5 Ways The Social Network Can Reclaim Its Oscar Mojo

A week ago at this time, after all but guaranteeing The Social Network's supremacy at this year's Academy Awards, the kudos cognoscenti watched uneasily as The King's Speech soared past TSN in both Oscar nomination count -- nabbing 12 to TSN's eight -- and awards-season profile. By yesterday morning, with three influential guild awards in its pocket and even its most dogged opponents conceding eventual Academy defeat, the King's team may as well have dropped some champagne on ice and started drafting Oscar acceptance speeches. But! Not so fast! The final ballots haven't even been mailed yet, and voting is open for three weeks. Might The Social Network have The King's Speech right where it wants it?

After all, The King's Speech's resurgence once again proves the two ineluctable truths of awards season (and Hollywood in general): Nobody knows anything, and everybody can be gotten to. So what does the gang behind The Social Network itself need to do to come back and win big on Feb. 27?

1. Don't panic.

At the end of the day, Sony's saturation campaigning (and its cost), significant critical worship and box-office prowess have left their impacts on Academy voters. No one can take those away from David Fincher, Aaron Sorkin, Scott Rudin, Michael De Luca and Co., and bitter guild losses aside, it's not like TSN has stalled or derailed en route to the Oscars. It just got surpassed. So what? You regroup and continue. Marathons don't end at mile 22. And even if TSN doesn't look like a conventional underdog, guess what? It's the underdog. And people love underdogs.

2. Ignore the guilds.

Easier said than done, I know. But come on: For all its fine performances, The Social Network was never going woo SAG away from The King's Speech or even The Fighter. And the last 10 years or so of SAG Awards history suggest actors' hearts often beat one way for ensemble awards and another way entirely for Best Picture. And, when it comes to the DGA, the majority of whose membership are TV directors, why wouldn't it reward the guy who not only made some of the most acclaimed TV movies of the last decade, but essentially made another good one with The King's Speech? Nothing against Tom Hooper! I think he's super-talented and should have received all this consideration last year for The Damned United, to say nothing of the achievement that is his miniseries John Adams. But unless it really, really hates David Fincher (and we'll get to that), the Academy's directors branch likely perceives this as more of a wake-up call than anything. It's Fincher and Rudin's jobs to capitalize on that dynamic, and they'd better start now.

3. Don't play dirty.

Last year, right around the time The Weinstein Company sensed a Best Picture opening for Inglorious Basterds, a flurry of suspiciously timed stories emerged in the entertainment media alleging inaccuracies, misrepresentations and other unsavory qualities in The Hurt Locker. It amounted to little more than transparent garbage in the end -- not unlike Locker producer Nicolas Chartier's own "Dear Academy" cheap shots against Avatar, which got him banned from the Oscar ceremony. In short, it was a cutthroat clusterf*ck of skulduggery and paranoia that reflected less than flatteringly on the Oscars as a whole. That's not what I'd call an advantage right now. Playing up historical flubs and Nazi-sympathy oversights in The King's Speech takes away from the more pressing issue at hand: Why is The Social Network worthy of Academy members' votes? And no one has time for detours right now.

4. Speaking of which, why IS The Social Network worthy of Academy members' votes?

Seriously: Has Sony or TSN's creative team really answered that question? Because they must: While the Weinsteins aggressively continue defining The King's Speech as a film that makes you "feel," stand up and cheer, etc. etc., The Social Network has little to traditionally recommend it beyond those aforementioned good reviews and its $200 million-plus international gross. So! It's like Don Draper advised: "If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." For example, anchor an ad around the phrase, "The [blank] Picture of the Year." Then pluck every superlative from every review, find a creative way to fill in that blank (e.g. stack them high and tall in print ads, roll them fast and furious in Flash ads), and end it with "BEST." Period. End of discussion. Or, if "cutting-edge" is now considered a liability (which I think a lot of pundits are overblowing, but still), then emphasize the craft nominations -- the editing, the cinematography, the sound, the score -- that reinforce the hallmarks of classic filmmaking while telling a thoroughly modern story. If the Academy does in fact need to feel good about its Best Picture, then go out and make it feel good about The Social Network.

5. Maybe want it a little?

Regardless of the guy David Fincher truly is to his peers and collaborators, a reputation for arrogance precedes him. And TSN's swift, dominating march through the critics' awards and Golden Globes left the filmmaker, fairly or unfairly, streaked with the faint patina of entitlement. This is not going to work at the Oscars. If Fincher sincerely doesn't care, then fine; give it to Hooper or, in a shocker, Darren Aronofsky, and let's be done with it. But if he does care, then show us something. Trust me, David -- Sony will understand if you need a couple weeks off Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I mean, if neurotic, awkward Jesse Eisenberg of all people could pull off hosting Saturday Night Live, then maybe Fincher can pull off a 60 Minutes segment or something else influential for the middle-aged voter demographic? Just spitballing! Other suggestions?



Comments

  • The Winchester says:

    #6 - Play up the fact that the kid from Jurassic Park was in it. Right there, in between Spiderman and Facebook creator.
    Because everybody loves Jurassic Park.

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    Bingo! Now that is what I call playing to your strengths.

  • blizzard bound says:

    A month ago I would have been the first to sputter No! had the Academy Award gone to The Social Network.
    Now, having seen The King's Speech, and still rendered speechless by how same old same old that film is, I'd be happy with a win for The Social Network.
    And quite frankly, I think much of my recoil around The King's Speech was how dreadfully white it is and how trivial Mr. Firth's king's problems seemed in light of what is happening right now in Egypt and elsewhere internationally.
    And not that The Social Network is any less white, but at least it is about the real media of our times, one that can have political impact.
    So personally, if it were me in on the marketing meetings, I'd play up the social relevancy aspect of The Social Network. There is some serious stuff happening overseas, and it is fascinating to see how history is hampering the administration's ability to respond to one revolution over an other (Tunisia).
    The globe is what is on people's minds, and in the grand scheme of things, one man's stutter doesn't amount to a hill of beans.
    Whaddaya think, S.T.? Would that fly?

  • Hell. Yes. I love it! Sony, are you paying attention?

  • Janice says:

    The problem with your suggestion is the actual weakness of TSN. The movie NEVER addresses the broader implications of facebook. The movie is NOT about facebook but friendship, betrayal, and entitlement. It is just as same old as The King's Speech except it name drops facebook and has a sleeker feel. It is a very insular movie about a bunch of rich white Harvard kids fighting over property and trying to get richer. It just happens to be that said property became important to our world much later. Had TSN focused on the impact of Mark Zuckerberg's creation, and the pros/cons of what Facebook has become your argument of Tunesia and Egypt would be more relevant.
    To claim that a movie being shoved down our throats constantly by EVERY media outlet, critic, and billions of Sony money is the underdog doesn't pass the smell test. Seriously. If you try to sell it as the underdog next to The King's Speech people would laugh at you. The king might be rich and famous but then so is Zuckerberg, however only one of them has a disability that the average unemployed American can have sympathy for. Only one overcomes problems that money can't solve and INSPIRES average people watching to get on their feet and applaud and it's not Mark Zuckerberg.
    Finally the King's Speech can also counter with the argument that without having leadership from the King, Churchill, and other allies, there would have been no Mark Zuckerberg. His Jewish ancestors would have all been gased and executed by Hitler. Germany would have taken over Europe. Our entire world would have been different and the chances of a Silicon Valley or even an internet existing might never have happened. Check mate.

  • Uh, OK? I mean, your points are totally valid in a critical context, but they're ultimately irrelevant in the Oscar context. This race -- _any_ Oscar race for that matter -- is not about the subjective quality of the work, but rather the more objective quality of the positioning of that work as Oscar material. (Just ask Paul Haggis.) Whatever you think _The Social Network_ should have been matters less than what Sony makes it today and over the next three weeks.
    And not knowing Mark Zuckerberg's genealogy, I'll take a pass on debating _The King's Speech_'s ethnic-campaigning entitlements, except to say I think they might even be beneath Harvey Weinstein. (Especially on behalf of a film with historical accuracy issues of its own -- though at this point, I think that accusation is off the table for both films.)
    And by "underdog," I only mean that it is no longer favored by the punditocracy or other industry observers to win prizes it was thought to have locked up as recently as a week ago. _TSN_ does have a certain top-heaviness to it, no doubt -- it's not the "Little Movie That Could" by any means. Nevertheless, in historical terms, anyway, a Best Picture/Director win at this point would be an upset.

  • Martini Shark says:

    There is one obvious solution: the "discovery" of the deleted lesbian sex scene. Two birds, and all.

  • The Winchester says:

    Has the ship sailed on my Jurassic Park-relating campaign yet?

  • Ashwin Pinto says:

    There is the chance that The Social Network could win just one Oscar for screenplay but if it does it would be in great company - Citizen Kane, Pulp Fiction. Those lost Best Picture and Director to inferior films.

  • menyc says:

    What about the Mark/Eduardo tear-filled hug in slow motion. That's Oscary.

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