Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Social Network: A Near-Lock for Best Picture

The nerd community sort of hijacked the term: Epic. It's neo definition has come to be either a) uber adventurous b) built on a grand scale or c) long. The original literary term epic was used to define a narrative that reflected the cultural values of it's time and place. In that regard, there is no movie that is more the postmodern American epic than The Social Network. Also, I bet you it wins an oscar.

This is not to say that it was an unbelievably amazing movie... and THAT's not to say that it wasn't. In terms of subjective quality (and who really gives a shit about that), I'll say it was a very good film. But how good it is pales in comparison to how relevant it is. You might think... uh, who cares? This would be incorrect.

Academy award voters love almost nothing more than dense symbolism. One of those few things that make them smack their chops even harder is holding a mirror up to society. The Social Network was almost fail-proof, and Fincher & Sorkin would have had to go pretty far out of their way to screw this one up. If they made a decent movie, they made the best movie. Because what they made was an entertaining docu-drama about one of the most important mergers of technology and society and in the process of telling one man's story, they told a story about currently unraveling history and the future of the American dream. In many ways, Mark Zuckerberg's race to permanently re-invent social networking was mirrored by Fincher & Sorkin's getting dibs on portraying it: as long as it's well-realized, it's golden.

So which values of postmodern America are brought to fore in The Social Network? Lets do some free-association: ego, lawsuits, billionaires, sex, nerdocracy, ego, partying, corporations, creep-stalking, innovation, achievement, progress, stickin-it-to-the-man, hard work (sort-of), moving towards tomorrow, dreaming big, ego... This is not the first movie made about any of these items. But it's probably the first really good movie about all of them. Sorting through all these can make one forget that underneath it all, it's also a story about a damned interesting guy. When a movie manages to be an effective treatise simultaneously on one thing and everything, that's when bitches win oscars. Right, Forrest?

It doesn't get more relevant than this folks... Imagine the biopic of Johnny Cash if it were made at the peak of Johnny Cash's popularity... And make him more popular, i.e. listened to by one in every fourteen human beings worldwide (and spike that up stateside). Now imagine Johnny Cash had altered how modern Americans relate to each other, but we didn't know him, we just knew Folsom Prison Blues. Perhaps he was a relatively anonymous celebrity. Imagine how unbeatable Walk the Line would have been at the Oscars if Johnny Cash had been previously unknown, maybe worked under pseudonym. Then the movie brings you into his world, and we get to meet him and discover his character flaws and his genius all at once together as a culture. Mark Zuckerberg's name has been on most Americans' computer screens (many of them somewhat often). Most American's could barely recognize that name prior to The Social Network. Now he's a larger than life rock-star nerd-myth whose buddy is played by Justin Timberlake, and Fincher & Sorkin have effectively personalized Facebook. It's like that mirror which bounces the laser beam around, focusing it and increasing its intensity. Add points for successfully turning Facebook into the sublimation of repressed ego, and I don't think there's a film that can compete even if they decide to have 30 nominations.

I just filled out a portion of my 2011 Oscar ballot. Most of it's blank, I'm not that good. But for best picture I do have The Social Network edging out Resident Evil: Afterlife and Secretariat.

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