Christoper Nolan is currently cinema’s master of foreboding. In Memento, he managed to convey anxious tension throughout a movie that was literally playing in reverse, and thus one whose “conclusion” was already known. With Insomnia, he trapped his characters in a perpetually-light but somehow gloomy Alaska, where menace seemed to lurk in the fog. And in his three Batman films, Nolan—aided along by Hans Zimmer’s and James Newton Howard’s overbearing but powerful score—has created a freaky, atmospheric Gotham where life appears permanently on the verge of going awry.
The cinema has always done hostility better than history. Perhaps that is a characteristic it shares with most of us. So, 33 years ago, the spaceship Nostromo was a beaten-up heap ready to be retired, but the engine of its story and the stealthy uncovering of its ultimate confrontation of raw hostility and Sigourney Weaver in her underwear might have been handled by a trio of Einstein, Heisenberg, and Ben Hecht (the latter a pro screenwriter, the first two theorists on larger matters of story).
In The Iron Lady, a figure named Margaret Thatcher orders the sinking of the Argentinean battleship, the Belgrano. She “wins” the war of the Falkland Islands, just as she had won leadership of the Conservative party in Great Britain and had become the nation’s first female prime minister. As such, she imposed austerity cuts; she beat down the trade union movement; she gutted many parts of her country, especially the manufacturing north; and she restored a version of prosperity in the financial services industry that was lifted on the wave of the Internet.
With the Academy Awards airing Sunday night, the parlor game du jour is guessing who will win those coveted golden statues. The King’s Speech or The Social Network? Tom Hooper or David Fincher? Street artist Banksy’s Exit through the Gift Shop or the infuriating but excellent Indie Job? Here, we’ve compiled TNR’s reviews of some of the top nominees at this year’s Oscars. Happy reading and red-carpet watching! “Why The King’s Speech Will Win the Best Picture Oscar,” by David Thomson “Black Swan is a Fake,” by Jennifer Homans “Inside Job Deserves a Best Picture Oscar Nomination.
For a while in this awards season, The Social Network seemed to be the favorite for the Best Picture Oscar. But the later opening of The King’s Speech has served it well. In the crucial nomination and voting period, The Social Network’s domestic box office slowed down, and it has earned less than $100 million. The picture has been hard to find in theaters, in part because it appeared on DVD in January.
In 2004, a Harvard undergraduate got an idea (yes, that is ambiguous) for a new kind of social network. Here’s the important point: He built it. He had a bunch of extremely clever clues for opening up a social space that every kid (anyone younger than I am) would love. He architected that social space around the social life of the kids he knew. And he worked ferociously hard to make sure the system was stable and functioning at all times. The undergraduate then spread it to other schools, then other communities, and now to anyone.