My friend called me yesterday after finally seeing The Hurt Locker. Most of the adults I know in my world hadn’t even heard of the film, let alone seen it. They’d had heard of it mostly in terms of “Cameron’s ex-wife was competing with him in the awards race.” My friend said, “I finally figured it out. I finally figured out why The Hurt Locker keeps winning everything even though it only made $12 million at the box office.” I thought she was going to say “because she’s a woman?” But she said, “it’s advocacy. They want people to see this movie so much that they think it’s worth taking a risk on it and naming it the winner even though the vast majority of the US, and the world, have not yet seen this movie. And after last night, when the film they thought was going to win didn’t, they may develop a silly grudge and never want to see it anyway. Here’s to hoping they won’t be that stupid.
The Hurt Locker didn’t make a lot of money. Some diligent commenter dragged out a stat that it’s the lowest grossing film in 51 years. Well, guess what? Avatar would have been the first film since 1931 to win without acting or writing nominations. So I’m thinking that 79 trumps 51.
We can think up many reasons why we think Avatar lost, but they are all wrong. The Hurt Locker won for one simple reason: it was a better film.¬† It’s a shame we have to choose at all, really. Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds – for that matter, District 9, In the Loop, An Education, A Serious Man, Up, and Up in the Air are all great films.
The Academy are going to take a lot of heat for their choice to award a film no one has seen, but I hope that means more people see it. It is, to me, bigger than the fact that a woman directed it. It is one of those films that comes along once every decade maybe – strong on character and story, vivid direction – thoughtful interpretation of these three memorable people.
I’m not opening this up to start another post about Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker or Inglourious Basterds. But reading through the comments I see people saying that the Academy will regret this decision, or they let down the public or whatever. If I thought, truly thought, that Avatar was a better film I would agree. I didn’t.¬† If I truly thought Inglourious Basterds was better, I might be inclined to think they “made a mistake.” I didn’t. Readers of this site know this to be true.
So, if you want to criticize their choices, do so on your own behalf. Please don’t speak for the American people. They deserve what they get after ushering in The Bachelor with such high ratings. Let’s not let the general public speak for us when it comes to quality over economic success. Movies like Avatar are always going to make money. Hopefully The Hurt Locker’s win will continue the great run of great films the Academy has decided to honor despite the money, despite the ratings. And it will inspire so many more people to raise money to make the film they want to make instead of the one that has a bankable star, a fuckable leading lady, and enough costly special effects to power a 3rd world country for a year.
If we look at this race as a battle for the future of filmmaking in Hollywood, I’d say that the independent spirit is alive and well. I’d say that nuts and bolts filmmaking is still a more appealing medium to artists.
I really don’t think, in the end, that voters chose the film for any of the reasons we impose upon them: she’s the first woman, they don’t like motion-capture, they are fighting for the future of Hollywood. In the end, I think they chose the best film, no matter how much it cost, no matter how much it made.
I don’t see how you flip that coin and come up with a negative. Watch The Hurt Locker. If you didn’t get it the first time, watch it again. I promise you, eventually you will see what all of the fuss is about.