Popespeed | Austin | Bringing the HurtHa! I love it.
So, Google News tells me that The Hurt Locker took home the big prize last night. (For the first time in years, I actually watched some of the Oscars, but no way can I last until the end of that marathon.) In recent weeks, popular opinion had it down to a two-film race: Locker vs. Avatar. Frankly, I was surprised the latter was even nominated, much less in the running for Best Picture, but then again seemingly half the movies that came out last year were in contention under the new 10-nominee system.
Now don't get me wrong; Avatar was as entertaining as anything I saw last year, but I am also entertained by water slides, yet I don't think they should be considered for Best Picture.
Austin and I were graduated from ND together, and he's recently started blogging. Go check out his stuff.
I don't think I agree with him about Hurt Locker, but he's a good dude and he definitely knows his movies.
So, just between [Avatar and The Hurt Locker], I think Hurt Locker was the better choice. I also think it was a very strange choice for Best Picture. Not necessarily wrong, just strange, considering how the Academy usually seems to operate. Unlike other "respected" war movies, it is not a broad political statement. Screenwriter Mark Boal says, "This isn’t about the diversity of opinions in Iraq...That would be a great subject for a movie that someone should do. But The Hurt Locker is about the daily life of bomb squad soldiers." And indeed, the vast bulk of the story is the main character going on mission after mission, pulling the viewer deeper into his world with set piece after thrilling, suspenseful set piece. The film is practically a clinic on how to shoot an exciting action movie. In the end, though, that's all it is: an action movie.I wouldn't characterize Hurt Locker as just an action movie. I haven't given much thought to how I would define "action movie," but I wouldn't put Hurt Locker in that bucket. (Not that I have anything against action movies, or genre movies in general. I love them.) Maybe where I see the difference is that the narrative of the movie is more about Jeremy Renner's character's weird psychological addiction to danger than it is about the dangerous actions themselves. To be sure, Bigelow is putting on a clinic about how to shoot action scenes, but I don't think this is really an action movie. Like I said though, I need to flesh out my theory of what an action movie is before I'm prepared to really defend that opinion.
Austin also raises good questions about The Hurt Locker's realism and politics. As far as the former, I find it pretty irrelevant to Best Picture status. What was the last Best Picture that was realistic? Schindler's List (1993) has taken it's fair share of criticism on the realism front. The Last Emperor in 1987? I've neither read the autobiography it was based on nor any criticism of the film, so I can't vouch for it, but I'm pretty sure none of the other winners in the last quarter century rivals those two for realism.
Concerning politics, I don't think Hurt Locker is making much of a statement one way or the other. I think the only evidence for that I need is that people on both Left and Right are convinced that it supports their narrative of Iraq, and others on both Left and Right are convinced it supports the other guys' narrative of Iraq. If they can't even agree whose side it's on (or isn't) then it can't be making much of a stand. And I'm okay with that. Just because setting or events are politically important doesn't mean that all stories told surrounding those events need to be political. There are plenty of good stories to tell about people in wars that don't have anything to do with the particulars of that specific war and its justifiability. I'd go so far as to say that most of the good stories you could tell in a war setting aren't about that particular conflict at all.