Pete Hammond

In an era where review aggregation sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic have erased individuality and replaced it with a percentage statistic that can be quoted  more easily than the words of Roger Ebert or other name reviewers, we are seeing a pack mentality emerge with critics groups come awards time. No matter which region of the country, they all seem to be moving in step with each other for the most part. For David Fincher this has to be especially sweet. Just two years ago he sat on the sidelines as nearly all these groups lined up for Danny Boyle and Slumdog Millionaire against his highly touted The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. When Oscar time rolled around there was no question which film would win. Now it’s hard to find a single critics group that doesn’t want to friend The Social Network — and rivals in this still very fluid race are feeling the pain, no doubt trying to figure out how to counter it all before it’s too late.

While most Hollywood offices are shutting down for the holidays, Sony Pictures’ awards campaign crew are working overtime for contender The Social Network in advance of next week’s mailing of Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nomination ballots. That’s why director Fincher, who was supposed to be on a 2-week holiday break from shooting the studio’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Sweden, actually isn’t getting much of a break at all. Last week, he was in New York doing a Q&A moderated by pal Spike Jonze. And now Tuesday and Wednesday he is on the Sony lot in Culver City for 3 more sessions aimed at actors, editors, sound designers, cinematographers, and other various voting groups who are still in town and not preoccupied by the holiday. I am told Fincher only agreed to do these Q&As in order to support various crew and cast members who will be appearing with him.

An evite “Save The Date” notice also went out  for a January 6th DVD/Blu Ray “launch event” for The Social Network — although some voting groups already got a taste of it when Sony sent yet another For  Your Consideration DVD, this time featuring the movie and a 2-hour second disc full of supplementary features. Even though groups like the BFCA and HFPA have already received screeners, this seems like a smart move; it freshens the film and adds extras to give it another whirl in the player over the holidays timed just before final voting gets underway. Sony can’t do the same for the Academy, however: sending anything other than the movie is against the rules.

Why such a hard sell? While it made a huge splash when it opened on October 1st, The Social Network maybe faded a bit in Hollywood’s awards firmament when other later entries like The King’s Speech and The Fighter hit the spotlight. Now it’s roaring back with help from the same critics groups who first championed No Country For Old Men, Slumdog Millionaire, and The Hurt Locker creating a consensus and perhaps influencing the vote for the last 3 consecutive Best Picture Oscar winners. Time Magazine’s selection for 2010 Person Of The Year of Mark Zuckerberg, the real life inspiration for Aaron Sorkin’s script, certainly also hit just at the right time for Sony’s re-energized awards campaign.

No film has been honored more this season or won more critics groups’ Best Picture awards than The Social Network in what has been the most wide-open race in years. In fact, no other movie has won any Best Picture award from critics (okay, except the San Diego reviewers who courageously broke ranks to give it to Winter’s Bone). Whether it  has been critics orgs in Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Florida, Houston, Indiana, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Toronto, Washington DC, online, offline, or at the “Satellite” awards, the result is always the same: The Social Network = Best Picture. Of course not every friggin’ state or city with a “critics society” has weighed in yet. But how much do you wanna bet that Phoenix, Iowa, Kansas City, Oklahoma, and Vancouver  follow like lemmings. Anyone wanna guess which way Central Ohio and Utah are leaning?

It all started at the beginning of the month when the National Board of Review named The Social Network its Best Picture — and they don’t even call themselves critics. We’re not sure who they actually are but they jumped on board first. Most recently, the London Film Critics showered it with nominations. And of course the high profile televised awards shows – NBC’s Golden Globes from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and VH1’s Critics Choice Movie Awards of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (I am a member there) –  also have it in contention big-time for their January ceremonies. Even the African American Film Critics Association which handed out its main acting awards to Halle Berry, Michael Ealy, and Kimberly Elise and included films like Frankie & Alice, For Colored Girls, Blood Done Sign My Name, and Night Catches Us in its Top 10 list — but still fell right in line when it came to naming Social Network its Best Picture despite not much diversity in its cast, as I recall.

Awards Columnist Pete Hammond - tip him here.