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By Anna

This week I’m taking a break from Ebert’s Great Films to look at what could very well make his Great Movies III: The Town and The Social Network.

Ben Affleck is great at watching other movies. His directing always shows hints of Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood and in The Town it’s no different, but there’s also a bit of Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption) and Peter Yates (The Friends of Eddie Coyle). And paying attention to successful styles while adding a touch of your own is sure sign of a good film.

The Town is about falling in love with the wrong person, class war, loyalty and guilt.

Although robbing banks and killing cops isn’t justifiable, or shouldn’t be, it’s the only way James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner) knows how to cope with what he’s been given in life. “If we get jammed up, I’m holding court on the street.” Knowing full well the system has screwed him his whole life.

And that’s what The Town does well: Uses the emotional scenes to not only develop characters, but build suspense by bringing the inevitable action to the front.

The audience never knows if Affleck’s even going to make it to the next scene.

I don’t know if the folks of Charlestown find their situation as powerful as its depicted, but the opening quotes about the neighborhood of Boston that’s notorious for bank robbers sure sets the mood.

Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) scoffs at the FBI agent who grew up in Charlestown then turned on them all, knowing full well the other option is criminal. His false sense of loyalty is powerful—be loyal to a system that kills people or loyal to your friends who kill one another?

Affleck’s certainly the best and worst parts of the film. His directing sense makes him one of the best directors of the decade, but his acting consistently falls short. Nevertheless, it’s suspenseful and terrifying.

The Social Network

From the first fast-talking bar scene, where Facebook co-creator Mark Zuckerberg gets dumped, to the final scene where he’s sitting by his computer hitting refresh waiting for the girl who dumped him to respond to his friend request, you can’t look away.

It’s the self-destructing determination and ambition of Zuckerberg that makes him an unintentional asshole. He’s brilliant yet lonely.

The film flows between the creation of Facebook at Harvard in 2003 and the two lawsuits brought against Zuckerberg as a result of his creation.

The Social Network is genius: from tilt-shifting-esque camera work, the rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack to Andrew Garfield, who plays Zuckerberg’s best friend and co-creator, and the clever and astonishing Justin Timberlake (as Napster creator Sean Parker).

It’s going to be the best movie of the year and one of the best films of all time because it’s got a steady chronological rhythm that provokes feelings in the viewer like all the greats. A feeling I had when I first opened a Bethel University Facebook account in 2006—excitement. To be a part of something no one else could be is special and powerful, the same feeling Zuckerberg wanted.

Sadly, all the original coolness and exclusivity of The Facebook turned to capitalism. But the ease and accessibility of the social network is still there and still vital for our generation.

Though many people will tell you that Facebook has destroyed human interaction, resorting to living on our profiles as projections of who we want to be, it didn’t start with Facebook. Throughout all of American history, and well before that, humans have lived in the façade of trying to be someone they’re not in order to make friends—it’s every middle schooler’s struggle.

“Wearing the face that she keeps in the jar by the door.” (Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles)

There is no going back to a time before social networks. More and more people will be “drunk and angry and stupid and blogging,” about what pisses them off. It’s where we fight our wars, government and each other.

Just as The Facebook was a “Once in a generation holy shit idea” so this one of a kind film gives its viewers a holy shit kind of feeling about the idealism of a generation.

By Ryan

In Roman thought, there were five canons of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.  Invention dealt with the process of developing thoughts that were worth expressing, arrangement with the organization of said thoughts, style with the form and structure those thoughts would be expressed with, memory with the ability to recall the previous thoughts and their arrangement and style, and delivery concerned actually expressing those thoughts in speech.  Most people are better at certain canons than others: some have excellent ideas but struggle to arrange them, format them, remember them, or express them; some have weak or uninteresting thoughts but are really good at either arranging them coherently or delivering them forcefully.  But what about those who are exceedingly good at remembering their ideas and their arrangement?  What value exists in memory in an instantaneous society that relies heavily on technology for recall?

Let me be more concrete.  I have an excellent memory, the kind that recalls details and nuances of situations that themselves have been forgotten by other folks.  (I’m not bragging, it’s just true, and it’s not even worth bragging about, as I’m attempting to prove.)  Thousands of years ago, this trait would have made me very culturally relevant, as those who could retain loads of information were indispensible in a preliterate age.  But, as time went on, and people started keeping track of things and developing things like maps and guidebooks, memory became less important.  However, being able to recall the way certain thoughts were arranged, structured, and presented in the past remained important, because it allowed people to remember the specifics of how certain events unfolded and the human response to those events.  This was certainly advantageous at one time.

Now though, in what some are calling a postliterate society, where written words are becoming less essential and orality (specifically, Walter Ong’s secondary orality) is reemerging as the go-to form of communication in developed societies, memory may be more useless than ever.  Because we spend so much time projecting our thoughts through various electronic means—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs—remembering the details and nuance of events is as simple as recalling them electronically.

Let’s consider an example: say that five to ten years from now people begin discussing and reevaluating the life of Michael Jackson, realizing that the outpouring of love for the pop star has largely overshadowed what some people remember to be a pretty deranged and morally questionable life.  When the MJ defenders are confronted with this, they may argue that this is not true, and perhaps they say that much was made of his shortcomings in the media coverage and public response to his death.

Now, fifty years ago, we would have some newspaper and magazine articles to look at, but we couldn’t really settle this debate without the assistance of people with memories of the incident recalling reactions and responses that happened at the time.  Ten years from now, we’ll simply have to search YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and the blogs, and we can easily start to see a definitive picture of what the popular response to MJ’s death was, and this will certainly hold more weight than the collective memory of those involved with the debate.

Of course, there will always be those who claim, “I remember how it was—I was there,” but this sort of response is becoming less relevant and, certainly, less trusted than recorded electronic sources.  This is not to say that human memory is unimportant, but rather to pose that maybe it is less important than ever before.  This sort of change happens all the time in human history, it just usually doesn’t happen so quickly.  That is to say, I can remember a time when memory mattered.