Monday, February 28, 2011

The Oscars Got It Right: "The King's Speech" Towers Over "The Social Network"


With the Oscars upon us, I thought I'd do a review of a film that many people thought would capture the Best Picture award, The Social Network.

I simply don't understand the hype about this film and I can't comprehend how it could be considered one of the year's best.

In a nutshell, The Social Network about a bunch of privileged, pampered Harvard kids who are ruthless and who crush anyone who gets their way. Along the way, they create a company that exists solely to collect as much personal data as it can get its grubby hands on---and then turn around and sell that data off to the highest corporate bidder.

For this, Facebook gets praised as a era-defining phenomenon that is supposedly out to invent a wonderful new online world by creating this vast social network.

To which I say: hogwash. The World Wide Web itself is actually the real great social network. In the end, Facebook really adds nothing to the online experience. Some might argue that a Facebook page is easier to set up than a Web site. But this is false. Anyone can easily set up a Web site for free, with only a few clicks these days---and in doing so, you have freedom from the grubby clutches of Facebook.

The problem with Facebook is that it goes against the open nature of the Web that made the latter so successful. Facebook rejects being a part of the Web. Indeed, it wants to replace the Web. Facebook stakes its claim in an isolated community that's hermetically sealed off from the Web. Facebook basically wants to control everything (including all your personal data). And not for lofty idealistic reasons, but simply to rake in billions of dollars.

The Social Network is idealizing and over-hyping a company that has been basically extremely overrated by the gullible mainstream media. Even revenue-wise, I'd say Facebook is overrated---I'm not at all convinced that its multi-billion dollar valuations are going to stand the test of time (any more than companies that had ridiculous valuations during the 2001 Dot Com meltdown). And even as a work of fiction, The Social Network utterly fails.

Maybe it's just me, but I simply can't get into a film that has no appealing characters. Nobody in this film has a heart. Nobody seems to care about anyone else but themselves. I couldn't really relate to anyone in the movie. They're all a bunch of privileged, elitist kids who believe they are geniuses who tower over the rest of us. In reality, the only way they're "superior" to the rest of us is that they have bigger trust funds (or trust funds at all, for that matter).

Maybe some people enjoy two hours of watching egotistical jerks, scheming about how they're going to control our online lives (and sell our personal data off to the highest bidder). But the characters left me ice cold, as did the story.

Incidentally, I know a thing or two about creating successful Web properties myself. I'm a Dot Com entrepreneur who has built a number of popular Web sites. And for me, The Social Network simply didn't ring true in depicting the grueling, hard work that it takes to build a popular Web site.

For one thing, no one in this film ever seems to break a sweat. Success for the characters seems to come effortlessly. The film does a poor job of depicting the brutal, marathon, 20-hour days that one must put in to build a popular Web site. When I built my sites, I didn't spend loads of time (as the characters in this movie do) at fancy bars and nightclubs, sipping $20 martinis. The reality is a lot less glamorous.

In truth, to find success on the Web, you must spend endless hours hunched over a computer monitor, doing tedious, often repetitive work, trying to find the spark that will make your site a success. (Oh, and unlike the privileged, pampered site creators in this movie, most popular Web site builders, including myself, also worked at full-time day jobs as we built our Web sites). Life wasn't an endless series of parties, as it appears to be for the characters in this film.

For me, The Social Network simply didn't ring true. It's an overrated film about an overrated company.

Personally, I'm glad that The King's Speech took Best Picture over The Social Network. I'm not an Anglophile (and I haven't been since Tony Blair sucked up to George W. Bush) and I really don't give a f*ck about the British monarchy. But The King's Speech at least had real, flawed, human, flesh-and-blood characters with a heart (unlike the sterile, narcissistic people who populate The Social Network).


Jack Jodell said...

While I see the uses of Facebook, I HATE it with a passion! I can't stand that every time you log onto it, within a day or so you get "friend" requests from people you don't know and have never met. It is a pain in the ass to navigate around, and the whole way it is used by so many is as childish as a 10 year old girl constantly tweeting and texting gobbledygook. I know there is a benefit to social networking (both Egypt and Obama's 2008 campaign proved what a powerful force it can be), but I still HATE Facebook and very, very, VERY rarely ever use it!

Ashley said...

King's Speech deserve it.

The Rush Blog said...

I believe that THE SOCIAL NETWORK deserved the Best Picture Oscar more than THE KING'S SPEECH, which struck me as an entertaining, but unoriginal movie with no edge.

But personally, I would not have given either movie the top award.

Marc McDonald said...

I'm sorry, I have to disagree that "The Social Network" was more deserving than "The King's Speech."

>>unoriginal movie with no edge.

Yes, but when has the Academy EVER awarded original, edgy films? In any case, I hardly think "The Social Network" was "edgy." Facebook itself might be "edgy" if one is a grandmother. I really would have preferred a film be made about THAT would likely be an edgy film about a worthwhile topic. To me, Facebook is just another bland, money-grubbing, soul-less corporation. It's no different than the likes of Microsoft (or, for that matter, General Motors).
In any case, thanks for your comment and for stopping by.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Jack, thanks for stopping by and for your comments.

>>I know there is a benefit to
>>social networking (both Egypt
>>and Obama's 2008 campaign proved
>>what a powerful force it can >>be,

Actually, I don't have a problem with "social networking" per se. I just don't want it all dominated by one corporation. And it's clear that this is Facebook's goal. They basically want to replace the Web itself.
The people's revolutions around the world are too important to be left in the hands of giant, soul-less coporations. We've already seen the downside to this (such as PayPal freezing the account of a group that has been raising funds for the legal defense of Bradley Manning).

The Rush Blog said...

The name of the movie is "THE SOCIAL NETWORK", not "FACEBOOK". And although I don't think it was the best movie I saw in 2010, I still believe it was better than "THE KING'S SPEECH', which was nothing more than another example of the so-called "inspirational" films. Its title could have been "ROCKY AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE" or "MY SPEECH IMPEDIMENT".

Marc McDonald said...

>>The name of the movie is "THE

Yes, but it's really hard to separate the two. The movie might as well have been called "The Facebook Story."

>>I still believe it was better

I guess this is just a matter of taste. For me, the problem with "The Social Network" is that it completely and utterly lacked any characters that I cared about. I found none of the characters were appealing in the least. As a result, I didn't care about their stories.

Admittedly, some people don't see this as a problem in their enjoyment of a movie, but I do. For example, Quentin Tarantino's movies also lack appealing characters. His characters are always shallow, narcissistic, and lack any heart as human beings.

His characters don't give a sh*t about anyone but themselves. Some people enjoy movies full of self-centered, narcissistic characters. But I don't. It's just a matter of taste.

Incidentally, I believe a movie can be cutting-edge and challenging, even if the characters have a heart. The films of Sergio Leone are a good example. His films often feature characters who show that they have a heart. And yet, ironically Leone's films are often infinitely more radical and daring than anything the overrated Tarantino has ever produced.

Frankly, I find Tarantino a coward who is afraid of taking real risks in his films. To him, it's clear that box office prospects are more important than art.

The Rush Blog said...

["I guess this is just a matter of taste. For me, the problem with "The Social Network" is that it completely and utterly lacked any characters that I cared about."]

I agree that "THE SOCIAL NETWORK" lacked any characters that I cared about. But I don't judge the quality of a movie based upon the appeal of the characters.

I still believe that "THE SOCIAL NETWORK" was better than "THE KING'S SPEECH". Which lacked a great deal of originality and guts, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, the film's production design sucked. To me, "THE KING'S SPEECH" was nothing more than a well acted "Happy Meal" flick that seemed to appeal to the conservative sensibilities of the public, the media and Hollywood. It was a cop out from both Hollywood and the British film industry.

The Rush Blog said...

First you said:

"His characters don't give a sh*t about anyone but themselves. Some people enjoy movies full of self-centered, narcissistic characters. But I don't. It's just a matter of taste."

Then you said:

"Frankly, I find Tarantino a coward who is afraid of taking real risks in his films. To him, it's clear that box office prospects are more important than art.

Your comments strike me as conflicting. Are you saying that Tarantino was unwilling to take chances, because his characters are selfish? That is "playing it safe" for you?

Marc McDonald said...

>>Are you saying that Tarantino
>>was unwilling to take chances,
>>because his characters are >>selfish

No, I'm simply saying that Tarantino's films are flawed because his characters are heartless, selfish and mean.

I think that's just a flaw in his movies and it stems from his limited talent and vision. I don't think this aspect of his films is due to the fact that he's trying to be daring or radical.

There's no doubt that Tarantino does want to be a "radical" film-maker. He wants to be the "bad boy" of cinema. He doesn't realize, though, that in order to truly be a radical film-maker takes more than simply having your characters say the word "nigger" repeatedly.

Oh, and here's a memo to Tarantino (and all the other would-be "cult" film directors out there).

True cult films don't have a fucking $100 million budget.

The Rush Blog said...

No, I'm simply saying that Tarantino's films are flawed because his characters are heartless, selfish and mean.

This is probably why I admire Tarantino as a filmmaker. His characters, although somewhat exaggerated, are a lot closer to the realities of human nature.

Marc McDonald said...

>>This is probably why I admire
>>Tarantino as a filmmaker. His
>>characters, although somewhat
>>exaggerated, are a lot closer to
>>the realities of human nature.

Yes, well, I guess it's just different strokes for different folks. I'm as cynical and pessimistic about the human condition as anyone. But I have to admit, there are good, selfless people with a heart out there---although you'd never know it, watching Tarantino's films.
I've long believed that the vast majority, if not all, of Republicans are themselves heartless, mean-spirited, selfish people. And what's more, they believe everyone else is that way, as well.
I can't help but think that Tarantino has that mindset as well. I'm not sure what his politics are---but I'd suspect he leans toward the GOP. I'd suspect he'd try to deny that and claim that he's a "libertarian" (which is, of course, a cop-out---"libertarian" is just a word that sounds cooler and more hip than "Republican.")
In any case, I think he's over-rated. But like I said, different strokes for different folks.