Since its release, “The Social Network,” a David Fincher directed film about the founding of Facebook, has enjoyed positive critical reception, garnering a 97 percent rating from Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie review website, and earning encouraging reviews from established critics such as Roger Ebert and Michael Phillips. When the Academy Awards are handed out early next year, it is possible for “The Social Network” to come away with victories in multiple categories.
Truthfully, I’d echo much of the praise. In my opinion, if we temporarily suspend consideration of Pixar movies, “The Social Network” is the best film since “Up in the Air,” which was the best film since “The Wrestler,” which was the best film since “There Will Be Blood.”
It’s probably not coincidence that all four of these movies are about flawed characters dealing in one way or another with social alienation. Daniel Plainview, the protagonist of “There Will Be Blood,” proclaims, “There are times when I look at people and I see nothing worth liking.”
“The Wrestler” tells the story of a professional wrestler, broken-down and well past his prime, trying to resolve the fact he has sabotaged his actual life and can only function in the wrestling ring.
“Up in the Air” may be aptly summarized by its tagline, “The story of a man ready to make a connection.” “The Social Network,” similarly, is eager to highlight the irony in how an entire social revolution can be traced back to the founder of Facebook’s social incompetence.
Why quality in recent American cinema is skewed towards films of this thematic mold is up for speculation. It might be attributed to a decimated social order in which any attempt to enforce a common set of established rules is assailed for being intolerant, creating an external vacuum where the subjective consciousness of the individual is left to wallow in an ineffable state of irrelevancy unable to satisfyingly communicate or affirm itself. But that’s just my opinion.
In any event, this trend is not the only one worth commenting on. Earlier in this article, I deliberately delayed talking about the Pixar Animation Studios. Pixar has, in large part, defied the desolate pathos of the moment while consistently creating movies that rank among the years best. Pixar’s “Wall-E,” released in 2008, was named by both Time and critic A.O. Scott as the best film of the 2000s. The triumph of “Wall-E” was followed the next year with “Up,” which earned an Academy Award nomination for best picture.
“Wall-E” and “Up” not only combine technical mastery with a compellingly told narrative, but they also explore a much fuller range of humanity than a majority of films that receive high accolades. I would say with little discomfort that there is more artistic value in the marriage montage of “Up”—which details the highs of the ceremony and being with someone you love over the years to the lows of miscarriage, unfulfilled dreams and inevitable death—than anything I have seen in the filmographies of, say, Werner Herzog or Pedro Almodovar.