Old People and the Oscars: Is 'The Social Network' Doomed?

How aging Academy members could affect this year's awards races.


Columbia Pictures/flickr

My excellent Golden Globes source says Harvey Weinstein furiously stormed out of the Globes party after his movie, The King's Speech, lost the Best Drama award to The Social Network. He should have won that: The international press is notoriously oldish and obviously foreign. What should they care about The Social Network, a super hip American story if there ever was one? But from what I hear, the irony was that the oldies but goodies at the Globes wanted to be groovy and show how wired and un-foreign they were. So now for the Oscars Harvey is assiduously working the old people, of which, I hear, there are plenty in the Academy.

There are many lenses through which we can see the Best Picture race, but I choose the generational story exemplified by the aging, enigmatic Globes voters. The Academy is a tricky group. They are perverse, politically left wing, and sentimental. They don't like to be predicted by the press or told whom they are going to vote for. Think Crash, which won Best Picture in 2006 over Brokeback Mountain. But sometimes, as with any impressionable voting group, Academy members can be manipulated by momentum. Is this a momentum year or a split-vote year, like with Crash? Last year the question was: Was it a political-indie-upstart Hurt Locker year or an industry-influenced Avatar year? And we saw how that went. My thought is that the Academy is very much a mixed-up electorate right now, and the issue is age.

The Social Network makes the elderly in the Academy anxious for several reasons: a.) I don't know how to use a computer. b.) Those little shits. Pissers like that passed on my last screenplay, movie, role, fill in the blank. c.) This generation thinks they own the world.

And the people who think this way are not working as much as the ones who get the Net, who by and large aren't getting into the Academy so easily these days—there are more old folks in the Academy than hipsters. (It requires four sole credit movies and three recommendations from members, then approval from a committee that likes to meet in private exercising vetoes like an exclusive co-op in Manhattan.) But those younger guys are the ones who are working, and so you see the tension. And the old guys can be politicked. They love to get together, and they have plenty of time for the free dinners and lovely events sponsored by publicists of movies stars or their friends of friends, and the once—but now never—neglected motion picture old age home. I assume that's where you'll find someone working The King's Speech. I don't know for sure. It's an educated guess.

This is mirrored in the oddly stubborn and almost grumpy anti-Facebook sentiment we see in the otherwise brilliant print boomers like Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker and Frank Rich in the New York Times. Both have said that what went on in Iran (Rich amazingly added Egypt) had nothing to do with the Internet or Facebook. I am stunned by this, as we see the protesters themselves making heroes out of the Google hackers, and painting signs of thanks to Facebook. Why the resistance? Does it somehow diminish the power of their medium? (Duh.) Or make them or their/our generation less relevant? (Our industry has its own critical economic fears of the Net driven by piracy, and is not in favor of net neutrality.)

Am I stretching dangerously, or could The King's Speech subtly use the older generation's hostility to the Net as a kind of backlash against The Social Network? Can you cater to those who can't use email, like my dad, who when I try to tell him he can get thousands of pictures of his family if he took only one simple lesson looks at me as though I were asking him to fly to the moon?

Can one harvest this antipathy to start a revolution that amounts to a King's Speech voting bloc? Is there some call being shouted from the rooftops for old-fashioned movies? Old people are sure speaking at the box office right now. They want more movies. And they have them in The Kings Speech, The Fighter, True Grit, and for some, (the dirty old man contingent?) the hot, hot Black Swan—all bona fide hits.

Presented by

Lynda Obst is a producer and writer who has made 15 films in her producing career, at almost every major studio. More

Lynda Obst was recruited to Hollywood from the New York Times Magazine in 1979 by Peter Guber, for whom she developed Flashdance and Clue, as well as beginning the development of Carl Sagan’s Contact. In 1985, Obst partnered with producer Debra Hill, forming Hill/Obst Productions at Paramount Pictures. They soon made the iconic teen pic Adventures in Babysitting. Then the duo produced Terry Gilliam’s Oscar-nominated The Fisher King, starring Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

Obst then began a solo-producing career, where she produced Nora Ephron’s directing debut, This Is My Life, and executive produced Ephron’s second film, Sleepless in Seattle. Obst then produced The Siege, Hope Floats, One Fine Day, and Someone Like You. One of Obst’s earlier projects came full circle when she came on Contact for Warner Bros. in 1997, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Jodie Foster. In 1999, she executive produced NBC’s Emmy Nominated, two-part miniseries The 60s. Then Lynda moved back to Paramount Pictures, where she produced such films as How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Abandon.

Obst’s most recent film was the September Warner Bros. release of Ricky Gervais/Matthew Robinson's directorial debut The Invention of Lying, starring Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Her notable upcoming projects include Steven Spielberg’s Interstellar, a sci-fi feature from The Dark Knight scribe Jonathan Nolan, based on a story by Obst, Nolan, and Dr. Kip Thorne; What Was I Thinking, starring Leslie Mann, Elizabeth Banks & Jennifer Garner; and Getting Rid of Matthew, starring Jennifer Aniston.

She has long written about the movie business for magazines and blogs, including a long running Oscar dialogue with New York Magazine critic David Edelstein.

Lynda Obst’s magazine writing, as well as more information on her films, can be found on her website: visit http://lyndaobstproductions.com/.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.


Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.


The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.


Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.


Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses


Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Entertainment

Just In