Can 'Social Network' Go All The Oscar Way?

As Toronto continues to unveil films, Oscar winning producer Scott Rudin (No Country For Old Men) was busy sending out email invites in NYC and LA to see The Social Network (October 1st), one of the few Fall openers not showing its wares in Canada this week. Instead, it will open the New York Film Festival instead on September 24. It’s a smart strategy but even without a personal invitation from one of the film’s producers this is already the current must-see movie on every Oscar watchers list.  As an example of that, one blogger actually got on a plane from Toronto to New York just to see Social Network, then headed immediately back to Toronto. His subsequent review was a rave declaring it the one to beat for Best Picture (a little premature on that I think). That’s just one example of the praise now starting to hit the Internet from Hitfix to Slashfilm to Chud and all cyber points inbetween.

Rudin’s email to me last Tuesday read in part, “I’m incredibly proud of it and promise you I would not waste your time”. Actually having seen the TV ads that already have Rolling Stone declaring it “The Movie Of The Year…,” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t.  The day after Rudin’s e-mail, 42 West, the PR firm repping the film, sent  a list of possibilities including 7 screenings in New York, and 8 in Los Angeles (all in small rooms on the Sony lot nearly every day, evening and afternoon, this week). I saw it at the first opportunity on Monday and would have to say fairly objectively that The Social Network is Sony’s best shot at Best Picture in years, a lock for  Golden Globe and Critics Choice Awards. And most importantly,  Oscar nominations in every major category including Director for David Fincher, Writing for Aaron Sorkin, lead actor for Jesse Eisenberg (playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg), Supporting Actor for  both Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’  score, editing and so on. It also looks like it will be a major box office hit, hitting a nerve with the young demographic  that are on the front lines of moviegoers.

Sony’s strategy of showing it to onliners first before the usual critics seems wholly appropriate considering the subject matter. Whether this story of how Facebook was invented and the resulting legal entanglements  that surrounded its beginnings in 2003 has the same level of appeal to the older computer-challenged Academy members is a bigger question, but my guess is everyone should be able to relate to the mesmerizing dramatic conflict on screen. Despite its high-tech bones, what Fincher and Sorkin have managed to do is tell a time-honored very human story, a social document for a generation that has as much relevance now as movies like On The Waterfront, Network, All The President’s Men, and The Graduate did in their time.

Rudin co-produced the film with Michael DeLuca, Cean  Chaffin, and Dana Brunetti while Brunetti’s Trigger Street partner Kevin Spacey served as an Executive Producer. Columbia clearly knows what they have here. They have already poached some of its key supporting cast members for high profile projects on the lot. Garfield  has been cast as the rebooted Spider-Man while Rooney Mara plays Lisbeth Salander in the Hollywood version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which is also being directed by Fincher who will likely be shooting  in Sweden at the same time awards campaigning is in high gear. That probably is a blessing for Fincher, who was on the circuit a couple of seasons ago for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button and had to sit through award ceremony after ceremony before his prized movie lost to that year’s indie darling, Slumdog Millionaire. On the basis of reaction so far, this year could have a much different outcome for the director whose critically acclaimed 2007 Zodiac was also criminally overlooked by Oscar voters because it was released in early March, a dead zone for Academy contenders.

I interviewed  Garfield last Thursday for his other new film, Never Let Me Go (September 15). He said he was blown away by Fincher’s technique. If a take wasn’t working, Garfield said, Fincher just deleted it like a spam email. Garfield loved that. The British born actor should be gathering a ton of breakthrough actor awards this year for both films and a supporting actor nod would seem a pretty sure thing. He steals The Social Network.

With great notices coming out of the festival circuit for movies like Black Swan, 127 Hours, and particularly The King’s Speech among others, and now a tsunami of praise forming for Social Network, September is already giving us a pretty good indication that the Oscar race is going to be fierce. And that’s not even counting films yet to come or earlier releases like Inception, Toy Story 3 and The Kids Are All Right. Hang on, this season is just getting started.

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