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To Friend or Not to Friend (Mark Zuckerburg): David Fincher's "The Social Network"

[This post was nominated for Best Post by the Movie 411 website.
P A R T   I
Pretty Potent Mix

You know that pop song you hear once and have to hear over and over again, the one that two months later you never want to listen to again? There's that kind of music and then there are works like Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue," which was like  elevator music to me on first listen. It took five more goes, listening the whole way through, before it even began to register. Ten years later and it is my favourite album of all time.

I preface with that not because you need to watch The Social Network five times to understand it's good, nor does jazz music have anything to do with it, but I'm going to argue that you may want to consider giving the film a second viewing. Truly. I think it's got that much packed in. Cause you couple David Fincher's talent as a director pressing his immense brain against that of a screenwriter of Aaron Sorkin's (creator of TV's The West Wing) abilities and have the two of them come up with a story about the guy who started the biggest internet phenomenon since Google - you get a pretty potent mix and a lot to take in one shot.

If I may pause for a split sentence and state -the obvious - that this is not just a movie about technology; as Fincher said in a press conference, they aren't trying to make The Net part II.

I can't know what I'll think of The Social Network in ten years, but I can say I'm pretty excited as I type these words.Whatever Oscar thinks (and it will) this flick's got legs. At least I certainly hope it does. Why? Because I. Cannot. Stop. Thinking. About. It.

The Stanley Kubrick of Our Time?

A lot of us knew it that first time we saw Fight Club (1999), that first time David Fincher made our jaws drop open - from the opening visuals against the Dust Brothers jarring and perfect score to the recognition that it was a gun that we were seeing and that it was in Edward Norton's mouth, but so much more so when Fincher had the camera drop some thirty storeys through the building to the basement so we could see the plastique, the explosives - explode. We knew we'd stumbled on something as exciting as Radiohead's Ok Computer or Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I also have to say that it was David Fincher that has forever poisoned me when I'm on an airplane. Norton's Narrator in Fight Club imagining his plane being crashed into by another is one of the most visually arresting - albeit disturbing - moments I've seen since A Clockwork Orange, and that's only one of how many visually mind-blowing moments in what was Fincher's fourth film. But beyond the sheer riveting and visually arresting and often terrifying entertainments that were Se7en (1995) and The Game (1997) you could tell with Fight Club that Fincher was a thinker. With Zodiac (2007) you got an unparalleled depth of thought, but what you also got, in the care with which the director would light a room (Kubrick, anyone?), or the unbelievable attention to detail in the gorgeous design of that 1970s San Fransisco Chronicle newsroom, not to mention the prettiest yet most ominous opening for a film I'd seen in years (destroyed Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" for me forever), you could tell the guy was an artist.

When Fincher cast Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo and Chloe Sevigny in Zodiac we understood he knew something about acting. Having the balls to cast such a young bunch of actors in The Social Network, many of whom I'd never seen or heard of (Andrew Garfield?) and pulling the performances out of them that he does .... phew! Thing a beauty, boy. Thing. A. Beauty.

The Thinking Person's Thrill Ride

I like pop as much as the next kid. Believe me (says the bloke who saw the latest Karate Kid in theatres this summer, and enjoyed it!). There are those movies that are zippy amusement park thrill rides (which I love) and those movies that have depth (which I love). And then there are those movies that do both. I think Fincher's latest is a masterpiece because it is so funny and so beautifully - and subtly - constructed. Love Fight Club as I did, this is a different Fincher, a more mature Fincher. Three movies later and a Fincher movie is nearing the levels of a Kubrick film; "One of his movies is like ten of someone else's," as Scorsese put it in a documentary about the late master filmmaker.

Nearing fifty, and with quite the resume now, Fincher no longer needs to resort to visual gimmicks at every turn to keep us tuned in. Perhaps that's why one viewing of the film isn't enough. I say this because I didn't initially come out with quite the high you expect from a great big movie. But I suspect I know why. I find the more formulaic the picture the greater the chance of getting that instant high feeling. It was the utter familiarity of Avatar's story arch that made it such a fun ride to follow and that gave us that quick-jolt, easy lift after. When, however, you see something as original as The Social Network, the high can take a bit of time to hit. Or, in my case, can require a second viewing.

What got me going back was the way the film stayed with me. I went back because of the movie's powerful ideas, for its [Aaron Sorkin's] whip-smart dialogue, for its heartbreaking characters, for its Shakespearean themes (but more on Will later).

Tantric Sh*t

There's a famous notion in the financial world ... that I'll tell you about in the Part II, when I complete my minor dissertation on The Social Network. The Hamlet reference will make sense by then too. Promise.Oh and those ideas I keep referring to, I'll mention those too. The word ambition will come up, that it is the theme of our time - this blogging tweeting fame-hungry generation of ours. The thrills and spills of our ambitions. And those of a nerdy guy named Mark. But less about him and more about me. I have a blog. I am special. So very special ...