A movie moment for Mark Zuckerberg

When it came time for me to do my movie news dump late Friday night, I somehow managed to forget the news item from the middle of the week that Facebook founder and reluctant movie character Mark Zuckerberg had been named Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year. It’s an oversight I can’t bring myself to ignore completely.

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Looking at past selectees, 26 year-old billionaire Zuckerberg is hardly the only one to have a movie made about his exploits. In terms of sheer footage, he’s got nothing on such occasional film lead figures and frequent supporting players as Nelson Mandela, John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, Mohandas Gandhi and, most frequent of all, Adolf Hitler.

What is unique about Zuckerberg is that “The Social Network” came out the same year as his selection and, in a peculiar way, probably helped him to get it. Reading the Time article about Zuckerberg by geek journalist and fantasy novelist Lev Grossman, I can only marvel at some very shrewd PR work by someone. The article goes out of its way to present a highly sympathetic alternative from the “angry-robot” of the movie to a figure more akin to the stiff but kindly Tin Woodman. If writer Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher portrayed Zuckerberg as a bit like the treacherous Ash from “Alien,” Grossman turns him into the quirky but lovable Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” The words “Eduardo Saverin” and the legal troubles portrayed in the film are never mentioned in the online version of the article that I read.

I strongly suspect Zuckerberg’s knowledge of movie history doesn’t extend much further back than “Alien.” However, even with all the image rebuffing a billionaire’s money and power affords him, I’m sure he’d prefer the old days of movie biopics where, if powerful celebrities were portrayed at all, they were portrayed positively. Not only were possibly imaginary warts not added, as they might have been by Sorkin and Fincher, very real ones were actively removed.

I’ve never seen it, but check out the trailer below for Billy Wilder’s 1957 biopic about perhaps the most ironically similar Time Person of the Year (back when it was “Man of the Year”) to Zuckerberg, aviation pioneer Charles A. Lindbergh. As the L.A. Times reminds us, Lindbergh was also the first person chosen and the only one younger than the Facebook fonder. What Zuckerberg feels he is doing to bring people together virtually, Lindbergh was instrumental in doing physically by demonstrating that a nonstop flight from New York to Paris was possible. At this point in history at least, in some ways Lindbergh’s achievement still dwarfs Zuckerberg’s. That may change fairly soon, but there’s no doubt what Lindbergh did commanded a huge personal risk and, eventually, a personal price with the most infamous kidnapping and murder case in American history.

Ironically, while it might said that the Jewish American Sorkin went hammer and tong against the Jewish Zuckerberg, Billy Wilder by all accounts went easy on the famous flyer when, under the circumstances, it would be entirely understandable for Wilder to despise Lindbergh. Working thirty years after the famous flight of “Lucky Lindy,” Wilder was able to completely ignore Lindbergh’s highly controversial early opposition to World War II and qualified support for Hitler as a bulwark against the Soviet Union, his antisemitism, white supremacist beliefs (though hardly unusual at the time), and links to the more openly Jew-hating Henry Ford. Wilder you see, was not just a liberal Jew who advocated for U.S. involvement in the war, but an actual escapee from Hitler’s Europe whose immediate family perished at Auschwitz.

If there was any revenge by Wilder at all, star James Stewart was nearly 50 when the movie was released, double the age Lindbergh was when he came to fame. Jessie Eisenberg might be, unusually for the movies, smaller and less physically fit looking than the real-life Zuckerberg, but at least he’s still only 27.

  

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Doctor Who 5.12 – The Pandorica Opens

From the very first scene, “The Pandorica Opens” is an ominous piece of work. France, 1890. Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran) writhes in mental torment, presumably in the last days of his life. It appears that he actually did paint another piece, and it’s somehow tied to the Doctor. After the Doctor and Amy left Vincent at the close of “Vincent and the Doctor,” the Time Lord asserted that “we definitely added to his pile of good things.” Maybe they did, but it appears they added to his pile of bad things, as well. The implication even seems to be that by introducing Vincent to his universe, the Doctor may have played an inadvertent role in the artist’s suicide. Dark stuff indeed. But what is the painting? Bam! All of a sudden we jump to London in 1941 and we’re with Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice) and Professor Bracewell (Bill Paterson), who now have the van Gogh painting. Bracewell insists that it’s Churchill’s job to deliver the art. Bam! A containment facility in 5145. River Song (Alex Kingston) is on the receiving end a phone call from Churchill meant for the Doctor. Swiftly she makes an escape thanks to the hallucinogenic lipstick. Bam! The Royal Collection, still in 5145. Presumably we’re back onboard the Starship U.K. and the van Gogh painting waits for River, having been added to the collection by Churchill 3200 years prior. Liz Ten (Sophie Okonedo) makes a reappearance. Bam! Still in 5145, River blackmails an alien dealer into giving her a vortex manipulator. Through this series of efficient sequences, it’s as if Steven Moffat is asking, “Have I got your attention now?” He most certainly does.

In the TARDIS, Amy (Karen Gillan) ponders the wedding ring, while the Doctor (Matt Smith) hatches a plan to take her to the oldest planet in the universe to see the oldest piece of writing, which is chiseled onto a cliff face. The TARDIS doors open and the translators show the words as “Hello Sweetie.” Bam! Britain, 102 AD. The TARDIS arrives in front of a Roman army, and Amy mentions that Roman soldiers were her favorite topic in school. A soldier, whose face is smeared with lipstick, mistakes the Doctor for Caesar and takes the pair to see Cleopatra, whom River is impersonating. Finally we get to see the painting, which shares its name with this episode, and it’s a vision of the exploding TARDIS, painted exactly as we’d imagine van Gogh would paint such a vision. (Surely poster prints of this will be available for fans to hang on their walls any day now? I know I’d buy one.) Finally, seven minutes into the episode, we get the opening credits.

And thus begins what’s easily the most ambitious setup for a season finale the new series has yet done. “The Pandorica Opens” is positively cinematic in scope, direction, editing and, of course, writing. These setup installments were never this good in the Davies era, and it’s almost a shame it isn’t the season finale proper, as it would be an unbearable, months-long wait to see the resolution to everything this episode does. It would be the “Doctor Who” equivalent of Part One of “The Best of Both Worlds,” which ended the third season of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” In fact it’s somewhat strange that “Doctor Who” – a show infamous for its end of episode cliffhangers – has yet to end a season on any kind of serious hang (stuff like regenerations or Donna suddenly appearing in the TARDIS doesn’t really count). The feeling I got watching “The Pandorica Opens” is the exact same feeling I got while watching the last 20 minutes of “Utopia” from Season Three – only this thing kept up that level of intensity for nearly a whole hour.

The episode shifts into an almost “Indiana Jones” type of piece for a while, as the trio of time travelers make their way to a secret area beneath Stonehenge, to find the massive Pandorica prison, which is somehow tied to the exploding TARDIS. Whatever’s housed in it is the most feared thing in the entire universe. As with the Romans, Amy mentions that the story of Pandora’s Box was a favorite of hers as a child. This catches the Doctor’s attention, but there’s too much going on for him to focus on it. The box finally begins opening – from the inside, no less, but it’s a process that could take hours, as there are many locks and mechanisms to work through, and so the tension continues to ratchet upwards.

The Doctor: “Think of the fear that went into making this box. What could inspire that level of fear? Hello you. Have we met?”

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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A Chat with Saul Rubinek

Saul Rubinek is one of the most versatile characters actors in Hollywood, able to move from sitcom to serious drama without a moment’s hesitation. As a result, he’s one of the busiest guys in the business, a fact which is easily proven by taking a gander at his IMDb listing. It’s been awhile, however, since he’s taken on a role as a series regular, which should give you an idea of how special he believes his new gig, Sci-Fi’s “Warehouse 13” (premiering July 7th), to be. Bullz-Eye spoke with Rubinek about how he came aboard the series and what we can expect from his character, and we also chatted with him about his experiences on “Frasier,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and “The Outer Limits,” and the legacy of “True Romance.”

* “I adore (‘Warehouse 13’), and it’s a pleasure to be able to talk about it. I’ve had so many times in my life where I’ve had to sell a show, you know, and do my due diligence as an actor and try desperately to look for something positive to say. Here I am in a kind of heaven.”

* On doing “Frasier”: “I had to pinch myself. That was one of the most amazing times I have ever had, where you feel like you are doing this little one act play, no interference from anyone, anywhere. We’re just doing this little one act play, and then 23 million people showed up.”

* “That world of Lewis Carroll, Jules Verne, Robert Louis Stevenson is a world that I threw myself into as a kid. And also, even darker, into the world of Lovecraft and Poe as well. I loved that. As a child, I was able to throw myself into a world of make believe where I actually was in that world, because as a kid, boy, it was really easy to believe it when I was doing it.”

To read more, click here…or, if you’d rather, there’s the big graphic below that’s a bigger target:

And as a Premium Hollywood bonus, here’s Saul’s death scene from one of his very first films, one which he discusses in the interview:

  

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The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series / The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation

As my colleague Will Harris pointed out, these two discs are nothing more than a shameless attempt to “wring a few more bucks off the old series in the wake of the new movie.” Well, of course they are, and Paramount has never been above repackaging this series ad infinitum. But it’s worth mentioning that, for some people, a little “Trek” can go a long way, and if you fall into such a category, then you’re the consumer Paramount is reaching for. With only 4 episodes per disc, these are an affordably-priced and time efficient alternative to the rather expensive and lengthy season box sets.

Further, perhaps you’re new to the “Trek” fold thanks to J.J. Abrams’ movie? If so, two of the episodes featured here were supposed inspirations for the new flick: “Balance of Terror” from the Original Series disc, which introduced the Romulans, and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” from the Next Generation disc, which features an alternate timeline scenario. Both are fine examples of great “Trek.” Of course they’d better be, given the “Best of” label.

Rounding things out on the TOS disc are “The City on the Edge of Forever,” a time travel story long considered a sparkling jewel in the “Trek” crown; the humorous classic “The Trouble with Tribbles”; and “Amok Time,” which sees Kirk and Spock beating the crap out of one another. Also on the TNG disc are “The Best of Both Worlds (Part 1 & 2),” which features a dazzlingly intense encounter with the creepy Borg, and “The Measure of a Man,” a Data-centric story that wouldn’t have been my first choice to represent the TNG series in this context.

Click to buy “The Best of Star Trek: The Original Series”

Click to buy “The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation”

  

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