Nominated for eight Academy Awards, "The Social Network" scored three -- best adapted screenplay, best original score and best editing. In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, David Fincher seemed all but certain to walk away with the trophy for directing. Best picture, while something of a long shot, also seemed within reach.
"The King's Speech" bested the Facebook drama in both categories. Colin Firth also beat out Jesse Eisenberg to win the best actor prize, but that was expected.
Why did the Hollywood excitement for "The Social Network," a saga about status updates, all but evaporate? Perhaps too much buzz bred bad news.
"We were going to all these [events] and everyone was like 'Social Network,' 'Social Network,' 'Social Network,'" Dana Brunetti, one of its producers, told the Los Angeles Times, "and I kept saying, 'This is not good. There is going to be a backlash.'"
The Los Angeles Times mused that "The Social Network" also fell from grace, in part, because it played its cards wrong during the all-important Oscar campaigning. Sony, the studio behind the movie, "seemed overly eager to win the best picture Oscar," the Times wrote, and director Fincher "often came across as prickly" during his limited appearances before Academy members during the lead up to the Oscars.
Then there's the fact that the film's stars, subject matter and core audience are so gosh darn young. Not so with "The King's Speech," which deals with a relatively ancient topic, includes actors in the prime of their careers, and is more likely to resonate with the majority of age 50-plus Academy voters.
Backstage at the Oscars, Aaron Sorkin, one of "The Social Network's" winners (best adapted screenplay), noted the challenge of dealing with the movie's particular circumstances.
"David Fincher did a mind-blowing job with an incredibly talented but very, very young cast," Sorkin said. "And that was the fear that, you know, this material isn't for beginners."
It's far from the first time a sudden shift of opinion has made a favorite fall on Hollywood's big night. In 2005, "Crash" scored best picture over the expected winner "Brokeback Mountain." In 1999, "Shakespeare in Love" came out on top of the favorite "Saving Private Ryan."
But the people behind "The Social Network" stand by their movie and the way it was promoted. After all, a handful of Golden Globes, BAFTAs and mantel worth of critics choice awards ain't too shabby.
"We released the movie at the time we felt it was most appropriate, and it performed beyond our expectations," "Social Network" producer Mike De Luca told Deadline.com at Sunday night's Vanity Fair post-Oscars party. "Maybe it wasn't as pleasing as 'The King's Speech' to Oscar voters. And historically, there is a disconnect between the critics and those voters. But the emotional complexity is what I love about 'The Social Network.' I did take comfort in Steven Spielberg's reminder of the great films that didn't win best picture."