Oh wow can you believe that MOVIE DIARY 2018 is back for yet another week?? What discipline! What perseverance! This week I’ve got writer, artist, zine-maker, and fellow King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) super fan Sara McHenry joining me! We both happened to watch Aaron Sorkin movies this week which is a fun surprise!
The Social Network (2010)
SPECIAL GUEST WRITER: SARA MCHENRY
Man. I don’t know.
I decided to watch this movie this week because 1) I had been watching a bunch of Fincher recently and forgot to re-watch this, and 2) Zuckerboy’s glossy death mask was all over the news this week output.csv, so I thought it would be fun to give this a re-visit.
I would describe my feelings as this movie unfolded in front of me in the year 2018 as “mounting horror.” But first: the good parts!
The Reznor/Ross score absolutely still bangs. As does the opening scene argument between Zuck and Erica, who I’ve read described as “the Helen of Troy of Facebook,” which is objectively a hilarious thing to say. I used to be a pretty big Aaron Sorkin fan, and I now see him for the misogynist and hack that he is. He has precious few tools in his toolbox, but I have to admit that when they work, they WORK. What’s cool about this argument is you can see that Zuck knows he’s talking past and over his date, and he’s doing it on purpose. He’s desperate to feel smarter than she is, and to make her feel stupid, so he intentionally wrong-foots her, interrupts her, corrects her. There’s a lot of “dumb person’s idea of what a smart person is like” here, but I actually think we’re meant to read this behavior as a choice Zuck is making: he doesn’t talk fast because he’s smart, he talks fast because he thinks it will make people think he’s smart. I love how Rooney Mara delivers the fuck you line: “You’re going to think girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. I want you to know from the bottom of my heart that it’s because you’re an asshole.” I think I pumped my fist at that when I saw this in the theater. I wish the term “incel” had existed then so she could call him an incel. Watching this scene in 2018, I was heartened: oh yeah, I thought, this movie is definitely not a hagiography. They straight-up show him calling a woman a bitch and publicly insulting her body, in like the first five minutes.
But then. The movie can’t come down objectively on whether Zuck meant to steal from the Winklevoss twins or just work on his own better idea instead. So that’s a little blurred, in a sort of montage of him not answering emails (thrilling). And why did he dilute Saverin’s shares? We aren’t given access, probably because when you’re making a biopic about a guy who’s like twenty-seven years old, you can’t just decide what he was thinking. We have evidence and we have court transcripts and we have real people who are still alive and will possibly sue. So it feels like some stuff just sort of… happens. By the end, Rashida Jones is going out of her way to tell a billionaire that he’s not an asshole. “You’re just trying so hard to be,” she says, with this sad look on her face, like he’s a puppy trying to act tough. I submit that trying to be an asshole is morally equivalent with being one: the result is the same, for most who know you. She might as well say, “You didn’t mean FYAD. You were just trolling for the lulz.” It’s worse not to own your bad opinions and condescending attitudes. I think that last line is meant to put a final humanizing touch on him, right before we see him request Erica Albright’s Facebook friendship in an empty conference room and refresh the page over and over again. “See?” the movie seems to say, “he just wants to be liked.” Or maybe “he just wants a girlfriend.” Or maybe “he’s just a socially awkward nerd doing his best with his plucky little website startup.” The actual truth is too harsh for film: he’s a craven sociopath whose only loyalty is to money and the concept of winning. It feels almost prophetic that Peter Thiel shows up as an angel investor in Facebook: here’s two of the guys who ruined the 2016 election, and here’s where they first meet and plant the seeds.
So is the movie good? I think it is, but it shrugs its shoulders when I want it to point an accusing finger. I think Eisenberg’s performance is excellent and it makes Zuck almost too relatable: we all enjoy being the smartest guy in the room, sometimes, and we dream about living in a world where that translates to actual power. The problem is that the kind of men who are successful at turning their intelligence into actual power don’t believe in anything.
When this movie came out, people complained about the use of tilt-shift for the boat race, and I liked it then and I like it now. People also complained about digitally added breath-steam to winter scenes, and I think it looks fine and who cares. But I would be selling out my ideals if I didn’t mention that this movie, right near the end, places itself in the category of Movies Where A Character Uses An Inhaler Very Incorrectly. I know Justin Timberlake knows how drugs work, and yet. He takes the shallowest sip off that inhaler. I know a lot of the coding is accurately portrayed, because I watched with my software engineer husband, who does things like chuckle to himself and say, “ah, so he’s an emacs boy.” Maybe that uneven attention to detail is the key to the whole thing: the algorithms all work, but nothing really breathes.
Sara McHenry is a writer and cartoonist in Chicago, IL (maybe you've heard of it??). Her work has appeared on Clickhole, Buzzfeed, and most notably, Movie Diary 2018. She and her husband, Tom McHenry, run a Patreon together, where you can subscribe to receive zines, comics, stickers, and even cookies in the mail every month. She loves cats, vegetables, and weightlifting.
Mission: Impossible 2 (2000)
I don’t think we as a society have really taken enough time to sit back and reflect on how wild it is that John Woo (JOHN WOO!) made a Mission: Impossible movie. Mission: Impossible 2 is kind of the black sheep of the franchise. Every conversation about Mission: Impossible seems to include something about the second movie as a misstep that JJ Abrams stepped in and “fixed” with the third movie. I’m not here to defend Mission: Impossible 2 as it certainly isn’t my favorite, but I just think it’s interesting that the first two Mission: Impossible movies were very much emblematic of their respective directors’ styles. Mission: Impossible (1996) is suuuuuuch a De Palma movie — there’s intrigue, deception, meaningful and intense stares, some violence happens on a marble staircase — it’s perfectly De Palma, ticking off a list of his trademarks, and fitting those perfectly within the framework of this spy movie. Mission: Impossible 2 is likewise suuuuuuch a John Woo movie. All the John Woo stuff is there — slick gunplay, those poetic (sometimes overly dramatic) transitions, even the fucking birds flying off and scattering before action happens is there, it has to be — but the problem I think is that the spirit of a Mission: Impossible movie just doesn’t really fit with John Woo’s style. They’re two great things that for whatever reason just don’t fit together very well and that’s heartbreaking for me.
But that’s not to say it’s not an entertaining movie. It is entertaining in the way John Woo makes his movies entertaining, but he’s bogged down by the baggage and expectations of this being a Mission: Impossible movie. You can almost feel how uninterested John Woo is in setting up a Mission: Impossible-style clever heist with set pieces and moving parts, and I’m sure he breathed a sigh of relief once he got to the back half of this movie and threw up his hands and just decided to give everyone a gun. There are so many guns in this movie! Like, I know the other ones have guns but this one has soooo many guns. It’s a lot of guns for a Mission: Impossible movie, but it’s like the standard amount of guns for a John Woo movie. John Woo’s just doing what he does, it’s just not going to work in the context of a Mission: Impossible movie. Probably the best Mission: Impossible thing that John Woo utilizes in this movie is people revealing their true identities by ripping off their facemasks, but honestly you can just watch Face/Off (1997) for a better, more complete facemask identity experience.
Gosford Park (2001)
ROBERT [clapping emoji] ALTMAN [clapping emoji] STUFFY [clapping emoji] BRITISH [clapping emoji] HIGH [clapping emoji] SOCIETY [clapping emoji] MOVIE [clapping emoji] !
Can you believe this fucking movie? Picture every stuffy UK actor you can think of, hanging out in a mansion, then have Ryan Phillippe in there trying to fuck half of them while Maggie Smith just dresses them down with the most withering, passive aggressive lines (Is she a “dame” yet? She must be, right?). Also Bob Balaban is in there? It’s great. I don’t know, I like Altman but I always find his movies kind of challenging. Everyone’s always talking over each other and plot always seem kind of a secondary concern, which I’m fine with! It’s just challenging for me. Anyway, Gosford Park is characteristically Altman with the added hurdle of everyone being stuffy and British and repressed, but my god the performances in this movie! Everyone is pretty much perfect in this movie. Maggie Smith, of course, gets all the best lines, Dumbledore’s a real bitch, and jesus christ Helen Mirren is so fully in charge of this movie.
It’s also at its core a pretty harsh, mean movie, particularly in the way it looks at not only the disparity between the high society characters and their servants but also in the way it examines how the servants have bought into that disparity as just another fact of life. Probably one of the meanest things about this movie is watching the servants replicate among them the same hierarchy that has kept them all stuck as servants in the first place. So many scenes where you just want to reach through the screen to tell the servants about unionizing or something. Mrs. Wilson, come on Chapo!
Molly’s Game (2017)
Hey you know what? This movie was fine. It’s Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, and honestly you could do a whole lot worse! It helps when the majority of the movie is just Jessica Chastain moving from place to place being very good at her job (I love when people are very good at their job in movies), and that’s exactly what this movie is. It’s a showcase for Jessica Chastain to do her thing, and sometimes there’s a fun bit part for some other actor like Chris O’Dowd. There are those unavoidable Sorkin ticks like this weird fascination with intertwining her ability with her looks and having every man fall in love with her, but what are you gonna do? More egregious is the very Sorkin scene of a character explaining another character’s psychological hang ups right to their face, and in this case it’s Kevin Costner as Molly’s dad, literally a psychologist, doing some fast psychology on her in the last third of the movie to explain the main character of this movie to us, the audience who’s been watching this movie for the last hour and a half. Anyway, do you like Jessica Chastain? Of course you do, you’ll be fine, she’s in this movie a lot. Don’t like Jessica Chastain? Stop lying to yourself.
I’m not super familiar with Molly Bloom’s whole deal, but I was told that Michael Cera’s “Player X” was actually a stand-in for Tobey Maguire? Which, if that’s true, wow that’s perfect. Could you imagine Tobey Maguire just like, seething at the idea of Michael Cera playing him? Michael Cera is a great bad guy in this, but wow that haircut that he seems to insist on having is the real bad guy here. Sorry, I got sidetracked. I was going to say that I’m not so familiar with Molly Bloom’s story, but I don’t really get why she didn’t make the deal to give up her hard drives. Like, I get the value of not being a snitch, but none of these people gave a shit about her! There’s this line where she’s talking about how men’s lives will be ruined when their families see these notes about the affairs they’re having or the messages about how much they hate their families or whatever, but honestly that sounds like their problem and not Molly’s problem. I don’t know, don’t cheat on your wives, don’t write to your gambling buddies about how you hate your kids. One: I’m sure they don’t really give a shit how you feel about your family, and Two: This is all your fault, you’re an adult. I just think Molly deserved to get all that money back and I think it’s ridiculous that she was going out of her way to protect people like Tobey Maguire and the Russian mob. God could you imagine if Tobey Maguire went to prison?? No way does Leo ever visit him.
— THE WIDE WORLD OF MOVIE DIARY 2018 —
I want to try out a thing where I plug the movie-related work of MOVIE DIARY 2018 special guests, so if you’ve been a special guest here and you’ve got a movie-related thing that you’ve done that you’re excited about get at me and I’ll throw it in here! Idk we’ll see how it goes!
Truth Or Dare (2018)
In a completely-by-the-numbers turn of events the game begins, and it’s not your mom’s “Truth or dare?” it’s a cool “Truth or dare?” with drinking, same-sex lap dances, and moral dilemmas.
The movie doesn’t reinvent the wheel cinematically, nor does it portend to want to. If pressed, the movie might wonder why all the fuss about changing how wheels are. Despite at times seeming willfully uninspired, there is a lesson in Truth or Dare. Whether it means to or not, it examines the repercussions of insufficient boundaries in relationships that have turned toxic.