Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Social Network & a Sorkin parody

NO SPOILER ALERT NECESSARY

I have a rather tumultuous relationship with Aaron Sorkin. I loved WEST WING. But I had some issues with STUDIO 60, which I detailed in a blog post. I also wrote a parody of his writing that I am re-posting below (since I assume most of you discovered the blog long after October, 2006).

The LA TIMES did an article about what writers thought of STUDIO 60 and inaccurately claimed my blog was the rally point for those who hated the show.   It was not.  Sorkin responded to TV critics by lashing out at the writers from the article basically saying we weren’t “real” comedy writers, just disgruntled unemployed hacks. The critics thought my credits were enough to qualify me as a “real” comedy writer and wrote articles to that effect. I was then asked for my reaction, which I posted here. Aaron sent me a lovely note and we’ve been fine ever since.

But the point is, just because I have tremendous respect for him doesn’t mean I love everything he writes. So when I say I LOVED the writing on SOCIAL NETWORK, it’s not just lip service because I’m a fan.

SOCIAL NETWORK was absolutely brilliant! And the star was the screenplay. Sorkin somehow managed to take a complicated completely non-visual subject, mix it with dense legal issues, present characters who are all basically unlikable, and somehow create a spellbinding movie. The screenplay is adapted from Ben Mezrich’s novel THE ACCIDENTAL BILLIONAIRES. Good luck to the guy who has to follow this and write the formation of Twitter movie.

When I heard that David Fincher was directing I thought, “How is he going to find enough blood and gore in Facebook?” Happy to say there was none. Just pitch perfect performances and even though there was never anything to really look at you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen.

Everyone in the cast was great. Jesse Eisenberg is what Michael Cera aspires to be. Justin Timberlake continues to be the most talented STAR SEARCH winner ever, And Rashida Jones is just great to look at.

SOCIAL NETWORK opened last weekend to good reviews, big numbers in LA and NY and nothing in the rest of the country. Since most of my readers are in “the rest of the country” I invite you to skip the long lines for PARANORMAL 2 and check this one out instead.

****

Here’s the parody. I figured I had to post something humorous today.

IF AARON SORKIN WROTE A SHOW ABOUT BASEBALL


EXT. KAUFFMAN STADIUM -- NIGHT

THE MANAGER, LEO, TROTS OUT TO THE MOUND TO TALK TO BELEAGURED PITCHER, DANNY (THERE’S ALWAYS A DANNY). THE BASES ARE LOADED. THE CROWD IS GOING NUTS. IT’S GAME SEVEN OF THE WORLD SERIES.

LEO
You can’t get a good lobster in this town.

DANNY
Last I checked we were in Kansas City.

LEO
4.6 billion pork ribs sold every year and 18.9 tons of beef consumed annually since 1997 –

DANNY
They like their beef, what can I tell ya?

LEO
But you’d think just for variety’s sake.

DANNY
I can still throw my curve.

LEO
For strikes?

DANNY
I’m not throwing enough?

LEO
I’ve seen more lobsters.

DANNY WALKS TO THE ROSIN SACK, GIVES IT A SQUEEZE, DECIDES TO KEEP WALKING. HE AND LEO NOW WALK OUT INTO CENTER FIELD.

DANNYIt’s just that…

LEO
What? Kathy?

DANNY
No. Cabs. There’s no cohesiveness on this team. After road games, 25 cabs for 25 players. There used to be a thing called “the greater good”, forgoing your needs for the betterment of the team and community who looks to us for their identity and self worth. When I’m trying to save a game I’m really trying to save a factory. If baseball is a metaphor for life, then responsibility is its first cousin simile. And Kathy.

LEO
That’s a “1” on your back and not a “2”.

DANNY
I can’t help it. She knocks my sanitary socks off.

THEY CROSS THE CENTER FIELDER, HECTOR.

HECTOR
(in thick accent) Hey, Skip. You know where we could get a lobster around here?

LEO
Order a steak with butter sauce.

THEY REACH THE WALL AND BEGIN WALKING AROUND THE WARNING TRACK.

DANNY
I only became a pitcher because of her.

LEO
Does she know that?

DANNY
She knows that a human arm is not supposed to throw a baseball 100 miles per hour. And she knows that Jesus Christ could strike out Babe Ruth every at bat for ten years without so much as a rotator tear. But to answer your question – what was your question again?

LEO
Can you still throw your curve ball for strikes?

DANNY
No. The other one.

LEO
Does Kathy know you became a pitcher for her?

THEY REACH THE RIGHT FIELDER, AN AFRO-AMERICAN NAMED CHET.

CHET
Look up in the stands, guys. Not four black faces. Would Jackie Robinson even want to break into this game now? If this sport speaks to minorities now it speaks in Spanish. Afro-Americans make up less than 5% of the major leagues. Compare that to basketball, football, or even golf. Satchel Paige said, “don’t look back, something might be gaining on ya.” I just did. It’s now hockey.

LEO
Play a little closer to the line.

THEY CONTINUE WALKING AROUND THE WARNING TRACK.

DANNY
I think she knows.

LEO
But do you really know if she knows?

DANNY
No.

LEO
Then you know what you’ve got to do.

DANNY
Yeah.

LEO
Throw strikes.

DANNY
Right. Thanks.

LEO
And when you get home –

DANNY
Yeah?

LEO
Tell her.

DANNY
I’ll take her out for a lobster.

LEO
What do you mean, 25 cabs for 25 players?

AS THEY START AROUND THE WARNING TRACK FOR ANOTHER LAP, WE:

FADE OUT. 

31 comments:

rock golf said...

I would so pay to see that movie.

*tarazza said...

I love your blog!!

I also loved The Social Network, except for one thing-- the lack of a decent portrayal of women. With the exception of 1 or 2 of them (Rashida Jones included), they were basically sex objects/stupid groupies. Even what you say here:
Jesse Eisenberg is what Michael Cera aspires to be. Justin Timberlake continues to be the most talented STAR SEARCH winner ever, And Rashida Jones is just great to look at.

... kinda makes me think that Aaron Sorkin (though I love his writing) failed the women in this script. Kind of a shame considering he's written great women characters like C.J. Cregg!

BK said...

tarazza - there are times in life when "decent women" aren't around.

*tarazza said...

BK-- true, but Zuckerberg was known to have female friends at Harvard-- wouldn't have hurt to have included them, if even in the background.

Anthony Strand said...

Seeing it this weekend! In Missouri!

Tim W. said...

I remember that blog post, so I've obviously been reading for at least that long. I did enjoy that, even if I also enjoyed watching most of Studio 60.

As for Social Network, I thought your review was bang on. Sorkin, at this point, had better be the odds on favourite for Best Adapted Screenplay.

*tarazza,

Writing realistic women doesn't seem to be a strong suit for Sorkin (most of his women are really more like men), but I don't know whether I'd blame Sorkin for the fact that women weren't well written in the film. Quite frankly, there didn't seem to be any great women parts in the story for Sorkin to work with. Most of these guys were simply not surrounded by women of any sort.

badhatharry said...

This is a review I wrote back when the show was on the air for that center of intellectualism, IMDB. It's long, so if you want to delete it, I understand.

I say this with the utmost respect, but you, sir, have lost your way. I come from two great seasons of Sports Night and four even better seasons of The West Wing, and am dropped into a half a season of the most uneven, unfocused writing I have ever seen from such a great talent. It was billed as a behind the scenes show set against a Saturday Night Live copy. What I got was a large blue state/red state tirade. You handled a show about a show that wasn't really about the show they produced (Sports Night), and a show about how things should be run (The West Wing), and tried to mash them into one. You jettisoned the best parts about either and kept the worst parts about both. I hated the Josh/Donna back and forth about this week's political dilemma and how he explained to her what the right thing was, and that's all I get between Matt and Harriet on this show. It's condescending, and it spoon-feeds us the issues. Lest you think this is a matter of a Republican not liking Mr. Sorkin's opinion, I have voted for one Republican in my life, and that was last Tuesday when Arnold Schwarzenegger was running for re-election. I am and always will be a registered Democrat, and whole-heartedly support gay marriage. What I am against is shoddy writing.

You know what I loved? Casey and Dana. You know what I don't care about? Matt and Harriet. He is mean and condescending, and she doesn't seem to have any sort of lasting opinion about her morals. She doesn't know about gay marriage, yet she's all for pre-marital sex. And neither of them are funny. In fact, none of them are. Matt and Danny are supposed to be two of the greatest comedy minds that Hollywood has to offer, yet the best they can come up with is a Pirates of Penzance take off and a bit about Nancy Grace looking for a lost cell phone? My nephews can write better sketches than this and they haven't graduated from High School yet. For the literally two minutes of airtime that the sketches actually take up, you think Mr. Sorkin would hire joke writers to write these things. Or, hire funnier joke writers. After reading reports that Mark McKinney is writing the sketches, I'm wondering if he hired the wrong Kid in the Hall. I wouldn't watch Studio 60 if it were a real show, and the only reason I'm still watching this one is because I'm hoping against hope that Mr. Sorkin will realize that Mondays from 10 to 11 on NBC is not his soapbox, and will start writing characters that are interesting instead of caricatures of what he thinks this country is made up of. Until then, Mr. Sorkin, get a blog. Use the Huffington Post. Something. Just get it off network.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what videriti is, but I bet it is illegal in the state of GA to own it.

The ending slayed me.

Tell people it is not really a movie about FB because, well, that would be the most boringly stupid movie ever made.

Pettiness, vindictiveness, sex and drugs. Now you got a movie.

Dave from Athens

A Non-Emus said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: I recently watched the Cheers episodes with Boston Celtics player Kevin McHale and noticed what a natural comic actor he was and what great chemistry he had with the cast. One of the best performances I've ever seen from an athlete. Was this just dumb luck or were you guys tipped off that McHale had a comedic talent? Or did you guys put him through some kind of comedy boot camp to ensure that he would fit in with the cast?

Dave Bittner said...

(Long time reader, first time writer...)

There's an Aaron Sorkin drinking game, where you have to take a drink every time a character utters a staccato "yeah." You'll be drunk by the second commercial break.

Overall I'm a big fan of his work, but sometimes it strikes me that most of his characters sound the same, to the point where you could swap out much of their dialogue and not notice the difference.

Anonymous said...

I loved Sports Night. I loved the early West Wing, but even before he left, I got tired of Sorkin's fantasies about politicians who acted on principle ahead of partisan advantage, and quit entirely when Jed Bartlett was given some crap about the "death tax" by a Republican and didn't mop the floor with the asshole. Studio 60 had some nice moments, but no center.

Me said...

Might I add a suggestion for the movie script? Place it in Philadelphia.

They start walking towards center field as the home plate umpire just about reaches them. He, bewildered, follows then half way out, then turns to the other umpires and motions for help. Only one comes after them, which determines the direction they turn when they hit the warning track.

That umpire becomes frustrated after a short walk, and waves instead toward the security detail that has come out. The scene would end when both manager and pitcher get tased...

Okay, maybe not... ;)

Phillip B said...

So this is the script for "Moneyball"????

Max Clarke said...

Ken, is that the best screenplay of the year so far? It's late in the year, who has written the Oscar-worthy scripts this year?

Good to see the parody again, the lobster lines are still funny.

estiv said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cc said...

The World Series in Kansas City? You ARE a comedy writer (I live in KC, so naturally the thought of a World Series game here is amusing).

selection7 said...

I wasn't paying attention to things like writers/showrunners back when Sportsnight was on so I didn't know it was a Sorkin thing. I do know I started out watching it thinking it was had a sports backdrop and seemed intelligent so why not, only to decide after two or three episodes "holy hell, this dialogue is cutesy". I couldn't stomach it and that was that.

Baylink said...

Oh, you just reposted the *old* parody. Well, it's still good.

I gotta say that while I agree with you that the movie was excellent, I was waiting to see how he'd work in a Traditional Sorkin soliloquy, and was disappointed when he didn't get one.

And yeah, Rashida is beautiful, isn't she?

Aaron Sorkin said...

Can you paste the below in the comments section of Ken Levine's blog? Thanks. (Don't worry, it's not a crazy rant and I'd like it up there as soon as possible.) This is Aaron Sorkin and I wanted to address Taraza's comment. (Ken, I'll get to you in and your very generous blog post in just a moment.

Tarazza--believe me, I get it. It's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal. Mark's blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he's sure he's missing, came directly from Mark's blog. With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark's blog verbatim. Mark said, "Erica Albright's a bitch" (Erica isn't her real name--I changed three names in the movie when there was no need to embarrass anyone further), "Do you think that's because all B.U. girls are bitches?" Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny. The idea of comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks and then publicly ranking them. It was a revenge stunt, aimed first at the woman who'd most recently broke his heart (who should get some kind of medal for not breaking his head) and then at the entire female population of Harvard.

More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80's. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)

And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn't just confined to the guys who can't get dates.

I didn't invent the "F--k Truck", it's real--and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it's what they deserve for being who they are. (It's only fair to note that the women--bussed in from other schools for the "hot" parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women--whether it's the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo's psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo's girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters--again I hope you'll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)

I invented two characters--one was Rashida Jones's "Marylin", the youngest lawyer on the team and a far cry from the other women we see in the movie. She's plainly serious, competent and, when asked, has no problem speaking the truth as she sees it to Mark. The other was Gretchen, Eduardo's lawyer (in reality there was a large team of litigators who all took turns deposing witnesses but I wanted us to become familiar with just one person--a woman, who, again, is nobody's trophy.

And Rooney Mara's Erica's a class act.

I wish I could go door to door and make this explanation/apology to any woman offended by the things you've pointed out but obviously that's unrealistic so I thought the least I could do was speak directly to you.

Ken--Thanks for your really nice words and for giving me a chance to apologize again for my remarks back in 2005. Obviously a star writer on one of the best comedies of all time doesn't need to prove his credentials as a "real" comedy writer.

Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin said...

This is Aaron Sorkin and I wanted to address Taraza's comment. (Ken, I'll get to you in and your very generous blog post in just a moment.

Tarazza--believe me, I get it. It's not hard to understand how bright women could be appalled by what they saw in the movie but you have to understand that that was the very specific world I was writing about. Women are both prizes an equal. Mark's blogging that we hear in voiceover as he drinks, hacks, creates Facemash and dreams of the kind of party he's sure he's missing, came directly from Mark's blog. With the exception of doing some cuts and tightening (and I can promise you that nothing that I cut would have changed your perception of the people or the trajectory of the story by even an inch) I used Mark's blog verbatim. Mark said, "Erica Albright's a bitch" (Erica isn't her real name--I changed three names in the movie when there was no need to embarrass anyone further), "Do you think that's because all B.U. girls are bitches?" Facebook was born during a night of incredibly misogyny. The idea of comparing women to farm animals, and then to each other, based on their looks and then publicly ranking them. It was a revenge stunt, aimed first at the woman who'd most recently broke his heart (who should get some kind of medal for not breaking his head) and then at the entire female population of Harvard.

More generally, I was writing about a very angry and deeply misogynistic group of people. These aren't the cuddly nerds we made movies about in the 80's. They're very angry that the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback instead of the men (boys) who are running the universe right now. The women they surround themselves with aren't women who challenge them (and frankly, no woman who could challenge them would be interested in being anywhere near them.)

And this very disturbing attitude toward women isn't just confined to the guys who can't get dates.

I didn't invent the "F--k Truck", it's real--and the men (boys) at the final clubs think it's what they deserve for being who they are. (It's only fair to note that the women--bussed in from other schools for the "hot" parties, wait on line to get on that bus without anyone pointing guns at their heads.)

These women--whether it's the girls who are happy to take their clothes off and dance for the boys or Eduardo's psycho-girlfriend are real. I mean REALLY real. (In the case of Christy, Eduardo's girlfriend so beautifully played by Brenda Song, I conflated two characters--again I hope you'll trust me that doing that did nothing to alter our take on the events. Christy was the second of three characters whose name I changed.)

I invented two characters--one was Rashida Jones's "Marylin", the youngest lawyer on the team and a far cry from the other women we see in the movie. She's plainly serious, competent and, when asked, has no problem speaking the truth as she sees it to Mark. The other was Gretchen, Eduardo's lawyer (in reality there was a large team of litigators who all took turns deposing witnesses but I wanted us to become familiar with just one person--a woman, who, again, is nobody's trophy.

And Rooney Mara's Erica's a class act.

I wish I could go door to door and make this explanation/apology to any woman offended by the things you've pointed out but obviously that's unrealistic so I thought the least I could do was speak directly to you.

Ken--Thanks for your really nice words and for giving me a chance to apologize again for my remarks back in 2005. Obviously a star writer on one of the best comedies of all time doesn't need to prove his credentials as a "real" comedy writer.

Aaron Sorkin

Pamela Jaye said...

Sigh

Well, I guess I won't be going to see the movie with my brother.
Aren't you supposed to learn stuff like this *on* Facebook?

I'll read Aaron's comments after I actually see the movie.

As for the baseball thing - I read it the first time and much as I loved the West Wing, I wasn't really into it. Probably like your book on baseball. I should probably stick to reading your travelogues. Those are fun. (As long as they aren't heavy on baseball. do we see a theme here? The last things I liked that had to do with baseball were the World Series in 2004 (I'm from Boston) and Major League Three (Scott's from St. Louis, and don't think I didn't make a point of that when I saw him in 2005).

As I remember, I got here, that time, from Alan's blog. I didn't like the baseball thing, but I did poke around and find other things I liked. And then of course, Almost Perfect, which was perfect till CBS decided the original premise was stupid. Yup, I'm still carrying that grudge against Moonves. I believe I am up to three shows on CBS that I watch now. Maybe even 4. They are all sitcoms.

phindar said...

The Sorkin baseball parody is actually the thing that brought me to this site. In fact, it's still the link in my favorites folder.

Greg said...

I didn't like the script to The Social Network. Not even close to genius, just a big, talky bore.

Anonymous said...

This writer points out that Sorkin's script ignores the real contributions that women have made to Facebook's success. It makes Sorkin's "But that's the way it really was!" defense ring kind of hollow. And it is Sorkin whose script described a Harvard party thusly: "The best and the brightest are checking out the hottest and the easiest."

Anonymous said...

wait, Aaron Sorking emailed someone else to post the comment here? I wonder if he read the comment he was responding to himself then..

J.S. said...

A recent, short review of the film which explains why Sorkin and Fincher have made one of the most insightful films about business and ambition since THERE WILL BE BLOOD and other great dramas.

http://gozamos.com/2010/10/lonely-at-the-top-the-social-network/

Anonymous said...

I loved the social network. I had no problem with the female roles because I could easily believe that the bus girls exist. It does not reflect on me or what I know of the women I am friends with or work with. Aaron, if you are still reading this blog, I loved every episode of sports night, west wing and studio 60. Good, smart writing is very hard to come by nowadays. Modern family is the only show that I think comes close. Keep writing. Please.

poker affiliate said...

Zuckerberg is portrayed as a kniving genius that betrayed his only friend. He seems a little more normal and well-adjusted in real life, but still seems very awkward

Slick said...

Afro-American? What is this, 1970?

SDK said...

@tarazza: Are you forgetting the girl who dumped Zuckerberg in the first scene of the movie? The one who existed throughout the story as his one "check" of conscience? Not too mention the poignant closing scene where Zuckerberg reaches some level of redemption with the audience by showing his thoughts of her and attempting to reconnect through his Facebook request to add her as a "friend". I think some women are so apt to be on the defensive, they miss the forest for the trees.

Lama Bashour said...

I agree the movie is pretty well made - how can you go wrong with a Sorkin/Fincher mix? But I did have one reservation on the apparent bias against Zuckerberg. I am not defending the guy but it seems most of the inaccuracies in the film were meant to serve one purpose, which is to emphasize his back-stabbing nature. This could be remnants of the book it was based on. Still, it was a little annoying for me.