Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I don’t facebook. I don’t tweet. I barely text (I had to learn because it’s the only way my kids want to communicate). I can’t believe that these websites have turned into verbs, and how quickly.

But there is no denying that Facebook is a phenomenon, and The Social Network portrays its rise and trajectory in a smart and stylish way, turning a cultural and technological explosion into dramatic storytelling that grabs our interest and doesn’t let go.

Played as a borderline Asperger’s syndrome sufferer by Jesse Eisenberg, TheFacebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg is shown right away as extremely intelligent, socially inept and altogether human when he blogs about his breakup with Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Yet he is inexplicably able to attract one “normal” friend: Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), a Brazilian finance major at Harvard, where they are both trying to gain acceptance and meet girls. In fact, it is this desire to lash out at Erica that drives the idea of TheFacebook’s predecessor,

This movie was so intriguing that I spent an hour the next day googling (another techno-verb!) the real people and listening to interviews to see how accurately they were portrayed. As Mark Zuckerberg has often stated, it wasn’t quite as exciting and dramatic in real life, but “it’s a movie…they are trying to tell a good story.”

Told both in the present, during which Zuckerberg is deposed in two lawsuits, and interspersed with flashbacks to the events being described, a picture emerges of this idea that catches on like wildfire: connecting with other students online to share information, pictures, and relationship status (because after all, they are trying to meet girls!). At first limited to Harvard email addresses to give it exclusivity to set it apart from Friendster and MySpace, it progressed to include a few hundred colleges before exploding with the encouragement of bad-boy visionary Sean Parker, Napster founder, deliciously west coast rock star sleazily played by Justin Timberlake.

Accused of stealing their concept and developing it on his own by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (tall hunky crew-rowing twins ingeniously played by Armie Hammer and Josh Pence with a healthy dose of CGI and blurred photography) and their partner Divya Narendra, Zuckerberg is at turns condescending and wounded, his two-note emotional repertoire.

The movie follows facebook’s (dropping the “the” along the way) leap into venture capitalism, silicon-valley startup offices, treachery, betrayal and the milestone of 100 million users (it is now reported to have over 500 million active users and is annoyingly prevalent at the bottom of almost every website with its own “f” link). Ultimately the lawsuits are settled, people move on, and Mark Zuckerberg is still thinking about Erica Albright, because after all, we all want to be loved, even if we can only be friends.

The EVENT Part 2

Well, I’m still DVRing and watching The Event on Monday nights. It’s intriguing, and thankfully they seem to be lessening the dreaded “flashbacks.” I’m liking the character development of Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) and his girlfriend. I’ll keep watching and hoping the improvement continues. One thing that sets it apart from its “Lost”-like plot is the way several questions get answered each week instead of leading to too many other tangents.


I just went to my own mini-marathon of movies: 1 each day for the last 4 days. Yesterday I saw Secretariat with my mom. First let me say that it is a Disney movie, so it is gorgeous to look at. The cinematography was beautiful, and was often filmed to show the events seemingly through the horse’s viewpoint. Here, horse racing is truly presented as the sport of kings, with regal contenders eager to prevail through physical force and a champion’s will.

The interesting twist is that Secretariat’s champion is a sharp, tough housewife, Penny Tweedy (nee Chenery) played by Diane Lane. Lane is one of my favorite actresses, indeed probably for most woman over forty: youthful, vulnerable, sincere but with an inner strength that ultimately succeeds. Here, her character goes through the usual dismissals of her resolve and competence in an era when women’s lib was just starting.

After her mother’s death and downward slide of her beloved father’s cognitive health, she wrestles trying to decide between closing their family farm at a loss or try to build its value for eventual sale. Flying between her upscale suburban life with husband and four kids in Colorado and the farm in Virginia, she somehow manages a crash course in the professional horse breeding business, holds off her snarky brother who wants to liquidate, and makes risky decisions everyone thinks are best left to men. I was amazed that she juggled these two lives over several years while she was developing the colt she gambled on in a coin toss who went on to become Secretariat.

And his story is remarkable. Beginning with his birth, where seasoned trainer Lucien Laurin (played to great eccentric but a big softy effect by John Malkovich), Penny, her loyal assistant Miss Ham and stable hand Eddie Sweat declare that they’ve never seen a foal stand so quickly after being born, he grows into Big Red, a name they continued to call him all his life. He seemed know what was going on around him, casually living up to their hopes of a race horse that would have both speed and stamina.

The rest is history, but I didn’t remember the amazing feat of his triple crown win, his times and margins of winning still untouched today. What is great about this movie, where the story’s outcome is already known, is the drama and excitement that the director and writers generated about the daring gambles Penney Tweedy took, laying everything and then some on the line in her belief in her horse and her team with little support. The races themselves were edge-of-the-seat exhilarating as Secretariat became a gladiator literally running away with the hearts and dreams of all who were there to witness.