The Hurt Locker

I finally saw the Best Picture of 2009. It’s good, maybe even great. It has some inaccuracies that I’m sure drive genuine Iraqi vets up the wall (one particular sequence, in which the soldiers run around in the dark without using their night vision, was particularly egregious). But as an action-thriller, it works very well, held together mainly by the lead performance and exquisite directing.

I note the IMDB rating is rather low (7.9) for such an acclaimed film and Amazon’s review are a bit mixed. It ranks around Iron Man and Frost/Nixon for 2008, the year it was technically released. That seems about right to me, actually. Right now, I rate it an 8. Good, but not Great.

What puzzles me is why this won Best Picture. It’s a good movie, but it’s in the same category as District 9 and Avatar, two fellow nominees whose presence also puzzles me. It’s an action movie; a “guy movie”, really. It doesn’t have a great deal of artistic merit and it’s unlikely to be remembered as an all-time classic. I liked it better than Up or Inglorious Basterds and haven’t seen the other films. But some strike me as being more in traditional Oscar territory.

So why did it win? Was it really that great a picture? I don’t think so. I think Hurt Locker’s victory can be attributed to two factors.

1) Many people didn’t want Avatar to win and stampeded to the alternative. And if they gave the middle finger to Cameron by decorating his ex-wife, all the better. (I don’t think it bothered Cameron at all, though. I’m sure he’s crying all the way to the bank.)

2) I think many Academy members didn’t watch the movie and figured that it must make a statement against the Iraq War (which it doesn’t).

In short, it strikes me as a victory of Hollywood politics.

The politicization of award season has really stopped bothering me anymore. I was furious when the mediocre Shakespeare in Love triumphed over the amazing Saving Private Ryan. But ever since Lord of the Rings won the Oscar, my interest has waned.

And I really don’t think that’s a bad thing. What point do the Oscars serve anymore, other than for Hollywood to worship itself? Critic’s top ten lists are online. Places like metacritic will merge them into a big list for you. Rotten Tomatoes compiles reviews. IMDB compiles user ratings. Hurt Locker is one of the rare films that got a boost from winning the award. But it’s not like no one would have heard of it otherwise. Maybe I only have 50% of the X chromosomes needed to appreciate the “elegance” and “spectacle” of the awards show, but even those who have a full complement seem to be getting bored with it.

(And as an aside, I had to turn off the Oscars during the actor’s award presentations. It’s intolerable to watch each actor get some worshipful paragraph read to them by another actor. Give me a fucking break. These are actors, not miracle workers. No matter how good Meryl Streep is, it’s not like she cured cancer.)

Anyway, the movie is good. I may be even buy it. And in the end, that’s all that matters: whether people watch it and keep watching it in the future. Awards come and go. Art remains.

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