Posts tagged ‘David Fincher’

January 15, 2011

Pongbook: The Foreshadowing Metaphor in “The Social Network”


Pong was the first big video game.  When it hit the arcade in 1972 and infiltrated homes in 1975, it changed entertainment forever.  All you gamers out there need to close your eyes for a minute and try to think not about Black Ops, but instead picture two white rectangles throttling up and down a black screen attempting to strike a little white box back at the other (or just watch this).  That’s it.  Pong was the garage on the virtual street to XBox 360 and PS3.  Who knows where fun will go from here?

I just saw The Social Network the other day.  Though the film was terribly overrated, I couldn’t help but appreciate the editing job done in that film.  David Fincher and co. did admirable work cutting up and piecing together the scenes that pitted Mark Zuckerberg against multiple opponents in various lawsuits.  The emphasis placed on all that Zuckerberg had to overcome (or steal) to be crowned “The Youngest Billionaire in the World” is what keeps the plot moving.

Foreshadowing the battles Zuckerberg would find himself in was his development of “Face Mash” in the early goings of the movie.  He hacks into the various campus “facebooks” in the area, downloading and uploading pictures of locals onto a new website.  Viewers of Face Mash would simply look at two pictures of girls placed side-by-side.  Then they vote on who is more attractive, “Right” or “Left.”  This scene features quick cuts of college dorm buddies monosyllabically pontificating on their approval of some chicks over others.  With much tribute to Beavis and Butt-Head, they flip-flop laughingly, “Right…Left…Left…Right…Right,” and so on.  At one point, a female student sees the monitor and with a quiet anxiety marked by some disbelief says, “That’s my roommate.”

The game is a hit.  The traffic to the website actually crashes the Harvard network, finding Zuckerberg for the first of many times having to defend his actions against others in a chair in a room peopled by those claiming to be victims of his ruthless brilliance along with their lawyers.  This would be reminiscent of Face Mash itself-two girls going head-to-head (literally) against one another, unknowingly vying for an E-thumbs up on their level of physical beauty from guys that they likely don’t know and never will.

Like Pong, the allure of Face Mash is its simplicity.  Face Mash even looks like Pong.  However, what would be most complicated for Zuckerberg would be his own real-life game of Face Mash, except with millions of dollars being up for grabs as opposed to an unseen head-nod of recognition of hotness.  He goes up against both friends and enemies in the film and Face Mash not only foreshadows his battles, but also the emergence of Facebook.  The intuition and know-how he put into his Pong-like, primitive page, was a preview of his abilities that would reach an apex in the form of the website that shows no signs of slowing down on the street of possibilities in virtual entertainment.

October 21, 2010

Pitt vs. Norton: A Brutal Casting Call


Fight Club. Great movie. Awful ending.  You didn’t really buy into the Narrator not blowing his own brains out while ridding himself of Tyler, did you?  Come now.  Get a B&N card and read the damn book for a much more plausible and satisfying conclusion.

But I digress.

One of the great aspects of that movie is its observation of the new American male’s effeminate tendencies to consume.  You remember that scene guys; the Narrator is on the toilet in what should be a familiar position: that of a teenaged boy readying himself to masturbate.  However, the porno that “we used to read” has been replaced with publications filled with material wants, such as a “clever […] coffee table in the shape of a yin-yang” that he “had to have.”  Instead of adjusting the magazine to look at a Playboy centerfold and pleasuring himself to a pair of impeccably airbrushed breasts, he is attempting to fill the void in his life with “stuff.”  This is capitalism at its very best and, according to the film, it has emasculated him.  He says: “I’d flip through catalogs and wonder ‘What kind of dining set defines me as a person?’”  A total chick thing to do and think.  With the emergence of waves (literally) of feminism and broken, fatherless homes seemingly becoming the norm, the definition of masculinity for many Americans has been upended (much like John Wayne’s grave, presumably).

Enter: Tyler Durden.

Throughout the film, Tyler exemplifies typical, often overblown, definitions of masculinity.  He does what he wants, when he wants to.  After meeting the Narrator, Tyler steals a sports car right in the middle of a fucking airport.  Later, he bangs the hell out of Marla Singer.  He commands the respect of all the men of the fight club, as he becomes their natural leader, despite the fact that he and the Narrator founded it together.  Tyler is in control of his life.

So if his goal in the film is to bring to a halt his effeminate and vapid consumerist tendencies, why is the Narrator taking up residence with Brad “The Sexiest Man Alive As Voted By People Magazine” Pitt and his designer fucking shades that he actually wears on an airplane?

I’m no idiot.  I know this was Hollywood’s attempt (and an ultimately successful one) at creating mass interest for the film.  Anytime a moneymaker like Twentieth Century Fox can grant top billing to the biggest movie star in the nation, no matter what the theme and content of the film may be, they’ll jump at the chance.  However, this casting call painfully dilutes the film’s brilliant message, which likely would have worked much better with a lesser-known, but highly respected and skilled actor…like, oh, say…Edward Norton.

By the time Fight Club was released in 1999, Pitt had found significant fame, while starring in many commercially successful movies, such as Interview With the Vampire, Legends of the Fall, and Seven.  Those mere three flicks grossed domestically around $261 million combined (IMDB.com).  So, David Fincher and company, in hiring Pitt in the lead role, had solidified commercial success for a movie that is, at its core, about the rejection of consumerism, capitalism, and pop culture.

Conversely, Edward Norton, who, ironically, plays the role of the Narrator and who, at first, “buys into” the consumerist life, was only credited with two leading roles before the release of Fight Club: Derek Vinyard in American History X and Holden Spence in Everyone Says I Love You (Yeah, I don’t know it either).  Though Norton earned an Oscar nomination for his role in American History X, those two films domestically grossed $16 million combined (IMDB.com).

Movies with counterculture themes and content should be reserved for the indie world.  As well-known as Fight Club is and as good as Pitt’s portrayal is, I can’t help but imagine how much better it would have been with an unknown actor anchoring the play and delivering the film’s message.  I sometimes wish that Norton had kept on that toned American History X weight, stripped himself of the hardcore Nazi tatts, and took on that role of Tyler.  And with a toned down wardrobe budget (Remember that fur coat with the black mesh shirt underneath?), the studio would have much more accurately delivered the film’s true theme.