It was when The Hurt Locker won Best Adapted Screenplay that the sweep began. A discerning viewer had only to wait for Best Editing to see where the Academy was going, even if it took a while to get there. If any love had been thrown Quentin’s way, it would have been there. But, no…By the time Hurt Locker won its first important showdown with Avatar— in Editing, where its differences were most stark (they’re two totally different styles: one completely pre-planned shot for shot, the other relying on thousands of feet of raw footage, cut together in post-production)—the direction of the night was inexorable. Throughout the season you could sense it at all the Academy events: Hurt Locker was gaining in momentum, and everything else was receding.
Apart from Kathryn appearing almost to ascend into heaven, hegira-like, with Marc Boal, her co-producer, beau, and screenwriter, having to grasp her tightly by the arm as if to tie her to earth as they eclipsed Avatar in the evenings topper, there were a few other stunners as well – most notably, the shut-out of Up in the Air, which seemed to have been a critics, and not an Academy picture.
The show did some overt pandering to what we call the four quadrants: it replaced the beloved (to women of a certain age – i.e. “upper female quadrant”) Hugh Jackman with a buddy comedy of older men (one funny, one-hottish); and it brought teen-throbs Taylor Lautner, Kristin Stewart and Miley Cyrus out for the lower male and female quadrants. But it couldn't overcome its Las Vegas showgirl clutter, particularly in its garish and unnecessary opening number, undercutting the excellence of the writing.
Some bloggers wagged that maybe Avatar lost Best Picture because the Academy still hates Cameron for his "King of the World" moment. But I think that’s wholly wrong. If The Hurt Locker hadn't captured the spirit of the kind of auteur film that Academy-type audiences learn most from and feel most connected to, Avatar surely would have won. Its way of connecting us urgently to our soldiers – the same soldiers who are standing behind the colonel in Avatar – simply felt newer.
The most important consequence of the Oscar Race is how it affects the movies we make, and in that regard, Avatar won before the awards were even doled out. There will not be hundreds of Iraq movies pitched this week. Three-dimensional extravaganzas on the other hand are the order of the decade, and perhaps beyond. With the record-shattering opening of Alice in Wonderland 3D on Oscar weekend (not even up to Avatar technology!) it seems as though the whole world has fallen down the 3D rabbit hole, and the industry is tumbling with it. One can foresee, given our industry’s customary “originality,” that we’ll now see 3D remakes of every movie ever made, from The Sound of Music to Terminator 5. Dead franchises will be reborn. And just maybe, with a little serendipity, a few great filmmakers will also make up some new stuff, borne of the essence of three-dimensionality.
WE HAD A LITTLE crime and punishment kerfuffle in town this week – one that ended up with the Academy meting out the cruel and unusual punishment of banning one of Hurt Locker’s four producers from the Oscar ceremony. The crime consisted of producer Nick Chartier having sent out a private email to his friends, exhorting them to vote for his little indie against that studio behemoth with all the power behind it (no names mentioned…)