The Hurt Locker Slams Avatar

That was the take-away from last Sunday night’s broadcast of the 82nd Academy Awards ceremony from the Kodak Theatre [sic] in Hollywood, California. But what a surprise! Avatar, after all, was the film with the great special effects (blue people!) that since its release a few short months ago (December 2009) has already become the #1 highest-grossing film of all time. And then The Hurt Locker – who ever heard of that? Pre-Oscar, it had earned only $14.7 million, 50 times less than Avatar!

Nonetheless, The Hurt Locker clearly came out on top last Sunday night, in a classic David-vs.-Goliath encounter. But why? Uffe Christensen of Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten has devoted a bit of thought to this question (together with considerably more energy in tracking down scattered opinions from the Web), and presents his findings in Days afterward: Hollywood is astonished.

According to Christensen, here is why The Hurt Locker prevailed:

  1. It’s not any sort political film, just a band-of-buddies movie.
  2. It’s a film with a powerful message about the Iraq War. (I know, this conflicts directly with #1 above but, like I said, Christensen is throwing together here all the opinions he has been able to find or think up himself).
  3. It didn’t matter that the film has not earned that much at the box office (yet); in fact, Oscar juries tend to be perverse to the point of even giving such “obscure” firms a slight voting edge.
  4. The Bigelow angle: here was a chance to be very PC and award the first female film director of note with a bunch of awards in a very public forum!

Or maybe it was not so much that The Hurt Locker won as that Avatar lost. Here are some ways that movie might have been disadvantaged:

  1. The very nature of the Oscar jury might have doomed Avatar’s chances. They are described here, in an direct quote from Time Magazine, as “older, politically liberal and artistically conservative” – especially artistically conservative, as Christensen reminds us with the tale of how the iconic Citizen Kane, after all, was beaten across the board at the 1942 Awards by How Green Was My Valley.
  2. Avatar is, after all, a sci-fi film, and those never win. Plus, it’s much too grandiose anyway, and the jury doesn’t like that.
  3. Cameron is a blowhard – the jury was ready to do anything, to violate any standard of artistic judgment, just to spare itself having to witness what inevitably would have been an arrogant, ego-driven acceptance speech from him up there on that Kodak Theatre [sic] stage.

There you go: hope you find something you like. And then, for an interesting alternate analysis of why The Hurt Locker beat Avatar, in English, you can go here. And for the essay which most of you have probably already seen about why anyone with ground combat experience thinks rather little of The Hurt Locker, its many Oscars notwithstanding, you can go here.

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