Could ‘The Social Network’ be this year’s ‘Up in the Air’?

Last year, “Up in the Air” was completely skunked at the Academy Awards, going zero for six. This year, “The Social Network” is expected to score at least a half dozen Oscar nominations, including some of those same categories. Could this film, which also focuses on the cold-hearted world of business, be headed for the same fate?

After screening at Telluride and Toronto, “Up in the Air” was the frontrunner in the race right up to the announcement of the nominations when it reaped those six bids. However, the derby ended up being a two-horse race between ‘Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.” “Up in the Air” became an afterthought, losing all of its contests, including even the adapted screenplay category which had been predicted to go to writer-director Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner, who had won many of the precursor awards, as a consolation prize.

“The Social Network” occupies that same lead in the early days of this year’s derby. It is expected to nab at least six nominations: Best Picture, Director (David Fincher), Actor (Jesse Eisenberg), Supporting Actor (Andrew Garfield), and Adapted Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin). Those mirror many of the nods bestowed on “Up in the Air” last year (though it had two Supporting Actress noms instead of a Supporting Actor one). “The Social Network” could also contend for editing (Kirk Baxter & Angus Wall) and is in the hunt for cinematography, sound mixing and score bids as well.

The total number of nominations will reveal the depth and breadth of support for “The Social Network.” If it only manages to equal the tally reached by “Up in the Air,” could this be a sign of things to come? Even Sorkin — who is widely perceived to be a strong contender — might stumble in the final stretch as Reitman did last year. Voters may prefer one of the previous original screenplay champs who are expected to be nominated for adapted efforts this year — the Coen brothers (“True Grit”) and Michael Arndt (“Toy Story 3”).

Photo: Sheldon Turner and Jason Reitman accepting the 2009 Golden Globe for Best Screenplay for “Up in the Air” (HFPA)

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