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'The Social Network' as this fall's 'Hurt Locker'?

July 8, 2010 |  4:12 pm

It's probably too early to start handicapping fall awards movies, but probably not too early to predict that Sony's Aaron Sorkin-penned, David Fincher-directed "The Social Network" -- informally known as The Facebook Movie -- is going to be a hot-button film this fall.

Not just an awards contender, like Fincher's previous "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," but the kind of movie that migrates to the news pages and gets people talking about film outside its fictional context, the way "The Hurt Locker," "Frost/Nixon" and "Syriana" did for their respective topics. Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow got commentators going about the rigors and ethics of war; this will get tongues wagging about the rigors and ethics of social media.

ZuckerThe first tangible sign of its cred came today, when the New York Film Festival took the unusual step of announcing the picture as its opening-night movie. The New York Film Festival almost always chooses highbrow, twee movies to kick off its fall festivities ("The Queen" and "The Class," among some recent examples), and although this selection may say something about the availability of distribution-ready art-house films, it also speaks volumes about how both a sober-minded festival jury and Sony view this picture.

In conjunction with the NYFF world-premiere announcement, there's also a new Social Network teaser trailer, which you can see here (no embed code yet). The spot audaciously uses nothing but messages typed into a faux Facebook page, though from the way the tone and sound ratchets up throughout the spot, you'd think Iran disarmament was at stake.

This anointing comes as the movie begins to make waves because of its depiction of former Harvard students and Facebook founders Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin and the early days of the site. As this is a movie about the founding of that company, you might think that Sony would want to market it on the immensely popular social-networking site, but on the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital blog, Kara Swisher writes that there won't be any Facebook movie ads on Facebook itself.

The reason, the post explains from both the Sony and Facebook points-of-view, is that Facebook policy requires approval of all ads that reference its brand, and Sony didn't want to cop to those conditions.

Of course, the talk about Facebook policy elides the more commonsensical point that, since it's likely that the film is not hugely complimentary to Zuckerberg and Saverin -- at the very least, the book on which it's based, Ben Mezrich's "The Accidental Billionaires," was the subject of some pretty strident criticism from the players it spotlighted -- it would give Facebook pause about taking an ad, policy or no policy. And besides, why would a movie that seeks to tell a hard-hitting story of Facebook want to look complicit with the site even if said site did want to accept its ads?

Guess Sony will have to settle for cable-news chatter, print stories, blog posts and tweets. There will be plenty of that.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Mark Zuckerberg at Sun Valley, Idaho, this week. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press


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