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Good Morning Hollywood, September 30: Perfect No More

Guess who broke “The Social Network’s” perfect record with the critics

AWARDS BEAT

In this morning’s roundup of movie news ‘n’ notes from around the web, guess who broke “The Social Network’s” perfect record with the critics.

Soul ManWell, I think we all knew that when Armond White got around to reviewing “The Social Network,” he’d spoil the film’s100 percent positive Rotten Tomatoes rating. And he didn’t disappoint, calling it “a shallowly complicated film” in which “creepiness is heroized.” You could argue – and I certainly would – that his reading perhaps deliberately misses the entire point of a film that is by no means a glorification or apologia for Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, but White of course dismisses all other interpretations (especially those on the web, for which he continues to show a complete disdain) as wrongheaded. Still, one of the treats of reading White is seeing what widely-derided film he’ll praise while denigrating the critical fave of the moment – and the review covers that territory with remarkable dexterity, praising Eisenberg’s “Holy Rollers” and compares the “Social Network” depiction of Harvard unfavorably to the 1986 C. Thomas Howell movie “Soul Man” and the 2001 Adrian Grenier comedy “Harvard Man.” (You can’t make this stuff up.) For the record, “Soul Man” has a 14 percent positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes. “Harvard Man” is 33 percent positive. “The Social Network” is 97 percent positive. (New York Press)

Guy Lodge examines the premature conventional wisdom (espoused in these parts on occasion) that the two leading Best Picture contenders are “The Social Network” and “The King’s Speech.” He’s not buying it, though he admits that can’t really fashion a theory to explain how most other films could win. Still, without seeing either of the films Lodge makes a pretty good case that both of them fall into the “obvious prestige picture” category, and that films of that ilk just don’t win the big Oscar anymore.  This, he concludes, is “a deliciously appropriate time for voters to wrongfoot us all by plucking something truly out of left field. ‘Black Swan,’ anyone?” To which I can only say: hell, yes. (In Contention)

Disney’s awards campaigners are clearly hoping that “Secretariat” will be the same thing in 2010 that “The Blind Side” was in 2009 – i.e., an inspirational mainstream sports-related movie that made lots of money and also grabbed a Best Picture nomination. But Paul Bond says that the company is going further than that, directly targeting the “faith-based audience” that was seen as a key to the success of “The Blind Side.” Director Randall Wallace’s Christianity is being played up in some marketing materials, the movie opens with a quote from the Book of Job, and Christian websites are being targeted with trailers and advance screening offers. And while Bond doesn’t mention it, television ads for the movie’s sneak previews this weekend feature at least three separate instances of quotes from critic Ted Baer, whose website Movieguide advertises “movie reviews from a Christian perspective.” (The Hollywood Reporter)

But S.T. Van Airsdale has a problem with Disney using the faith-based strategy and comparing “Secretariat” to “The Blind Side.” “It’s no coincidence that both films feature an affluent white woman who, against all odds, social order and her own better judgment, crafts a winning athlete — a winning specimen, really — from underprivileged raw material,” he says, before making a salient observation: “A horse breeder is not an adoptive mother. And — must I really say it? — a horse is not a person.” (Movieline)