It’s that time of year again…

Yes, that most anticipated of Awards Ceremonies, The Oscars, sees all kinds of celebrities turning out in their most amazing looking threads and practising their most gracious of losing faces for this one time of year.

Of course, this year was no different, and England in particular has a lot riding on this, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, with The King’s Speech nominated in as many categories as it can possibly manage. From the Red Carpet, everyone seemed rightly excited for the close calls in this year’s nominees. Everyone has their favourites, but only one can win. I know where my money is!

James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a nice job of hosting together, but of course when you put two attractive people together like that you’re hoping to get an entertaining back and forth (especially when half-way through they come back out dressed as each other). Plus, it gives all the geeks in the audience a chance at imagining how Anne Hathaway will look when she plays Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises next year!

Best Art Direction surprisingly didn’t go to Inception but to Alice in Wonderland, which I suppose must be purely for all its CGI and imaginative creations.

Best Supporting Actress went to Melissa Leo for her performance in The Fighter, but it did mean that both Helena Bonham Carter and Hayley Steinfeld missed out (which gave Helena a reason for looking moody and gothy), which confused me as I was sure they put Hayley Steinfeld into this category so she might win since she was on the screen for 90% of the time, which would surely mean the Lead Actress in True Grit was Matt Damon…

Best Animated Feature obviously went to Toy Story 3, but being one of three films nominated it was almost to be expected. Best Adapted Screenplay must have been a very close call because 127 Hours, The Social Network and True Grit were all very well written, but the award went to The Social Network as I hoped. Best Original Screenplay brought the first Oscar to The King’s Speech, and David Seidler made a great acceptance speech for it. I couldn’t have called In a Better World for Best Foreign Language film as I think most people expected it to go to Biutiful, but there you go.

Another tough call came for Best Supporting Actor, but Christian Bale took the award away, which I’m guessing is due to the amount of weight he lost purely to perform his role in The Fighter. Inside Job took Best Documentary, but that’s probably because it exposed massive financial fraud to a nation that got hit by it!

Inception took away a total of 4 awards, including Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and surprisingly Cinematography, which I expected to go to True Grit for its scenery and settings. Best Original Score, to my huge excitement, went to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, which meant I got to see the man that fronted Nine Inch Nails accepting an Oscar whilst simultaneously feeling obviously awkward about it!

Best Director, without any surprise, went to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech, even though I was rooting for David Fincher for The Social Network, but at least he made a good acceptance speech so you can’t fault him for that. Best Actress went to Natalie Portman, and again that is likely due to the amount of dance training she went through for her role in Black Swan.

No prizes for guessing that Best Actor went to Colin Firth for The King’s Speech, as well as winning Best Feature Film. That means 4 Oscars for The King’s Speech and good night for English Films!

So, until next year, we can all go away and rent all the films from tonight, and remember just why they won the awards they did. Or, alternatively, bitch continuously about how our favourites really should have won that one award that they were nominated for instead of that other which wasn’t nearly as good…

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The Social Network (Contains Spoilers)

I think by this point it’s pretty safe to say that David Fincher is a dude who really knows what he’s doing. He may not have as many Oscars as Scorsese, as many classics as Spielberg or as much money as Cameron, but his repertoire shows that he definitely has it together and is more than capable of creating pieces of cinema that are sure to make heads turn. Se7en, Fight Club, Zodiac – all of these have been incredibly tense and very intellectually challenging films, and The Social Network is no exception to this. Ironically enough, after seeing The Social Network I honestly couldn’t wait to write a blog about it and express my opinions of it on a public medium!

The Social Network, I personally think, is one of the most intellectually entertaining films not just of this year, but of recent years as well. Pair that with the fact that, at its centre point, it is a piece about one of the most used, talked about and potentially dangerous inventions of recent years and you have a film that is GOING to cause a stir, no matter what! The partly true, partly fictional story of the Harvard University based creators of the social networking site Facebook (which you’d be hard-pressed to find someone NOT on it now!) sees Jesse Eisenberg playing the role of Mark Zuckerberg, the main geek-brained creator of the infamous networking website. Eisenberg does a fantastic job playing Mark as he is able to deliver all his lines with such a straight face and blank attitude that it’s both believable and ironic in equal measures – believable because Eisenberg delivers all the computer jargon with such conviction you’d think he graduated from MIT, and ironic in the way that someone with such a lack of social interaction skills and emotional depth could create the world’s largest and most famous social networking site. But that’s the irony of the situation to begin with, really – the fact that The Social Network starts with a five minute scene of Mark basically ruining a date by gradually insulting his date more and more because his mind obviously operates on different levels from normal humans goes to show just how socially awkward and emotionally blind Eisenberg’s Mark is. Also, as a side note, that first scene of the film where the awkwardly sarcastic Mark and his date Erica Albright (Rooney Mara) are sat around a table was probably the hardest part of the film to write! From this early point, it’s clearly established that Mark is not just socially blind, but more a borderline Asperger’s patient, which is again why it’s ironic he managed to create Facebook.

Whilst Eisenberg does an amazing job as the sarcastically smarter-than-thou Mark, it’s Andrew Garfield who truly shines through as Mark’s roommate and co-founder of Facebook, Eduardo Saverin. Garfield is genuinely an amazing actor in The Social Network, providing the other half of the entire story that makes up the script of the film. Saverin is the more socially aware, richer go-getter of the two founders which is what starts to provide Eisenberg’s Mark with the conflicts he faces, as for someone so socially unaware, he’s friends with someone who is more popular, has more money and can intellectually keep up with Mark. The scene where Garfield truly steals the show is at the point where Saverin is given further contracts to sign and realises exactly what his shares in Facebook are after a corporate investment and, even though you don’t feel as much of a connection to this jealous and somewhat spiteful portrayal of Eduardo Saverin, you can’t help but feel bad for how shunned and cast out he gets.

This is not to say that Saverin was the “bad guy” in any of this, and that’s part of the beauty of The Social Network – there are no clearly defined “good” or “bad” characters. Each of the characters is right or wrong about different things in equal measures – at the point where Saverin wants to monetise Facebook through advertising, Eisenberg’s Mark doesn’t want to. He wants to “not stop the party before 11” as the parallel goes. BUT, as it now turns out, Facebook ended up charging for advertising on their spaces and that is now why Facebook is worth so much money, and has made billionaires of Saverin and Zuckerberg. So in the end, neither of them are exactly right or wrong, which is what makes their characters so compelling throughout the entire film.

Justin Timberlake is a bit questionable in the role of Sean Parker, and I’m having a hard time making my mind up about him. On the one hand, I think Timberlake is doing a good job for himself in becoming a legitimate actor as well as singer, and I think the Social Network will work well for him as a stepping stone to further good roles. However, his particular role in this film I found a little hard to accept as it progressed. At the start of the film, Timberlake obviously does a good job of becoming the Napster Mastermind Sean Parker – a cocky rich guy who dropped out of school, managed to screw around in the Music industry and has gotten plenty of fame and fortune because of it. Let’s face it; of course Justin Timberlake would be good at playing that role… But as the film went on, and the character of Sean Parker had to become gradually more genuine and less of a “mogul” type, Timberlake became a little less believable in his character, and that’s where he started to falter. So to begin with, Timberlake’s character works well and drives the storyline, but towards the end he starts to become less of a steering wheel and more of a regular cog in the works. But he still makes for an interesting character, and I think that Timberlake might actually have some kind of possible career in film ahead of him.

One aspect of The Social Network that was interesting, and in fact of many of Fincher’s films, is the way in which the story is told. The Social Network isn’t exactly told in a series of flashbacks as the film actually starts back before Zuckerberg created Facebook or even his first attempt at an internet-wide practical joke of Facemash, but more with cut-aways to the legal proceedings that followed after Facebook became something bigger than any of its creators. At the end of the film, the storylines catch up to each other and come to one, single conclusion as the story of the creation of Facebook meets with the courtroom drama that ensued after it. In this way, the delivery of the information that drives the story is evenly spread out, and in some places even comical with the way that it is cut together to tell the story of certain incidents in Facebook’s creation. What is also interesting about this form of storytelling is that it keeps you guessing as to how they all got to that point – at one part towards the end, you get the sense that Saverin and Zuckerberg are almost at a point of an understanding again before everything gets far worse, but the point is that it keeps you guessing at times, and that’s what gives The Social Network’s story its edge.

I should also say that the film’s soundtrack is worth a mention at this point. The soundtrack to The Social Network has been written and put together entirely by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and legendary rock producer Atticus Ross, so it would definitely make for an interesting listen if you know your music history AND enjoy using Facebook as well, considering that two veritable legends of modern rock music have come together to create this soundtrack.

One thing that The Social Network does make very clear is, ironically enough, the dangers of using Facebook. It’s actually quoted in the film “It’s addictive. I’m on it like, 5 times a day!” and about how “the internet isn’t writing in pencil, it’s in pen” and it’s repeatedly referenced at how just using Facebook is all about putting all of your personal details up on a public forum for anyone you know to access. It’s been recently stated by Eric Schmidt, boss of Google.com, about how the dangers of using Facebook and other social networking sites won’t be apparent for a while, but will still be there all the same. Schmidt anticipates that the current generation of Facebook users won’t be worried about identity theft, but more about how to escape the online identity they’ve been creating for themselves all this time. He states “Young people may one day have to change their names in order to escape their previous online activity” and that could end up being very true, and The Social Network does a good job of beginning to subliminally imply this.

Ultimately, there is very little to fault The Social Network on, except for one small part where in one scene they have Prince Albert played by someone who is CLEARLY American and looks nothing like Prince Albert at all. That detail aside, The Social Network is an awesome film with great characters and brilliant casting all round, and I think it has easily made its way into my Top Films of the Year. It will also be interesting to see how Fincher tackles the re-make of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo next year with Rooney Mara from this film becoming Lisbeth Salander. I’m giving The Social Network 8 out of 10 for sheer impressiveness and intelligence, and I think everyone should make an effort to catch it in cinemas!