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Waiting for The Social Network

Since it opened the New York Film Festival Friday, David Fincher's "The Social Network" has set the movie blogosphere and comment sections all abuzz. But you needn't worry about encountering spoilers here because I haven't seen it, and won't until it opens theatrically this coming Friday, October 1. In the meantime, l'm also doing my best not to read about it, even though it's everywhere. And because the pre-opening coverage is ostensibly pegged to the film festival showing, I can't once again launch into my lament for the vanished civility of a time, not so long ago, when review embargoes were respected. But darn it's difficult and frustrating to avert your eyes every time see a mention of the movie on one of your favorite blogs or on Twitter or Facebook...

What I've noticed (in my peripheral vision, I assure you) is that some blogs and comments sections have virtually become Facebook over the weekend -- without the proprietary interface, of course. People are proclaiming to all the world (hear them roar!) that they simply do not need to see any movie that's about something as trivial as Facebook (not that they know what that means), or hyping it as the picture to beat for Oscar season, or speculating whether a certain D-list New York reviewer will maintain his reputation as a contrarian hack -- the only thing that's left of his reputation -- by ruining the movie's TomatoMeter rating.

OK, so it seems a lot of people who hold press passes in the upper right corner of the USA "Like" David Fincher's new movie, scripted by Aaron Sorkin, based on the non-fiction book by Ben Mezrich, The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal. I hope to "Like" it, too. Nobody, however, is forcing anybody to see it, though what commenters intend to say when when they say it's "about Facebook" is not precisely clear. Is that like saying you don't want to see "Chinatown" because it's about public utilities?

I was struck by the widely divergent readings of the trailer -- which I consider to be a short film unto itself -- when I posted it a couple months back. It begins with an a cappella choir singing Radiohead's "Creep" -- a song about a social misfit, if you've listened to the lyrics -- accompanied by a montage of Facebook pages. The second part traces the rise of an ambitious, socially awkward Harvard student who says he wants to take the entire social experience of college and put it online. He's wildly successful, but alienates friends who sue him for stealing their work. Go ahead, watch it again.

What surprised me was how differently various people saw the trailer. Here are a few comments on that post from last July:

I've seen this trailer referred to as "brilliant," "breathtaking," and "amazing" yet my first reaction was one of amused scorn, especially over the much beloved use of the Creep cover. Facebook as religious experience??? Come on!

And it only got worse from there. The overstated case for Facebook followed by the strivings of a bunch of overprivileged Harvard dorks stabbing each other in the back. Oh joy.

* * * *

They pushed all the right buttons, from the opening photos of self-sharing (or promoting? or unhealthy, silent cries for attention?) that we're now all too familiar with, set to "Creep", both hilarious and sad in this context.

And one wonders, how did this all begin with a computer geek outcast who wanted to get the attention of clubs? [...]

But something has snuck up on everyone, a threshold has been crossed. We may not have been able to register when but we can feel it now. Something akin to how we felt when Facebook, online chat, blogging, et cetera, was introduced into our social world and our lives changed forever. (Mine did anyway.) Amazing trailer, fascinating story, can't wait for the film, even if it was written by the author of "A Few Good Men" -- which, to be fair, was much the fault of an overacting cast and bad direction. This film would appear to be in safer hands.

* * * *

I thought it was an ad for Facebook, because it was the first trailer to be shown after a succession of commercials. For those first thirty seconds, I was thinking "boy, this is kind-of a creepy evocation of Facebook", and then when Eisenberg's face appeared, I recognized what was going on. Excellent trailer.

* * * *

Does anyone else get the feeling that this film may have a little somethin-somethin to say about the corporate greed that ran rampant throughout Wall Street the past few years? I know these guys were mulling around with the ideas for Facebook around 2003, and isn't that about the time that the bankers were beginning to make oodles of money? To paraphrase the trailer, "A million dollars isn't cool anymore. You know what's cool? A billion dollars." It will be interesting to see how much of the movie is about Facebook per se, and how much of it is about the new generation of hot-shot white boys teeming with entrepreneurial schemes.

* * * *

It took me a moment to figure out why the opening scenes of Facebook-related images disturbed me so much (and not just for the choir singing "Creep" in the background) and then it came to me: I felt like I was watching the short film the Parallax corporation uses to screen for its potential assassins. I wouldn't be surprised if that was used as a reference point. The trailer is beautiful and though I hate to get my hopes up, I am cautiously optimistic that this could be another "Zodiac" (perfect evocation of a time and place and an obsession).

* * * *

Best part: the question "What's on your mind?" is answered by being deleted and leaving the space empty. That montage is a poem. Nice work.

* * * *

I thought the trailer was pretentious, and it certainly didn't make me want to see the movie. More masturbation about the rich white elite and their ludicrous self-worshipping.

* * * *

It wasn't the pretense I had a problem with. It was the formula--more David and Goliath crap, unless I perhaps misunderstood.

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I just threw up a little, in the back of my throat. I hope the movie is good, but if it's as intense as that trailer I'll have a nervous breakdown before it's over.

* * * *

Anyone else wondering if Fincher is starting to get a little... soft? First Benjamin Button, now a Facebook biopic about Zuckerberg? And both of these coming from a guy who previously made his mark on movies about fights and serial killings. Oh, and aliens. [...]

"The Social Network" does seem to be the sort of object that screams Oscar bait.

* * * *

If people had such a range of reactions to the short film/trailer, I'm even more excited to see what they'll make of the feature. But, for now, all I can do is wait...

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