Oscars: How 'The Social Network' became this year's 'Up in the Air.' Will anyone join me in a backlash to the backlash?

Social-Network-up-in-the-airImage Credit: Merrick Morton; Dale RobinetteOkay, I’ll own up to it. When it comes to predicting the winners of the Academy Awards, I’m a shameless amateur. An Oscar pariah wiener. At this point, it’s clear that I should simply leave the odds-making to my infinitely shrewd colleague Dave Karger, who had the Zen wisdom to see, weeks before anyone else, that despite the mountains of praise and accolades heaped upon The Social Network, The King’s Speech was still going to push all those Academy buttons — that it was exactly the kind of tastefully uplifting spectacle of Classy Anglophilia meets the Cinema of Affliction (think Ordinary People + My Left Foot + every British costume drama that ever got you to sniffle through a stiff upper lip) that is still, after all these years, catnip to a great many people who work in Hollywood. The PGA, the DGA, and SAG have all spoken. They all prefer The King’s Speech to The Social Network. So be it.

What interests me is that this lagging, if rather abrupt, indicator of collective underwhelmed response to The Social Network isn’t merely going on within the Hollywood guilds. All over the Internet — I’ve encountered it, quite often, on the comment boards of this site — moviegoers are standing up, with an “I’m Spartacus!” solidarity, to declare their doubts, their latent shrug, their dutiful respect but definitive lack of love for what was, up until a few weeks ago, the most robustly acclaimed movie of the year (and also, not so incidentally, the most popular acclaimed movie of the year). The responses go something like this: “The Social Network was overhyped.” “It was okay, but far from great.” “I mean, what were the critics gassing on about?”

Hey, if that’s how a lot of people feel about it, then that’s how they feel, right? To object can sound like a critic’s sour grapes. Except that I can’t help noticing, and wondering about the fact, that the backlash against The Social Network carries such a familiar echo of what I kept hearing last year about Up in the Air. Overrated. Kind of thin. What’s the big deal, anyway? At the time, I chalked up the niggling backlash of disenchantment with Up in the Air to several things about it. A lot of the movie’s bashers seemed to loathe the ground, or maybe the air, that George Clooney walks on (which makes you wonder how they’d react if he ever costarred in a movie with Gwyneth Paltrow), and the fact that he played a corporate jet-setter, always flying away from all that downsizing despair, seemed to stick in a lot of people’s craws.

But The Social Network, though I guess you’d have to say that it, too, is about members of the affluent elite (then again, so is The King’s Speech), is a very different movie from Up in the Air. It’s not a felicititous lark of a romantic comedy, or an exquisitely touching movie-star vehicle. It’s fast and brittle and nervous and icy-heady-cool, wired to the speed of minds that are hooked to technology. And frankly, the uncanny repetition of the criticism — Just okay! Not all that! Another empty critics’ darling! — has me wondering: Could it be that the real reason people are reacting against these movies isn’t that the movies are underwhelming…but that they’re understated? That they’re both spun from a superfine psychological mesh? It’s hard to escape the suspicion that, as different as the two films are, the kind of subtle and light-fingered dramatic nuance that both The Social Network and Up in the Air turn on ended up working against them.

To me, part of the power of The Social Network is that you could take any dozen people who like it — who think that it’s flawlessly written, directed, and acted — and put them in a room together, and you’d find that they don’t necessarily agree on what the movie is saying: what its real take is on the Facebook revolution, or whether the Mark Zuckerberg it portrays is more of an awesomely driven yet loutish betrayer or a visionary renegade-brain hero. That’s what makes The Social Network, to me, the kind of movie that you can watch again and again, like All the President’s Men or Sweet Smell of Success. That, I thought, is what the praise for it was all about. It’s enough to make me wonder whether the Oscar-death-by-deflating-pinpricks it’s now on the receiving end of is really the covert expression of a hostility to any movie that is daring, and artful, enough to ask for our engagement without showing us its hand.

So will anyone join me in the backlash to the backlash? The King’s Speech tweaked my heartstrings, too (hey, I’m not made of stone), but does that really mean that it’s a greater movie than The Social Network? Or does the fact that The Social Network, like Up in the Air, is such a critics’ darling say more about critics than it does about the movies? If so, what do you think it says?

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  • PeterBilt

    Finally saw Social Network last night. Good not great. Well written. Was it me or is every body in that movie a twin of Hayden Christenson?

    • Devin Faraci

      Screw Social AND King’s Speech! Inception is a masterpiece and far superior to both. Even True Grit is better than the 2 front runners.

      • wino

        really???? You thought True Grit was a better than Social Network or King’s Speech? True Grit, the remake that shot for shot was the same as the original? Okaaay.

      • Nathan

        Inception’s lucky be even be nominated, might actually be Nolan’s worst movie to date.

      • paige

        whatever, toy story 3 is still the best movie of the year

      • RT

        Inception = the single most overrated movie of the year.

      • Kevin

        Inception was “Eternal Sunshine if the Italien Job’s Matrix.” A hack job with no real reason to route for the protagonist. Lucky to be nominated.

      • Mike S

        I agree with you Devin. I just don’t see how people can’t see the masterpiece that was Inception. Please don’t get me started on his snub on directing and editing.

        I’ll say it once I’ll say it again, ONE aspect of a movie does not make it great and worth so many noms. Colin Firth was GREAT in The Kings Speech….but was it the best picture of the year? You can argue the same thing about Denzel in Training Day. His performance was great, THATS IT. No need to give that movie 200 nominations. (Also Witiker in The Last King of Scotland)

        EVERY ASPECT of Inception was GREAT. Who cares if it came out months ago. The academy shouldnt vote flavor of the week for best picture and what not, they should look at THE WHOLE YEAR equally.

        I promise you, in 20 years Inception will still be watched, remembered and talked about more than The Kings Speech (I forgot how Shakespeare in Love is on TV all the time and shown in schools….OH WAIT THATS SAVING PRIVATE RYAN)

        Sorry I’m rambling and ‘m sure no one read this far down but it just annoys me

      • betty white’s corpse

        hey wino, do you even know what a “Shot for shot” remake is? because i don’t think you do. oh and to hell with King’s Speech. That is a good movie that for some reason has tricked people into believing it’s great. Colin Firth does not deserve an Oscar for that gimmicky role, either. Geoffrey Rush was the best part of the film and he merely deserves a nomination. Tom Hooper certainly doesn’t deserve best director – it’s all just crap. It stinks like every other time Harvey Weinstein has a movie in contention at the academy awards – he waits and pushes it like crazy at the right time and the memory-problemed voters only seem to remember the last thing they saw and vote for that. it’s disgusting.

      • Zach

        Why can’t we all just get along? It’s a sad state of affairs when we had a legitimately strong year at the movies (or at least a strong Best Picture lineup), and yet every movie has its detractors. The Social Network and The King’s Speech are both overrated to me too, while True Grit was pretty solid and Inception blew them all away. As did Black Swan. Toy Story 3 was moving and The Fighter great. Winter’s Bone is under-appreciated, and The Town was snubbed. OK, those are my opinions. The fact that we can’t all agree is the reason why TSN or TKS – either one of them – is going to win Best Picture and no REAL surprises can happen.

      • Ron

        I think Inception and Black Swan were both better than the Social Network too. You knew you were seeing something special while you were watching both of them. The Social Network just didn’t have any type of heart. Technically great, but no one to root for and I just kind of forgot about it after seeing it. All it did for me was make Jesse Eisenberg annoying whenever I see him now.

      • m1

        @Mike S: Shakespeare in Love is on T.V. a lot. As for it being shown in schools, that is not necessarily an indication of whether or not a film is great.

      • Solange

        Thank you Devin! And everyone that agrees that Social Network was okay but NOT better then Inception! I was so mad how Inception didn’t win anything at the Globes and how Hans Zimmer didn’t get recognized for this musical genius on the musical soundtrack for Inception. The track “Dream is Collapsing” and “Time” is just amazing!
        But Social Network is just overhyped.
        The guy the made Facebook and his road to make billions, wow! Amazing! NOT!

      • JB

        I agree, and Christopher Nolan was robbed by Tobe Hooper. Both SN and KS were outstanding but Inception was something more fresh

      • JennieO

        Tobe Hooper directed “Poltergeist” and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Tom Hooper directed “the King’s Speech.”

    • Shiny

      The Social Network has been overhyped, but only because it’s target demographic overlaps with that of most internet reporters. TSN’s scope is limited to a very tiny subset of the world’s population; white male suburban kids at Ivy League schools. That’s only 30 percent of the student body of Harvard, and teeny fraction of the US population, let alone the world. No one is saying you shouldn’t enjoy it; revel in the fuzzy argyle joy of it as long as you like. Quote it over imported beers at the faux pub in your gentrified neighborhood. But understand that it doesn’t automatically translate to any kind of mass appeal. I don’t hate it, I just don’t care about it any more than I did the other fifty million coming of age suburban tales that this demogracphic produces.

      • Elizabeth

        I don’t think your assertion is accurate at all. The main characters in the movie are “white male suburban kids at Ivy league schools,” excluding Eduardo and the Indian student (although for the sake of this argument their nationality isn’t that important), but the theme of this movie can be enjoyed by people of different genders and races. I also don’t think this is a mere “coming of age suburban tale.”

        In my opinion, the movie focuses on how people relate to each other, specifically, how Mark Zuckerberg relates to those around him. Even though he is brilliant, he is not sympathetic and doesn’t understand how to really communicate with people nor gain social acceptance.

        The comprehension of this theme isn’t limited to your suggested demographic.

      • Rob

        I agree with what you are saying, but that tiny demographic argue and get drunk has a voyeuristic appeal to many people. Just look at the popularity of shows like “Gossip Girl.” “The Social Network” is a decent movie but it is mostly popular because it has as little substance as possible, which is true of most popular shows and movies. It does not really say anything about the ramifications of the Internet and social networking. It is mostly a soap opera about some rich kids.

      • Mike

        Imported beers? Who drinks those?? domestic micro brews, baby. Dogfish! Stone!

      • Rob

        Obviously, I meant to say “watching that tiny demographic.”

      • Ryan

        I’m not sure you could call the appeal of the movie limited when 500 million people use its subject, most of them daily. Well, I’m gonna quit writing this so I can share it with Facebook.

      • Juneau

        @Ryan – nicely done.

      • Guest

        The movie really has almost nothing to do with the implications of Facebook. It just uses the origin of Facebook as a backdrop. It is entertaining as drama, but in the end it is really just fluff like “Chicago.”

      • Stacy

        “The Social Network has been overhyped, but only because it’s target demographic overlaps with that of most internet reporters.”———–

        Well said Shiny! TSN is an INSULAR movie about RICH Ivy league boys who used their rich parents money to fight over a computer program. It’s not about anything bigger than that, it’s not about the usage of facebook, the impact of facebook on our society, etc. There is a backlash because many of us are sick of the fanboy critics SHOVING THIS SH^T DOWN OUR THROATS as the definition of “our generation”. Telling us that we are too stupid to understand how this movie is the “citizen Kane” of our time. Even now in this article about the backlash, the writer is still on his high horse telling us that we just don’t understand “understated” movies? You just don’t understand how arrogant and obnoxious TSN fanboys are. I watch nothing but “understated” movies and I still found TSN lacking. It was a good movie but neither generational defining nor (shudder) to be compared with ground-breaking movie work like Citizen Kane.

      • Niles

        Anyone who thinks The Social Network is fluff has lost me. I find it an endlessly rich film about the post-human world, the culmination of Information Age cinema. Only a concrete thinker can see it as a soap opera with rich kids. An abstract thinker can see its origins in such films as “Blade Runner”.

    • Jim

      Fluff like “Chicago”???! Are you kidding me? This is a meticulously written, acted, and directed drama, not some silly musical! Wow that was one of the worst comparisons I have ever read, especially considering they are vastly different styles and are in completely different genres. The Social Network deserves all the hype and deserves the Best Picture of 2010. Also, Hayden Christenson is a poor actor (other than “Shattered Glass” – which hardly anyone saw – name one movie he was good in and please don’t say Star Wars) and I can’t think of a single actor in “The Social Network” who bears any resemblance to him. Wow you people amaze me with your lack of movie appreciation and knowledge. To each his/her own I guess

      • Guest

        “Chicago” was well written, directed and acted too. They are perfectly comparable as far as quality. If you really had an appreciation for all movies, you would not be biased against these “silly” musicals.

    • deedee

      I think the backlash is about 127 hours. When it came out, it was a masterpiece and a foregone conclusion that it was going to sweep the Oscars. Now….not so much

  • couchgrouch

    couldn’t care less about Facebook which made The Social Network techically well done but an emotional vacuum. The Fighter, The King’s Speech and True Grit were 10x better.

    • jmo

      “Emotional vacuum” is a perfect description. Thanks couchgrouch!

      • AK

        That’s the becoming the go-to description of the backlash — and it’s so patently false. Just because nobody is running around throwing frying pans doesn’t mean that “The Social Network” isn’t dealing with complex emotions associated with love, hate, friendship, betrayal and success. We may not have created Facebook, but we have all experiences those same feelings at one point or another. So what if TSN aims to make you think rather than to please? It’s still a fascinating (and incredible well-made) human drama.

      • maggie

        @AK, it’s not about what emotions the characters are experiencing on screen. It’s about what feelings the AUDIENCE experiences watching the film.
        I can watch the TSN and admire Sorkin’s sharp, Rashomon-like screenplay, the performances of Garfield & Eisenberg, and Fincher’s direction. At the end of the film my response was “meh.” Great individual pieces don’t necessarily add up to a great film. For all of its cleverness, The Social Network doesn’t connect to the viewer.

      • jmo

        Maggie’s right. I wasn’t expecting Eisenberg to emote. I just wasn’t engaged (or connected as Maggie points out). I walked away from the movie with an “eh” as well.

      • JDWurl

        Pull at your heartstrings = Oscar. Make you think = meh. God Bless America!

      • Molly

        @JDWurl Case and point: The Blind Side’s nomination. Borrrringggg. I love Sandy, but still can’t believe she won for that role.

      • jmo

        @JDWurl: “Pull at your heartstrings = Oscar. Make you think = meh.” Case in point: Did Inception get nominated for best pic? Nope. just sayin’

    • couchgrouchmakesnosense

      hey couchgrouch, so because you don’t care about facebook means you couldn’t care about the characters and story… which was about fundamental human things like the want of power, friendship and betrayal, etc.?

      I mean, I am not a boxing fan, nor do I care about British aristocracy very much… but I still enjoyed king’s speech and the fighter… which by the way, were definitely not 10 x better, especially the very uneven and thrown together style of the fighter…

      maybe the backlash and dislike of the film has to do with people being unable to look past the surface of it being about facebook, which gets a lot of hate, but has become a major form of connection for people, and seeing that at it’s core it’s about someone who is desperate to make a connection and can’t… which is just as emotionally wrenching as a stuttering king overcoming his disability, if not more.

      • couchgrouch

        “connecting” on a computer is an oxymoron. boxing was only the vehicle for a movie about family, romance, achieving life goals and overcoming addiction. and Colin Firth’s character(not to mention Geoffrey Rush’s)creates a sense of empathy that the creators of Facebook don’t., esp against the backdrop of WW11. TSN was well crafted…I just don’t care about Facebook or its creators. and I don’t appear to be alone.

      • Jonathan

        I agree completely with everything you said. I couldn’t understand why more people didn’t love The Social Network, but this makes perfect sense.

      • Rust

        The Fighter was nothing more then a cliche ridden movie, full of cartoonish characters.. And your description about this movie being about romance, family, achieving life goals and overcoming addiction might be valid, but it does not make it a good nor original film. Seriously, I dare you to watch that film again and pay close attention to the dialogue, I guarantee you, you won’t find anything compelling in it,, just fake “lifetime network” gibberish

      • Laura

        Oh my gosh! Really couch grouch?! Again, who gives a s**t that you don’t care about Facebook or its creators, that’s not what couchgrouchmakesnosense is arguing. Seriously, read his post. You sound like an arrogant a$$!

      • Grumpster

        I’m waaaayyy with you on this one there couchgrouch.

      • Mel

        I agree with crouchgrouch. While you can watch the movie and admire the birth of facebook, if you don’t care about the characters, how does that make a great movie? It felt sort of like watching a documentary. The subject matter was compelling, but I can’t empathize with the people behind it. TKS on the other hand is so character driven, the characters are the subject matter and they force you to empathize with them. You feel sorry for the reluctant king. Do you feel sorry for Zuckerberg in TSN? Sure, he ends up friendless and alone, but much of it is his own doing and he comes out of it a billionaire. There just isn’t much of that heroism and bravery that makes for a compelling Hollywood film in it.

      • @Mel

        I actually think the exact opposite of you. I think the subject matter is only minimally interesting, but I completely empathize with Zuckerberg and the other characters. The fact that Zuckerberg isn’t brave or noble (obviously depending on what you call “brave”) contributed to my ability to relate to him. He’s not a typical Hollywood hero; he’s flawed, like real-life people.

      • Jurybox

        IMHO, the biggest thing TKS has going for it is that it is everything the Academy adores. The biggest problem that TSN has is timing (it came out too early in the year). As for the emotions on the screen in TSN – wow! How can someone come out of this movie and not be floored by the betrayals and power grabs and sheer intensity of the characters. I thought it was a tremendously insightful film as well as a great depiction of a specific culture.

        Perhaps with the recent nonviolent revolution that happened in Egypt, fueled in part by the access to FB, the academy will look again at this movie that depicts the (fictionalized) launch of it all.

    • Jeff C

      I think what people, in my opinion, are missing is that The Social Network was not about Facebook. It was about the culture we now live in that would make something like Facebook such a success. To me it was a spot-on, near brilliant critique of our times. Even better than The King’s Speech, though I am not surprised that the latter is sweeping all the awards. As Owen said, this sort of film is irresistible to Hollywood award show types. It’s high-brow yet accessible. It features a man overcoming a problem that we can all relate to. It’s tasteful, inoffensive and very well-acted all around. Might as well mail them the Oscar now.

      But I can’t help but hold hold a small grudge purely on the fact that they keep trotting out that god-awful “Because I have a voice!” line for the award shows and hype-reels. That line makes no sense in the context of the situation, nobody would EVER say it, and it only serves to create a “see what I did there?” moment. It reeks of something that came from a TV movie in the 1980s. Please remove it from future clips. The film deserves better.

      • Will

        Agreed, that line is laughable.

      • fey

        Yes, people who don’t like TSN always bring up Facebook which is not what the movie is about. I’m starting to suspecting they haven’t actually watched it…

      • starr

        people who are missing the point of “The Social Network” are probably closed-minded individuals who don’t both to think about the film. The point of that particular film is hidden, and unfortunately the vast majority of the American population is not well- educated and encouraged to extrapolate social commentary from a Hollywood film…
        and if this comment makes me sound like a snobby college student who thinks that movies are more than entertainment, so be it.

      • Tim W

        I think what people are missing is that The Social Network is a classic narrative tragedy. The central character is fundamentally flawed and is eventually brought down by those flaws. You’re not supposed to sympathize with the character of Mark Zuckerberg any more than you are supposed to sympathize with MacBeth or Jay Gatsby. However, there is much to learn from their hubris and other flaws; we can empathize with Zuckerberg’s mistakes and pity his ultimate lack of understanding.

        That said, the average American film goer is much more likely to respond to a classic narrative comedy where the hero overcomes a challenge or obstacle like in The King’s Speech or The Fighter. America was built on the idea that obstacles can be overcome; it is intrinsically part of the American Dream. For this reason, it is not surprising to see so many that feel disconnected from The Social Network but moved by The King’s Speech.

      • Levi

        Starr is completely right.

      • Diane

        I’ve seen TSN three times and just bought the DVD. I’m not sure why Jeff C said “near” brilliant … TSN can be pondered, dissected, etc., but it is also an amazingly clever and amusing movie! By the way, I’m a 70-yr old woman who is not on Facebook.

    • bruno

      i’m fine with the backlash! social network got way too much hype for being a movie that was essentially just okay. overrated, full off poor performances (JT, you blew dude. andrew garfield? pfft.). for a movie so set on making an impression it sure didn’t leave one. i walked out going: so? big deal.

      • cja443

        I’m noticing a trend here. Many of the people supporting TSN are writing articulate comments with support for their opinions. Meanwhile, the people who bash it mere write that it’s “overrated” or “boring” and nothing else. Maybe that says something about the type of people who are against this movie and why that backlash is so prevalent.

      • Drayton B.

        “andrew garfield? pffft.”

        NO. garfield should have been nominated, and should have lost only by a smidgeon to christian bale.

    • Amy

      I couldn’t care less about Facebook either, but I thought the characters (especially Zuckerberg) were so relatable and well-developed that I did find myself connecting emotionally to the movie. I can understand why some people might have found it to be detached, but that’s your opinion; it’s not everyone’s.

  • couchgrouch

    ps “visionary renegade brain hero”?? Owen, your BS meter’s busted, dude. if you don’t give a megabyte about Facebook, that flick has no resonance.

    • TPK

      The idea of screwing your best (only) friend from college out of millions of dollars has no resonance? I suppose if I hadn’t gone to college I couldn’t relate, but I did.

      • couchgrouch

        it’s not the act in and of itself…it’s the characters and backdrop around the plot. I don’t care about Facebook or how it got to be a meaningless time-suck for millions of people.

      • TPK

        So your feelings towards Facebook didn’t taint your feelings about the movie. Which is, for me, a story about greed and friendships and how immature people try to handle them. The fact that it’s Facebook is secondary, though it’s perfectly fitting since it is a website geared toward making/keeping friends.

      • Anne

        This is my biggest problem with the movie and why I felt it was so contrived: it’s told entirely from Eduardo’s very skewed point of view, but in reality, Eduardo was NOT Zuckerberg’s “best (only) friend”, not by a long shot. If we’re talking about characters (real people) in the movie that Sorkin did NOT delete from the story, what about Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, Zuckerberg’s roommates who helped him build Facebook??? They barely had any lines in the film, and yet they were there the whole time, helped him build Facebook, and are STILL to this day head honchos at Facebook. If Zuckerberg was so intent on cutting his friends out in order to get to the top, than wouldn’t he cut them out too?? The film just doesn’t add up. Even if you look at the movie as is and try to ignore the real life facts (like Zuckerberg’s longtime girlfriend who was deleted from the story, or the fact that Eduardo was doing multiple jerk things that were undermining Facebook), you will see that Eduardo added NOTHING to Facebook other than some money, and all of his ideas were bad and the wrong decision for the company. And yet the film tries to make Eduardo the victim. And because it is very one-sided against Zuckerberg in its point of view, in a contrived effort to make it a Citizen Kane-type story, we never really get the Zuckerberg character’s thoughts and feelings. Hence, we never really understand him, which is why audiences don’t care about him or the other characters. And that’s a pretty big failure for a movie that is supposed to be “great.”

      • Mel

        I think you raise a great point. We never really do understand Zuckerberg’s motivation for doing a lot of what he did. His character just comes off as awkward, entitled, and greedy which makes for an unlikeable character. And even if Eduardo is presented as the victim, I find it difficult for the audience to sympathize with a guy who’s about the get millions.

    • William

      I think it’s fairly myopic to say that if you don’t care about Facebook there’s nothing of value in the movie. Firstly, the point above about the idea of betrayal versus just being a college kid in way over your head is worthwhile, and Risky Business proves that. Secondly, and more significantly, TSN is interesting because Facebook, like it or loathe it, completely revolutionized the world and the way everyone under the age of 25 relates to it (and most everyone over that age). It’s easy to grouse about Facebook from the “it’s not that interesting/relevant/useful/etc. soapbox”, but the fact is that Zuckerburg and the story here is the same sort of American invention story as Ford and the production line, which gives it cultural relevance and makes it a worthwhile production.

  • whatevs

    I can’t join your backlash to the backlash, honestly. I don’t think the fact that The King’s Speech is a British film made it better for me than The Social Network. Although TSN is more culturally relevant to us, I found Justin Timberlake’s performance to be weak (sorry!).

    I think the story itself could be part of it because since there are different versions of what actually happened, the movie can only be objective in terms of likability of the characters. TKS had much more character development, in my opinion, and the reason is because no one would argue with how these events actually happened or how the characters were portrayed.

    I still like The Social Network, but it’s a little overrated, I think.

    • Voodoo

      Actually, people ARE arguing how historically inaccurate TKS is. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Weinsteins are behind this sudden backlash against TSN.

      • Sam

        First of all, almost everybody from the the time of The King’s Speech is dead. It would be very hard to determine what exactly was said between individuals from only a few professional notes left behind. The time frame was compressed for the sake of the movie.
        However much of The Social Network is complete fabrication. For a movie that presents itself as portraying the origins of Facebook this is unfathomable. Everybody involved is still alive and well. The majority of the movie aside from the court scenes was made up of told from an extremely biased point of view.

  • jmo

    I don’t really understand why TSN was so powerful of a film. I’m 30, been on facebook for years but I just didn’t feel the movie was Oscar-worthy.

    • bruno

      totally.

      • Jordan

        I think the movie is very Oscar worthy: for its screenplay. The screenplay, in my opinion, was what made that movie great–not the direction. That is not to say that the direction wasn’t good, just not the best. The Social Network deserved to be nominated, but I don’t think it deserves the Best Picture award (which should not be carried as far as my love for TSN is by one element such as writing). Instead, I believe that The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, and Toy Story 3 deserve best picture the most. My mention of TS3 may have just discredited everything I just said, but keep in mind that I KNOW it will never win. As with almost all Pixar movies, it is an incredible story and a team effort in which everybody brought their A game (or in my opinion of Toy Story 3, their A++ game). Similarly, but not to quite the same extent, every aspect of 127 Hours and The King’s Speech (which I also expect to win) made the movies great.

      • Jordan

        Oh, and I should add that Andrew Garfield got ripped off: his acting was superb in this film and definitely warranted an nom for supporting actor.

      • jmo

        Jordan, don’t get me wrong, I’m a HUGE fan of Sorkin’s work (going all the way back to American President, and Sports Night) and I agree with your points.
        Maybe my problem is that I wished more from the movie and it just didn’t meet all the hype I’ve heard from critics. Who knows?

      • buttercup

        This drives me crazy, the notion that somehow because TSN is about the founding of Facebook, it’s a movie about Facebook. It’s probably my pick for best movie of the year (and note: I haven’t seen The King’s Speech yet, along with a handful of others) because it’s a sort of intense and brilliantly acted take off of Citizen Kane. There Will Be Blood did the same in 2007, only it went all the way to tragedy and blood and melodramatic excess. Fincher and Sorkin ended TSN with a wistfulness that I liked, but probably made people wonder, “what the hell was that about?”

        Zuckerberg begins the movie motivated by ambition and need: the desire to be acknowledged by the elite at Harvard, success, for the pretty girl to like him back. Only he doesn’t have the necessary equipment for success: breeding, money, social graces. All he is pure ambition to succeed, his brains, and balls of steel.

        Meaning he is quite willing to be entirely ruthless to get what he wants, and the movie pretty much lays it out that Facebook = the means through which he’ll gain the success and validation he needs so badly.

        The movie has two beautiful ironies built into it. The first is that, Eduardo’s friendship is the real thing: a connection to a real human being who cares for him, maybe even loves him. But Mark screws him over in the end not because of animus or latent resentment, but because Eduardo really was *wrong* about the business of Facebook. He was wrong about needing to sell ads, and he was actively wrong to pull the $19k in the initial bank account. Sean Parker is a d-bag, but he’s also right. Just because you’re a nice person or a good friend doesn’t mean that you make good business decisions.

        The second irony is subtly built upon, and something I mulled over. Zuckerberg is awful at reading social cues — as demonstrated in the very first scene — or interacting with people. Yet he manages to create the most successful online social network ever. As though because he’s so awful at human interaction, he somehow compensated by analyzing relationships scientifically, and managed to codify the way people interact in a way that can be laid out in software. Hence: the amazing success of Facebook, a social network founded by someone who’s practically autistic.

        The ending is wistful because Zuckerberg technically has it all at the end: billions, Facebook, renown, etc. He could buy and sell the final clubs he so ached to get into at Harvard, as he said. But he’s alone at the end, even moreso than he was at the beginning. Clicking the Friend request to Erica Albright = his personal Rosebud. while the Beatles play him off. Turned out getting everything he wanted didn’t actually get him the things he needed.

        It’s actually a fairly traditional story, if you think about it. Only told beautifully well, with intensity and power.

      • Owen Gleiberman

        Buttercup,
        That’s a BRILLIANT evocation of how the film works. Everyone on this board should read your comment…
        (and, yes, it’s really me)

      • buttercupisbrilliant

        The name says it all. Everyone should read buttercup’s response. Also, people say that Zuckerburg wasn’t likeable as a character: he was so clearly an antihero. Flawed not in the traditional sense because of his ruthlessness and his lack of social skills. It’s not the feel good story that TKS offers but it is a real and unabashed take on our modern world. A world driven by technology that some social analysts fear that people are starting to lose their social skills. Sound familiar? TSN can also be seen as a warning to those who are willing to forgo actual human connection for recognition and success.

    • jk

      I think that might be part of it. Not that there are too many years between us, but I’m 23 and I honestly believe that “The Social Network” is the first film that encapsulates my generation. It doesn’t glorify us or ridicule us, but is an honest portrayal of people in their early twenties, in the mid-2000s, and I was fascinated by it. It’s no easy feat to create a movie that explores the side of so many different characters, which is why I am so disappointed that Andrew Garfield didn’t get an Oscar nomination, since his Eduardo was the most interesting character in the film and Garfield did a beautiful job with him. I agree with Owen, the backlash going on is unwarranted and disappointed, but also sort of unsurprising.

      • taksi

        I’m 24, was on Facebook 7 months after it was created, am still on it, and this movie doesn’t do anything for me except irritate when people insist it encapsulates my generation. It doesn’t explore much about the characters. Zuckerberg is a douchebag throughout, and Saverin seems to be an emotional masochist, which is fine but the movie is so unremitting about it, they strain believability.

      • @jk

        TSN only “encapsulates my generation” if you believe our generation is all back-stabbing, greedy nerds.

      • jmo

        That does make sense. Do you think this whole “emotional vacuum” comment could’ve been moot if the movie developed Eduardo Saverin’s story better? He was the most relatable of all the characters. I too was surprised he wasn’t nominated.

      • Mel

        I’m 25 and got on facebook shortly after it was launched in the Boston area. I personally think it has been a huge drag on our generation. We are more disconnected than ever before and our friendships are becoming even more superficial. Our important life events are announced through the most informal means. People are increasingly concerned about status, where you went to school, where you work, etc. Now people can even whisper “secrets” about you. It’s both depressing and disturbing. I can only hope that it’s a fad we eventually get over in the near future.

      • jk

        @Mel: I’m not talking about Facebook itself, I’m talking about the movie. No matter what you think about Facebook (and I definitely have mixed feelings myself) shouldn’t have that much to do with your reaction to the film. And taksi and @jk, I’m not trying to suggest that these characters are the only kind of people that twentysomethings could be, or that people creating billion-dollar companies while at Ivy League schools is relatable, but the big picture of the lives of “The Social Network”‘s main characters is unique to our generation. I think that people go out of their way to claim they don’t relate at all to these characters because they don’t want to identify with anyone who’s selfish or greedy or backstabbing or even “nerdy,” and yet there is a lot to connect to in the lives of these characters.

      • at @jk

        and since when was being “nerdy” or intelligent a bad thing?

    • lelie

      I remember seeing a preview on TV, and one of the critic’s comments stated that “First great movie of the 21st century.” Hellz no it was not. Waaaaaay over the type on that comment. It was a good movie. *shrug* that’s all I can really say about it.

      • Angela

        If you thought it was a good movie, why do you feel the need to bash it in the same post?

    • Angela

      What would’ve made it more Oscar-worthy for you? I think it definitely deserves all the praise and accolades. The writing was phenomenal, the cast did an all-around great job, David Fincher’s direction gave life and energy to a story that could easily have been very boring. What does it matter how long you’ve used Facebook? I don’t care how “relevant” the movie is (even though it is relevant); I just thought it was really darn good.

  • Chuck

    People are basically sheep, when it comes to the winds of critical opinion. Which is to say, most folks don’t independently form their own thoroughly thought-through analysis, but prefer to follow along with consensus. This is true for pretty much everything, not just art. If a new trendy food suddenly gains mass-media traction, you can bet that people will just be coming out of the woodwork proclaiming how they “always loved chocolate frosted ketchup balls” well before the rest of the world caught on. And, three weeks later, when chocolate-frosted ketchup balls are officially declared passe by the shadowy cadre of tastemakers, the masses will rise up to declare that said delicacies were “always sorta overrated anyway”. Basically, this just says more about people’s comfort level in terms of being followers, than it does about any inherent qualities of the object being evaluated.

    • Chuck

      Oh, and for the record…I am rooting for NEITHER of the two discussed films to win. Social Network and King’s Speech are both fine, well-crafted, intelligent films. However, I am perversely pulling for Black Swan, just because I think the Academy (and America) needs to get down with over the top, psychosexual, Grand Guignol hysterical melodrama more often. It’s the crazed, backbiting, venal politics of sexual repression, not some vague idea of “friending”, or obviously noble statement about fine stiff-upper-lip royal aspiration, that REALLY describes where we, as a nation, are in 2011 right now.

      • C’mon

        Couldn’t agree more. Black Swan is THE best film of the year. Of course it won’t win though. If it really is a two-film race I’d rather see it go to Social Network. I liked King’s Speech, but I didn’t think it was amazing.
        I would love to see a Black Swan upset along the lines of Crash or Chariots of Fire.

      • Ralphie

        Black Swan was one of the most ridiculous movies I have ever seen. Ever. And I danced for years.

        I’ll take Toy Story 3 for emotional punch and flawless story telling over ANY of the nominees.

      • agreewithRalphie

        If people really want a feel-good-movie to win an Oscar why not Toy Story 3.

      • Jonathan

        I loved The Social Network and hope it wins, but I’d LOVE to see an upset by Black Swan. I still contemplate some parts of that film, and I saw it nearly two months ago.

    • Larry

      Chuck, you are so right on with this post. So many people depend on others to tell them what to think. That is why “reality” shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance can be so easily manipulated–if “experts” tell you one person is better than another so many times, despite the fact that they thought the other was better before, people buy it. And it’s the same as movies. Last year we went from Up in the Air to Avatar to The Hurt Locker; when Avatar won the Golden Globe people wondered what happened to The Hurt Locker? Then, when The Hurt Locker won the Oscar, people criticized it for not being Avatar.

  • bill

    I haven’t seen Social Network, but I’ll probably get around to it. That you are comparing it to Up In The Air is not a plus, in my opinion. Up in the Air was well written and acted (and I like George Clooney), but it belongs to that genre that Hollywood can’t seem to get enough of – Douche Has a Change of Heart.

    By the end of the movie, I just didn’t care that he had a change of heart. Besides five minutes of sadness over the end of his affair, what exactly happened to him directly to bring about this change? He watched bad things happen to other people and then he walks away with his frequent flyer miles and his bankroll and fabulous loft apartment, all while his family BEGS him to come around. He lost nothing but his hookup partner and the audience is supposed to be moved by this? No.

    From what I’ve read about Social Network, maybe it has the same problem. By the time the credits roll, does anyone really give a s**t about Mark Zuckerberg? Or have we just spent 2 hours listening to cute actors delivering smart dialogue?

    • jk

      I definitely gave a sh*t about Zuckerberg at the end of the film, but I wasn’t sure I liked him. To me, that means the film succeeded.

      • katie

        Agreed. The Social Network stayed with me…the characters and the writing especially. Bravo Aaron Sorkin.

    • Jonathan

      I have to completely disgaree with what you said about Up In The Air. It was my favorite movie last year, but it took a second viewing for me to understand what was so mesmerizing to me about it. Clooney’s character isn’t a douche; if he was, he wouldn’t have cared whether or not the company switched to the computer format Anna Kendrick’s character proposed. He is afraid of commitment, afraid of the attachments in life and wishes for the fleeting frivilouty of the skies so that he doesn’t have to deal with the strong bonds he might have if he stayed on the ground. More things happened in his life than just losing his lover, also. He watched Anna Kendrick lose her love, as well as watching her breakdown that came with having to perform her job. She shaped him more than his lover, because she was a constant connection to him for quite some time, for the first time in a very long time. The wedding of his sister only solidified the awakening to the real world that he was having, and when he lost his lover, that was the final spark. He realized that he was the only one in his life so separated from the real world, so isolated yet surrounded. He was more affected by this than simply the loss of love. Sorry for the rambling, but I couldn’t take a blow to UITA without defending it.

      • Jeff R

        Wow! Great analysis. It was my favorite movie last year too. It is a truly great film, which much more depth than it is given credit for. Funny, romantic, warm, cynical, and thoughtful.

      • edina

        I think you’re right about UITA, but the ending of the film bothered me a great deal — the cut from our final revelation about Vera Famiglia (sp?)’s character to the happy cuddly “all you need is love” montage really blew a lot of the significant goodwill that the film’s overall excellence had created for me. The movie painted this brilliant portrait of a cynical man who, through a complicated set of circumstances, finally reaches out for love — only to be brutally reminded that he’s not the only cynic in the world. And do you think the unseen husband character would believe in that happy skippy final montage, if he knew the truth? It felt very tacked on, and it made me feel as if an otherwise confident, accomplished movie didn’t have the guts to embrace the dark ending it had naturally led to. It was like taking a work of art and tacking on an ending fit for a Lifetime movie. That alone significantly undercut my appreciation for what was, overall, such a good movie.

      • Ralphie

        I love Up in the Air too. I’m not a Clooney fan, and he made me love that film. That is saying a lot.

        Multiple reairings of UITA only reinforce that the world is a rough, brutal place and times can suck but if you DON’T take those risks like Clooney’s Ryan Bingham did, you’ll miss out on all the good that goes with it.

        Hmm…didn’t Butters learn that lesson in an episode of South Park?

      • Jonathan

        @edina – I definitely see where you’re coming from. The first time through, the ending bothered me. But then the second time I appreciated how Clooney wasn’t completely sold on the idea of leaving the skies for the ground. The movie ends without a clear cut decision for Clooney, which I appreciated because it’s never really that easy of a decision when one is deciding between isolation and connection with the possibility of loss. That’s just my opinion, though, and I think it’s good that the movie can spark various interpretations.

    • Angela

      Ryan Bingham wasn’t a douche. I adored Up in the Air, but “culturally relevant” remarks aside, I don’t think it’s at all similar to The Social Network.

    • wapitislayer

      Yeah, it’s hard to give a crap about a douche who’s a billionaire (yeah, a little ching can sure buy SOME happiness, or plenty of therapy). Yes, Z-berg is a tragic character, but in the end dude is young, smart and loaded with cash. He’ll figure it out. Bill Gates seems to have.

  • Matt

    The Social Network is easily the best movie of 2010. I have no idea how Weinstein has tricked so many people into thinking the King’s Speech isn’t something we’ve seen 10 times over…sure it has great performances and makes you feel good – but best director? Hell no. Best Picture? NEVER. The Social Network easily deserves all these accolades. I find it frustrating that the momentum has decidedly shifted… I also thought Up In The Air was the best movie of it’s year, so maybe I’m just in the same camp as Owen…

    • couchgrouchmakesnosense

      totally agree, matt! i guess, come oscar night, if tsn doesn’t win, it’s still tops in our books… ha ha

      and i seriously believe that we’ll remember this film, like most of Fincher’s work… while The King’s Speech will be just another film that won oscars that no one will care about in 20 years.

    • Jackie

      I’m definitely there as well. Up in the Air and The Social Network and the kind of well-rounded(by which I mean well-acted, directed, and written) movies that sadly don’t get the love they deserve, from the Academy or from the American public.

      • Jeff R

        Well put, Jackie. I couldn’t agree more! I want more of these perfectly crafted, well-rounded films, not less….

  • Will

    Owen, you must have read my mind. I thought Up in the Air was a far better movie than The Hurt Locker, and I think TSN is far better than TKS. You’re right; it’s the nuance that gets most people. Just as people can’t sit still and focused for 2.5 hours to understand a movie like Inception, where everything is actually very clearly explained from start to finished, people want to have an over-the-top movie message shoved in their faces like TKS. To me, a great movie is one that I’m constantly thinking about and reevaluating days after I’ve seen it. TSN isn’t really about Facebook; it only is at the most superficial level. Why do you think it’s called The Social Network and not Facebook? The title works on multiple levels.

  • SciyuFiyu

    I really don’t understand the buzz about The Social Network. The movie is great, I enjoyed it, but not 10+ Oscar nominations great. And not director who deserves a nomination more than Nolan. But OK.
    Oh and Up in the Air is a fantastic movie, I understood every Oscar attention it got.

    • katie

      Nolan definitely deserved and Oscar nod and in my opinion,the win. However I definitely think Fincher over Hooper.

    • Angela

      It didn’t get 10+ Oscar nominations. I don’t get why people complain about movies they liked getting awards. So, it’s not your absolute favorite movie of the year. I don’t see why just liking it at all isn’t cause enough to be happy when it gets praised.

  • Sara

    I saw The Social Network the first week it opened and still wasn’t blown away by it. It’s a good movie, but I don’t feel it’s as ~amazing~ as people keep saying it is.

    • Angela

      I think that’s exactly what Owen was talking about. For some reason, people feel the need to put down movies they didn’t like as much as other people did, even though they apparently still liked it. Why not use your energy complaining about a movie you actually DIDN’T like?

  • Mike

    As Sean Parker in The Social Network, Justin Timberlake says “This is OUR TIME.” I think that’s why I feel (yes, FEEL, not think) so strongly about The Social Network. It’s current and “now” enough that it’s revolutionary, as if it just showed up in my news feed. “The King’s Speech” was good, but the first hour was a real bore and, regarding the topic at hand, it could have been made at any point within the last 30 years, at least. Social Network was a complicated, at times tough-to-follow saga of the corrupt creation of an Empire, one that has an outstanding influence on people today. (I found this article by browsing Facebook and Twitter!)
    While Firth and Rush were marvelous, I don’t think their parts were enough to make up for the whole. The Academy has a chance to take a risk and honor the movie of OUR TIME, but instead they may play it safe and stick to what they know, the movie of THEIR TIME.

    • Michelle

      Actually, TKS couldn’t have been made in the last 30 years because the Queen Mum wouldn’t allow it. :)

    • Rob

      Ageist much???

    • katie

      I completely agree Mike. The Social Network is the FIRST movie that accurately represents OUR generation (current 20′s). TSN will be one of those movies people talk about for years to come that pin-pointed where our society was at this time. The King’s Speech may be a great movie–but it WILL be forgotten.

      • well then

        The only thing this says about our generation is our ability to sit in front of our computers, communicate through the internet without really having any face to face conversation, and isolate our friends because we are too busy playing Farmville. This movie is not a good depiction of our Generation. If TSK is our generation’s “It” movie, then I seriously worry what our kids will think of us. You can say The King’s Speech will be forgotten, Katie, but so will The Social Network, and any other overrated film from this year. As a member of the “current 20s” generation, I really disagree with your statement.

  • frankiemachine

    I think Fincher made a dull subject cool, suspenseful and exciting. It’s my pick of the year.
    The King’s Speech is a huge Oscar bait. It’s funny and touching but it’s neither original nor difficult. And just like Shakespeare in Love, it’s gonna beat a better contender in my opinion.

    • fey

      or crash..

  • eleanor rigsby

    I really liked The Social Network. I also like The King’s Speech and Inception. I like any of the 3 for Best Movie but The Social Network seemed extra crisp to me. The writing, story, music, scenes, everything seemed spot on.

    I am not a fan of boxing or boxing movies. I don’t understand why Million Dollar Baby won and I don’t understand the hype about The Fighter.

    • Angela

      Did you see it? I’m not a fan of boxing at all, but The Fighter was good because it was more about the characters and their relationships than the sport.

  • Carrie #2

    I disliked The Social Network intensely because I thought it was about a bunch of boring stuck-up rich kids, not because I’m too stupid to get the subtlety of it. So no, Owen, I’m not joining you on the backlash against the backlash. I loved The King’s Speech and will be rooting for it to beat the movie regular people can’t follow or care about.

    • couchgrouchmakesnosense

      … because King George and his wife weren’t rich, stuck up British aristocracy, right?

      • Emily

        They were rich, but they weren’t boring. And at least TKS had a strong and capable female character. All of the women in the TSN were portrayed as vapid groupies or trophies the boys were trying to impress. Which is why I CAN’T STAND it when people play the- “it’s the first movie to represent my generation so it merits an Oscar” card. So my generation is made up of jerks and their useless women? I don’t think so.

    • jk

      Seriously? You can’t like a movie because you can’t relate to or feel sorry for the socio-economic status of its characters? I feel kind of bad for you if you hold tight to that mentality. And yeah, I think King George VI might even have more money than Mark Zuckerberg. At least Zuckerberg doesn’t have any palaces.

    • Roger C.

      I agree with Carrie#2. I used to live around rich idiots that were like the ones in the Facebook movie. They are intolerable, and the movie will show you exactly why I thought so. There’s also a big difference between Rich Americans and Rich Brits. The British monarchs aren’t afraid to join the Army. Any American with a few bucks to his name won’t even dream of it. It’s funny, they call the Brits the effeminate ones! LOL!

      • mari

        Monarchs just can’t hide like the other rich folks because the media will have a field day questioning their patriotism.

      • Jane

        There will always be resentment towards rich kids who are fighting because they want to become richer. There’s nothing noble about that. The King’s Speech is about a man who never expected to become king, having to overcome a personal defect to lead a nation. I think older members of the Academy, who know what it’s like to have lost friends, mentors and parents and have to take on the mantle of their responsibilities can see themselves in King George’s struggle.

      • LOL

        “Up in the Air” was the best movie of 2009.

    • Angela

      We’re not pitying them or anything. I don’t care how much or how little money a character has, because I root/care for him/her based on who he is, not his “socio-economic status”. Zuckerberg, at least as portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg, was compelling and, for me at least, relatable, as were the other characters.

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