Because it’s a better movie, stupid.

Since Kathryn Bigelow’s $11 million dollar movie The Hurt Locker won the Oscar yesterday, there have been lots of ‘how could this happen’ and ‘why this happened’…and every single one of them seems to have missed the point.  Why did The Hurt Locker beat Avatar?  Because it’s a better movie.

First, let’s talk about plot.  As in Avatar has a plot that is part Dances with Wolves, part Last Samurai, and definitely part The Smurfs.  The fact of the matter is, while there have been questions about the veracity of Bigelow’s film, at least the story is original.  James Cameron, on the other hand, hasn’t written an original plot ever (no, he didn’t write The Terminator…which may explain why it was better written than most of his movies).  Titanic?  A rehash of an old plotline — rich girl meets poor boy, falls in love, and there are obstacles.  Uh huh.  I think that’s been done.  At least Boal’s screenplay for The Hurt Locker wasn’t a remake of Far and Away.  And as I was reminded, the whole girl-meets-boy/environmental catastrophe looming scenario has also been done…it was called Fern Gully, and I still own a VHS tape of it.  Tim Curry was way scarier, by the way.

Second, let’s talk about special effects.  OOOH.  AAAH.  Gosh, that was pretty.  But pretty doesn’t win Oscars, now, does it?  Tim Burton’s films have been gorgeous and wonderful all along, and keep losing to Pixar films (although admittedly, I loved Up so much it’s not funny).  But after the whole motion-capture, blue people, black light planet thing (and yeah, I’ll give you the Floating Mountains — very cool), really, weren’t you more impressed by how District 9 incorporated fully digital aliens into a documentary-style film?  I certainly was.  Much harder to naturally light digital creations than make EVERYTHING up.

And finally, let’s talk about why more people watched the Oscars last night than any time in the last five years.  I personally watched it hoping Avatar wouldn’t win.  Why?  Because it was riddled with problems.  Because James Cameron is an ass who makes movies that just prove how big his ego is, and how small his imagination.  Here’s just a partial list of my issues with Avatar (beyond the dreadfully overdone plot):

  1. the mishmash of native cultures simultaneously made heroes out of them, and belittled them as technologically backward, badly clothed ‘freaks’ of nature.
  2. the extended blacklight scene made me remember all of those blacklight posters I bought from Spencer’s back in the 80s.  Why would I want to remember that?!
  3. the fact that Sully repeatedly talked about how he was ‘freed’ from his disability when out with the Na’vi minimized the hardships faced by those who are in wheelchairs, while at the same time positing that they are somehow lesser for being unable to run.  We never see a Na’vi who is incapable of walking, which begs the question of what Cameron’s ‘global’ vision — he claims to have thought of a whole past history and culture for the Na’vi — says about that.  Did they abandoned their disabled?  It’s not clear, and certainly not PC (see #1).
  4. the portrayal of the military as all bad, the Na’vi as all good, and the scientists as WAY more involved than any good xenobiologist should ever be.  While I love watching Stephen Lang chew scenery as much as the next person, the idea that the military was hand in hand with the mining company bothered me.  And Sigourney Weaver’s character having absolutely no distance between herself and the subjects she was studying?  How is that good science?
  5. on a more personal note, can we just have a moment to talk about the whole ‘tails’ thing?  Totally creepy.

So yeah.  I was glad when Cameron lost.  When his big, giant, behemoth of a movie lost to his ex-wife’s little movie.  That his ex-wife became the first woman to win an Oscar for directing — for a war movie — is an irony I find incredibly delicious.

And of course, for those who don’t buy a damned thing I’ve said here, well, let me just say this:  Avatar was a sci-fi movie.  And as all the pundits say, sci-fi movies never do very well at the Oscars.

Published in: on March 8, 2010 at 8:29 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. I’ve not seen either of them yet (the whole insane rehearsal schedule thing), but the library has The Hurt Locker on DVD, and I plan to join the waiting list once I am show-free. Over the past few years, the ‘best’ films I’ve seen have not really been films that I’d have thought of as my sort of film. Body of Lies and Lions for Lambs, for instance. I’m hoping that The Hurt Locker will also grab me.

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