Month: June 2015

The Social Network (2010)

Punk. Prophet. Genius. Billionaire. Traitor.

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The year is 2003, at the most prestigious university in North America.

Mark Zuckerberg is a Harvard sophomore and a genius computer programmer. He’s brash, cynical, and brilliant. After getting dumped by his girlfriend, Erica, Mark downs several drinks in his dorm room. Then he and his best friend, Eduardo Saverin, use a complicated computer algorithm to hack into popular social network FaceMash and re-arrange it into a voting contest about the attractiveness of Harvard female undergraduates.

Concurrently, Mark publishes a spiteful blog about Erica. Both the FaceMash hack and the blog post go viral, with a staggering 22,000 hits in less than four hours. It ends up crashing the entire campus network, angering numerous female students, and gaining the attention of the student affairs office. Mark faces six months of academic probation for his offenses.

Identical twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, both of whom compete on Harvard’s nationally-ranked rowing team, catch wind of Mark’s little hack. They develop the idea for a type of campus-wide social network called “The Harvard Connection” with associate Divya Narendra. The three men recruit Mark to their cause, and he accepts.

Andrew Garfield, left, and Jesse Eisenberg stars as

Soon afterwards, Mark approaches Eduardo for an idea that Mark calls “the Facebook,” and Eduardo provides $1,000 for start-up money. Mark builds the website, and it soon becomes insanely popular, spreading quickly to Yale, Columbia, and Stanford, among many others. When Divya and the twins find out, they’re livid, and attempt to bring a university lawsuit against Mark by appealing a breach of student conduct. They take it all the way to the university president himself, to no avail.

Enter Sean Parker, a playboy Palo Alto entrepreneur who founded music download website Napster at the tender age of 19. Once he hears about Mark and his website, Parker can’t resist. Despite the decline and failure of Napster, Parker is clever, ambitious, and ready to move onto something bigger. It looks like Zuckerberg has met his match.

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While at a rowing competition in the UK, the Winklevoss twins discover that Facebook has expanded to Oxford, Cambridge, and the London School of Economics. Furious, they file a massive lawsuit against Mark for intellectual property theft.

Meanwhile, Parker has dinner with both Mark and Eduardo, inviting them both to Silicon Valley to participate in their new joint venture. Mark goes all in, but Eduardo is more reluctant. Not trusting Parker, Eduardo voices his frustrations to Mark and freezes the company’s account. Mark, in turn, mentions to Eduardo that Facebook has received a generous six-figure donation and that everything will be OK. In the meantime, Eduardo pursues an internship in New York, while Mark moves to California to grow Facebook with Parker’s help.

In the ensuing months, Facebook has become a worldwide sensation. Eduardo makes an unexpected trip to California, where he discovers that he’s been double-crossed and his 34% share in the company has been reduced to a minuscule .03%. Enraged, he confronts Mark and also threatens legal action. Someone’s going down, and it’s not gonna be pretty.

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It is virtually impossible to look at Facebook with fresh eyes in 2015. In fact, I bet that while you’re reading this, you’re on Facebook in another browser tab (hey, no judgment here). So it’s hard to imagine life before the addictive, blue-trimmed social network site. Based on that alone, The Social Network is a weird movie.

But it’s also weird because we basically know two major plot points right away:

A) The site that became Facebook became an unprecedented success and propelled Mark Zuckerberg to an unthinkable level of stardom.

B) Mark Zuckerberg is an incredible prick.

We don’t know the ending right off the bat, but it’s an interesting film because it’s not just based on a true story, but based upon a real-life website that millions of people use everyday in all corners of the globe. How did an arrogant Harvard dropout become one of the world’s most famous people? How did this seemingly far-fetched idea catch on with so many people? All this and more is answered.

Director David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en) shows us the intense, unfiltered side of the tumultuous early years of the social networking site that became a global sensation. Helped by Aaron Sorkin’s dynamic script and unwavering performances by Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, The Social Network succeeds on a grand scale as a searing drama and a somewhat dark and bitter take on human interaction. Social commentary? No. Allegory? No. But it’s extremely effective at its take on this memorable story, and is incredibly compelling viewing despite the underlying themes of betrayal, cynicism, and the sheer unlike-ability of its protagonist.

Critics also took note of this unique cinematic achievement; The Social Network was nominated for eight Academy Awards and took home three (Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score), and the film currently has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film also took home the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Drama.

The film ends with titles that inform us of the legal aftermath. Eduardo settled for an unspecified amount of money, and his name was restored as co-founder of Facebook. The Winklevoss twins, who went on to compete in rowing at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, settled for $65,000 and signed a non-disclosure agreement. The social media world was forever changed by these trials and their resulting changes.

And therein lies the greatest irony of this story: that Mark Zuckerberg created a “social” media site despite being an anti-social tool who alienated everyone around him.

The film ends with the final title:

Facebook has over 500 million members in 207 countries; it is valued at 25 billion dollars.

Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s youngest billionaire.

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Released 2010

Directed by David Fincher

Produced by Scott Rubin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Cean Chaffin

Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin

Based on the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich

Director of Photography — Jeff Cronenweth, A.S.C.

Music by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Edited by Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, Max Minghella, Justin Timberlake, Joseph Mazzello, Brenda Song, Rashida Jones, John Getz, and Rooney Mara

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language.

ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Corrupted

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You sure can find some strange music on YouTube.

Case in point: the band that I’ve chosen to profile today — Corrupted. I’m going to shine a light, as it were, on one of the most bizarre bands I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. And yes, it was, in fact, a pleasure to listen to multiple layers of dense feedback underneath harsh guttural growls of indiscernable origin. Maybe I’m crazy. Who knows?

One of the darkest, heaviest, and most obscure genres of music anywhere in the world is doom/drone metal. Often lumped together with so-called “sludge” metal, there’s not a great market anywhere in the world for this oppressive style of music. Even within the metal community, it’s weird. It’s like that awkward third cousin you see at the family reunion who just returned from studying Taoism in the mountains of Bhutan.

What I’m trying to say here is that this stuff is HEAVY. It’s honestly one of the most crushingly brutal genres I’ve ever heard before — and I’ve listened to quite a bit of heavy metal in my day. Without a doubt, it takes some getting used to.

Let’s check out some comments under sludge/doom/drone metal bands on YouTube:

“I’ve heard some heavy DOOM in my life, but this takes the cake. It’s too scary to listen to in the dark. It’s like an aural horror movie.”

“Sounds like being trapped under tons of rubble and twisted metal. Either that or waking up blindfolded and tied to a chair in an enormous, dark and unfamiliar room.”

“I was falling asleep to this album one night and when this song started to end I got sucked into a kind of pitfall nightmare, struggling to wake myself up. I felt like I was being dragged to hell.”

Ehh — I’m stalling here. Anyway, I think I’m made my case for how strange this genre is, and how it definitely takes a certain frame of mind to listen to for an extended period. Even for me, an unashamed metal disciple, it was so brutal and oppressive that I really had to adjust my seat and soak it all in. Fortunately for me, doom/drone metal is not just pure noise. In fact, a lot of the bands in this genre are very good from a lyrical standpoint. I know, crazy, right?

Corrupted is a four-piece doom/sludge act from Osaka, Japan. If they ever wanted to make it into mainstream sludge metal (not that there even IS such a thing), they have never, ever showed it. Corrupted’s music, even for this genre, is crushing. Their lyrics are deep growls, and their music is played at an extremely slow pace, helped by down-tuned guitars and bass and gallons upon gallons of the heaviest distortion imaginable. Also, they’re a Japanese band that sings (read: screams) almost entirely en Español. Don’t ask me why.

If you were wondering why I didn’t include a photo of Corrupted in this blog post, that’s because there isn’t one.

I’m serious. Try doing a Google search of “Corrupted band” and you’ll see what I mean. You might get lucky and find an occasional photo taken by a fan during one of their live performances in their home country. Other than that, nothing.

Not only is Corrupted’s music bleak and heavy, their style is expressed in their apathy towards mainstream acceptance and even media portrayals.

Corrupted has never, ever done an interview. Or a promotional photoshoot. Or a tour announcement. They haven’t even sprinkled in some group photos in the liner notes of their albums, like Paso Inferior or El Mundo Frio. Rather, they shun all publicity. In fact, the only photographic evidence you can find of Corrupted is by videos or photos taken by fans at concerts.

Despite this lack of exposure, Corrupted has had a prolific career in this oddball genre since they were founded in 1994, churning out five solo albums and numerous split collaboration albums with other doom metal bands. They perform regularly in Japan and have even ventured to the U.S. twice.

Also, even though their genre is arguably the heaviest genre of metal in existence, Corrupted has broken tradition and included more experimental sections in several of their albums. They sometimes break from their Spanish lyrics and include spoken-word passages in English or Japanese. Or they might throw in some keyboard instrumentals.

For example, their 2005 album El Mundo Frio is entirely one song featuring numerous instrumental breaks, including extensive use of harp. The entire song (and album) clocks in at 72 minutes long. That’s insane on two levels — one, because there’s never been a 72-minute song in the history of recorded music, and two, because it’s beyond weird to find a harp solo in the middle of a symphony of brutality that is the rest of Corrupted’s catalog. However, Corrupted has also recorded a song less than two minutes in length, and can adjust their sound in pretty much any way, shape, or form to fit the tone and mood that they’re going for.

Corrupted is a critically-acclaimed band within their genre, as impenetrable as their music may seem. Music critic Iann Robinson compares Corrupted favorably to fellow Japanese metal bands Ruins and The Boredoms:

Corrupted is a horse of a different color, equally as important but very different from The Boredoms or Ruins. Corrupted is one of the most savage doom bands ever. Their songs are multi-layered guitar sections buried within walls of noise and they move at a snail’s pace without becoming boring. There are long sections that are purely instrumental as well as vocal sections that are harshly guttural and seem to go on forever. Right when you think you can peg Corrupted as an all-doom band they release a lush acoustic set within their bleak musical landscape. Few doom bands can even touch Corrupted, for not only sheer excellence and dedication to keeping their music brutal and honest, but for actually doing this only to create art. Corrupted never take professional pictures, there are no band photos in their album sleeves and they never, ever do interviews. They have no interest in that aspect of music, they simply want the freedom to make the art they feel compelled to….nothing about what Corrupted does makes sense yet everything they do makes sense. If you can balance your musical ideals within that conundrum you will begin to understand Corrupted.

Also worth mentioning: the liner notes of their albums are as bleak as the music itself. Again, Corrupted eschews any photos of any band members in the liner notes, rather putting in black-and-white pictures of war-torn third world countries or other depictions of modern-day human suffering. You can also find the vast majority of their other work on over a dozen split albums, recorded with bands ranging from thrash-grind metal to fellow doom metal bands.

This is a brief statement given by band members in regard to their publicity shunning:

We’ve never done an interview and we don’t let professional photographers take our picture. This is our policy—more an attitude—that we’d like to keep. Our expression of being Corrupted is in the sound, lyrics and artwork of our records. Of course, we always appreciate the people who buy our records, see us play and support us along with the fanzines, labels, distributors and event planners. We do not reject all media, or bash writers who express themselves through articles or reviews. All are free and it’s only through our personal expression of using the media that we exclude interviews.

In short, this band has one of the weirdest niches in what is already an intense, brooding genre. Corrupted, while very talented and weirdly effective, is definitely not for everyone. Even most modern-day metal fans wouldn’t care for this genre, considering the lack of mosh pit anthems and chugging breakdowns. It’s long-winded, it’s scary, and it absolutely requires a certain mood to get into.

But — if anything about what I said piqued your interest and didn’t scare you away, then by all means, try to hunt this band down on YouTube. I’d actually recommend that, especially if you don’t wanna pay an arm and a leg for shipping costs from Japan (were you to actually buy one of their albums). Corrupted is dark, heavy, and remarkably progressive in a genre that is as mysterious as any you’ll find. And the band members seem perfectly fine to be as anonymous as humanly possible.