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'Social Network' tops, even on my best list

The opening-weekend box-office success of "The Social Network" (it garnered roughly $23 million and landed in the number one spot) gladdened me more than it usually does whenever a terrific movie does well. This marks the first time since Peter Jackson's Tolkien trilogy that a movie sure to be close to the top of my yearly 10-best list also rose to the top of the box-office rankings.

David Fincher's previous movie, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," was my No. 1 movie of 2008, but opened behind "Marley And Me" and "Bedtime Stories." My favorite movie of 2009, "The Hurt Locker," didn't manage to reach viewers in large numbers until it was released on DVD and Blu-ray.

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When a movie like "The Social Network" breaks through, it emboldens studios to fund productions that use wit, character, visual texture and storytelling dexterity to generate thought and feeling. And it expands the audience for future films of this ambition and quality.

Long may it reign.

"The Social Network" differs drastically in tone, detail and literary accomplishment from its source book, "The Accidental Billionaires." When was the last time you had a strong rooting interest in a non-franchise movie not based on a beloved classic or best-seller?

(Above, that's Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker, left, and Jesse Eisenberg, right, as Mark Zuckerberg, in the forefront of a scene set in Facebook's headquarters.)

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