Monthly Archives: October 2010

The Social Network

thesocialnetworkTHE SOCIAL NETWORK has to be one of the best films of the year. David Fincher is back on form following the ever so slightly melancholic chore that was Benjamin Button. His direction is subtle. Even masterful. Wise enough to simply get out of the way. And let Aaron Sorkin’s writing shine. From the opening scene. Sorkin draws us in. Leads us through what. In a lesser writer’s hands. Might end up looking like a childish squabble. If you don’t know. The Social Network is about the creation of Facebook. And the ensuing fallout thereof. How much of what we see is true is anyone’s guess. But Sorkin doesn’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. Allowing the various parties to have their say. Even if it contradicts what is being said elsewhere. He lets you make up your own mind. Decide for yourself who is lying. And who is telling the truth. In doing so he manages to make you engage with some of the most unlikeable people you’re ever likely come across. They are elitist self-centred egomaniacs. Their narcissism verges on the psychopathic. Sorkin even manages to make you feel for them. When the depositions are over. And the lawyers have retired to thrash out the settlement. Zuckerberg retreats into his virtual world. And check out his ex’s status on Facebook. It’s hard not to feel something for him at this point. All of his “motivated” behaviour. And all he wants. Is to be liked by a girl. Either that. Or he is dangerous psychopath stalking an ex. You decide. Interesting. Engaging. And definitely worth seeing more than once.

Director: David Fincher
Writer: Aaron Sorkin
Production Year: 2010
Rating: 12A
Running Time: 121 minutes

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The Disappearance Of Alice Creed

alicecreedTHE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is an interesting low budget thriller from first time writer/director J Blakeson. Two men fortify a derelict apartment. Kidnap a woman. Tie her to the bed. And demand a two million pounds ransom from her father. Eddie Marsan (Vic) is delightfully menacing as the criminal mastermind with the perfect plan. Martin Compston (Danny) turns in a similarly impressive performance as Vic’s obedient conspirator. But it is Gemma Arterton who impressed me most. She rises to the challenge and gives her most believable performance to date as the kidnapped Alice Creed. To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from this film. I knew almost nothing about it going in. So was genuinely surprised by at least one of the plot points. Although we have only three actors. And a limited number of location. It punches well above its weight. The writing is tight. The direction precise. Defiantly worth seeing at least once.

Director: J Blakeson
Writer: J Blakeson
Production Year: 2009
Rating: 18
Running Time: 96 minutes

Psychopath class

When you say the word “psychopath” images of an axe wielding homicidal maniacs come to mind. Norman Bates dragging a knife into Marion Crane’s shower. Mark Lewis skewering women so he can capture their fear with his father’s cine-camera. But those are metaphorical psychopaths who inhabit our imagination. And manifest in the films of “Psycho” or “Peeping Tom”. The truth is considerably less histrionic. A whole lot more mundane. And come in the form of the compulsive liars who always get what they want. The social butterflies able to evade responsibility for the whirlwind of destruction they leave in their wake. And the “intraspecies predators” who control others to satisfy their own selfish needs.

While researching on my first screenplay I came across Dr. Robert Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist. The checklist is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess psychopaths. It is a clinical rating scale of twenty items. Each item is scored between “0” and “2”. A value of “0” is given to any item that does not apply. A value of “1” is given to any item that applies somewhat. A value of “2” is assigned to any item that applies fully. The twenty items are.

  • Glibness/superficial charm
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth
  • Pathological lying
  • Cunning/manipulative
  • Lack of remorse or guilt
  • Shallow affect
  • Callous/lack of empathy
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
  • Parasitic lifestyle
  • Poor behavioural control
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals
  • Impulsivity
  • Irresponsibility
  • Juvenile delinquency
  • Early behaviour problems
  • Revocation of conditional release
  • Many short-term marital relationships
  • Criminal versatility

When properly completed by a qualified professional the test subject is scored anywhere between “0” and “40”. The prototypical psychopath would score the maximum “40”. While someone who has no psychopathic tendencies would score the minimum “0”. A score above “30” diagnoses the subject as psychopathic.

I am not a qualified professional. But I know at least two individuals who would score above “30” on Dr. Hare’s Checklist. More worryingly I look around and see it manifest in an entire class of people. Whose actions. Attitudes. And behaviour. If taken as a whole. Would score “30” or more. I know I’m throwing boulders into the water. But I am pointing a finger. And saying it. The Middle Classes are psychopaths.

I’m not the first to look at an entire institution and conclude if it were an individual it would be diagnosed as a psychopath. Jennifer Abbott and Mark Achbar’s 2003 documentary The Corporation did exactly that. They applied Dr. Hare’s Checklist to the corporation. And concluded that if it were an individual. It would be a clinically-diagnosed psychopath.

The individual members of the Middle Class may not be psychopathic on their own. But as a whole. With a set of clearly defined values. They score “30” or above. Take that core member of the middle class. Bankers. I’d score their personality and case history as follows.

  • Glibness/superficial charm (2)
  • Grandiose sense of self-worth (2)
  • Pathological lying (2)
  • Cunning/manipulative (2)
  • Lack of remorse or guilt (2)
  • Shallow affect (2)
  • Callous/lack of empathy (2)
  • Failure to accept responsibility for own actions (2)
  • Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom (2)
  • Parasitic lifestyle (2)
  • Poor behavioural control (2)
  • Promiscuous sexual behaviour (2)
  • Lack of realistic long-term goals (2)
  • Impulsivity (2)
  • Irresponsibility (2)
  • Juvenile delinquency (1)
  • Early behaviour problems (1)
  • Revocation of conditional release (2)
  • Many short-term marital relationships (0)
  • Criminal versatility (2)

By my gorilla maths that gives them a Checklist score of “36”. They should be on a psychiatric hold. Receiving treatment. A danger to themselves and others. But they’re not. They’re allowed to go about their business. In the name of the free market. And a profit.

I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it in any meaningful way. But the next time you see some banker on television failing to accept responsibility for their action by asserting their right to a bonus. Or some well dressed politician demonstrating a callous lack of empathy by admonishing the long term unemployed. Or you see the grandiose sense of self-worth innate in parents who set up a school for their children. Take a look at the checklist. And see how they score. When I do it. They are always Middle Class. And they always score “30” or above.

[REC] 2

[REC] 2 is a worthy sequel to the one of the best horror films of recent times. Picking up exactly where [REC] left off. An official from the Ministry of Health. And three members of a GEO (SWAT) team. Are sent into the quarantined building to verify the infection has been contained. But when they encounter the infected residents. And the health official, Dr. Owen, is able to fight them off with a rosary and a religious mantra. It quickly becomes apparent that the infection is actually a manifestation of demonic evil. And Dr Owen is a priest sent by the Vatican to recover a blood sample from the source of the infection. The Medeiros girl. But as Owen and the team search for the girl. The second act takes a left turn. Three thrill seeking teenagers follow the father of a quarantined girl and a sympathetic paramedic into the building. Trapped inside they quickly become grist to the mill. Providing a level of histrionics only a teenage girl can bring. Act three brings the story full circle. As the journalist from [REC] makes a dramatic reappearance. Her story brings a satisfying, if icky, conclusion to events. From the opening sequence Balagueró and Plaza manage to maintain the frenetic pace of the original. The three acts. With three very different points of view. Open out the story enough to keep it fresh and interesting. They also manage to ramp up the first person camera thing that was so important to the original. The GEO team wear helmet cameras. The thrill seeking teenagers carry the omnipresent camcorder. We cut between the multiple points of view. Putting us right in the middle of the action. Without ever losing that dynamic first person quality. That made the first such a success. With two more films in the pipeline. [REC] Genesis and [REC] Apocalypse. The franchise looks set to stay. With luck they will be able to take the story in a new direction. Without losing the frantic, constant climax, feel of these two. A genuine scary horror film. Definitely worth your time.

Directors: Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza
Writers: Jaume Balagueró, Paco Plaza & Manu Díez
Production Year: 2009
Rating: 18
Running Time: 85 minutes

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