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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Oscars: Why the Hurt Locker should blow up Avatar

Avatar has a terrifyingly good chance at winning best picture this year. 12 years ago, James Cameron won best picture for Titanic, and it was only months later that people began to regret that decision. If Avatar wins, I won’t be surprised. It has been called a revolution in cinema – mostly because of the effective 3D CGI special effects. However, beginning with the opening shots where we first see the planet Pandora (which is a name that needs to stop being abused), all I could think about was how similar the experience was to seeing Endor from Return of the Jedi for the first time. In fact, some of the airships reminded me of Star Destroyers. Even the idea of the living planet and world-connected religion is not too far removed from “the Force.” The difference is George Lucas had to fight to get funding for his original Star Wars, forcing him to develop clever techniques and new technology in order to film space battles with the intensity he envisioned (and the original Star Wars trilogy has some of the best space battles that have ever been put on screen, even when put up against the best computer generated effects, especially the battles in Avatar which are surprisingly dull and ill-conceived) – James Cameron merely amassed a large enough budget so that he could throw money at whatever problems he faced until the cracks were covered up. This film is not a revolution in cinema. Though the 3D creates a great feel for the world, it’s merely a cosmetic distraction. There’s virtually little on the face of the film – a clichéd story, unlikable and poorly developed characters, poor acting and dialogue – and no amount of 3d and CGI can cover that up. This movie is not a revolution in the way that Star Wars was: it’s merely an evolution. It’s the growth of Hollywood, a world where money makes the movie. Avatar builds on this monster, getting bigger and fatter (did it really cost more than half a billion to make?) and adapting itself to the best of current technology. But not reinventing it. Avatar is an evolution, not a revolution. Not that a revolution is the requisite for best picture. What is ultimately necessary for a great picture is that it moves you spiritually in some way. Star Wars imbued us all with the story of a farm boy who dreams of moving on to bigger things – it’s something we can relate to on a personal level. A great movie can change you in some way – it can make you see your world through a different lens. In The Hurt Locker, we’re given life through the lens of fear, anxiety, depression, and are given a glimpse into the world of a PTSD stricken, adrenaline addicted soldier. From the very first scene, I was knocked into submission by the mere potential of danger. This fear that something will go wrong in this astonishing Iraq War narrative persists in every frame of the film. The direction, cinematography, script, and acting are all world-class. This is director Kathryn Bigelow’s masterpiece. And what a masterpiece it is! Amazingly, the film does not make any grand statement about war – it’s an entirely neutral look at the American military power. Yet, it’s sympathetic to the individuals, both American and Iraqi. I typically have mixed feelings about war, but after seeing The Hurt Locker, I suffered, quite literally, survivor’s guilt. I couldn’t believe that there are people fighting for their lives while I live in peace and safety, attending something so superficial as college. This movie made me feel like a coward and a waste. What a spectacular film! That is why I have to say The Hurt Locker must win over Avatar. Bigelow’s film left me shaken and questioning, Cameron’s movie left me stale and unmoved. This Oscar year, it’s a fight against the Hollywood money-juggling juggernaut. It’s hardly worth talking about the other films, as, considering the hype, it sounds like these are the two contenders. Sure, Inglourious Basterds – Quentin Tarantino’s most uneven and unambitious film – stands a shot at the best picture, director, and original screenplay categories. Not to mention that the best supporting actor award will, without any doubt, go to Christoph Waltz for his inspired portrayal of the multilingual Nazi hunter Hans Landa. It’s a stunning, vicious, maniacal performance that steals every scene. Watch this movie simply for Hans Landa, especially the opening scene. But the film is ultimately flat, poorly edited, and uninspiring (unlike the underrated Kill Bill – a favorite of mine). Up in the Air, Precious, An Education, and A Serious Man will cancel each other out during the voting process. District 9 simply isn’t an Oscar movie, despite being a great film. The Blind Side is lucky for the nomination. Up will win best animated feature, so we have little to worry about when it doesn’t win for overall picture. I’m disappointed that the Oscars opened up the Best Picture category to ten nominees. Of course, maybe I’m just upset that Hollywood is still struggling to make ten great films a year. Last year, The Dark Knight should have won, and the Oscars realize this – that’s why it opened up to ten nominees. Unfortunately, it seems like this year’s blockbuster, Avatar, which is not anywhere near the quality of last years masterful superhero flick, has too good a chance at taking the highest honor. I love Hollywood, they’ve made the best films of all time back in the early and mid-20th century. American cinema is untouchable. Unfortunately, Hollywood has become deformed, a monster, a money-spewing leviathan. Once upon a time Hollywood worked. Someday I think it will come back to it’s former glory. Avatar may get the award, that wouldn’t be surprising. But, you know what, I really do think The Hurt Locker will pull out a win. It’s a better film, one of the best last decade. It’s a passionate work, a necessary piece of cinema. It deserves to win.