Oscarbation: The AFI, NYFCO, Boston And Los Angeles Critics Freak For 'The Social Network'

by Gabe Toro
December 13, 2010 2:55 AM
11 Comments
  • |


Sending a signal to Oscar prognosticators, the fake-intellectuals who mock "Iron Man" and masturbate to "The King's Speech," a phalanx of critics organizations revealed their top honors this weekend, drawing a line in the sand. Their message? "The Social Network" is on one side of that line, and all other movies are on the other. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Online and the Boston Society Of Film Critics selected the David Fincher drama as the year's best film, while the AFI listed the film as one of the year's (unranked) 10 best.

The Los Angeles Film Critics Association selected 'Network' above "Carlos," with Fincher and Olivier Assayas sharing a Best Director award and the Facebook story taking home Best Screenplay and Best Score. The NYFCO gave the film Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, while Boston awarded the film the same, as well as a Best Actor award for Jesse Eisenberg. Guess they liked it.

Credit to the awards committees for going off-book in some instances. Los Angeles awarded Kim Hye-ja Best Actress for "Mother" and Niels Arestrup Best Supporting Actor for "A Prophet." Boston broke from the pack completely and honored Juliette Lewis for her druggy, distant turn in the otherwise-forgotten "Conviction." And the NYFCO shied from "The Social Network" by awarding Best Music Or Score to "Black Swan," an award they will presumably deliver to Tchaikovsky by raising him from the dead.

The AFI List has no real surprises either, as the Fincher drama was joined by "Black Swan," "The Fighter," "Inception," "The Kids Are All Right," "127 Hours," "The Town," "Toy Story 3," "True Grit" and "Winter's Bone." Oscar commentators have been going nuts for 'Network' for a while now, but we would assume a film having a lot of “buzz” means that it’s covered in bees. These developments, however, suggest "The Social Network" is the top dog for the Best Picture Oscar, even though that's far from the case.

These organizations are almost entirely comprised of critics, and who else would relate to 'Network''s Mark Zuckerberg? Jesse Eisenberg's socially-inept protagonist is a hero with privilege, a young white male at Harvard who views himself as an underdog, with a sense of superiority towards the simpletons that surround him. "The Social Network" is the most effective remake of "Revenge of the Nerds" yet, straight-faced and near-apocalyptic in depicting a world slowly ceding control to the "elite." The fact that it's a funny and entertaining diversion doesn't make one forget that no film flattered critics more this year.

The Oscar committee, on the other hand, is a diverse mix of critics, performers and Hollywood establishment types, older people who can't be troubled to see almost every movie in Hollywood. Academy member Samuel L. Jackson has been known to vote for friends and allows his butlers to vote for anything else. Every year, the Academy opens their doors to someone like Seth Rogen, a busy comic performer who seems a bit unlikely to crack open a screener of "I Am Love."

What this means is that predicting the Oscars seems like a pointless, masturbatory exercise for people who seek order out of the chaos of craft appreciation. When they honor a performer or artist, they want it to be part of a "narrative." In the Best Actor race, the narrative of Jim Broadbent, so excellent in Mike Leigh's affecting "Another Year," would figure as a "great actor doing great work."

He wouldn't have the benefit of being James Franco, a one-man band who cements his leading man status will all sorts of jack-of-all-trades stunts, in addition to starring in a film where he completes a fairly physical transformation, to say the least. James Franco isn't an actor to these voters: he is a "story." Then there's Stephen Dorff, who could have been a leading man but instead surrendered to poor career choices. Recognizing his work in "Somewhere" registers as a comeback story, with the nomination committee being active participants in said story.

Which of course positions the Oscars as a group of egotists. They don't give praise, they anoint. As such, don't expect an award being thrown Broadbent's way, since a respectable under-the-line character actor gaining a second Oscar for a quiet, devastating British film just isn't a narrative, sadly (if anyone is going to breakthrough with "Another Year" it looks to be Lesley Manville).

That being said, we’re part of the unwashed masses who go along with the idea that what a group of outdated old fools and nepotistic go-alongs decide about movies seems to matter. It’s not like there aren’t esteemed members of this sub-community -- Roger Ebert, of all people, famously shared some awards-season gossip when he claimed that fellow voters at Academy screenings for “City of God” were walking out in the heat of nomination season. Of course, not even Ebert is always on the mark -- “City of God” ended up receiving a Best Director nomination that year.

Notice the stories and press releases. Sure, the actual story might be Freestyle Releasing distributing “Frankie and Alice,” a kitchen-sink melodrama starring Halle Berry, on December 17th. But what was the story every movie website felt the need to share when the release announcement was made? Halle Berry entering the Oscar race for Best Actress.

We’re deep into winter, and unfortunately for Ms. Berry and Freestyle it’s already a crowded lineup at Best Actress. Though we wonder about the film’s real chances, since this is the second directorial effort from Geoffrey Sax. Sax is best known as the director of the schlock ghost story “White Noise,” a laughable genre picture dumped into January that proved to be an inexplicable hit in 2006. Following that effort (and the failed franchise-starter "Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker") with something watchable, never mind awards-worthy, would be a huge upset in the Common Sense Wars.

As a producer, Berry fought to get the film made, essentially creating her own role at an age where many actresses are forced to play background moms. The part itself seems like catnip -- Berry plays a woman afflicted by multiple personality disorder. And the color of Berry’s skin may come into play, as a year after “Precious,” “The Blind Side” and “Invictus,” the Oscar race seems almost entirely populated by white actors. The previous contender set up to upset this balance was Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls,” but the mild box office combined with harsh critical notices suggest the film is dead in the water. With Ivy Leaguers, British monarchy, ballet dancers and picket fence lesbians among the characters possibly being recognized this season, an African American woman with mental deficiencies (in this case, multiple personality disorder) might be a diversity nod.

You might also like:
Free Indie Movies and Documentaries    

11 Comments

  • ryan | December 14, 2010 2:28 AMReply

    king's speech -- sweep.

  • Christopher Bell | December 13, 2010 11:31 AMReply

    I'm usually horrible at the predictions, but I think it might be Fincher or Aronofksy this year, as an apology for overlooking their past work... esp. "The Wrestler," which wasn't even nominated.

    I also really, really don't think 127 Hours will win. They won't give Boyle another Oscar simply because he already has one. Maybe further into the future, but highly doubtful that he'll get another one so soon.

  • Joe | December 13, 2010 9:44 AMReply

    I saw Another Year this week and was thinking just that. How amazing would it be if Jim Broadbent's great performance was rewarded.

    Instead, critics and bloggers aren't even mentioning it because we all know the rules of the game and Oscar, like real estate, is all about location, location location-- I mean, story story, story.

    The main story this year being the "important" and "relevant" and overrated to say the least, The Social Network. That is, until a new story comes along.

    Maybe Black Swan becomes a huge hit. Maybe The Fighter wins over people's hearts. Maybe True Grit? Probably not. We'll see. Soon The Social Network winning everything is going to get boring for academy members ... or maybe not. Who cares.

  • starway2001 | December 13, 2010 8:56 AMReply

    This pretty means Social Network will not win the Oscar. The Academy doesn't like being told what to do.

  • what the fuck was this article about? | December 13, 2010 6:22 AMReply

    what did I just read? you can always tell a Gabe Toro authored post by it's non attention to detail and delirious verbiage

  • jimmiescoffee | December 13, 2010 5:29 AMReply

    you know what's tired? people saying 'inception' isn't a brilliant piece of work. stop trying so hard. in regards to 'toy story 3' it was good but the story was nothing extraordinary. 1 & 2 were just better films.

  • wray | December 13, 2010 4:43 AMReply

    I Think most films are overrated nowadays. I really liked inception and would say it was the best live action summer movie but not best of the year (one of the best but not the best). I even thought Shutter Island was a better film. It was just a weak year in films overall. Some of the films being talked about as the very best are only benefiting from it being a mediocre year.

  • Wray | December 13, 2010 4:31 AMReply

    I think Toy Story 3 is the best film of the year (best American film anyway). I also really loved the The Social Network and would probably put it in the second spot.

  • Christopher Nolan | December 13, 2010 3:53 AMReply

    Inception is the most overrated film this year. The only thing it succeeded in was allowing casual viewers to feel really smart for about 2 and 1/2 hours. The film is not as intelligent and original as all of its fans proclaim it to be. Dreams are very interesting, indeed. But this film took all of the fun out of it, by never allowing the audience to emerge themselves in this world Nolan created. Having everything explained to you every two minutes does not invite you into a new place. It's like reading a textbook with pretty pictures.

  • jimmiescoffee | December 13, 2010 3:18 AMReply

    'social network' is a great piece of work. the only film i thought was a more impressive achievement this year was 'inception' simply because of its scope.

  • Ken | December 13, 2010 2:42 AMReply

    I can't imagine all this being a done deal just yet. But the NY and LA critics don't often agree on the best film of the year so you never know.

    I loved The Social Network and, unfortunately, have yet to see Black Swan, 127 Hours, and a good amount of other films that will most likely be nominated. I love how, every year, we see a film run away with all the awards in December and January (like Slumdog and Hurt Locker) and every time, people keep saying "there's no way the academy will go for that film" and then it does...

    The truth of the matter is that Sorkin is a lock for Best Adapted Screenplay and Fincher should be a lock for Best Director. It's pretty hard for me to imagine it not winning best picture when you consider those factors. People keep thinking that the Academy will go "The King's Speech" since it's an "academy-friendly" movie. But when's the last time an "academy friendly" movie won best picture, honestly?

Email Updates