The Social Network Raises the Question: Am I a Good Person?

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A movie about computer programming starring a curly-haired anti-socialite and a Disney pop star. Would you believe this is a Greek play?

Not in point of fact, of course, but The Social Network manages to give this contemporary plot the same evocative, disquieting and altogether empathetic human portrayal that you’d find in Euripides, Plato or Aristophanes. A slew of conscientious quandaries sets the edge-of-the-seat pace; when the lights finally come up, the audience blinks, breathless, like an ex seeing a change in Relationship Status.

With David Fincher behind the scenes, who can claim to be surprised? The director of Fight Club, Se7en and mid-production, world-renowned The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Fincher uses his immaculate timing in The Social Network not to cover up a hidden ending, but to highlight each character’s principles and resulting decisions. Fincher’s musical background makes itself known through the soundtrack’s intimate relationship with the plot, manipulating the audience’s emotions even further (you’ll understand when you fall headfirst into the canoe race scene).

This emotional entanglement is the film’s Ace in the pocket. Don’t expect to leave the theater with any sense of justice. You probably won’t even know which character you’re rooting for, if you command enough willpower to objectively analyze yourself in the middle of this cranium carnival ride. If Inception didn’t give you enough post-film digestion, make this your next movie-then-dinner evening.

A startlingly good cast plays puppet-master to the morality questions, letting ethical dilemmas jump and dance across their faces. Jesse Eisenberg (playing Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg) vividly brings apathy to life. He resembles a robotic dog, with his head half-cocked in that “I don’t understand you” way while all the information from throughout the ages stays tightly sealed inside his head. Without social skills, his genius has no outlet; he’s a contemporary Alice with a slew of 500 million imaginary Wonderland friends.

Andrew Garfield plays Eduardo Saverin, the original Facebook CFO and the Zuckerberg character’s only friend. He guides the audience through the film’s emotional stages, showing us in our most fragile, vulnerable role: loyal best friend. We’ve all put that level of trust in someone at some point – a sibling, a partner, a peer – and the choice inevitably arises: to take care of ourselves, or to take care of each other?

Justin Timberlake unexpectedly shines as Sean Parker, the defamed creator of Napster. You know that friend who’s successful, arrogant and absolutely happy with their life, until you get them behind a closed door and their eyes start to twitch? It’s worth watching The Social Network on the big screen just to get the full effect Timberlake’s slowly deepening crow’s feet.

The Social Network isn’t historically factual, but it is currently accurate; it’s a documentary of a state of mind, not a documentary of Facebook’s real-life origins. It spotlights the personal repercussions any one online action can cause, from social adjustments to legal claims. It illustrates the statements people contemplate, discard and eventually publish when they divine a new Status update in the middle of a normal day. It displays the social relevance of the “Relationship Status” feature.

Just like the classic Greek productions, The Social Network shows us our own humanity. Even if you can’t dictate Helen of Troy’s lineage, you still share in her betrayal. The personalization isn’t in the details; it’s in the commonality.

Facebook may crumble some day, just like Napster, MySpace and Rome, but its cultural effect on society has been forever captured by The Social Network. And that makes this film an instant, timeless classic.


The Top Weekday Films at the Austin Film Festival

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The weekend’s passed. But don’t put up your Austin Film Festival pass just yet; some more gems are still making appearances across Austin. In fact, if you don’t have a badge, it may be easier to get a ticket one of the following evenings than it was the last three days. Take a look at these options for a bit of mid-week fun.

127 Hours
Tues. Oct. 26, 7pm
Paramount Theatre

It’s hard to pull off a based-on-a-true-story movie without making audience members mumble excuses and leave the theater. These films easily become cheesy, boring or melodramatic. But this year’s selections, including 127 Hours and Conviction, seem to do justice to their real life counterparts. Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours details the 127 hours mountain climber Aron Ralston spent with his arm pinioned under a boulder in Utah. Starring James Franco, this is not a popcorn film. Unless your stomach’s hardy enough to ingest a bag of cotton candy then go on a roller coaster without revolting, pass on the concessions.

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What Not to Miss at the Texas Book Festival

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Even if you’re not a reader, you want to attend the Texas Book Festival this weekend. If you are a reader, you absolutely must.

Created by First Lady Laura Bush in 1995, the Texas Book Festival draws about 40,000 visitors every year, according to their website. With a book signing tent, live music, author readings and panel discussion, all occurring right downtown, it’s no wonder. The website’s colossal listing of events makes it hard to decide which ones to choose over the others. Here are a few you should star on your calendar.

Austin City Limits: 35 Years in Photographs

Since 1979, Scott Nelson has been photographing the Austin City Limits television show. Going on 36 seasons, it’s currently the longest running rock-‘n’-roll music show in history. Seeing the greats pass before your eyes in still-frame is bound to be a showcase to remember. Be at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, from 11:15 to 12pm.

Jeff Lindsay

If the author’s name doesn’t ring a bell, his work certainly will: Dexter, the popular Showtime TV show, is based on his first Dexter novel, Darkly Dreaming Dexter. However, he’s written five so far. Although the first season stays relatively close to the first book, the rest of the series goes in a completely different direction than the novels. If you love Dexter on screen and need another fix, consider picking up the books; the most recent, Dexter Is Delicious, just came out. To indulge in your dark side, be at the Paramount Theatre at 2pm on Saturday.

The Living Waters of Texas

Before wandering around the capital’s concrete all day getting heatstroke, ground yourself in the aqua beauty of Texas. Charles Kruvand presents landscape photography at the Capital Extension Room, E2.010 at 10am Saturday.

The Onion’s Jean Teasdale

The Onion is second in popularity only to The Austin Chronicle on the streets of Austin, TX. Maria Schneider, the human behind the text, writes humor columns for the paper, and now she’s written A Book Of Jean’s Own! Stop passively reading The Onion and throw yourself into the laughter headfirst at First United Methodist Church on Saturday, 12:30pm.

Awkward Family Photos

We all think our own family is the weirdest. After attending this reading, you’ll wonder if that’s true. Based on AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, the book by the same name shows pictures and tells tales of the most unrefined, genuine family moments. To gain faith in your own family’s normality, be at the First United Methodist Church at 1:30pm on Saturday.

The Cartoon Introduction to Economics

With the words “stand-up economist” describing Yoram Bauman, PhD, this will either be an extremely pathetic attempt at humor, or a fantastically ridiculous (yet accurate and extensive) interpretation of microeconomics. With Bauman’s prestige and the history of the Book Festival, my money’s on the latter. To find out, visit the Capitol Extension Room E2.010 at 3pm on Saturday.

If none of these appeal to you, no worries; there’ll be a couple dozen more options floating around. Children’s activities will also be in full swing, from The Cat in the Hat fun to a “Zombies v. Unicorns” event. For a full listing of all the event options, visit http://www.texasbookfestival.org.


Top 10 Austintacious Food Spots

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Austin not only touts variety and eccentricity in music (its most famous specialty), but it’s also a worthwhile locale for savory cuisine. These dining options are musts for Austinites and tourists alike.

10. Bouldin Creek Coffee House. This is the perfect place to whisper those three little words to your favorite person: “Vegan Chocolate Cake.” The only piece of cake ever warranting the term “thick and juicy,” you won’t believe you’re eating healthy when you bite into this chunk of heaven. They also serve a stellar breakfast taco, equally fantastic coffee and a chai to sink your teeth into.

9. Curra’s Grill. You can’t live in Austin without knowing a fabulous Mexican restaurant. Curra’s Grill is that restaurant. Excellent service, hearty meals, infinite nachos – what more could a Texan want?

8. Home Slice. Home Slice on South Congress has become arguably the most famous pizza place in all of Austin. The pizza is served New York style and has a sweet but tasty sauce. They recently opened an expansion which has really helped to curb wait times. If you’re shopping on SoCo, check it out.

7. Ruta Maya Coffee House. Yes, another coffee establishment; Austin’s exuberant energy lies in our incredible selection of caffeine. Ruta Maya offers not only Cuban and Nicaraguan organic coffees, but also an array of interactive entertainment. For example, they regularly offer yoga classes, general lectures and salsa lessons, in addition to concerts, dance nights and other sporadic amusements (such as belly dancing).

6. Stubb’s BBQ. No way around it: Stubb’s is famous. As popular as Texas barbecue is, Stubb’s concentrates that tasty legend into one establishment. Though it’s not a safe spot for vegetarians, meat-lovers salivate at Stubb’s door.

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