#331. Fraternities

One of the benefits of going to college is the networking that can occur via the conglomeration of like-minded individuals. If the cliques of high school were bad, imagine living in an entire house of these people. Jocks and nerds tend to segregate into their own little social circles, but sometimes they even go so far as to create a fraternity to provide structure to the social construct. Some individuals see these fraternities (and other social clubs) as an opportunity to advance in life. As we saw in The Social Network (2010), the desire to feel included in social societies extends beyond the physical world of Greek life and has transcended into the digital. Still, many of the deepest friendships a guy can form during college can be found in the fraternities associated with the school. This week’s two films examine life in a college fraternity.

                                                 National Lampoon’s Animal HouseNational Lampoon's Animal House
Year: 1978
Rating: R
Length: 109 minutes / 1.82 hours

While there are many different fraternities with a wide variety of different focuses, most Hollywood films tend to put them into two conflicting categories. This is to induce conflict within the main plot of the movie. From jocks vs. nerds to rich vs. poor, the underdogs are always the group pegged as the protagonists of these stories. Of course, in real life, many of these fraternities would get in serious legal trouble for the pranks they pull on the other houses, but perhaps the comedic value of college anarchy and the idolization of the “party hard” lifestyle is what makes them so appealing. If anything, Animal House (1978) is the epitome of the fraternity film, showing how fun sex, alcohol, and rock & roll are when compared to the alternative: actually going to class and earning an education.

Dean Vernon Wormer (John Vernon) is at the end of his rope when it comes to the troublemaking Delta Tau Chi fraternity. Not only do they have abysmal grade point averages, but they have broken many (if not all) of the school’s rules. Since the fraternity was already on probation, Dean Wormer puts them on “double-secret probation” and enlists the help of the superior Omega Theta Pi fraternity to get the Deltas to screw up one more time so their charter can be revoked. Upon learning of their almost impending dissolution after failing a test based off of a fraudulent answer key, the Deltas decide to have a toga party, which ends up involving the Dean’s wife, as well as the Mayor’s daughter. With all the evidence he needs in place, Dean Wormer expels the Deltas from Faber College. Unfortunately, the Deltas have one last stunt they can pull at the homecoming parade.

Revenge of the NerdsRevenge of the Nerds
Year: 1984
Rating: R
Length: 90 minutes / 1.50 hours

As I mentioned earlier, “birds of a feather flock together,” is perhaps the best definition of a fraternity. A group of guys who have similar interests and/or intentions for their college career will tend to congregate in the same place. A fraternity house is merely a convenient way for them to live together, so their curricular and extra-curricular activities are all in the same spot. Of course, with the rise of the Greek system comes competition. While some films manage to cover this type of competition in a child-friendly way (like Monsters University (2013) did), many of them are certainly raunchier, keeping in line with the standard Animal House set in the late 1970’s. Even though competition should be friendly, often there can be severe discrimination and persecution involved, as seen in Revenge of the Nerds (1984).

Due to a fire that destroyed the Alpha Betas’ fraternity house, the jocks have displaced the freshmen in the dorms, leaving incoming freshmen Lewis Skolnick (Robert Carradine) and Gilbert Lowe (Anthony Edwards) in a temporary setup in the gymnasium. To get out of the gym, the computer science majors take the opportunity to rush the school’s fraternities, only to be rejected by all of them. Along with other nerds, Lewis and Gilbert decide to start their own fraternity by fixing up a house on campus. To gain a charter to become official, they ask to become Lambda Lambda Lambdas, which is a predominantly black fraternity. The head of the Tri-Lambs agrees to give them their membership not only due to the persecution he sees the nerds enduring but also due to the resistance they give to the bullying. When the annual Greek Games arrive, it’s up to the Tri-Lambs to prove they’re the best!

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 funny fraternities

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#279. David Fincher

Many directors in Hollywood will stick to a particular genre, mainly because their artistic style matches well with the mood of the genre. Wes Craven directed horror, Charlie Chaplin directed silent comedies, Steven Spielberg directed science fiction, Alfred Hitchcock directed thrillers. In terms of modern directors, there are very few that have tackled the psychological thriller well. Christopher Nolan falls into this category, but David Fincher succeeds in this genre as well. What’s even more interesting is that Fincher seems drawn to film adaptations of stories and books. This is the niche where he excels as a director. There are a lot of books out there that cover some pretty dark material, and David Fincher’s artistic direction certainly brings that element out on the screen. This week’s two films highlight some of David Fincher’s best works.

The Social Networksocial_network_film_poster
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

While Fincher’s filmography is not extensive (he’s only directed 10 films), his skill is quite apparent. A number of his early films have attained cult status, including Se7en (1995) and Fight Club (1999), the latter of which was an adaptation of the book of the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. In terms of recognition by the Academy, within two years, he directed films that were nominated for Best Picture, as well as Best Director. His first nominations were for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), which itself was based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Unfortunately, he didn’t win that year, but his second set of nominations came with The Social Network (2010), which was also based on a book (this time being The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich). Once again, he was passed over for an Oscar, but I know he’ll soon be nominated again . . . hopefully claiming a win along with it.

Jumping back-and-forth between the deposition of Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), and the time he spent at Harvard, The Social Network’s tagline reads, “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” Zuckerberg’s first enemy was none other than Erica Albright (Rooney Mara), the girl who dumped him. Fueled by anger and frustration, he created a website that compared the physical attractiveness of women on the Harvard campus. His next enemies would be the Winklevoss twins (Armie Hammer), who found out that he created a popular social networking site named Thefacebook after they had asked him to code a similar idea they had. As the social media empire expanded, his final enemy would be that of Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield), the close friend who helped him start Facebook in the first place. Now he’s being sued and remains a lonely, apathetic man.

Se7enseven_28movie29_poster
Year: 1995
Rating: R
Length: 127 minutes / 2.12 hours

As I mentioned before, one of the directors who directed thrillers was Alfred Hitchcock. David Fincher has directed thrillers as well, but his style is much darker. Perhaps this is due to the types of thrillers that he has chosen to direct. From the aforementioned Fight Club (1999), to the film adaptation of Gone Girl (2014) (based on the Gillian Flynn novel of the same name), these psychological thrillers really play with the audience’s mind. Even though mystery thrillers come closer to what Hitchcock has done in the past, Fincher’s mystery thrillers are considerably more violent, merely on their source material alone. Case in point: Zodiac (2007) and the American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011) (based on the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson) both examine serial killers. One of his first films, Se7en (1995) certainly set Fincher’s style, as it’s a psychological mystery thriller.

Nearing retirement, detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is reluctantly paired with hot-shot detective, David Mills (Brad Pitt). Their first case involves a pair of murders, both of which are linked to two of the seven deadly sins: “gluttony” and “greed.” At these crime scenes, there are clues to the next murder: “sloth.” It is at this point that the two of them realize the killer has been taking an enormous amount of time to set up and execute these murders. Doing some research into the seven sins, they find John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who manages to escape. Meanwhile, the detectives are moments too late to prevent the murders of “lust” and “pride”. At this point, Doe surrenders willfully, but not without a few conditions. Revealing the location of the last two murders that have yet to take place, all three of them drive out to the middle of the desert to learn how “envy” and “wrath” will die.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Fincher films

Bacon #: 2 (Being John Malkovich / Sean Penn -> Mystic River / Kevin Bacon)

#278. Jesse Eisenberg

Some actors just seem to appear out of nowhere. There can be many reasons for this, including having a breakout role in their debut film, being paired to a successful filmmaker’s masterpiece, or even just appearing in a lot of films. Jesse Eisenberg seems to fall into the latter two categories of this list, having appeared in 2-4 films almost every year from 2005 until now. This seems to be a similar technique to Domhnall Gleeson, who has had some very recognizable roles in films as of late. As for Eisenberg, he seemed to hit his stride in 2009 by capitalizing on his ability to play vulnerable, smart, and often comically awkward main characters. While this may have typecast him somewhat, there always seems to be a need for these types of characters, as many “non-jocks” can relate to them. This week’s two films highlight some of the best of Jesse Eisenberg’s current career.

ZombielandZombieland
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

Perhaps the reason that Eisenberg’s characters come off as awkward and neurotic stems from his personal life and his affliction with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Channeling this into his characters has certainly produced notable results, one of the most prominent being that of the Spix’s macaw, Blu in Rio (2011) and Rio 2 (2014). However, Eisenberg might not have gotten that role had he not given an excellent performance in Adventureland (2009). With his comedic talent clear, he eventually teamed up with his Adventureland co-star, Kristen Stewart, again in 2015’s American Ultra. While Adventureland made his name recognizable in the romantic comedy genre, his starring role in Zombieland (2009) cemented his name as one of the comedic actors to keep an eye on for years to come.

If “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg) has a piece of advice for you, it’s Rule #1: Cardio. If he has anything else to add to that, it’s Rule #2: Double Tap. These rules, along with others, have kept him alive during the zombie apocalypse. After teaming up with “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson), the two men are conned out of their weapons and car by “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin). Despite this, Columbus and Tallahassee chase after the girls, but for different reasons. Tallahassee wants his stuff back, but Columbus has fallen for Wichita and longs to woo her, even though they’re just trying to survive the end of the world. When the group finally arrives at their destination, an amusement park in Los Angeles by the name of “Pacific Playland”, Columbus finds that his chance to get close to Wichita is also his chance to save her from attacking zombies.

The Social Networksocial_network_film_poster
Year: 2010
Rating: PG-13
Length: 120 minutes / 2 hours

While the neurotic stereotype works well for Jesse Eisenberg’s comedic characters, the remaining characters he has played certainly fall into the intelligently confident stereotype. In fact, these characters’ intelligence is almost seen as a character flaw, as they end up feeling superior to everyone else. A good example of this trait/flaw was his portrayal of Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016), who used his intelligence to combat one of the most powerful beings on Earth. On the flip side of the intelligence coin is that of the con-man. 2016 also saw Eisenberg reprise his role of J. Daniel Atlas in Now You See Me 2, the sequel to Now You See Me (2013). Despite many of these characters being fictional, the one, real-life intelligent character he has portrayed on film was none other than Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010).

During the fall semester of 2003, Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) created a website called Facemash in order to spite a former girlfriend. Due to the site’s exponential popularity, it gained the attention of Harvard’s disciplinary board, since Zuckerberg hacked into college databases to steal photographs of the female students. He also gained the attention of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer), who want him to code a dating website that’s exclusive to Harvard students. It is at this point when Mark gets an idea for a social media website and asks his friend, Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) for a loan to get it off the ground. Thefacebook quickly takes off and soon expansion efforts are underway to bring the site to other colleges. In the process, new people are brought on board, old friends are turned away, and legal action is taken. All this just because a girl dumped Mark Zuckerberg.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 engaging Eisenberg roles

Bacon #: 1 (Beyond All Boundaries / Kevin Bacon)