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.