To be perfectly frank, our first group discussion was…shall we say, less than successful. Nevertheless, with nary any time and scarcely any sense of focus, we plunged forth into the void, discussing our various films (which included A Fistful of Dollars, Bronco Billy and my choice, A Perfect World). Unfortunately, all we noticed were the similarities and differences between them, and virtually no comparison was made to the kinds of Western heroes we looked at in class. However, I am willing to try to make some connections. In Clint Eastwood’s A Perfect World (1993), the question of the Western hero in the 1963 rural Texas backroads setting is an interesting one. On the one hand, you have Eastwood himself as the tough-as-nails yet haunted Texas Ranger Red Garnett. On the other, there is something of a very likable “antihero” in the person of deeply emotionally scarred prison escapee Robert ‘Butch’ Haynes (Kevin Costner) who kidnaps an 8-year-old boy from a Jehovah’s Witness household in early morning hours and, with a nefarious accomplice who is soon dispatched with, hits the road on the lam from “justice.” So then we have two “heroes” to look at in comparison and contrast to the kinds of John Wayne characters that populated such earlier films as Stagecoach, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, among others. Dispensing with the obvious issues of mise-en-scene in comparison between the classic Western vs. a more modernized incarnation – i.e. cars and Airstreams vs. horseback, frozen food vs. freshly caught food – let’s look at others instead. Continue reading
Triumphantly returning to the big screen from the wilderness of too-smart-for-TV weekly series such as The West Wing and Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin’s screenplay for The Social Network about misanthropic genius Mark Zuckerberg (played with almost freakish gusto and magnetism by Jesse Eisenberg), the multi-track-minded creator of Facebook, begins in a torrent of words and ideas – before the studio logo even comes up! Visual dynamo David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac) has directed the year’s best film – an astonishing, hypnotically fascinating, brilliant, (I swear to God) often funny tale of one man’s rise and spiritual (if by no means economic) fall. The film is not simply the story of the ascent of a business or the increasing popularity of a truly unpleasant, at times even despicable human being, nor is it exactly the mere Rashomon-style account of how he may or may not have stolen the idea from Harvard crew-rowing identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (both played seamlessly by Armie Hammer with some doubling of Tyler by Josh Pence), but rather it is also the story of his partnership (and eventual blood feud) with young moneyman Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), whose friendship and business relationship with Mark is eventually eclipsed by the seemingly Devilish influence of Napster creator Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake in a wonderful supporting turn). Perhaps it should be no surprise that Zuckerberg’s apparent misanthropy and almost Asperger’s-esque social ineptitude would (along with his rather algorithmic fascination with what makes things tick) drive his creation of the most popular social networking site in the world, and perhaps it should be no surprise that being scorned by a girl (Rooney Mara) he fancied, who quite correctly calls him an asshole in the tour-de-force opening scene, took its toll on his emotional maturity. But, it is still profoundly affecting to see, in the film’s closing moments, how a young man with all the promise of the future of Internet human connectivity in his worldview, and all the money he could ever (but doesn’t appear to) want, and as many “friends” as his Facebook creation has generated, STILL just wants that girl to like him. Although Trent Reznor’s original score for the film (including a virtuoso variation on “In the Hall of the Mountain King”) must be lauded, the fact is that the use of the Beatles’ “Baby You’re a Rich Man” over the final shot of this film could never have sounded more ironic. Bravo, Monsieurs Fincher, Sorkin and Eisenberg. Bravo!