The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
Accepting his Oscar for best original score for Up, Michael Giacchinio talked about how he used to get his dad’s movie camera and make little movies, and noted that his parents never discouraged his creativity.
That came back to mind watching The Hurt Locker walk off with six Academy Awards Sunday night.
What Oscar-winning, glass-ceiling-shattering director Kathryn Bigelow and her crew were doing in Hollywood terms was something akin to kids making movies with dad’s camera.
The Hurt Locker was made for $15 million, less than the cost of the marquee star on many Hollywood films. And with $14.7 million in gross box office receipts, it is the least popular best picture winner ever, according to Box Office Mojo — kind of ironic considering this new 10-film best picture field was designed to give more popular movies a chance. Of course, to achieve this, Hurt Locker beat out the most expensive, top-grossing film ever, Avatar.
That The Hurt Locker was even seen was something of a miracle, Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal pointed out in accepting the Best Picture honor. Oscars? Sharing the stage with something like Avatar, or even Up or The Blind Side? Those were not even on the radar.
In creative endeavors, money is no doubt important. It can buy you all sorts of resources and smooth the road ahead. But talent and passion are even more critical.
The record books are littered with expensive flops, be they movies, Broadway shows, operas or even sports teams. And our cultural history includes many timeless works that came from the pens and brush strokes of paupers.
The Hurt Locker and other stories of Oscar night, like Gabourey Sidibe’s nominated turn in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, should give anyone pause who has ever wanted to do something creative but let money stop them. Do you have the talent, and do you have the creativity, specifically creativity to accomplish your goals with the resources available?
The Hurt Locker is the latest example of the fact that it can be done.
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.
Feb2Filed under: Film, George Clooney, Oscars; Tagged as: Anna Kendrick, Avatar, Crazy Heart, District 9, George Clooney, Golden Globes, James Cameron, Jason Reitman, Jeff Bridges, Kathryn Bigelow, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Oscar, Scott Cooper, Screen Actors Guild Award, Seabiscuit, Sheldon Turner, Simpatico, Star Trek, Syriana, The Blind Side, The Dark Night, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, Up, Up in the Air, Vera Farmiga
Lexington native George Clooney is once again an Oscar nominee, this year for Up in the Air, a movie that got a lot of love from the Academy when nominations were announced on Tuesday morning.
The film, about a man who has untethered himself from any personal commitments, also got nods for best picture, best supporting actress for Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, best director for Jason Reitman, and best adapted screenplay for Reitman and Sheldon Turner. It is the third acting nomination for Clooney, who won best supporting actor in 2005 for “Syriana” and was also nominated for best actor in 2007 for “Michael Clayton.” He was also nominated for best director and screenplay in 2005 for “Good Night, and Good Luck.”
In addition to “Up in the Air,” Clooney’s “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” was nominated for best animated feature.
If precedent-setting awards are any indicator though, Clooney will probably end up applauding Jeff Bridges on Oscar night, March 7. The veteran actor, who filmed two movies in the Lexington area in the last several years, “Simpatico” (1999) and “Seabiscuit” (2003), has already picked up the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award among several other honors for his performance as an aging country musican in “Crazy Heart.” The movie, which is scheduled to open Friday in Lexington, also has Kentucky ties in writer and director Scott Cooper, who grew up in Somerset. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a reporter who interviews Bridges’ character, also earned a nomination for best supporting actor.
That’s the local interest in Oscar, though the world will be buzzing about the Academy’s new 10-feature slate of best picture nominees, and which blockbusters made it in along with the art-house fare that has dominated the category the past decade.
Among the surprises was “The Blind Side,” Sandra Bullock’s based-on-a-true-story film about a man who rises from poverty to become a professional football player. The hit joined “District 9″ and “Up,” also nominated for best animated feature, as films the Academy hopes will draw more viewers to Oscars, which have suffered declining ratings in recent years.
The best picture contest though seems to come down to a David-and-Goliath race between James Cameron’s “Avatar,” now the all-time box office champ, and his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow’s low-budget “The Hurt Locker.” If Bigelow beats her ex in the best director race, it will be the first time a woman has won the Oscar for best director.
Despite 10 nominees for best picture, there are some notable snubs, primarily “The Hangover,” which was a surprise winner of the Golden Globe for best picture comedy or musical. It also would have brought some populist interest to Oscar as “Hangover” is the highest grossing R-rated comedy in history. Of course the whole 10-picture, let’s-get-more-blockbusters-in-the-race thing started when critically acclaimed Batman film “The Dark Knight” was shut out last year. This year’s well-received “Star Trek” reboot was expected to be the best shot at a franchise film making it into the race, but it was left out of the running.
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