Friday, 29 October 2010

The Social Network (12A)

If the internet is the zeitgeist of our generation, then Facebook is surely its annex. Consequently, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood’s insatiable appetite for true-life stories beckoned but the speed at which the film arrived reeked of nothing more than the corporate exploitation of a cultural fad. That The Social Network succeeds in painting a mature, lucid and intelligent account of Mark Zuckerburg’s rise to wealth is a surprise indeed, though whether it is a success or not depends entirely on how one views it.

Before I give voice to my criticisms (of which there are few), I’ll detail the film’s considerable merits, not least of which is Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant screenplay. The opening scene alone features more witticisms than most scripts achieve in their entirety. The dialogue is quick, biting and superfluously clever and virtually every line is option-able as a potential clip for that inevitable nomination at next year’s Oscars. Admittedly, it’s the complete antithesis of the sort of realistic dialogue espoused by screenwriting ‘gurus’, but as a champion of stylistic speech, I could not be more pleased. In fact, at times it threatens to become too clever, emerging as a star in its own right and eclipsing the efforts of all those involved. Thankfully the cast performs each scene with a genuine lack of pretension, avoiding the type of self-importance of which overly ostentatious features like Brick (2005) are highly guilty. The increasingly likeable Jesse Eisenberg is particularly well-cast, delivering his lines with brutal conviction and shaking off his Zombie/Adventureland (2009) image with ease. His character is equal amounts admirable and loathsome, a delicate balance which very young actors could manage.

So where exactly does it falter? Well, mainly in direction. Visually, this is Fincher’s least ambitious work, although the sterile environments and direct shooting style do help to reinforce the central theme of communication. And indeed, all his auteurist trademarks can be spotted; low key lighting, rapid pans, clean cuts, offbeat soundtrack – and for the most part it works. The real problem is his inability to reign himself in. Fincher has always dabbled with postmodernism, be it the multi-layered ambivalence of Fight Club (1999) or Seven (1995)’s subversion of narrative conventions, but his recent work has taken perspectivism to the extreme. Zodiac (2007) lacked any real resolution while The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) flirted with numerous ideas, none of which were consistent. The same is true of The Social Network. What starts out as an underdog story gradually descends into a (highly falsified) warning against capital greed and halfway through our protagonist takes a backseat to proceedings. Things aren’t helped by the constant back-and-forth cutting between an often languid courtroom setting and Zuckerberg’s past. Ultimately, my real concern is this film’s struggle to identify itself; is this a film about the creator of Facebook, or Facebook itself? My guess is that it was supposed to be about the former, but in the process Tinsletown had to spice things up a little. At no point are we given a real insight to Zuckerberg’s character, his wants, his needs, and by the end of the picture you’re likely to struggle to answer what exactly it was all about.

So how one views The Social Network really determines how well it succeeds. As a simple origin tale it’s perfectly enjoyable but if you’re looking for anything deeper, prepare to be disappointed.


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A Beautiful Mind (2001) *****
Twenty Hour Four Hour Party People (2002) ****
Wall Street (1987) ***

Monday, 18 October 2010

My Model Romance

Megara - setting impossible standards
since 1997.

Dear reader, I have a confession to make – I am not a catch. My experience with the fairer sex is limited to say the least. Over the past 9 months I could count on one hand the entirety of my intimate encounters; with said hand belonging to an Iraqi thief. Although I subscribe this unrelenting loneliness to my failings as a man/lover/remotely interesting human being (delete as appropriate), external critics have the audacity to claim that unattainable standards are the true cause of my reclusive longevity. Poppycock I say! Pish posh! And other such snobbish onomatopoeia.

True, my standards may be somewhat ambitious but they’re far from impossible. I’m not asking for Aphrodite, but nor am I willing to settle for Medusa. As a matter of fact I’d be prepared to forego many of my stipulations provided that she/it is at least able to emerge the loser in a Janet Street porter-lookalike competition. That being said, I thought this would be the ideal platform on which to describe my dream woman should she ever stumble across this blog, which admittedly is about as likely as Osama bin Laden receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Then again, they did give it to this man.

Personality: A sense of humour is the number one priority. If the words of Frankie Boyle make her recoil in politically correct horror, she is not the girl for me. She must be creative, open-minded and staunchly conservative. Independent enough to trust her own opinions but intelligent enough to agree with mine.

See: Sarah Silverman, Tina Fey, Jennifer Saunders

Appearance: Facial hair is a definite turn-off, as is a police record. I am quite partial to a few tattoos and some red hair – basically Gwen Stefani before she turned old. Oh and her chest should be of a size capable of intimidating a small child.

See: Monica Bellucci, Christina Ricci, Jessica Rabbit

Ethnicity: To quote David Brent, I’d do most nationalities. Like all socially inept young men I have a strong preference for East Asians of the submissive ilk, the Japanese being my favourite. I’ve also developed a slight crush on black women of late, although if it is indeed true that once you go black you’ll never go back, I may turn out to be the biggest disappointment since Spider-man 3 (2007).

See: Rosario Dawson, Salma Hayek, Zhang Ziyi

Religion: Preferably without, or at least none-practicing – so most Christians then. Actually, provided she doesn’t follow the anti-Semitic teachings of a certain book (mentioning no names but it rhymes with one half of Duran Duran), I’d be willing to overlook anyone’s irrational belief in a higher power, providing that I’m able to ridicule and critique it at any given moment.

See: Richard Dawkins

Phwooar! There's nothing sexier than an atheist.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Where Do Wii Go From Here?

The line-up for Smash Bros. 4 was the
weakest yet.

Come March next year, millions of Mario aficionados will have their dextrously conditioned hands gripped tightly around Nintendo’s latest handheld, the 3DS. That it’s going to be a hit is a no-brainer, but with the Wii looking increasingly dated the question is what are the plans for Ninty’s next home console?

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t time to pull the curtain on the little white box just yet. Epic Mickey, Donkey Kong Country Returns and Goldeneye are all on the horizon while 2011 has both Kirby (for Europe) and Zelda at hand. Still, 2010 has seen an inevitable decline in Wii sales and with the release of Move and Kinect this is only going to get worse. To be fair, it’s highly unlikely that either product will capture the public’s imagination quite as impressively as Nintendo has, but sales figures aside, the Wii is far from infallible:

1) The technology is dated and has been from the moment it launched when the much hyped motion controls turned out to be far less accurate than originally thought. In fact 1:1 precision movement didn’t become available until 2 years later by which time most third parties had settled for using the remote as little more than a stick to be shaken. This leads me to:

2) Shovelware. Without the Nintendo seal of approval, studios have seen fit to publish any old rubbish and as such the Wii is often seen (wrongly) as a children’s toy. Admittedly, Nintendo hasn’t exactly endeared itself to fans by pursuing the casual market but there’s no denying that Wii Sports et al provide great entertainment for all but the most ardent of game snobs. And the last year has in fact seen a gradual return to hardcore gaming with the likes of Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M.

3)Unfortunately, what sells best on Nintendo is Nintendo and third party games rarely achieve the same level of success as a Mario or Pokemon. As such, the big N has pretty much exhausted it’s main catalogue for this generation, SMG2 being the peak. Sure there’s Zelda and Pikmin to look forward to, but after that? Should the Wii Vitality Sensor ever see the light of day – yet another useless peripheral – it certainly won’t be enough to sustain a 2-3 year lifespan.

4) Nintendo is staunchly opposed to embracing the internet, at least to the degree of its competitors. Whether this trepidation towards online functionality is based on cultural factors or an arrogant unwillingness to follow the crowd I can’t possibly say, but it is one which has plagued both the Wii and DS since their release. The lack of memory space, regular updates, online support, multimedia and freedom to explore has aged the Wii considerably over the past 4 years.

So what should we expect? And more importantly, when? Well, it seems blatantly clear that ‘Wii 2’ will arrive before Sony and Microsoft’s efforts. Their current machines were built for longevity and with Move and Kinect just launching they’ll want to get the most out of these latest accessories. The Wii on the other hand really has very little left up its sleeve. The technology which once wowed us has now been eclipsed and all the reliable franchises have been used up. Sure there’s always the possibility of F-Zero X or Starfox making a late appearance, but I wouldn’t count on it. With the 3DS poised to become the go to console over the next few years, I’d expect it to be the number one system for any first party series. And you can rule out a third Mario Galaxy right now. So unless Nintendo choose to milk the Wii for another 3 years, 2012 seems to me the likeliest date. It would be economic suicide to release both a home console and a portable within the same year so that rules out 2011. 2013 on the other hand leaves a huge gap with very few quality titles and the already inferior graphics will look positively draconian in three years’ time. My guess is that the first solid mention of the Wii’s successor will be during the next E3. In true Nintendo fashion this will be little more than a teaser, with the following year being the big reveal.

Regarding the specs, at this point it’s anyone’s guess. If the 3DS is anything to go by, expect a significant boost in horsepower, with a sizeable increase in memory and Sony/Microsoft-rivalling graphics. Nintendo has stated categorically that it won’t pursue 3D unless the effect can be achieved without the need for glasses so I’d rule that out entirely. Whatever happens though, you can guarantee that when it comes to Nintendo, expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Hidden Gems: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

*During the song ‘Out There’, Quasimodo looks down into the street and sees no less than three in-jokes within the same shot! This picture isn’t particularly clear but you should be able to see Pumbaa from The Lion King (1994) being carried by two men, Belle from Beauty & the Beast (1991) in the bottom right-hand corner and the Magic Carpet from Aladdin (1992) just above her.

*The unlucky old man bears a striking resemblance to Jafar when he dresses in disguise to deceive Aladdin.

*A Goofy holler is heard during the battle towards the end of the film.


Postmodernism, consumerism, feminism,
blah blah blah...

When Descartes wrote the immortal words Cogito ergo sum* (I think therefore I am), he believed he had established the bedrock on which all future speculation about the nature of reality could be built. Unfortunately, he went on to use it as an axiom as evidence of God’s existence which would be referred to by today’s youth as an epic fail – not to mention the solipsists and absurdists who take a very sceptical stance on any proof regarding reality. That being said, I’ve compiled a small list of things to look out for should you ever find yourself struggling to make a distinction between the real world and that of the movies.

*His actual words were “I think. I am” – someone unnecessarily added the conjunction therefore.

1) Don’t rush into things. Wait until that special someone is at the airport and about to board a plane before declaring your love.

2) Once a new gadget has been demonstrated for a secret agent, he or she is guaranteed to use it in their next mission. Interestingly, the same gadget will never be required in a future mission.

3) When the pesky 8 year old kid beckons you with the phrase “Come and get me”, it’s clearly a trap.

4) Although minor henchmen can be knocked unconscious with a single punch, the exact same technique is utterly useless against major characters.

5) Whilst being chased through a busy street, never circumvent people. Instead, push them out of the way in order to slow yourself down.

6) When that person tasked with tracking you down finally exits the room, jump out from your hiding place immediately – there’s absolutely no way he’ll return.

7) In order to increase efficiency, detectives with absolutely nothing in common are often paired together.

8) All English people are either posh or cockney. NB: This does not apply to working class dramas which most certainly will take place up north.

9) There are no fat or unattractive people in LA.

10) The number one priority during any alien invasion: Destroy the world’s landmarks.

11) Following an argument, it is perfectly normal to leave before touching the drink/meal you paid good money for.

12) During a phone conversation, a person will often repeat the information just given to them.

13) After knocking the killer unconscious, escape without finishing him off. (If possible, also leave his weapon behind).

14) When holed up with survivors during a zombie apocalypse, be careful; one of them has been bitten and is slowly transforming. On the plus side, nine times out of ten they’ll save your life by choosing to stay behind and blow themselves up rather than risk becoming one of them

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Those Three Magic Words: Enter Account Details

When it comes to relationships, I’m not so much Don Juan as Don Quixote. In fact I’ve only ever had one relationship and that was with a 12 year old girl; it’s not as bad as it sounds, I was 16 at the time. Ok, that does sound pretty bad. Still, I’m eager to improve my rather meagre track record and find myself a new girlfriend – preferably one who won’t have to worry about taking her SATS exams.

This is how girls see me.

Unfortunately locating a female companion is considerably harder than one may think. First of all I’d have to suspend my cynical but arguably well founded belief that I’m un-datable and place faith in the possibility that there exists somewhere a woman with an attraction to Penfold from Danger Mouse. Even if we assume that said individual is a real, living entity with fully functional cognitive abilities and lacking any major defects (i.e., being in a permanent vegetative state or an admirer of James Cordon), the statistical probability of ever encountering her is so slim as to make anorexia look greedy.

So what to do? “Going out on the pull” is costly, entirely random and ultimately futile if you’re not of a certain physical standard. Speed dating is an option but tends to lure the worst of the worst; people whose inner beauty is so well hidden only an enema could locate it. Plus it’s only advantage over a regular date is that one receives the unavoidable rejection far sooner – and subsequently doesn’t have to buy them a drink. Clearly then the internet is the way to go. Or so I thought.

In actuality, dating websites feature the exact same barriers as the real world. Beautiful people meet other beautiful people, only where there were once drunken gropes on the dance floor there now exist virtual pokes and winks. The odds of meeting that special someone haven’t increased because all that’s changed is the construct in which we communicate. It’s the same social hierarchy of popularity only transposed from a corporeal location to a conceptual one – cyberspace. I’ve no more chance of attracting a Natalie Portman lookalike via the interweb than I would in a bar. And so jaded has my outlook become that were I to be contacted by a seemingly attractive young filly, my immediate response would be fear; fear that this is not in fact a female at all, but a psychotically perverse madman in a gimp costume.

If only they'd looked up, they would have saved
£13.99 looking for each other. Embarrassing.

Even stepping back from the philosophical considerations, internet dating is an extremely costly business. The fact that you’re being charged to meet these people (with whom you may subsequently have sex) makes it a sort of PG-rated prostitution. Now, I’m not condoning whoredom – it is after all both illegal and immoral (although is it really wrong to express your gratitude through monetary means?) but its one major advantage is the guarantee of sex. on the other hand will charge a monthly fee despite there being absolutely no certainty of a happy ending. And should you find that special someone, all the site has done is make that encounter possible - once again there is still no assurance that anything significant will transpire. This is the equivalent of not just having to pay the hooker but also her pimp for setting up the arrangement in the first place!

So where does that leave us? Well, rohypnol is always an option but only as a last resort and it must be noted that date rape rarely leads to a long-term relationship. Other than that, I’d say pure blind luck is your safest bet. And if that doesn’t comfort you, then consider this: A compatibility test which I recently undertook on eHarmony revealed that I was incompatible with everyone. I was told not to be despondent despite being mismatched with the entire planet. 

See? Doesn’t that make you feel more optimistic about your love life? Now, where did I put that gimp costume?