‘Locker’ explodes onto Oscar scene
The best picture category this year was both surprising and predictable. The biggest surprise came June 24 when the academy announced that there would be 10 best picture nominees instead of the customary five. This has not been done since 1943 when Casablanca won.
This change in number of nominees allowed a large amount of more mainstream and genre films to enter the race, drastically changing the overall composition of candidates. There were of course the critically acclaimed intellectual films; Up in the Air, Precious and The Hurt Locker. But there was also room for space alien refugees, Nazi killing bastards, an inspirational football story and even an animated film.
This was yet another astounding new development, since an animated film hasn’t been nominated for best picture since Beauty and The Beast in 1991. But even with Up! in the mix, most experts ignored the hustle and bustle over 10 nominees as they speculated on the only two candidates anyone was talking about, Avatar and The Hurt Locker.
The David and Goliath story of this year’s awards, unsurprisingly, ended up being the biggest victors of the night. Avatar, the biggest blockbuster of the year and highest grossing film of all time versus the massive critical acclaim of this year’s low budget war thriller The Hurt Locker.
Adding on to this competition was the well-known fact that Avatar director James Cameron and The Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow were previously married. This of course added a seething tension on top of everything else.
Most experts saw The Hurt Locker as an obvious lock for the award following its sweep of almost all other award shows this year, but there was always the ominous looming presence of Avatar’s massive overwhelming popularity, technical prowess and record breaking profits, right on the horizon.
And then the night came. Both films were nominated for nine awards. As the night grinded on both The Hurt Locker and Avatar got their share of awards, as the night wound down to its biggest awards The Hurt Locker led by only one award. Then came the final two Oscars of the night; Best Director and Best Film.
There was a lot of lip service given to the fact that if Bigelow won Best Director she would be the first women to receive the award so there was even a possibility of The Hurt Locker’s success being a groundbreaking new development in the award show. And then Bigelow won Best Director.
A surprised and nervous Bigelow walked onto the stage and, through heavy breaths, thanked various people in the production and made a passionate dedication to the brave men and women in our military.
Just as quickly as Bigelow made it past the curtains to back stage, Tom Hanks briskly walked up to the podium and, very obviously pressing through to finish in time, opened the letter and read the name inside. This prompted Bigelow to immediately return to the stage from the curtain she had just disappeared behind and stager forward awestruck to receive her Best Picture award. Most of the speech made was from The Hurt Locker writer Mark Boal and producer Greg Shapiro, while an obviously surprised Bigelow could only bring herself to make yet another dedication to men and women in uniform, adding hazmat, firefighters and police to the list.
So, the academy had made its decision. No matter how technically proficient and massively successful, you can’t win a best picture award for retelling Dances With Wolves using blue cat people. Bigelow and company left with six of the biggest awards of the night while Avatar only received three technical awards, none of which received by Cameron himself. Leaving James Cameron with no other choice but to run home where he could dry his tears with hundred dollar bills courtesy of Avatar’s over $2 billion gross.