And the Award for Best Gif Goes to…

It’s Oscar season. The glitterati anxiously await the ceremony tonight, where their dreams will be realized or crushed. Word on the street is that this year’s ceremony will be a snooze. You heard it here first. But that doesn’t mean we, the blogeratti, have to snooze through it. See, I don’t believe the Hollywood establishment should tell us which of its movies we’re supposed to enjoy the most. These “gifs” recap the best moments from some of this year’s Best Picture nominees. The King’s Speech will probably win best picture, but the Social Network might as well. If I had my druthers, it would be True Grit, which also wins Best Gif, or maybe How to Train Your Dragon. But the Academy doesn’t ask me. Anyway, enjoy the Oscar brouhaha and the avenging last hurrah of winter, at least out here in the redneck inland northwest.


True Grit
The Social Network
The King's Speech - favored for Best Picture, but I don't think it wins Best Gif
Toy Story 3 - I could be wrong, but is this PIxar's first Best Picture-nominated film? If so, it's a pity. TS3 was good, but it wasn't The Incredibles, Toy Story 1, or even Wall-E.
The Fighter
127 Hours, aka "the one where James Franco cuts his arm off on webcam"




I Get to 500 Million Friends and All I Get Is the Hollywood Treatment?

By internet terms, Facebook is already an oldie. Any site that lasts long enough to merit a major motion picture is practically geriatric.

But Facebook’s not going anywhere anytime soon. 500 million users. And it’s just getting started.

The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg as the iconoclast founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and costars Justin Timberlake (yeah, weird) and the up-and-coming Andrew Garfield as his frenemy co-conspirators. It is based on the bestselling book The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich.

First of all, the book is nearly worthless. I object on principle to nonfiction books that are written like novels. If it’s written like a novel, I’m going to treat it as a novel and assume most of it is pure fiction. With Mezrich’s book, I’m probably right.

Sex up a story, add great acting, great sets, script, and pacing–in essence, make a good film–and truth doesn’t matter so much anymore. That is why Hollywood is so powerful.

97% of Rotten Tomatoes critics can definitely be wrong, but they aren’t this time: The Social Network is definitely worth a watch.

The movie opens with a scene in a campus bar. Zuckerberg and his girlfriend are having a conversation. Or something. It’s more peaceful than a knife-fight, but only just. The insults escalate. Finally the chick breaks up with him and leaves, with one last dig:

Listen. You’re going to be rich and successful. But you’re going to go through life thinking girls don’t like you because you’re a geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.

First of all, the girl is the movie’s only “good guy.” And Zuckerberg can’t let go of her. In fact, the movie hints that he did everything for her. Pure poppycock of course, but the final scene is so charmingly Hollywood and yet so scarily modern that I have to relate it.

Zuckerberg is sitting alone in the stylish new Facebook offices. He’s just fired Sean Parker, his flamboyant cocaine-addled business partner, and searches his site for the girl who dumped him in Scene 1. Bam, she has Facebook. He “friends” her, and then refreshes the page. Again, and again, and again, waiting for that magical notification “You are now friends with Ex You Treated Like a Douche.”

This movie isn’t decrying Facebook. It’s not coincidence that Facebook’s core demographic (18-34 year olds) thinks more positively about Facebook since the movie came out. In fact, the movie’s not really praising or blaming anything.

The movie has a flaw: it doesn’t make a bold statement. A movie like this should. It implies that Zuck is a crook. Everyone’s ready to agree with that. Apparently, though, no one’s ready to examine how Facebook and the internet as a whole have changed our lives so massively in so short a time. Instead of charting new territory, the producers of The Social Network decided to play it safe and make another (beautifully shot, perfectly-acted, well-timed, well-scripted) dystopian tech movie.

So: watch The Social Network because it’s a good movie, not because it’s very true or even particularly relevant.

Films Guys Should Avoid Like Abercrombie, Star Wars Edition

Recycling is good for the Earth, right? So it’s good, right, and beneficial for me to recycle my Rhetoric assignment for this week and submit it for your perusal. By the way, if you read this blog, why don’t you go ahead and LEAVE A COMMENT. OR SOMETHING. JUST TELL ME YOU’RE OUT THERE. It’s not especially fulfilling to write when the only guaranteed audience I have is the shadowy being that exists in the heart of cyberspace itself….

Each of us has a special place in our spleen for that one movie we just cannot stand. A move that is really truly bloody awful, the Platonic form of sucktastic movies. When we catch a glimpse of it on television, we want to claw out our eyeballs and use them to block our ears, while praying for God’s mercy, although this is difficult to do through the vomiting.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace is the film that depletes my gallbladder of its bile reserves. The plot is hapless and trite even by science-fiction standards. If the cast has talent, it is kept carefully hidden. The effects are juvenile. Anakin Skywalker is a hateful little pimple, and the Jedi are self-righteous, pompous turds. So many aspects of this film are godawful that it beggars belief. However, the real reason Phanton Menace is so frigging execrable is Jar-Jar Binks. Words fail to capture the utter depraved idiocy of this bonkers amphibian. I think he’s supposed to be comic relief, but I was crying too hard to tell for sure. If I ever met George Lucas, I would pat him on the back for the excellent original trilogy, and then I would shoot him in the kneecap for Jar-Jar Binks and The Phantom Menace.

What’s On at the Gomorrah Cinemax 12?

Purity in Entertainment

My uncle Dave had a roommate in college who thought the word grotesque was pronounced, not grow-tesk, but grottaskew. In all fairness, if there is a more grotesque way to say grotesque, roomie found it.

Pronunciation aside, what does grotesque mean? I don’t need to define it. Like tinkle, buzz, or murmur, grotesque sounds like what it means. Well, sort of. There’s a word for this: onomatopoeia. [Funny, onomatopoeia is most certainly not onomatopoeic.]

But I digress. Massively. The word grotesque has been on my mind. I and my scholastic companions were yesterday exhorted to avoid “grotesque entertainment standards.” These were jestingly defined as standards that allow movies, music, or entertainment of any sort that we would not be comfortable with our mothers experiencing.

There is a problem with this definition. My mother is the most admirable woman I know, and I love her exceedingly (I also miss her, but that’s another story). However, she is not always the arbiter of my entertainment tastes. My mother prefers movies where the most violent acts are a spurned dinner invitation, a hastily plunked-down teacup, a icy stare from the Vicar. I like movies with a bit of shootin’ (by the good guys, of course). Similarly, though she is a paragon of elegant motherliness and a gourmet chef besides (I miss her chevre won-tons and grilled-cheese casserole SO VERY, VERY MUCH), she prefers Springsteen, Carole King, and whosoever doth appear on A Prairie Home Companion to the Foo Fighters, Radiohead, or Broken Social Scene. She’s more gardening and knitting, I’m more gokarting and computing.

So, much as I respect mater meus, she’s not always my standard for entertainment, and we’re both fine with that.

However, Doug Wilson, was right to say that we must be careful in what we hear, see, and do. And as his son is fond of saying, “If you read stupid books, watch stupid movies, and listen to stupid music, congratulations: you’re stupid.”

Nasty movies can lead us into sin. Especially when we let them redefine the norm. Is extramarital sex the norm? Sure, in our culture. In our movies, absolutely. In the Twin Cities, Moscow and Pullman, yes. In the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, totally. In the Twin Cities, Sodom and Gomorrah, yes. However, in the City of God, no friggin’ way.

Creation is contained within the Creator. All our normals and abnormals must come from Him. And guess what? Entertainment culture (is that redundant?) may declare that extramarital sex, perverted sex, and infanticide are normal, accepted, and praiseworthy. They aren’t. We sin, but that doesn’t make it normal. Sin is so grotesquely abnormal, and so alien to the Goodness of God that it deserves death. I’m not afraid to say it. I’m also not afraid to say that I’m a wild hypocrite: I watch bad movies sometimes, and I listen to bad music sometimes. It’s a war, and I lose some battles. So do you. But this is a war we can’t lose. Let’s keep fighting.

So what are we fighting? Movies with gratuitous sex and violence, that’s a given. Many movies glorify an immoral lifestyle, but not all of them succeed. When a movie is more a work of art then it is a portrayal of sin, it is worth watching. So no, that lame-ass R-rated comedy probably does not qualify. The Godfather? Maybe.