Click here for detailed program information.
The Social Network (*Opening Night Film*)
Directed by David Fincher.
Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich. Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a Harvard University sophomore, breaks up with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), insults her angrily in a misogynistic tirade on his blog, and hacks into Harvard’s computer system to create a website he calls Facemash.com which databases all of the women on campus. Once the website goes viral, it crashes the entire Harvard system and leads him to face charges of breaching security, violating copyrights and violating individual privacy. Soon after that incident, the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer and Josh Pence) along with Divya Narendra (Max Minghella), try to persuade Mark to program their dating website at Harvard, but, instead, he goes off on his own to create Thefacebook.com with the financial support of his close friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield). Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake), the founder of Napster, persuades him to change The Facebook to just plain Facebook , and brings the booming website to the attention of venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. Divya and the Winklevoss twins eventually sue Mark because they claim that he stole the idea of Facebook from them. The lawsuit costs Mark not only a lot of money, but also his friendship with Eduardo. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Aaron Sorkin jumps around from so many perspectives and time frames of the events surrounding the creation of Facebook that it never gives any of its characters room to breathe and to come to life. Sure, the premise sounds initially intriguing, but if you think that The Social Network will get inside the head of Mark Zuckerberg , think again. Mark comes across as very smart, but often cocky, selfish, mean, stubborn, greedy and, above all, sad and lonely. Sociopsychologist Erving Goffman once stated that everyone has a separate life backstage and front stage. Sorkin simply fails to show you enough of what Mark is like backstage despite Jessie Eisenberg’s decent performance. Instead, Sorkin fixates primarily on the mechanisms of the plot while moving from point A to point B sans much-needed subtlety or nuances as if everything must be spelled out for unintelligent audiences. Mark’s quick-witted replies, whether he’s creating Facebook or facing the lawsuit, happen so frequently that by the 568th quip, you’ll find yourself rolling your eyes because of how stilted and ho-hum that kind of dialogue sounds after a while. Director David Fincher should stick to directing thrillers like Zodiac, Panic Room, The Game, Fight Club and Seven because his foray into drama, the lackluster, overlong Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was underwhelming which can be said for The Social Network as well. An example of one of the many scenes that don’t work at all is a very bizarre, music video-like scene where Harvard students row on the Charles River. By the time the end credits scroll, you’ll wish that Fincher would have toned down his stylish cinematographic skills and focused more on grounding the film in sense of reality. At a lengthy running time of 2 hours, The Social Network is ultimately lackluster, pedestrian, emotionally hollow and underwhelming despite exquisite cinematography and a timely, initially intriguing premise.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Columbia Pictures.
Opens October 1st, 2010 nationwide.
Hereafter (*Closing Night Film*)
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
After hitting her head and nearly drowning in a tsunami during the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004, Marie LeLay (Cécile de France) a French journalist, experiences visions of the afterlife. She decides to write a book about those experiences and presents the first three chapters to a publishing company instead of writing a book about François Mitterrand, the 21st President of France, which she had originally agreed to do. In a parallel subplot, George (Matt Damon), a factory worker, lives alone in San Francisco and, as it turns out, he has given up his work as a psychic reader. His brother, Billy (Jay Mohr), nonetheless, brings him a client to read which he agreed to do albeit hesitantly. George takes a cooking course where he happens to be partnered with Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), who happens to be sexy and happens to be recently single. To state that they end up flirting with one another would be to state the obvious. What do you think happens to their relationship when George reluctantly agrees to hold Melanie’s hand to use his psychic skills? In yet another parallel subplot, Marcus (Frankie and George McLaren), a young boy in London, develops a curiosity with the afterlife when his brother (Frankie and George McLaren) dies after a vehicle hits him as he crosses the street. He stumbles upon a website where George promotes his own physic capabilities. Screenwriter Peter Morgan has woven three stories that gently touch upon the issue of the afterlife. It’s intriguing to watch how the lives of Marie, George and Marcus will inevitable connect. The weakest story, though, belongs to George because the events that transpire between him and Melanie feel too contrived as if Melanie were merely a plot device. Morgan eventually provides you with some much-needed background information about how George developed his psychic ability. One particular scene between him and Marcus is the most moving scene in the film. Even if you don’t believe in the afterlife, at least the three main characters are each developed well enough for you to care about them as human beings. In other words, you’ll find yourself suspending your disbelief in the afterlife only within the context of the world that these people inhabit. Cécile de France gives a genuinely heartfelt and charming performance, although it’s worth mentioning that the other actors get a chance to shine as well. Director Clint Eastwood maintains a leisurely pace to allow you to absorb each story as the plot jumps from one to another. The music score is well-chosen and, at times, the cinematography looks impressive. If only the Peter Morgan had taken more risks with the screenplay by delving a little deeper into impact of the afterlife on the three characters rather than playing it safe spending most of the time trying to connect each of their lives, perhaps Hereafter would have been a much more emotionally resonating and powerful experience. At a running time of just over 2 hours, Hereafter is well-acted, quietly moving and mildly intriguing, but not nearly as powerful as it could have been with a braver script that took more risks.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3 Opens at the Regal Union Square 14 and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square. Expands nationwide on October 22nd, 2010. Released by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Directed by Mike Leigh.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens limited on December 31st, 2010.
Directed by Frederick Wiseman.
This often boring and shapeless documentary follows a bunch of boxers inside Lord’s Gym, a small boxing gym located in Austin, Texas. It costs fifty dollars, cash only, for a one-month membership, and both men and women, even elderly ones, can be found there. Director Frederick Wiseman, known for directing a variety of documentary ranging from La Danse to Titticut Follies, decides to take himself out of the documentary by merely allowing the camera to record the boxers working out sans the use of any interviews with them. You learn next to nothing about the gym and its boxers even though you’ll find yourself at least mildly curious to for some much-needed information or at least some kind of substance. By the hundred and twelfth time that you’re watching someone box a speed bag or box someone inside the boxing ring, you’ll find yourself painfully bored unless you’re a truly avid fan of boxing. Wiseman also chooses not to add any narration or musical score nor does he include stylish cinematography that zooms in and out, so, yes, in many ways, this is a classic example of cinéma vérité that makes you forget that there’s a camera involved. Every documentary ought to answer the question “So what?” at least to some degree, but Boxing Gym fails to do so which means that you’ll find yourself asking that question to yourself quite frequently if you’re not nodding off to sleep by the repetitious footage. An ephemeral cut to the exterior of Lord’s Gym feels like a small breath of fresh air after the camera lingers so long inside it. Had Wiseman humanized the boxers by interviewing them or, perhaps, showing some footage of their life outside the gym, perhaps there’d be more meat on Boxing Gym’s bones so that non-boxing fans would be simultaneously entertained and enlightened. Instead, Boxing Gym is well-shot, but often lazy, tedious and, above all, boring. It’s one of the most unenlightening and underwhelming documentaries of the year.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5 Opens October 22nd, 2010 at the IFC Center.Released by Zipporah Films.
Directed by Olivier Assayas.
In 1974, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Edgar Ramírez) attempts to assassinate a businessman in London before moving to Paris where he joins the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) under the command of Michel Moukharbal (Fadi Abi Samra), a.k.a. André. He soon commits terrorist attacks for Japanese Red Army. Now adopting the nom de guerre of Carlos, after killing three policemen who tracked him down, he flees to Yemen where he now must obey orders from Wadie Haddad, (Ahmad Kaabour), the head honcho of the PFLP. Wadie sends him out on a new mission to take hostage the oil minister of OPEC, so Carlos and his team of six militants arrive at OPEC headquarters where they kidnap some ministers and force them to board a plane. Carlos ruins his mission when he accepts he hefty ransom in exchange for the release of the ministers. Despite losing his ties to Wadie, Carlos continues to commit acts of terrorism for a variety of countries, namely, Iraq, Syria and even Germany where the Stasi protect him. In a subplot that shows more of Carlos’s human side, he develops a romance with Magdalena Kopp (Nora Von Waldstatten), the wife of Johannes Weinrich (Alexander Scheer), a member of the Germany Revolutionary Cells. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he gradually loses his contacts and allies before his arrest in 1994. Director/co-writer Olivier Assayas and co-writer Dan Franck have woven an intricate action thriller that also serves as somewhat of a character study of the notorious Carlos the Jackal throughout his rise and fall. Carlos is certainly cruel, tough and cold as a terrorist, but he’s also quite cunning and does have a bit of charisma which helps you to grasp what the women in his life see him. Edgar Ramírez nails the performance of Carlos with utter conviction and radiates so much energy that you’ll find yourself captivated whenever he’s onscreen, which, fortunately, is very often. Assayas moves the film along at an appropriately brisk pace so that there’s no room for scenes that drag, and, moreover, he wisely doesn’t dumb the plot down, so you’ll find a lot to digest as it spans two decades worth of history. There’s also a healthy dosage of comic relief interspersed ever so often. The action scenes feel riveting, but the even more palpable suspense comes during the final segment of the film when the French authorities are very close to hunting down and capturing Carlos once and for all. Ultimately, Carlos is a suspenseful, captivating and provocative thriller that’s epic in scope and boasts a powerful, star-making performance by Edgar Ramírez.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by IFC Films. Opens October 15th, 2010 at the IFC Center (330-minute version) and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas (165-minute version).
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
No distributor, yet.
Directed by Sergei Loznitsa.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5
Released by Kino International.
No release date, yet.
Directed by Stuart Schulberg (original version) and by Sandra Schulberg & Josh Waletzky (restored version).
Number of times I checked my watch: 0 Released by Schulberg ProductionsOpens at the Film Forum.