rest of us cool kids might do. I might sound like I’m over-reading but justifying what others see as an obsession, but it’s as if she has to add him first before she gets to hear what he has to say. Or his friend request is a way to meet her face to face, hopefully. It’s both childish and fair at the same time.

The Social Network isn’t the movie of a generation. Thankfully the movie wasn’t like two Judge Mathis episodes. And sure, the characters here are the most layered ones I’ve seen this year. Its rendition of some ideas, like how to introduce an idea to the public, are greatly done. Yet the film limits itself. It also allows no room for believable emotional eruptions nor awakenings and comes off as cold and distant, and this is from a guy who likes ‘subtle.’ The pacing is off, like a symphony that darts you with violins, only letting us rest when the rain comes. Sorkin needs to slow down once in a while. The women, although some have argued as a stand-in for the audience, have the best lines but also the least dimensions. It doesn’t have the same visual punch as a classic film it’s been compared to, Citizen Kane. Despite of those things, we have Mark, a boy who covets, a performance and character that many more will write about.


Les Amours Imaginaires


Xavier Dolan‘s Les Amours Imaginaires, or Heartbeats is about Francis (Dolan) and Maria Callas lookalike Marie. While writing the previous sentence, I just realized why Dolan named his character ‘Francis.’ Marie, however, is the kind of girl who asks ‘Do you think of movie stars when you make love.’ [ETA: Nobody thinks about movie stars during 90 seconds of lovemaking, stop asking. If you find someone who does think of movie stars while making love, shank them. Sex is like a conversation, you think about yourself and the person in front of you. Nobody’s ADD is that bad. Just because movie stars arouse you and sex arouses you doesn’t mean. Worst syllogism ever. And you know what, Angelina Jolie thinks about movie stars while lovemaking because she’s in a civil union with one. I call a fatwa on this question.] Anyway, these socially awkward young adults find a hot Adonis-like guy in their social circle. The latter’s name is Nicolas, seducer yet seemingly wholesome. By including him in Francis and Marie’s friendship, he should be the third wheel, but he manages to make them feel like said third wheel. Francis changes his description of his ideal to fit Nicolas, and tells this in front of another lover. That this is Francis’s first ‘is he gay’ guy makes me wonder how he never went through this in high school. Or buys Nicolas a plain-looking $500 ‘tangerine’ sweater for a birthday present after knowing him for two months, which oh brother. [ETA: I’ll punch my child in the mouth if he ever makes an expensive mistake like this, which tells a lot about how I was raised.]

ph. OutNow

Nicolas talks about holding a 91 hours a week seismograph job that he looks too twinky to handle, kisses both Francis and Marie in the cheek, kisses a girl’s hand the first time he meets her. Everyone’s nerdy best friend will tell you that this guy’s bad news, but no such character exists in the film. The nerdy best friend within us keeps thinking of the other times when we got rejected and hoping we weren’t this shattered at 20 or 21. Marie does notice something fishy about him in his drunken birthday party but does nothing about it.

An hour or so after watching the film I realize that Nicolas as a character is deliberately posited with a mysterious, impressionistic sheen in trying to make him more complex and less villainous. He’s the ‘other’ compared to the needy kids that dominate the film. He charms and runs. This cycle might say more about his character than anything Francis thankfully didn’t narrate about him. Making him mysterious, however, doesn’t make him any more sympathetic.

There are also interviews of three Montreal hipsters. Girl 1 will live a life of rejection because her patrician nose and glasses come with a perma-scowl. Boy talks about Kinsey. Girl 2 thinks it’s cute that her beau is 39 minutes late for everything. We come back to these people two more times into the film.

So that’s a total of four bitter girls and boy out of six characters keeping a torch for an undeserved love. The film shows both broken hearts and trying to hide the broken hearts underneath a ‘cool’ exterior – the latter done way awkwardly, by the way. There is interestingly more focus on the former, the interior these characters, than the latter. It’s also mean to negate characters’ hurt feelings. But that Dolan’s worldview suggest that 67% of us are sensitive puppy dogs inside, or that if this state of mind is more accurate than we’d like to admit, or that these people aren’t shown doing other things to distract themselves and have little or no intention to move on. They look like they have had lives before this guy has come along. And where are their parents?


Restrepo


ph. National Geographic Entertainment

Restrepo chronicles 15 months in the lives of soldiers deployed in outposts of the breathtaking, unassuming and dangerous Korangal Valley in Afghanistan. Journalist/ co-directors Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington capture it in a cellphone camera, shaky cam, non-shaky cam and post-interviews when we get too close into the soldier’s faces. In one of the documentary’s first scenes as the troops drive up to their outposts, the Taliban starts shooting at them. The directors didn’t have time to get sound equipment. It feels like the camera has luck instead of access to capture what they can, making the experience too raw and real. Yes, the first few scenes are jarring, but things eventually smooth out when the multicultural, heterosexual platoon create an outpost they call OP Restrepo.

In another earlier scene, Cortez uses updated Joseph Conrad language but we can’t spite him because he follows that with realizing the possibility of his death within the same sentence. He also talks about the effects he’s experienced of a certain mission in his tour of duty in the Korangal. The directors juxtapose the not-so-bad with the bad, duplicating the emotional whirlwind that the soldiers face daily. Pemble-Belkin has hippie parents, goes to war, draws the scenic valley that might kill him. His mother’s birthday follows a charismatic comrade’s death. A shot of another officer sun tanning gets me nervous because we saw his legs first. They’re told they’re coming home and later told that nine men from another platoon have died.

There are so many little details packed into this film, aided by the soldiers’ different personalities. These guys are knowledgeable in geography and strategy and try their hardest in public relations. That they’re silly enough to get into wrestling matches or make faint-praise gay jokes to each other, or drag each other into dancing to shitty 80’s remix music. That they’re allowed to bring their PS2 consoles. That they’re shirtless a lot, even in winter, which still makes me kinda jealous. That asking for unconditional love and cooperation after accidentally killing a few locals is a splendid way of apologizing,  Kearney.

That reminds of the few ‘shuras’ or meetings with the elderly men with dyed red beards featured in the film show that the locals in the film might be nameless but aren’t entirely voiceless. Also, strangely, the few shots of local women and children whose costumes are still colourful despite the war, one girl shying away from the camera. Or birds circling the snowy peaks of the valley makes me think I’ve watched a muscular version of Black Narcissus.

Let me use this part of this post to kinda gripe about the conventions of war films, a genre I didn’t know I loved. Thankfully, this film doesn’t show nor push for war archetypes. Yes, the soldiers sometimes remind me that they’re still the frat boy meat heads of yore by shooting ammo and letting out a hoot. Or when they’re slightly amused by the Taliban running and their body parts dangling, but no more. There are no local bleeding hearts, just ones with grievances. There are blood-soaked uniforms instead of gratuitous death scenes, especially that of the youngest, innocentest one we see in war films. Coldly recounted events instead of soliloquies. Kearney makes passive-aggressive yet carefully constructed language about killing ‘individuals’ – delivered in a straightforward way – instead of being the groan-worthy token racist guy. And no close-ups of dead animals.

Lastly, there’s the other war archetype – Restrepo himself. The film and outpost get their names from PFC Juan C. Restrepo, the said charismatic soldier. The film’s references to him feel like laces, like a soldier gleefully remembering the drunken moments with him in Rome – and yes, I’m jealous because they’ve been to Rome. Or another impersonating his long fingernails and fantabulous flamenco guitar skills, giving us the impression that he may have talked funny. He seemed like a Cool Hand Luke figure, getting that nostalgic treatment because of his death. Nonetheless, this film isn’t about him, a story of a martyr but about the living and their everyday struggles and little acts of bravery.


The Kids Are All Right


ph. Focus

The trailer for The Kids are All Right shows Manohla Dargis calling it a ‘near note-perfect portrait of a modern family,’ in a way that it shows complex implications to the words ‘biological’ and ‘parent,’ there are clashes,  affairs, dinners with people who are having affairs, cathartic speeches of redemption. It’s a typical formula if not for the slow pacing, the script, tick-y acting from the major players and the hand-held cam close-ups in group scenes, all giving the impression of a balance between improvisation and direct delivery.

Basically, two teenagers from lesbian parents look for the sperm donor, and whatever ensues, ensues.

Annette Bening as Nic is the best in show without trying. I’ve only seen her in crazy parts (American Beauty, Running With Scissors). Other reviews have tried to sell her as the stable one in the relationship, and she is that. She can also be ‘not my real self,’ be acidic, be the embarrassing drunk one, be the one who has to deal with the headaches just like a parent. Her first line at the first dinner conversation about Jules’ (Julianne Moore) truck makes the audience follow her more. Her calm reaction to a shocking revelation proves that Bening’s performance becomes the greatest one within greatest performances.

I’m ambivalent about Laser (Josh Hutcherson) as a character. It was his idea to contact their sperm donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo). A little selling point for the movie and his character that he might or might not be ‘too close to his loser friend Clay,’ that subplot being really hilarious. He also doesn’t know how to talk to Paul, being directly hostile about Paul’s opinions about little things, this approach somehow different from his sister, college age Joni (Mia Wasikowska) just smiling at him. Despite of those things, I don’t feel like I got to know the guy. He must have had female friends, unless that’s what ticked off Nice and Jules. I think Laser just fades into the background after the scene with the talk.

O hai, HaySpayTu. Tanya (Yaya da Costa) is a bit Earth Mother Archetype to me, just like a grown-up version of the real Yaya da Costa we know.

And hai, Peggy’s lesbian wooer (Zosia Mamet) from “Mad Men!”

I also wanna talk about the Susan G. Cole critiques to this movie. A) Mark Ruffalo doesn’t even act like a stoner in this movie and the last time he did that was in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I think he actually does his best to defend his character – a lesser actor would have just laid there and portray Paul as the dirt bag that he is on the script. B) Bisexuality exists. I’ll concede that the film uses a Degrassi: TNG storyline, and that she’s not alone in thinking that the Jules and Paul thins is BS, but a plausibly realistic one.  But then I’m not a lesbian so I don’t know how strong their fortitude is against Mark Ruffalo. Mine isn’t.

Now that that’s all out, time to download the rest of the soundtrack!


Scott Pilgrim: A Bibliography


Un Chien Andalou (1927) – Starting in one place and ending in another.

Looney Tunes (1930-1969) – Pointed out by Brad Brevet. Fight captions, as well as Scott leaving through the window.

A Star is Born ’37 – Lights on a cityscape far-ish away ?

The Lady Eve (1941) – Barbara Stanwyck reveals her many – fictional – exes to her new husband on public transportation. In the original graphic novel, Ramona does this on the Yonge-Finch subway train. Ha!

ph. Universal

Singin’ in the Rain (1952) – Goofball bursts through painted backdrop. Also, love triangle between histrionic and ‘intellectual.’

The Searchers (1956) – Roxy Richter is Scar and Michael Cera is John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter in the same person?

Vertigo (1958) – John’s Ferren’s thin white whirlpool. [ETA: Also, zoom in dolly out when Scott and Lucas Lee run to each other and fight.]

Pillow Talk (1959) – Split screen, especially in phone conversations.

Richard Lester‘s films (1964 – ) Jason Anderson interviewed Edgar Wright who talked about four critics who compared the movie to Lester’s films.

Eraserhead (1977) – The white screen.

Hausu (1977) – Asian schoolgirls, one of whom is named Kung Fu, and thus, kicks ass.

Star Wars (1977) – I can’t believe it took me days to realize the swords. Fucking duh!

The Last Waltz (1978) – Sex Bob Omb plays empty room. Also, Young Neil looks like a young Neil Young.

[ETA] Hair (1979) Medium (?) close-up of Knives Chau’s (Ellen Wong) image panning from right to left just like the Asian girl singing ‘Walking in Space.’

Phantom of the Paradise (1980) – Evil rock band contract deals. Final fight scene in rock venue where, SPOILER, both men technically die.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1989) – Scott apparently modeled between Ferris and the other guy.

“Seinfeld” (1990) – I didn’t know Jerry was gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Poison (1991) – A gay guy and a straight in sleeping in the same bed?

Riki-Oh (1991) – Hero fights hunks first before fighting skinny Asian dudes. What the fuck is up with that?

Dracula ’92 – Enemy evaporates at will?

The Big Lebowski (1998) Dream sequence portraying altitude and doors and love.

Rushmore (1998) – Dweeb in a love triangle between white girl and Asian.

American Beauty (1999) – But instead of roses, there’s a shower of hearts.

Fight Club (1999) – Protagonist fights many enemies and eventually has a fight with SPOILER himself.

High Fidelity (2000) – Pretentious CD store with rude customer service – the Sonic Boom people are nice, by the way – and movie about exes and the one true love.

Romeo Must Die (2000) – Guy uses girl to fight other girl, or the other way around.

ETA: Harry Potter (film series) (2001-2011) – Scott’s sister says ‘It’s been over a year since you got dumped by “she who will not be named.”‘

Gerry (2002) – Hazy desert scene. Dead white boy.

Phone Booth (2002) – By the way, there is no phone booth like that in Bloor and Bathurst.

“Arrested Development” (2003) – Apparently Michael Cera and the lesbian ex dated in a string of episodes.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) – Animation interludes depicting violent childhood. Also, fight between velvety voiced white girl and shout-y Asian. [ETA: Scott fighting Lucas Lee’s stunt doubles remind me of the Crazy 88.]

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) – Pirates are in this year!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) – Dweeb hooks up with girl who changes her hair colour a lot.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) – MegaScott kinda looks like Zombie Ed.

The Fantastic Four (2005) – Chris Evans. Good actor.

The Last Winter (2006) – CGI air animals? We’ve probably seen this before.

Superman (2006) – The unrecognizable Brandon Routh.

[ETA] Juno (2007) – Michael Cera probably loses his movie virginity for the first time here.

Let the Right One In (2008) – The snow and swings. Also, ovaries > balls.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – Jason Schwartzman kinda plays a superhero ?

Up in the Air (2009) – Anna Kendrick reuses her archetypal role as the younger but sane one.

Chloe (2010) – Movie about Toronto, awesome architecture, creepy phone calls.

Armond White is correct, okay? There are tons of movie references. If I wanna over-read these references, most of the recognizable are from movies made in the past decade, which means that these movies are worth referring to. Despite my pessimism, new movies aren’t so bad after all.

Yes, it underperformed at the box office, probably because of  apprehensions, as Peter Martin points out, that the references do target the ‘video game generation.’ The first reference I pointed out is from 1927. I don’t know if that helps ‘people over 30’ to be herded into the theatres, but if I could see a relationship to pop culture before video games, hopefully someone else will.


Y Tu Mama Tambien


ph. Focus

My TA John was talking about subtext in film and talked about this movie in how Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna) are using Luisa’s (Maribel Verdu) sexually to hide their feelings for each other. Annoyingly I interject ‘But isn’t it also about the history and sociology of Mexico undergoing generational and political change?’ He, like a saint, replies something in the lines of ‘Yes, as well as about two dudes who secretly wanna fuck each other.’

The second time around, I appreciated how much Luisa rubs that subtext in the guys’ faces.

My mom walked into the scene when Tenoch was having sex with Luisa. And apparently my aunt was ‘shocked,’ even though the latter quipped that my viewing of it was ‘educational.’ That went well.

The first time I full watched this movie was thankfully by the time I was in college, since nudity would be close to nothing to me and just cared about the bleak Mexican landscapes. And this movie also taught me what ‘pendejo’ means.

The second time around might feel like grasping at straws, but when you’re watching a movie the second time do you just look at things like the characters’ tastes in interior design, books, music, etc.? This is a movie about teenage boys, a social demographic that barely if ever cleans their house or are tacky enough to put lots of stickers in their cars. Like the anarchy sticker on the right hind (?) windows, showing how Julio shares his car with his college activist sister. That we’re always looking out through the right set of windows to be reminded of that sticker once in a while. Or, most likely unrelated to teenage aesthetics, that I’m kinda angry that I can’t tell who the girl is in that Vogue Eyewear ad campaign at the background in the end of the movies. Or that Luisa hasn’t touched that Yeats book that her pretentious, cheating ass fiance owns. Or that there’s a hotel in rural Mexico with nice beds and a shitty pool. Or, as Lars pointed out the Jules et Jim and Harold and Maude poster and  in the room where Tenoch is fucking either Ana or Ceci. Both posters also foreshadow the film’s plot.

Also, where is Maribel Verdu’s ticket to Hollywood? Yes, she has Pan’s Labyrinth, but where’s her Bad Education or Milk or Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Verdu can tell Debbie Downer stories without sounding like Debbie Downer herself.

Speaking of Debbie Downer, I’m trying to fully articulate what I think about Luisa. She’s receptive of the adolescent goofiness of Tweedele-boi and Tweedle-bum, cries in private, receptive again – no pun intended, then she blows up on them, then receptive again. It’s difficult to believe that she easily adapted a Hanna Schmitz-like role towards these boys and/or that she only came out with them as a now-or-never thing. Tenoch lightly accuses Julio of being a leech, but she partakes in the leechiness too. Sexual favours, her escape towards a paradise death – dying in Heaven’s Mouth, so to speak. And that we only see her cry once without having a barrier between her and the camera shows how we’re seeing this woman from a man’s gaze – we pity her but we will never understand her, and it’s a bit frustrating but thankfully not distracting from the film’s merits.

Bechdel time! Luisa asks tour guide Chuy’s wife Mabel for travel tips for where the other beaches are, and she also asks about the beautiful native names of the beaches and towns. Pass!

And not the biggest fan of the shakycam.

Lastly, I also wonder whether Julio and Tenoch would ever friend each other on Facebook.


Fat Girl


ph. Criterion

I’m trying to be nicer to this movie because what Roger Ebert and Liza Schwarzbaum and one other critic I can’t find have said about this movie are valid. Girls like sisters Elena, 15 and the titular fat girl Anais, 12, or at least adolescents, can be cruel to each other and then hug and comfort each other the next morning as if nothing happened. And yes, what happened in the ending can happen. You can’t blame the mother (Arsinee Khanjian) for making her choice because motels are just as creepy.

But there’s three things that bugged me during the movie. First is the mother’s thin characterization Her blase response to her husband’s question that “young people meet” makes her a passive accomplice to Elena and Anais’ sexual misadventures. Elena flirts with law student Fernando while Anais is the same room, while the parents are in the same house. Fernando and Elena opens doors, they converse, the smoke cigarettes, Elena has anal sex with Fernando for the first time. The first thing on that list should have woken the parents up. Then when Fernando’s mother reveals the relationship, both mothers are shocked as if nobody knew what was  going on.

Second, that Elena is  stupid enough to fall for Fernando’s lies. Anais is Elena’s foil in that she’s smarter and more jaded about sex despite being a virgin. She represents the contemporary adolescent, in theory smarter than their predecessors. Elena’s smitten by Fernando, and she really wants the experience. But she doesn’t even listen to reason, even from Fernando. When I was watching this movie, the future parent in me came out in full fury.

Lastly, there were parts when I felt there wasn’t enough of Anais. She is the fat girl in the title, why can’t she have her own misadventures? And the ending doesn’t count as one.