This is a total feel good movie of the year, sure to be a strong Oscar contender. The story of one of the most amazing race horses in history, whose speed in winning the triple crown has never been repeated. But really, it’s the story of Penny Chenery, the owner of Secretariat, a story of American egalitarianism triumphing over class, gender, aristocracy and hatred. Penny is portrayed as a middle class housewife who, with her brother, inherits her rich parent’s horse farm. Because of the inherent oppression of inheritance taxes, she is pushed to sell the farm to pay the taxes. She says no. Then to sell Secretariat to pay the taxes. She says No. And then to get out because she is a woman in a man’s world, to go back to her kids and raise her family instead of engaging in successful business. But she keeps pushing through for her dream, a dream to make something of her life, to find her passion by raising Secretariat to be the champion he became, from his underdog beginnings as a second choice bred horse. Her husband is shown bothered by her absence from the family as she obsessively pursues her dream miles away from home, but he gets over it and the family is never shown to be adversely affected by it all. Sure, she misses some school plays, but it’s all depicted as worth it. In a way, this woman is the ultimate feminist who has it all: a good family, a successful business and a priority of her own dreams. She fights the establishment of white male power with the egalitarian American “never give up” spirit and wins.
The movie starts with a passage from the book of Job about the power and beauty of the horse in God’s scheme of things. And the movie ends with a gospel song as Secretariat wins. These spiritual elements add a deeper sense to the theme of the movie, though wind up appearing somewhat artificial due the complete lack of spirituality in Penny and her family’s story. Is redemption really only about achieving personal dreams and bucking the establishment? Is salvation really just about triumphing over cultural prejudices or over personal character flaws? I say this because there seemed to be a lack of this personal dimension to the story that would make it rise above a shallow external victory of personal dreams into a triumph of the human spirit.
A drama about the invention of Facebook and its founders, written by Aaron Sorkin and shot by David Fincher. The movie starts with a long opening tete a tete between nerdish computer geek and autistic-like jerk, Mark Zuckerberg and a young college co-ed he is out on a date with, Erica. It’s a brilliant scene that sets the stage for the film’s drama and delivers the thematic message all in one: She is not going out with him and people do not like him, not because he is brilliant or wants to be on the inner ring of power, but plain and simple, because he is an a**hole. A simple but profound tale of character and integrity and what it means to be alone in the world. If you can’t make friends, it’s your own simple fault.
This will be a multiple Oscar nominated film for 2010. It basically makes the ironic argument that the young man who brought us the biggest most successful social connecting medium of the decade, was unable to maintain friendship himself. The film really touches on some relevant important issues for today: The rapidly changing “cool” culture, the seduction of power, the egalitarian force of the internet to make lives and destroy them, the corrupting process of the “inner ring” in aristocratic culture like Ivy League education and old money, but also that same inner ring mentality in the world of enterpreneurship. It’s a rich panoply of human nature, guilt and unrequited love and friendship.
This movie is so full of so many memorable lines, I can’t remember them all. A broken-hearted Eduard to Zuckerberg: “I was your only friend.” Zuckerberg to the rich Winklevoss twins who claimed Zuckerberg stole their idea: “If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you’d have invented Facebook.” Zuckerberg about the Winklevoss twins: “They’re just angry that for once in their life, things didn’t go the way they were supposed to for them.” There is a price for the witty arrogance and condescension of Zuckerberg, and his inability to be vulnerable, summed up in the last image of the film: his constant refreshing of the screen after he requests to be a friend with the one girl who didn’t want him for his success and reached out to him, the one he lashed out by posting his juvenile rantings of revenge against her. That little element of irony of a Facebook world: People “blog” or post their innermost thoughts without discretion to the whole world, and do not consider their public consequences, YET, they cannot be truly vulnerable to another human in person. Zuckerberg, after destroying the one woman he wanted on the internet, he hoped he could just erase what he had written, but he couldn’t, it was permanent, it was “not in pencil, it was in ink.” And so he longed for the intimacy he had sought, the sense of belonging that he obsessed over in trying to be in an insider’s “cool” “final club.” And when he betrays the only true friend he had, he ends all alone in the world, the one dread of existence.