Oscar Moment: “The Social Network”

13 08 2010

Are we just a month and a half away from the release of 2010’s Best Picture?  Ask some Oscar pundits today and they might say just that.  No one has seen “The Social Network,” which hits theaters October 1, in its entirety, but people have sky-high expectations based on the brilliant marketing campaign.

The buzz started with the release of some tantalizing teaser trailers and an intriguingly mysterious poster.  When we saw the full trailer playing before “Inception,” it was a wowing experience (that would still pale in comparison to the two and a half hours afterwards).  The trailer’s opening minute is very unique as it has nothing to do with the movie at all.  Rather, we watch people interacting on Facebook, a reminder of how much it has enhanced our connections to our friends.  Then we pixelate to Mark Zuckerberg, and the history begins.

From just the trailer alone, “The Social Network” looked like a movie for our time, more clearly zeitgeist-tapping than any movie in recent memory.  It takes a dramatic look the founding of Facebook, one of the defining inventions of our time, but also seems to tackle the subject of how the social networking site has affected the way humans communicate with each other.

How much of a judgement call, though, can we make on the movie based on the trailer?

When I thought about the Oscar contenders with the best trailers over the past few years, a few names stuck out in my mind.  “Brothers.”  No nominations.  “Revolutionary Road.”  One major nomination, no Best Picture nomination.  “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  13 nominations including Best Picture.  It’s a mixed bag of results.  Trailers can be a sign of great things to come or merely disguise the lackluster by showing everything good to offer in two minutes.  So I don’t think we can call it a sure bet just because of the trailer.

And is being the presumed frontrunner the best thing for “The Social Network?”  I analyzed some movies in the same position last year in my Oscar Moment on “Invictus,” and here’s what I found:

The only real conclusion that can be drawn from those results is that having sky-high expectations can often yield unfavorable results.  If people expect something amazing, it is all the easier to underwhelm.

There’s a more in-depth look at the fates of these movies on that posting, but there has been a definite tendency for these movies to underperform in awards season.  This isn’t your traditional awards candidate – at least it isn’t being sold like one.

Sony is selling the movie mainly on the subject.  I bet the average American knows “The Social Network” as “The Facebook movie,” which is certainly good for drawing in an audience.  I think the premise alone draws in $80 million in revenue, but the fact that it’s going to be really good will increase its total take to somewhere in the range of $120-150 million.  I’m hardly a box office analyst, I know, yet I feel pretty confident making this financial prediction.  Judging from the amount of trailer parodies hitting the web, it’s definitely reaching the younger crowd, the most volatile demographic for movies like this.

When it comes to awards, though, money isn’t everything.  “The Social Network” has a lot working in its corner, namely director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.  Fincher is a well-respected figure, earning his first Oscar nomination in 2008 for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”  Before that, he directed cult favorites like “Seven” and “Fight Club.”  I didn’t think that his prior resumé qualified him for a project like this, but Fincher has proven himself at being versatile in the past.

While Sorkin doesn’t have an Academy Award nomination to his name, he has earned a great deal of acclaim for his work in writing for movies, television, and the stage.  His style is greatly admired, and he is one of very few writers whose name could sell a product.  Sorkin adapted “The Social Network” from last year’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” but Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has written off the movie as pure fiction.  The fact that he has so vehemently denied the movie being factual only increase the intrigue around the movie.  Could there be some parts so true he doesn’t want us to know?

Those are the big names of “The Social Network,” and I think most of the praise will fall on the two of them.  Will there be any love for the actors?  Could Jesse Eisenberg, at 27, gain any heat in the Best Actor race?  If the movie winds up being the talk of the town, he could easily find himself in heavy consideration.  If he were to win, Eisenberg would be the youngest Best Actor winner ever.

Best Supporting Actor could get interesting, too.  I don’t think people can take Justin Timberlake seriously enough for a nomination, although anything can happen if the movie is huge.  The first Academy Award nominated boy band member … wouldn’t that be something.

The more likely candidate, it seems, is Andrew Garfield.  Seen him recently?  He was just cast as the new Spider-Man.  The trailer sure makes his performance seem like the kind the Academy loves, lots of screaming and shouting to be found.  Garfield also stars in awards hopeful “Never Let Me Go,” so he could receive a nomination in “The Social Network” as a reward for a great year of work from such a new actor on the scene.  Plus, how cool would it be to have an Oscar winner playing a superhero?

The first time the world gets a glimpse of the movie is at the New York Film Festival.  Until then, we wait.  And watch the trailer again … and again … and again …

BEST BETS FOR NOMINATIONS: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (Garfield), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Film Editing

OTHER POSSIBLE NOMINATIONS: Best Supporting Actor (Timberlake), Best Original Score



2 responses

14 08 2010

The trailers are pretty fantastic…the music is what really does it, I think, these half-melancholy, half-sweeping things that make everything seem twice as epic.

I don’t like judging Oscar chances before I’ve actually seen something. It’s bad luck.

14 08 2010

Trent Reznors score should garner a nod.

And I agree with you on Garfield, he’s the best bet for an acting nod. Eisenburg will get a chance to stretch his acting muscle, but he will surely be overshadowed by DiCaprio (Shutter Island) , Bridges (True Grit), Firth (The King’s Speech), Wahlberg (The Fighter) and a surprise awards contender.

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