The Social Network should block The King's Speech in Golden Globes clash

I'm hoping David Fincher's retelling of Facebook's rise will win friends and influence the Academy as Oscars season nears

A couple of weeks back, I blogged a personal awards-style "nominations" list of the best of the year in various categories and invited a response, vaguely thinking it might be possible to boil down some results. That's probably not workable given the variety of responses from commenters who understandably didn't want to be bound by my suggestions. A broad spread of opinions indicated that the list failed to give due regard to Inception, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Shutter Island and Up in the Air, and that it should moreover have included a best screenplay category. That last objection is certainly fair and I shall mend my ways in 2011.

The real award season has in any case now begun with the announcement of the Golden Globe nominations, which will be presented next year in an influential televised ceremony hosted by Ricky Gervais and closely watched by Academy voters leaving it until the last moment to make up their minds about the Oscars. A Twitter user claiming to be Mickey Rourke, the comeback star of last year's awards season with his lead role in The Wrestler, immediately wrote: "Not receiving a Golden Globe nomination is like not being molested by your stepfather. You feel grateful but slightly rejected."

It's traditional to groan at the alleged dilettante attitude of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which awards the Globes. There are, for me personally, one or two stabs of pain in the list for best foreign language film, which contains a number of moderate and overpraised films and one outright clunker in The Concert – but not Xavier Beauvois's Of Gods And Men. Though I haven't yet seen Susanne Bier's In a Better World, which is on the list, this does not bode well for the Oscars. Also, along with many other pundits, I think Toy Story 3 and The Illusionist surely deserved a shot at the best film category instead of being kept on the best animated feature film list, which is like being stuck on the children's table at a wedding.

The frontrunners are Tom Hooper's The King's Speech – to be released in the UK in the new year – which has seven nominations, and David Fincher's The Social Network with six. (Again, I have to confess I haven't yet seen David O Russell's The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, which is due for release in February. This too has six nominations.)

Assuming The Fighter doesn't counterpunch everyone out of the ring, the stage is set for a notable dweeb smackdown, a duel of two emotionally constipated introverts. Colin Firth v Jesse Eisenberg, George VI v Mark Zuckerberg, the British stammerer v the American wisecracker. It's also a duel between a very traditional British period costume drama and the … well, what? Whatever you think about The Social Network – and I loved both films – the great thing about it, and probably the thing which will make it ultimately the more deserving winner at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars, is that it's just not easily classifiable. It tackles a genuinely new phenomenon, and in a way that doesn't fit any accepted forms. It's a drama with an antihero or anti-villain who conspicuously lacks what the business calls "rootability". You can't root for Fincher's Zuckerberg in any usual way because he's difficult, prickly, complex and has the obsessive, sociopathic quality of the serial killers the director has created in the past. Despite his real emotional pain and loneliness, he's not likable: screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has brilliantly created a character who, like his White House apparatchiks, is irritating yet fascinating, a character to whom you can somehow imagine, infuriatingly, losing an argument.

The contest between The King's Speech and The Social Network is the contest between old and new – or newer, anyway. Much as I renjoyed The King's Speech, in which all the performances had a richly enjoyable and well-judged theatricality, The Social Network is surely higher up the scale because it was trying for something more difficult: a perspective on contemporary history. I'm hoping the awards bandwagon for Fincher's film will start to pick up speed at the Golden Globes.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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