Thursday, September 30, 2010

Whither "Network?"

"The Social Network," near-universally hailed as one of the best - if not the best - movies of the year, will have it's Midnight shows about 4 hours from now and then be in wide-release a few hours after that. It's a big movie based on a ripped-from-the-headlines story from a superstar directorwith stellar reviews and a cast of rising stars (the kid from "Zombieland," another kid from "Gossip Girl," the biggest male pop-star in music and the next Spider-Man,) so you'd think it'd be a garaunteed hit, right?

Honestly, I dunno...

As I may have mentioned once or twice before, the "downer story" of Summer 2010 - and maybe 2010 in general - has been the visible backlash of mainstream audience against the pop-culture omnipresence of "nerd culture."

Not necessarily a backlash against "smart" movies, I stress - "Inception" certainly proved that you can draw a comfortable contingent of even the sad excuses for functioning humanity currently overflowing the American moviegoing audience to a brain-twister... providing you've got a trailer's worth of gunfights, Leonardo DiCaprio and "The Director of The Dark Knight" to lure them in. I'm talking about the genuine sense of mainstream-culture rejection of material and/or characters percieved to be from the outer-edges of "nerdity;" i.e. the lukewarm reception of "Kick-Ass" and the outright hostility that greeted "Scott Pilgrim" (in that regard, you can toss the bizzare level of hatred that's built up against Michael Cera on the list, too.) "Network," or course, is 100% a creature of "nerd-culture" - a story of nerds engaged in the ultra-nerd world of computer programming and website building.

You don't need to be a Gallup pollster to look out at the American cultural landscape right now and see that we're in the midst of a HUGE flare-up of anti-intellectualism at the moment - look at the frighteningly-pervasive influence of the so-called "Tea Party," with it's delusional romanticism of "ordinary joe" Americana and it's open hatred of the non-traditional and/or the knowledge-oriented (aka "LIBERAL ELITISTS!!!") And hatred of "nerds" is the evolutionary starting-point for anti-intellectualism in general - the hatred of the non-traditional, resentment of the above-average, and the rage upon realizing that they're often one and the same. It's a zeitgeist thing, in other words... when asked, "what kind of world is it where Sarah Palin or this new cretin from Delaware can be seriously considered for high office?," my answer is "the kind of world where 'The Expendables' sells $250 Million worth of tickets, and 'Transformers' does even better than that."

Maybe that's a reach, or seeing connections where none exist, but I'm not inclined to think so. But even going back to main point, just think about it: Audiences didn't turn out to see a socially-awkward uber-nerd engage in video-game martial-arts duels - who really expects them to turn out to see another socially-awkward uber-nerd make a website, get rich and get sued?

Here's hoping I'm wrong, all the same.

24 comments:

akkuma420 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
akkuma420 said...

I really don't give two shits about "Facebook" so I wont be seeing this in theaters, that's for damn sure, maybe a rental eventually though.
Don't get me wrong, story seems interesting enough.
But in the grand scheme of things its just "Facebook- THE MOVIE" I mean really..... who cares.
what next, "Twitter the movie"
This gets a giant "MEH" from me.

Adam said...

I'm sorry, but there is now way I can take this movie seriously. Even if the story has an element of truth to it I could not possibly care less about the rise of Facebook.

Scott Glasgow said...

@ Akkuma -
This movie is as much about Facebook as Rocky is about Boxing. Sure people went to Rocky to see a bunch of fights, but the meat of the story was a man overcoming his personal challenges to show the world his potential.
From what I've gathered about Network, is that it's about a man who wants to be noticed, which is strangely enough, why millions of people use Facebook, which is why millions of people post on forums and comments boards. I'd almost go as far as saying that you - akkuma420 - want to be noticed by saying
"I really don't give two shits about "Facebook" so I wont be seeing this in theaters,"
The character of Mark Zuckerberg (at least the one being portrayed in the movie) is (at least in the trailers) obsessed with the whole idea of being noticed and being popular. His journey (or descent) into complacency is the reason to see this movie, Facebook or not, the story is going to be great.

RestamSalucard said...

Sorry, Bob, but I'm really not interested in this movie. And this is from someone who loved Kick-ass and Inception and District 9 and Scott Pilgrim. I got pissed off by Transformers with just vague memories of the cartoon, I had enough of Expendables after the first trailer and have a special place of rage reserved for Queef, Pray, Love, Twilight and all forms of reality shows. But for this, I just can't bring myself to care.

Why should I see this movie? It isn't a comedy, it doesn't have any worthwhile action, it isn't a suspense, thriller, horror, gorror or murder movie or some form of "What if?" fiction. It's a dramatized documentary about some guy who might gain or lose a ton of money. I just don't see the appeal of it.

Then again I don't see the appeal of facebook or twitter, either, so what do I know?

RestamSalucard said...

@Scott Glascow
I'd say people go on forums and post on blogs because they love debating, fighting and arguing facts and opinions as much as getting noticed by strangers.

Timothy said...

I shall not see this movie on the basic alone that I have better things to do to see Cera (I just don't like the guy, I find him annoying). And outside of people I know, respect, or have some reason to want around, I really have little to no interest in his life. Hell I have often said "Look, the reason the war isn't won yet is because they are hiding among citizens, so just start killing them."

Then again I openly declare myself evil...

a.k.a.A.M.V.P said...

I don't like to think too deeply about the prospect of 'culture wars' the likes of which you're hinting at. Mainly because I fictionalize my own existence enough as it is without wondering whether I'd be the Han or the Greedo should such a movement take place (and yes, I have imagined that scenario in the form of a movie trailer). Really though, self-indulgent neurotic fantasies aside, I'm not too worried about this movie failing. For one thing, the advertising has been far superior to the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim, the competition doesn't seem as thick this time around at the box office, and Facebook has a pretty solid mainstream appeal (here's to hoping the twi-hards actually come in handy for once). But really, the only thing anyone can do to make any film a success is to go see it, and in this case I completely intend to.

RestamSalucard said...

@Timothy The fuck are you talking about? Cera isn't even in this movie. What's this bullshit about Winning wars and killing citizens?

Bob said...

It's not "about" Facebook, is the thing. In fact, I didn't "count it down" or anything, but you actually see Facebook as in the site and it's usage, icons etc. three times as much in the first TRAILER for this (the "Creep" trailer) than you do in the actual movie.

You could cut every reference to Facebook and computers from the script, replace them with others words and make it a movie about guys compiling a book or a scientific theory or a soup recipe and it'd be JUST as good.

It's a movie about two guys who happen upon "the billion-dollar idea," and what happens when a slicker third party turns up offering the classic choice between loyalty and dreams-coming-true, courtesy one of the best writers and one of the best directors working today. I "get" hating Facebook - I hate Facebook - but I don't get dismissing that kind of pedigree out of hand. I can't offer a "review" until tomorrow... but let's just say I'd think twice before writing this off.

Timothy said...

Wow are the actors really getting so similar I can no longer tell them apart?

The war thing was to example how I don't give a crap about people I don't have a reason to give a care about. If the creators of facebook all got murdered in the most evil and sickening way ever tomorrow, I would go "meh". That's why I don't watch movies that are basically just documentaries.

Alexander said...

How can you not like biopics and dramas (what you're saying by "dramatized documentaries" I guess). You're missing out on many of the greatest performances on screen by rejecting them offhand. I am not facebook's or Zuckerburg's biggest fan, what with all the privacy intrusions, not that you can really blame the guy, i mean could any of you resist the temptation? Anyway he seems an interesting person and it seems and interesting movie, and i am looking forward to this one.

As for the anti-intellectualism, I don't think this movie is going to rake in huge money anyway, I mean the kind of people who see any movie like this, whether its Walk the Line, "Network", A beautiful mind or whatever, are basically the kind of people who are engaged by subtle interactions between characters, i.e. NOT the lucrative 18-35 year old male demographic. I think the fact it is about facebook might draw in a few more, but i think the internet, and facebook in particular, are ubiquitous enough not to put people off.

akkuma420 said...

@Scott.....
How the hell does me posting my opinion when there is a comment section attached to this blog purely for voicing your opinion, make me fishing for attention?
lol.... whatever dude.
ANYWAYS......

@Bob
like I said before, don't get me wrong, story looks and sounds interesting enough, but, I will not give 10 dollars of my money to this movie......
It's just facebook underneath all the pretty actors and plot line.
BUT..... who knows right, could be a great movie, and I will eat my words if it is.....
So far though, I'm just not interested, the only good thing to come out of the whole thing is Scala and Kolacny Brothers with there AMAZING cover of "creep"
That trailer was pretty bad ass ill admit.

Q said...

You know Bob I was about to try and refute your predictions (I would like to consider myself an optimist. as one can tell of my trolling on your site) But... when the evidence hits you right in the face like this. Hell, just looking at the comments on THIS page.

Even the faceless nameless sheep that usually comment are rejecting this outright. Why? Because its about something that he associates with preteen girls. This is depressing, complete condescension from the people that made 'The Expendables' a blockbuster. They have no sense of adventure. Point goes to you, Bob.

Would it help if I told people this was from the same director of 'Fight Club' (otherwise known unironically as 'the best movie evar' by some commentors)

Gray said...

Should we really expect mainstream audiences to appreciate nerd movies, even if they are good? I mean, I loved Kick Ass and I assume I'll love Scott Pilgrim too once it releases in theaters here (27th of October -.- how sad is that?), but I would never expect my parents or my sister or any of my non-nerd friends to do so. There are a lot of good movies that I don't enjoy because they are centered around things I don't like...

Anyway, they aren't really selling this as a "nerd movie" as much as "the facebook movie", surely, that's gotta draw some audiences right?

Joe said...

See, I saw the trailer and thought "computer programmer/hacker nerd movie". And the only financially successful film I can think of in that category is WarGames, which is almost 30 years old. It's also one of the few good films in the genre.

Hackers I suppose has some cult appeal, mainly driven by young Angelina Jolie and how laughable the depiction of computers and hackers was even in its own time. Pirates of Silicon Valley was amusing, but these days trying to pick sides between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs feels like (Godwin alert!) reading about the Eastern Front and hating yourself for hoping Stalin can defeat Hitler. Antitrust started as a somewhat clever parody of Microsoft and the dot-com boom, before morphing into a boring teen murder mystery movie. Did I miss a good one somewhere?

I'm just not sure a movie about the development of software can be very compelling. I've read three excellent books about Google--its founders, how its technology revolutionized the web, their radical business practices. It's all really compelling stuff, and I enjoyed those books very much. I don't think any of them would translate well into a dramatic film, however.

Ezenwa said...

The Social Network is Facebook: the movie? They said the same thing about Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist being a 90 minute IPod commercial. It's really sad when we are able to label a film before seeing it. Then again, I'm guilty of doing that myself (although the twist in Devil was interesting, it was still poorly executed, and I knew it woudl be like most Shamaylan-related movies after his first 2, and not including AirBender, which is why I'll never see it).

That said, I'll probably watch this...when it's on cable. Quite honestly, I don't have that interest in watching it, since, well, I've seen it before, and probably to a better extent. Then again, I don't want to be that person that sees and raves about a film and learn that I'm missing out on key info left out of a film for one reason or another. It feels so defeating. Plus, well, I have as much interest in seeing how Facebook started, as I would Google, or "The Pirates of Silicon Valley". It happened. It's a success. People will take sides, and I'll be slightly informed (I did see that last film when I was 17. It was pretty good).

Dav3 said...

getting back to the original point, (will people avoid "The Social Network" because it's too nerdy) I don't think so.

First, You're equating computer use with nerdiness, which I don't think is accurate now that every 5th grader is carrying around a smartphone and spending more time online than Bill Gates.

Second, Facebook has nothing to do with nerds or nerd culture. Facebook is all about popularity. Who's popular, what are the
popular people doing, what gossip can I spread to make myself more popular than they are. Do any nerds you know think along those lines?

I think the (admittedly miniscule) sample of comments here supports my theory. I assume most of us following a blog titled "Moviebob: proud to be a geek" are nerds of some degree, and none of us seem the least bit interested in Facebook.

Kyle said...

I think the movie has real potential, and I'm very interested to see what you think of it.

It's got a huge install base. (lots of people use Facebook, know Batman; very few people know Kick-Ass or Scott Pilgrim)

Facebook has never been hotter than it is right now, and Justin Timberlake has proven he has range and draw power.

I'm not making any predictions here. I'm just saying its a very decent recipe.

Christopher said...

I think your overreacting Bob, people are gonna look at this film and say "Drama". Some will like, many will shun it. It honestly won't make that a huge splash this weekend, but come Oscar season...everyone is going to see this movie. I think this is going to be the film that might very well WIN the Academy Award for Best Picture since it has its traits: good acting, good script, good direction, real-world focused drama, the stuff the Academy likes to jerk off to. Not anything against the movie, I like it and it's on my top 10 of the year right now, but it's not the "best" in my eyes.

Charles Ragesmith III said...

Most of the hate "The Network" is getting has a lot more to do with people being a bit tired of FaceBook, but that's not to say there isn't a lot of anti-intellectualism in America though. I agree with you on that.

grymdragon said...

I don't know if the mainstream rejection of two films can really be attributed to some form of culture war against nerdom or anti-intellectualism. True, nerds are quite often social outcasts, but there are certainly other elements to consider here.

First of all, while Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass are both clever films, I wouldn't necessary consider them intellectual ones. I don't think any audience members retreated after seeing the previews and being startled by the idea that the dense plotting of either film would overpower their brain matter. I'd also note that much of Inception's success seemed to be due to repeat business as moviegoers saw it again to consider the film's plot twists and ambiguities, rather than the admittedly fantastic anti-gravity gunfight.

Also to the public based on its trailers, Kick-Ass would probably seem no more 'nerdy' than other superhero films. Certainly Peter Parker is as big a geek as Dave Lizewski and yet audiences flocked to Spider-man. The customary response would be that Spider-Man is better known, which brings up a point that Kick-Ass's lack of name recognition may have affected its box office, as well as the possibility that people may be getting burnt out on superhero movies to the point they'll only go for known brands such as Iron Man. We'll get a better idea when Cap throws his mighty shield and Thor drops the hammer.

With Scott Pilgrim, I'll admit I expected better box-office based on the reaction I saw to its trailers but it could be that the film's highly stylized visuals and video-game inspired reality simply turned off audiences. Again, this isn't necessarily a rejection of nerds in toto. There is also the aforemention Michael Cera factor and another possibility that isn't discussed often:

There have been several complaints about backlash against nerd culture, but has anyone considered that the often insular nature of nerd culture in general could be a factor? It must be imposing and uninviting to an audience to see a film that focuses on references and gags that only the nerds will get or appreciate. Geeks and nerds often seem to proudly proclaim that this or that movie was made for 'us,' then seem surprised when everyone else isn't as enamored of it. The perception of nerds can't be helped by the often defensive, occasionally elitist and outright hostile behavior of the social group itself, some of which seems self-defeatingly intended to keep nerds and geeks apart from everyone else in the first place. After all, can labels like "sad excuses for functioning humanity" really inspire someone outside of the social circle to want to relate to geeks and nerds?

And it's always been a world where movies like Expendables and Transformers make tons of money. That's never changed. Big spectacle movies and simple action have a traditional appeal. Geek culture has its share of really dumb films held up as sacred cows. Nerds characterizing themselves as above-average also probably doesn't help. This may be shocking, but not a lot of people really find elitism to be an attractive quality. Most of the time, it's a turn-off... just thought you should know.

As for Social Network, I think your last paragraph shows a key point. People didn't show up for a socially-awkward nerd engage in martial-arts duels... perhaps because that's not something they can relate to very easily. Someone attempting to strike it rich and deal with the consequences probably hits a stronger chord for the average American. After all, it is the American dream. Based on the long lines I saw for an advance screening of the film tonight, it's a dream many seem to be able relate to.

Herr Wozzeck said...

I don't know, Bob. I think you might've jumped the gun a bit on this one.

According to Box Office Mojo, Social Network made 8,000,000 on its first day. Not a great total, except that it was apparently the highest grossing movie of the day. So yeah.

And I saw this movie myself yesterday; the theater was actually pretty full for being a matinee taking place at the Regal 13 multiplex close to where I live just before the Red Sox game two or three blocks away. (Really good movie, by the way; all those not thinking of seeing it should definitely reconsider their opinion.)

So yeah, I think you jumped the gun a bit, but it is still a slightly valid concern.

Christopher said...

Well the weekend results are in and Social Network is #1 in the box office with a solid $23 million. It will make back its budget by next weekend and start turning a profit. The film will most likely go down as being one of the more profitable Oscar winners (I'm calling it now since this is the kind of drama the Academy loves). Honestly Bob, you're fears of what happened to Scott Pilgrim and Kick-Ass are well unfounded. People love watching "smart" and "intellectual" movies, as long as they KNOW they exist. Everyone was talking about Social Network because it's fucking FACEBOOK. 500 million people in the world have an account on the bloody website (1 in 12 people in the entire world thus has an account). EVERYONE knows what Facebook is, but barely ANYONE knew what Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim were about and that's why no one gave them any attention