Heroes of the East

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    The Social Network (2010: David Fincher)

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    Masterofoneinchpunch

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    The Social Network (2010: David Fincher)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Mon Feb 28, 2011 3:16 pm

    The Social Network (2010: David Fincher) ***½/****

    Here is a film that is impossible for me to review without interjecting my own experience as a software engineer. Most of what is shown in the film I have experienced in microcosm -- everything from a lawsuit, intellectual theft, the CS courses, spending countless hours writing source code, dealing with some of the most emotionally inept humans on the planet (and some of the most brilliant), being part of a start-up during the .dot com era, having a company grow exponentially (that company fell faster than Icarus, but that has not happened to Facebook, yet), money freely flowing and being betrayed. There are not many industries that are as paranoid as the software industry. The amount of non-disclosure agreements, paranoia and intellectual theft make the industry feel more like cloak and dagger than what an outsider to the industry might just think as a playground for nerds and geeks.

    Mark Zuckerberg has an idea. Well technically (the best kind of correct) two twin rowers the Winklevoss's have an idea (both played by Armie Hammer). To improve a social network specific to Harvard. They recruit Zuckerberg after he performs a hack that brings down the school network with a program that allows users to compare the looks of randomly chosen females downloaded from several sites. But Mark avoids the two and with a business partner and best friend Eduardo Saverin (and one additional programmer) set out to create their own version of a social network for the school. Ideas are constantly stolen and you expect that they will be stolen. So it is a bit harder for me to feel for the Winklevoss's on this issue. Their naivety seems a bit much for Harvard, but it does happen. Its exponential popularity helps excite the interest of nerd-badboy (played well by Justin Timberlake) Sean Parker whose narcissistic behavior is legendary and only upstaged by a company he helped create in Napster. With this unholy union the company expands even more. But at what cost and will it survive the enemies that have been created not only by the success, but by the enemies created from within the company.

    Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is sublime and spot-on. It does not help if you have been around many variants of this personality and their borderline (or full) Asperger's Syndrome. They are certainly easier to take in a two-hour movie, but not as fun when you work with them and every single perceived fault is ripe for an acerbic comment. But the monomania that is displayed akin to The Nutty Professor while stereotypical is quite true. When you are working on a problem or a perceived solution it can dominate you and make you oblivious to anything else. His surly and sarcastic conduct no matter what the setting certainly defies social normalcy (especially in the trials), but that is also quite true of this creature.

    While I do feel the film has been overrated, and I am somewhat glad it did not win the Oscar, I do feel it is a good film and I enjoyed watching it. There is some sloppiness to it though. In a particular scene to show Mark Zuckerberg's intellectual prowess as he leaves in the middle of a problem in a CS course (leaving for a personal issue) the professor calls him out and states that not everyone will be successful, in response he of course answers the question to the bewilderment of the professor. This is analogous to the "Jeopardy" scenes in films where answering is to show your mental acuity. Another scene was the "Eureka" scene where an individual comes to him and discusses an idea which facilitates hey The Facebook needs a marital status. That idea has been used way before The Facebook (BBSs for example).

    It also seems weird to me that they eschewed the whole MySpace rivalry. I know you have to streamline a story, but that was such an important part of so many decisions and attitude that Facebook went through that it seem like a whitewash of history.

    Though I have to admit David Fincher made a difficult subject interesting. If you focus too much on software concepts you will have a film full of jargon that is indecipherable to but a few. He kept this at a minimum with a few references here and there with, I think, only one mention of Perl and a few mentions of PHP. This is wrong in the portrayal because these individuals nomenclature would be esoteric (though still quite sarcastic, the amount of jokes I have heard on design patterns like a Singleton or basic concepts like hash maps could drive a person crazy), but I certainly would not dock the film for taking the high road. In fact because of this I really enjoyed the sardonic dialogue. Also, the score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which would win an Oscar, is outstanding. Though anytime I hear Edvard Grieg’s “Hall of the Mountain King” I always think of Fritz Lang’s M.

    I do wonder if it had a certain racist attitude towards Asian women, almost in an updated Suzy Wong fashion, but that may have just been me overreaching. I will have a better opinion on this after I lend this film to several who are interested in this.

    I did have a suggestion for a name change -- drop the The.

    An excellent review of this film from another professional programmer Steve McConnell [url="http://forums.construx.com/blogs/stevemcc/archive/2011/02/07/why-didn-t-i-like-the-social-network.aspx"]"Why Didn't I Like "The Social Network?"[/url] whose Code Complete is one of my favorite CS books.


    Last edited by Masterofoneinchpunch on Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:05 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added some more comments on the score.)
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    Masterofoneinchpunch

    Posts : 401
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    Re: The Social Network (2010: David Fincher)

    Post  Masterofoneinchpunch on Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:54 pm

    Has anyone else seen this? Care to comment? Compare to other 2010 critical favorite releases?
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    Brian T

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    Re: The Social Network (2010: David Fincher)

    Post  Brian T on Tue Mar 08, 2011 6:48 pm

    I have it, but haven't watched it yet. Hope to soon, in part because of your interesting take on it. I get the impression that it hasn't exactly been a runaway blockbuster (in theatres or on video) despite the almost-universal praise (perhaps it's too contemporary?). Still, it sounded like the kind of dialogue-driven film I usually enjoy, so I took a chance . . .

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