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How will 'The Social Network' play at its official academy screening?

September 29, 2010 |  5:54 pm

At 8 p.m. this Saturday, "The Social Network" will get its official academy screening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and its Oscar consultants are very nervous.

It doesn't matter that "The Social Network" is adored by film critics and average movie-goers. Oscar voters are a peculiar breed. Let's be honest. Quite a few of them actually fit the cartoonish stereotype of being old white guys who never say "awesome," don't know who Snooki is and probably agree with what Betty White said, cheekily, about Facebook on "Saturday Night Live":

Social network

"I didn't know what Facebook was, and now that I do know what it is, I have to say, it sounds like a huge waste of time. I would never say the people on it are losers, but that's only because I'm polite. People say, 'But Betty, Facebook is a great way to connect with old friends.' Well at my age, if I wanna connect with old friends, I need a Ouija board. Needless to say, we didn't have Facebook when I was growing up. We had phonebook, but you wouldn't waste an afternoon with it."

During these suspenseful days leading up to "Social Network's" official academy screening, you can hear the whispers across Hollywood: "Do you think Oscar voters will 'get' it?" ... "Does the movie skew too young for them?"

If "The Social Network" fails to connect with academy members, it wouldn't be the first time that everybody went gaga over a film except Oscar voters. Their refusal to nominate the hugely popular, critically acclaimed "The Dark Knight" for best picture of 2008 recently forced the academy to expand the list of nominees to 10.

"Brokeback Mountain" won an unprecedented number (26) of precursor awards for best picture of 2005, but it was just too hip for the old straight cats in the academy like Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine, who bragged publicly that they refused to watch the gay cowboy romance. "Brokeback Mountain" got nominated for best picture, but it lost to "Crash" in a shocking upset.

At least Oscar voters usually nominate critically acclaimed, hip movies — like they did "Avatar" last year — so "The Social Network" will no doubt make the best-picture list now that it's been expanded to 10. But can it win? It'll probably sweep the critics' awards in December, but other films have done the same without winning the top Oscar — like "L.A. Confidential" in 1997 ("Titanic" beat it). Sometimes the disconnect between critical consensus and academy taste is even worse. "Mulholland Dr." wasn't even nominated for best picture after nabbing virtually all of the critics' laurels in 2001.

One hopeful sign: "The Hurt Locker" ran the boards last year, from critics' kudos to academy crown, even though it defied all traditional Oscar tastes. It didn't feature A-list stars. It was a financial flop. It was about the Iraqi war. That should have been strike three, but academy members connected with it anyway. They not only "got" the hippest movie of the year — they gave it their all.


Here's the list of Oscar academy screenings: What's played so far, what's coming up

The social relevancy of 'The Social Network' is key to its Oscar hopes

Photo: "The Social Network" (Columbia Pictures)

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