So of course, there will be those who will complain about how the Oscar voters are yet again completely out of touch with general public opinion. How the voters aways reward dark independent movies that nobody has heard of, let alone seen. How the voters are ivy-tower snoots who are only willing to grant riches to elitist, high-brow movies that Joe Public would never enjoy. And so forth. To all of those people, I have only one thing to say. Please just go watch The Hurt Locker. If the experience does not change your mind, by all means protest, but I seriously doubt you will after seeing the film.
The Hurt Locker won not because it was a war movie. Or because it was tailor-made to engage the pretentious elite. Or because there was an active movement to snub the popular vote for Avatar. It won simply because it was truly the best of the ten movies nominated this year.
And this was not a film that was made with the explicit intention to tow the intelligentsia vote. Brooks Barnes reports in the New York Times today that that "On (The Hurt Locker's) opening weekend in two theaters in New York, screenwriter, Mark Boal — now an Oscar winner — stood on street corners with his teenage nephew handing out free tickets to passersby with the idea that if they could stack the house, perhaps the theater owners would book it for another week." It struggled for its existence, and for distribution, from the start. And in less than a year, it won 'Best Picture'. If this isn't a Cinderella story I don't know what is. This was not a prestigious art-house film that came with a built-in viewer demographic. At a time when nobody wanted to spend their hard-earned ten dollars on watching a movie about the war, this film slowly built its reputation by word of mouth. Even as there has been no precedent for a commercially successful Iraq war movie in the past several years, The Hurt Locker got made because the film-makers were passionate about their story and needed to tell it. Here is a good blog entry on this topic: http://www.desipundit.com/baradwajrangan/2010/03/08/oscar-2010/
What I liked about this Oscars telecast:
- The expansion of the Best Movie nominees to ten films instead of five
- The verbal recognition of Best Lead Actor (Male and Female) nominees by their own colleagues and in their own words. In a way, this was like giving a prize to every nominee, to provide public acknowledgment of their work by their peers. Very classy.
- The extra time spent on all four of the acting categories which involved a return to showing film clips for each of the nominees.
- Sandra Bullock's acceptance speech. Few things are more endearing than graciousness, and she was very gracious. Also the acceptance speech by Michael Giacchino, who won for Best Score (for 'Up'); when most other winners spent precious time on endless names of people they would like to thank (even when the Academy now allows winners to do so in a separate acceptance speech for the press after their win), Giacchino took time to ask kids who were being told that what they were doing was a waste of time "to get out there and do it; it is NOT a waste of time". A truly inspiring moment in a ceremony that was often uninspired.
- Kathryn Bigelow's (what seemed like genuine) surprise at becoming the first woman to win a Best Director trophy.
What I disliked about this Oscars telecast:
- The art deco set for the stage, which seemed to limit the possibilities for what could be done on the stage instead of enhancing them.
- That the hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were merely adequate. I had hoped for comedic genius from those two, and got something that was content with being just a tad better than mediocre. In their defense, I did laugh a lot at the 'damn Helen Mirren' joke.
- The tediously long dance montage set to the Best Musical Score nominations. Would it not have been better to spend the time instead on a short, crisp compilation of best nominated song performances?
- That Quentin Tarantino had to be content with a single win (Best Supporting Actor) for this movie, and that he did not receive the Best Original Screenplay prize.