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Monday, March 08, 2010

Blue In The Face

Well, I tried to keep from doing this, but I just can't help writing a little post about the two Big Prizes of Oscar night: Best Director and Best Film.I don't know about you, but I certainly expected James Cameron and Avatar to waltz away with both those prizes last night. I was as thrilled and surprised as Barbra when she gasped and said "Well, I guess the time has come," before announcing Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director for The Hurt Locker. Then Tom Hanks jumped right in and delivered the news that Bigelow's picture had won Best Film. I was thrilled and surprised first, yes, because Bigelow is the first woman to win these awards, and I still have enough residual seventies feminist in me to rejoice at this achievement; but also because The Hurt Locker was so much better a film than Avatar. Both movies were about war and its atrocities, but oh how differently they conveyed their intended themes. Avatar won the technological awards it deserved, but amazingly the Academy was able to recognize the complexity and subtlty in the delivery of Hurt Locker's message, whereas Avatar's admittedly noble messages were delivered with all the finesse of a sledge hammer. InPeter Bradshaw'review of The Hurt Locker in the UK paper The Guardian, he says:
The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan and the "war on terror" (to use the increasingly forgotten Rumsfeldian formulation) never really got their John Wayne/Green Berets moment in Hollywood: a big movie whose unembarrassed purpose is to endorse the military action. Most of the serious responses have been liberal-patriot fence-straddlers, multistranded stories urgently set in Washington, the Middle East, south Asia and elsewhere, tying themselves in knots in an attempt to acknowledge a dovey point of view while covertly leaning to the hawk's – pictures such as Stephen Gaghan's Syriana, which showed torture in terms of CIA man George Clooney being tortured by an Arab, Robert Redford's mealy-mouthed Lions for Lambs, Gavin Hood's issue-fudging Rendition, and Peter Berg's The Kingdom, with its feeble moral equivalence between jihadist zealots and the US army.

How weird and ironic, then, that the nearest thing we have to Wayne is also the best and most insightful anti-war film about Iraq: Kathryn Bigelow's blazingly powerful action movie The Hurt Locker, whose unpretentious clarity makes for a refreshing change. Bigelow is, in dramatic terms, on the side of the soldiers. She has a single location – Baghdad – and wants to find out what is going on inside the US combatants' hearts and minds. Debating the purpose and origins of the conflict is not the point. Yet, for my money, Bigelow says more about the agony and tragedy of war than all those earnest, well-meaning movies that sound as if they've been co-scripted by Josh and Toby from The West Wing.

So, my favorite moment of Hollywood's Big Night was Ben Stiller meandering out to deliver the award for Best Makeup in full bluefaced Na'vi guise.  Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were entirely unfunny, but Stiller had me rolling.


Anonymous said...

I was appalled at the production quality of last night's Oscar's, it was a mess! Guess the budget had to be reduced, I've seen high school productions that looked better.
I was happy to see that the awards got spread around and there wasn't just a sweep, especially with Avatar taking the sweeps. It's a gorgeous and fun movie but not really an important one, especially up against the likes of The Hurt Locker and Precious. I also really enjoyed Up as much as I enjoyed Avatar and for similar reasons.
Loved who won in every category of actor/supporting, love the win for first female director and that it was Streisand that got to give, love who won for best pic.


marigolds2 said...

I absolutely agree about the appalling production quality of the Oscars. It was the worst ever. I loved UP, far more than Avatar, which, the more I thought about it the less I liked it. It was way too long and way too preachy, there was no acting, it was all special effects, sound and fury signifying not much. I don't think I can see Precious, it looks far too painful. In a personal sort of way. Haven't seen The Blind Side, but I love Sandra Bullock and hope she deserved her award.

Happy to see you back visiting and commenting. Thanks.