I want to begin this post by saying that I had originally chosen The King’s Speech as my personal pick for Best Movie of the Year. The reason was part personal, and part because I genuinely believe it is a very well made film. That’s why this next statement (and this post) will mean more coming from me than from Ryan: I really do think The Social Network should have won the Oscar for Best Picture. But you may be surprised why I feel this way. It’s not because The Social Network is about “Facebook” and is therefore ‘cool.’ It’s not because the film portrays the ‘story’ of the beginnings of Facebook, a social media site that many argue has changed the world (it organized a revolution in Egypt for goodness sakes!). And, it’s not because it’s a movie about Harvard 20-somethings who spew witty dialogue and sarcasm like it’s their job to convince the audience that they have something worth listening to. For as much as The Social Network is a movie about ideas, and as many have argued, a generation, it should not have won the Oscar because it got people talking. It should have won the Oscar because it’s a damn finely crafted film.
In the Academy’s attempt to draw younger viewers, the Oscar ceremony pulled out all the stops: young hosts? Check. Random references to Twilight? Check. A children’s choir? Check. But their ace in the hole was having a film like The Social Network on the nominee list. Now, awarding The Social Network Best Picture of the Year based on it’s youth appeal would have been a big mistake, tantamount to the Grammys awarding Justin Bieber Best New Artist. There are many out there who really think The Social Network should have won because it was a movie about young people, and next to The King’s Speech, it was downright original. But again I say, awarding a movie an Oscar based on anything else but the quality of the filmmaking, is a slippery slope. Now, luckily for the Academy, both The King’s Speech and The Social Network were fantastically made films, so they would have been covered either way. But instead of focusing on the superficial aspects of the film, let’s explore why The Social Network was able to captivate so many, with so little.
The Academy actually did a great job of awarding The Social Network Oscars that proved it was the best film of the year. First, editing. This movie relies on it’s editing more than anything else, and it’s an example of pure art. At it’s core, this movie is about relationships between people, how they change, and how they affect others. The story is simple enough-just a great idea that may have belonged to someone else, and a series of courtroom battles that start chipping away at the fragile egos underneath. The editing of this film weaves time, space, and human emotion effortlessly, taking the audience on a journey that is actually not linear at all, but it sure feels that way. Any film that can make legalese not only accessible, but interesting and dramatic for the audience is a major achievement.
Secondly, The Social Network was given the Oscar for Best Musical Score. It’s been awhile since I can honestly say I’ve listen to, and enjoyed a movie score. I thought the score captured the mood of the story, its characters, and its time, very well. I’ll never be able to think about “In the Hall of the Mountain King” without burly crew teams rowing in my head. Not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.
Thirdly, the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay proves that Aaron Sorkin is in fact a god, and can turn anything into gold. One of the things I enjoyed the most about The Social Network was of course the dialogue (probably more so than The King’s Speech, but I enjoyed the acting performances in Speech more. Because you can’t stop a cast of Brits). Again, similar to the editing, the screenplay was able to take rather mundane material and elevate it to something intriguing to listen to-I can’t think of another movie in recent memory where the dialogue played such a major role in characterization. Each character had their own way of speaking, their own language, and their own cadence. Even supporting characters were fleshed out by their few lines of dialogue. No easy feat, but correctly recognized by the Academy.
There are many more technical reasons why The Social Network should have won, but I wanted to address the areas where the Academy recognized the mastery at play. Too bad the film’s wizard, David Fincher, and the film as a whole, were overlooked.