With glowing reviews and impressive box office, The Social Network will without a doubt be an Academy Award nominee in several major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay are slam dunks even at this early date. But what will its toughest competition be? Let’s look at it race by race.
Best Picture I feel confident that we’ve now seen at least half of the 10 eventual Oscar nominees, now that Inception, The Kids Are All Right, Toy Story 3, and The Social Network have reached theaters and The King’s Speech, Hereafter, and 127 Hours have each played a festival or two. Of that list, The King’s Speech strikes me as the strongest overall contender. I also have a hunch that the Coen brothers’ version of True Grit could end up as a major player.
Best Director David Fincher’s been nominated once before, for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He lost to Slumdog Millionaire’s Danny Boyle, who could enter the race again this year for 127 Hours. But Fincher doesn’t need to worry about Boyle for the win. Besides The King’s Speech filmmaker Tom Hooper, Inception’s Christopher Nolan and Joel and Ethen Coen for True Grit seem like top contenders. Again, it’s very early, but I could even see the Academy giving Best Picture to something more traditional like The King’s Speech and recognizing someone like Fincher in the directing category.
Best Actor It’s easy to look at Jesse Eisenberg’s turn and say that he’s doing the same deadpan brainiac thing he’s done before, but I really hope the actors’ branch recognizes what a phenomenal performance he gives. The more the film takes off overall, the better his chances are—but beating the likes of Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Robert Duvall (Get Low), Javier Bardem (Biutiful), and James Franco (127 Hours) will be difficult.
Best Supporting Actor I’ve already written about the decision to mount three supporting actor campaigns for The Social Network. I’d say Andrew Garfield is the film’s strongest shot at a nod here, though he’d face a slew of comparative veterans: Geoffrey Rush is a lock for The King’s Speech, while I’d say The Fighter’s Christian Bale and The Kids Are All Right’s Mark Ruffalo are also deserving of inclusion. Then there’s Matt Damon, who could be a Academy-friendly scene stealer in True Grit.
Best Adapted Screenplay I’d call Aaron Sorkin the clear frontrunner in this race; interestingly, though he’s won an Emmy for writing The West Wing and has also earned three Golden Globe nods in the screenplay category, he’s never been nominated for an Oscar. Perhaps the two other top adapted contenders are past winners in the original screenplay category: Toy Story 3’s Michael Arndt (who won for Little Miss Sunshine), and the Coens (who have actually been victorious in both screenplay races). Thankfully for Sorkin, The King’s Speech and The Kids Are All Right will both compete in the original screenplay race.
Best Original Score It’s been exciting to see the Academy’s music branch embrace contemporary artists (A.R. Rahman, Eminem) over the past decade. Can we now dream that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ uniquely hypnotic Social Network score could actually get nominated? Please yes. If media attention determined the winner, it would certainly be a race between those two and Inception’s Hans Zimmer. Though Toy Story 3’s Randy Newman and The King’s Speech’s Alexandre Desplat (both past nominees) would be formidable opponents as well.
At this point I see The Social Network at least leaving the Kodak with one piece of hardware. The next few weeks will dictate how much that number could rise.
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