The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Mar5Filed under: Film, Oscars, Television; Tagged as: 2010 Oscar predictions, Avatar, Christoph Waltz, Christopher Plummer, Crazy Heart, District 9, George Clooney, Inglourious Basterds, James Cameron, Jane Campion, Jeff Bridges, Jeremy Renner, Julie & Julia, Kathryn Bigelow, Leo Tolstoy, Lina Wertmüller, Lost in Translation, Meryl Streep, Mo’Nique, Oscars, Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, Sandra Bullock, Scott Cooper, Seven Beauties, The Blind Side, The Hurt Locker, The Last Station, The Piano, Titanic, Up, Up in the Air
Expanding the field for the Academy Award for best picture from five films to 10 has made a major difference in this year’s Oscars: Instead of three movies no one is talking about, there are eight.
Even if the field had stayed small, this would still be a David-and-Goliath battle between all-time box-office champ Avatar, directed by Titanic’s James Cameron, and the scrappy indie flick The Hurt Locker, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, Cameron’s ex-wife.
The inclusion of some populist fare like The Blind Side, Up and District 9 might create a perception to casual viewers that these films are serious contenders. But everything you read out of Tinseltown says this is between Kathy and the Giant.
That’s what we say today. If something totally unexpected happens Sunday night like, say, football flick The Blind Side drives up the middle of a split vote and captures the top prize, then there might be all sorts of renewed chatter — and controversy — about this new format on Monday morning. But right now, it feels like the same ol’ party with a few more guests.
Yes, Avatar is the top-grossing movie of all time; has the cachet of Cameron, who has already won Oscars for best picture and best director; and will probably launch dozens of jokes about blue people from hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.
But the movie and its fans will have to be content with that, and a bunch of technical awards. There are two big reasons why The Hurt Locker should win this battle.
First, while Avatar won the Golden Globes for director and motion picture-drama, those awards are voted on by journalists. When it comes to actual filmmakers’ honors, The Hurt Locker has been getting all the love. The Writers Guild gave it best original screenplay, the Producers Guild gave it best producer and the Directors Guild named Bigelow best director.
Second, when you look at the nominations, Hurt Locker just looks like a best picture, and Avatar doesn’t. The big Kahuna is a science-fiction fantasy film, a genre that always has had a hard time winning upper-echelon Oscars. And the only other upper-tier award it’s nominated for is best director. It didn’t even get a screenplay nomination.
Meanwhile, Hurt Locker, about a bomb-defusing squad in the Iraq war, is nominated for two other major awards: original screenplay and actor, for star Jeremy Renner. Being based on actual events, it also has a stronger Oscar pedigree.
While Avatar looks like a towering giant here, Hurt Locker has the stones to win.
Cameron and Bigelow were married from 1989 to 1991, and now Bigelow is probably the best prospect ever to break the glass ceiling of the best director trophy and become the first woman to win the prize.
Three women have been nominated: Lina Wertmüller in 1976 for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion in 1993 for The Piano, and Sofia Coppola in 2003 for Lost in Translation.
This time, it would be even more surprising if Bigelow lost best director than if Hurt Locker lost best picture. You have the glass-ceiling factor, pretty harrowing stories about making the movie, general love for the film, and then that little ex-versus-ex story.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich