The Social Network (2010)

Reviewed by Mister Critic

To me, the Social Network plays as your classic Greek tragic myth, which is why it deserves the nod for Best Picture. The god, Mark Zuckerburg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), is portrayed in the movie as a socially inept computer genius who creates for us lowly human beings the now billion dollar social networking website, Facebook. In the process of sharing his gift with world, that gift of cyber-friendship, he destroys his own relationships. And Facebook has forever changed the way we interact socially. Well, maybe I’m overstating it a bit.

Facebook has redefined the word “friend.” Prior to Facebook, being a friend took both effort to reach that status and effort maintain the friendship. Now one can just request to be my friend. It is like grade school all over again. “Hey, wanna be my friend?” “Sure.” We’re friends!” What now? Now we friend someone at the click of a button, mainly to look at their photos, see what they do for job and we never have to talk. And best of all, we can ignore our friend when they start to bug us about Farmville or some other obnoxious request.

At first, I was very hesitant to add “friends.” I would ask myself, is this person really my friend? Have we hung out lately? Do we have a mutual respect for each other? Do they really care enough to receive these status updates? Does this person who I talked to once in highschool really care that I’m having bad day? But now, it doesn’t matter. Bring them on. Because I know, in the end, it’s just as easy to “unfriend” as it is to friend.

Today we are overloaded by information on the Internet. Information is available at the speed of gigabytes. And Facebook is the best place to get overloaded. Want a funny video, a debate, some pics of cats? All on Facebook. All of that would be okay if it was just between a couple people, but now everyone is doing it. The internet has become like a lobby where people are shouting: LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! I’m having a great day! I just ate this wonderful food! I’m standing in line at the store! And shouldn’t I be happy for them? Because they are my friends after all, right? But it has gotten to the point where when one friend meets another friend in the real world, there is no need to ask questions about their respective lives because they’ve read it all on Facebook. Or that’s what we think. So instead when we’re together, we spend time checking Facebook on our Iphone.

And on the flip-side, there are those that post content on Facebook and watch as other people’s posts are celebrated and adored by the on-line community while their own content drifts in to oblivion with no comments and no love. It makes one begin to wonder why no one has “liked” my content? Do you hate me? Do you hate my children? Am I not funny?  Am I posting too much? No, the answer has to be I haven’t posted enough, right? Why is a computer program making me question my relationships with other people?

The tragedy is that we think we are making social connections when perhaps we are actually driving each other further apart. Sometimes intentionally pushing people away with snarky comments in response to someone’s political view. Sometimes unintentionally, just being oblivious to what impact our words have on others. How can social networking make me feel so socially disconnected? And the question I had at the end of the movie was: “Was this intentional?” In the world of mythology, there are trickster gods who like to stir up trouble for the common man. Is that what Facebook was created to do? If Zuckerberg couldn’t be a part of social clubs and felt alienated, did he create this program so the rest of us would feel the same? Or is that just the inevitable part of human nature.

The trailer for the movie, posted below, is in and of itself a work of art, speaking directly to this culture change. The song is Creep by Radiohead, performed beautifully by the group Scala. This song is the theme song for my youth and perhaps my generation. It embodies everything I felt growing up and continue to feel today. “I want you to notice when I’m not around….I wish I was special…but I’m a creep.” We all want to be noticed, but in today’s world how do we stand out? What lengths do we have to go to be special? And maybe it all comes down to reexamining what it means to be a “friend.”

2010 Academy Award Shorts @ Salem Cinema

Reviewed by Mister Critic

Mister Critic is proud to announce that, for the first time in his life, he has seen all of the Academy Award nominated live action short films and animation shorts before the actual awards show and it was all thanks to Salem Cinema. Given that I have trouble watching all the nominated feature length films before the big night, you can just imagine how difficult it is to find the time for these short films. Plus, I never know where to find where they are being shown. Usually the only thing I ever see about these nominees is the preview clip shown at the award ceremony, and I am always left wondering what makes these shorts Oscar worthy. Well, now I know.

Salem Cinema is playing the three categories of shorts, Live Action, Animation and Documentary. So nice to get them all in one setting. Although, I only had time to see the Live Action and Animation, I am hoping to get to the docs before Sunday. However just watching those two categories was a great time.  All of these films pack quite a bit of emotion, drama and humor into a short amount of time.

In the Live Action category, I highly recommend The God of Love, a very quriky little romantic film, and Wish 143, about a dying teenage boy’s very interesting last wish. Both of these films would be excellent expanded into feature length films. There is also The Cofession, a coming of age tale about two boy’s first confession, Na Wewe, an examination of prejudice in action, and The Crush, the story of a school boy’s love for his teacher.

As for the Animated shorts, there is Day & Night-a reminder to look at things from another’s perspective, Madagascar-a travel diary, Let’s Pollute- a 50’s style education film, The Lost Thing-hard to explain this one, you’ll just have to see it, and The Gruffalo-an adaptation of a children’s book. There are also two other short animated films as an extra added bonus: The Cow Who Wanted to be a Hamburger (which I like to call “I Cow Has Cheezburger?“) and URS. Each work is visually striking in its own way and a wonderful escape from reality.

There is still time to check out these shorts while they are in town. One show is $8.00, and you can get $2.00 off each of the other two shows if you keep your ticket. So you can see all three shorts categories for only $20.00. What a deal. Hurry while it lasts! I really enjoyed this experience, and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

Thank you again to Salem Cinema.

Music Monday: Edith Piaf – Non, Je ne regrette rien

Academy Awards week here at Mister Critic and to start things off is a great song featured in the movie Inception, which is nominated for 8 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Original Screenplay, and Best Original Score.

I didn’t realized this the first time I watched the movie, but a friend pointed out a cool thing out to me. The main theme music is the above song slowed down, as it is in the dreams in the movie. It is the little touches like that which make the movie so great.

Trial by Stone: A Scene from The Dark Crystal

For me there are certain words that trigger an immediate recall of scenes from movies, television, song lyrics, etc. It is some warped version of free association my mind does throughout the day. For example, whenever I hear the word “trial,” which my alter ego hears on a daily basis given his line of work, I then hear a replay of the scene shown below. “We would like a trial,” says opposing counsel, and then cue my inside voices, “Trial by stone…Trial by stone.” Every time. You see what pop culture has done to me.

I can’t help it. The Dark Crystal is one of my all time favorite movies. It is one of the first movies I remember seeing in the theater when I was a kid, and I loved every minute of it. Back in the day, I could recite for you the entire script, and I would even re-enact the adventure with my toys. And to this day, I still think it is a great work of art and new mythology. Much more impressive than the CGI ridden movies of today. I can’t wait to share it with my kids.

Anyway, if you haven’t seen the movie, the scene probably looks a little freaky, but in the context of the rest of the movie, it is really good. A little background: there are the Mystics, who are the good guys, and the Skeksis, as shown below, who are the bad guys. The Skeksis (awesome name for a band by the way) are ruthless, selfish, arrogant, brutal, evil beings. They are contrasted by the Mystics who are a gentle race and live in peace. Some may argue they are like opposing political parties…I’ll let you pick which one is which. Anyway, the Skeksis leader dies and they have to pick a new one, and rather than put it to a vote, they decide to have a “Trial by Stone!” Observe:

Extra bonus clip. I can’t end a post about The Dark Crystal without Fizzgig. Here you go:

The Town (2010)

Reviewed by Mister Hand

“Awesome!” is the word that first came to my mind after watching The Town. Flashback a week or so and you would have heard me say, “Ben Affleck directed a movie? Do I really want to see it?” I’ve been skeptical of Ben Affleck for sometime after watching entirely too many Reindeer Games type movies from him. However, much like Mickey Rourke or Bruce Willis, I have new respect and hope for this cheesy action start turned quality director/actor.
*I should pause and say, don’t get me wrong on Bruce Willis. Die Hard is great and one of the best action movies ever, but let’s face it – Bruce Willis did some pretty terrible action flicks for awhile prior to his revival through Pulp Fiction and the 6th Sense.*
Oh, did I mention that Ben Affleck also co-wrote this movie? Is he winning your favor back from Pearl Harbor yet?
The Town is based on a novel by Chuck Hogan titled Prince of Thieves and takes place in Boston – which, as the tagline states, is the bank robbery capitol of America. In the Town, Ben Affleck’s character is the leader of a small group of bank robbers who are always one step ahead of the police. Reminiscent of the mid-90s film Heat, this movie balances right and wrong and has you wondering why you’re rooting for a societal “bad guy.” It’s not like he’s Robin Hood and takes the money from the banks and gives it to the poor. This film looks into the life steps that lead up to creating a criminal and the struggle to do right after you’ve already started down the path to depravity. Much like many of my reviews… I don’t want to give away too much of the plot and take away the enjoyment of the viewer – unlike all too many movie trailers these days. I will say, this is one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. The writing is spot-on, the cinematography is fantastic and it balances the action scenes where you feel like you are right there in the car chase flying through Boston with the more dramatic scenes requiring less visually and allows the dialogue to move the story.
As if you needed any more reason to watch this movie… it also stars my favorite AMC actor -Jon Hamm, and last year’s Oscar nominee for the Hurt Locker – Jeremy Renner. Go see it… you won’t regret it unless you hate good movies.

The King’s Speech

Reviewed by Mister Critic

Rarely, if ever, do I feel bad for a king. There are those movies that attempt to tug at my heart strings with the, “Oh, look at the poor royals, with their big castles, and all their money. They must be so lonely and miserable.” Rubbish. You want to talk about miserable? Try going out and shopping at a major retail store (pick one, any one), especially during the holiday season. The crush of the mob trying to horde the last Snuggie, the screams of a child which pierce your soul, the pain of that cart slammed into your backside. Now, that is misery.

But leave it to Colin Firth to make me care. In The King’s Speech he portrays a sympathetic monarch with a speech impediment. I’ve already sung the praises of Firth in a prior post, so it is no surprise to me that he is a wonderful actor, but in this movie he goes that extra mile, especially in pulling off a very believable stutter.

Based on actual events, Prince Albert, who goes on to become King George VI, works with a speech therapist, played by Geoffry Rush, in order to overcome his hesitation when speaking. The movie is set during a time that leaders are adjusting to the new form of mass media, the radio, and they must compete with charismatic leaders like Hitler. The film shows how important our words and delivery of those words can be. It is something we take for granted in today’s world given the barrage of performances we see every day on television.  The process to overcome his affliction requires exploration of the past, and confronting demons and doubts. It is a process that bonds two people that would never had met under any other circumstances, and gives us a glimpse into the heart of both these men.

This movie deserves every nomination it received this year. Firth is nominated for Best Actor. As I said before he should have won last year for A Single Man, and there is no doubt in my mind he will win this year. Rush is also excellent in his role. He steals the scene every time and it is no wonder he is nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Helena Bonham Carter is also fabulous as the supporting wife of the king, earning her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Although she has very few scenes or lines, she conveys so much with just a look.  Actually, there is not one poor performance from anyone in this movie. As a best picture nominee, every actor gave their finest performance, and maybe just this one time it is okay feel for a king.

UPDATE 2/24/11

I was just sent this new infograhic made by the folks at www.fffmovieposters.com regarding The King’s Speech. It sets forth his famous address, pauses and all.  Also, stop  by their site and check out their vintage movie posters. Very cool.

<a href=”http://blog.fffmovieposters.com/2011/02/revised-kings-speech.html”><img src=”http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-9LMAt27Y10U/TWaGlGlU74I/AAAAAAAAAAc/PRJUDAPCd1Q/s1600/GS_FFFKS_002-2_CENTERED.jpg” alt=”The Art of the Pause – The King’s Speech” width=”500″  border=”0″ /></a><br />Via: <a href=”http://blog.fffmovieposters.com/”>Original Movie Posters Blog</a>

The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan

Reviewed by Mister Critic

When I was young, I once tried to read the dictionary all the way through from A to Z. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea. I made it a couple words into the As before I died from boredom. Had the dictionary been written like David Levithan’s, The Lover’s Dictionary, I know I would have been much more successful.

Levithan, known for writing Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist, tells the story of a couple’s romantic relationship by using words related to their life together. In dictionary format, he proceeds A through Z to define and describe the couple’s journey. From the first date to, well, I don’t want to spoil it for you, so you’ll just have to read and find out. He describes experiences and emotions most of us have all had during a relationship. There are funny moments, quirky moments and romantic moments. He shares the ups and downs of the relationship. The book was so extremely entertaining I flew through the book and I still want more.

This book shows me why I never made it through the dictionary. I think one must experience a word before one can understand the true meaning of that word. When I was young, the words in the dictionary were mostly just words, they didn’t mean anything to me. But now those words describe my life, my wife, my kids . . . my experiences. And The Lover’s Dictionary does a perfect job illustrating those experiences, as well as the emotions behind those words. All the words that make up life and love.

Music Monday: You & I by Ingrid Michaelson

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. Today’s song is dedicated to my sweetheart. She is the one who introduced me to both this song and Ingrid. She plays it for our family on the ukulele (correction: the electric uke), and it is one of my favorite songs she plays.

She is so supportive of Mister Critic and his alter ego, and they both appreciate all that she does. And I know right now she thinking I’m being sappy and she’s thinking in her head, “Whatever.” But it is true. I love her very much. Happy Valentine’s Day.

This song is set to illustrations by tinydoodlez.

Glengarry Glen Ross

by Mister Critic

“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.”

Based on the play by David Mamet, this movie gives a glimpse into the world of real estate sales. It is a perfect depiction of the trials and tribulations felt by most in the workplace. That struggle to be the best, the frustration with your boss, and the constant worry that you might be fired. And mostly, how money will make people do the slimiest things. In today’s society, it is so easy to come to hate telephone solicitors, but we can’t forget there is a human being trying to survive on the other end of the line.

I love how Mamet’s dialogue is like poetry . . . poetry with swears, but poetry nonetheless. He has a unique syncopation and rhythm that is equally interesting to listen to as it is to watch. And the movie has perfect performances from all the greats…Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacy, Alan Arkin and the best soliloquy ever written, performed by Alec Baldwin. You will find a clip of that performance below.

If ever you find yourself in need of motivating people, say a commencement speech at a graduation, I highly suggest giving this speech. I believe it would work wonders.

(Be advised. Strong language…very strong language. Not appropriate for children…and probably not for adults either.)

The Kids Are All Right

Reviewed by Mister Critic

Well it is Academy Awards time soon, and although we here at Mister Critic don’t get out much to see very many of the chosen ones, I’m trying to review as many as I can by show time. I will post em as I see em.

Also I want to announce an upcoming contest giveaway. Join me Sunday, February 27th during the Academy Awards show here at mistercritic.com for a chance to win a free Mister Critic shirt! Stay tuned to the site for details. Never miss a post by subscribing to my RSS or signing up for posts to be delivered by e-mail or become a fan of Mister Critic on Facebook.

Okay, on to the review of another nominee, The Kids Are All Right.

In this world where some struggle to define what a family should be, this movie shows us that family can transcend definition. Nominated for Best Picture, this is the story of a married lesbian couple who has each had a baby from an anonymous sperm donor. Unbeknownst to their mothers, the children  seek out their father, and the drama ensues as the family struggles to figure out how he fits into the definition of their family.

Annette Bening is nominated for Best Actress, for the role of the more down-to-earth mother who is very cautious about letting the father in as he is a more free spirit type. Bening does a wonderful job of portraying so many of the complex emotions in the film and her nomination is very well deserved. Perhaps I liked her so much because I identified with her character.

Mark Ruffalo is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as the father of the children. I felt like we’ve seen him play this type of character before, like in the movie, You Can Count on Me. Don’t get me wrong, I really like Ruffalo as an actor and thought he did his job in this role. But I wanted more from this character, and I would really like to see Ruffalo in a different type of role in the future.

Ultimately, families should be about love. Pure and simple. All families have their ups and downs, their good times and their bad. But at the end of the day, this film shows us that love is what defines a family.