‘The Social Network’ is the Oscar front-runner. Now what?

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For fans of ‘The Social Network,’ the strong showing at the Golden Globes Sunday night was heartening. The Globes, after all, are a harbinger of the Oscars. So when the big show happens on Feb. 27, it should mean big things for the Facebook film.

Or should it?

Over at sister blog Awards Tracker, The Times’ repository of all things award season, my colleagues Nicole Sperling and Tom O’Neil offer their savvy takes on the prospects for this and other films in the wake of the Globes announcements.

The consensus is that ‘Network’ is now the movie to beat. Of the top four candidates this award season -- ‘The King’s Speech,’ ‘Black Swan’ and ‘The Fighter’ are the other three -- it looks increasingly likely that the ways of honoring them will fall outside the best picture/best director axis. ‘Black Swan’ looks all but certain to get a win for Natalie Portman in the lead actress category. ‘Speech’ is poised to get a lead actor for Colin Firth. ‘The Fighter’ could well get its due via supporting actor categories.

But there are some wrinkles to this new award order. O’Neil notes that despite the historical symmetry between the top prizes at the Globes and Oscars, they don’t line up that way recently. Blame the backlash-loving blogosphere, but only once in the past six years did the winner of picture-drama go on to win the top prize at the Oscars (‘Slumdog Millionaire’ did two years ago).


And as Sperling points out, ‘Social Network’ lacks characters to whom voters might respond at a gut level. ‘It’s a modern and edgy story, but there’s relatively little emotional connection with the characters,’ she writes. ' ‘The King’s Speech,’ on the other hand, has audiences rooting for Colin Firth’s King George VI and winds up on an emotional high note, a tone often embraced by academy voters.’

There are other indicators that could prove heartening for those associated with movies not named ‘The Social Network.’ In recent years the film that won the Oscar best picture were at least as concerned with actual violence as they were emotional violence (see under: ‘The Departed,’ ‘No Country for Old Men,’ ‘The Hurt Locker’). That could be an ominous sign for ‘Network’ (and would put ‘Fighter’ and ‘Swan’ back in the mix).

And take this for what it’s worth, but since the academy decided in 2003 to move up the Oscars and shorten the so-called season, only one movie (‘The Departed’) that came out in September or October has won the Oscar (‘Social Network’ was released in early October). Winners tend to be late-season entrants like ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King’ or ‘Million Dollar Baby,’ or spring releases that get a second life this time of year, a la ‘The Hurt Locker’ or ‘Crash.’ [Updated: A previous version of this post implied that ‘The Departed’ came out in November.]

It’s only six weeks before the Oscars hand out the year’s top movie prizes. That’s more than enough time for a backlash to start, quiet down and start again.

--Steven Zeitchik


Awards Tracker: What does it mean for Oscar?

Awards Tracker: Golden Globes versus Oscar: How often do they agree?

Golden Globes show love to ‘The Social Network’