Pandora Boxed Out: Avatar and James Cameron get defused by The Hurt Locker and Cameron’s ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman ever to win Best Director
POOR James Cameron. The man who has directed the top two moneymaking films of all time just suffered a crushing blow: The film that he spent ten years making did not win the Academy Award for Best Picture, and he did not win the Award for Best Director. Not only that, but he got beat by his ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow. Is this God’s way of telling you that you’ve had enough success already?
Avatar did win Awards for Cinematography, Art Direction, and Special Effects, but Bigelow’s Hurt Locker won SIX of the nine Awards for which it was nominated, including Writing, Editing, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing. And its win for Directing is the one that made History.
It is hard to believe that if the Director of Precious had won, he would have been the first Black winner, and it’s just as stunning that no Woman had won before Bigelow. The first female was nominated about 35 years ago, but it took this taut, gritty thriller about a Bomb Disposal unit in Iraq — definitely NOT a chick flick — to break the great gender barrier.
Besides Locker upstaging Avatar, the night went very much as expected, with almost all the Awards going to the same actors who won the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, etc. However, Meryl Streep did NOT win for Julie & Julia — Instead, she was Blindsided by Sandra Bullock, the Marisa Tomei of 2010.
The Show itself was entertaining, with no excruciatingly long, sappy, or political acceptance speeches, but with an excellent Horror Movie Montage, and a moving tribute to the recently-departed John Hughes, Director of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, and many more 80’s classics. The Broadcast got off to a shaky start, with a tacky Song & Dance by Doogie Howser, but was quickly saved by a hilarious, roast-like “mono” -logue by co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.
Of course, the most important thing that happened, was that a long drought ended, a glass ceiling was shattered, and just like with Halle Berry, hopefully, a whole segment of the population will be encouraged to follow their (cinematic) dreams. It’s a landmark victory that was a long time coming, and hopefully next year, the color line will also be broken.
Now as for who really “deserved” it: Cameron deserves a special award for the ten-year process that he oversaw, the technology that he pushed ahead, and the popularity of the finished product. And Avatar is a much more enjoyable movie-going experience for the masses. It would not have been “wrong” for Avatar to win Best Picture. But when it comes to Directing, the fact that the performances in Avatar were so electronically engineered makes it seem like something different than coaxing a performance out of human actors. The Avatar CGI effects WERE actually built on real performances, but since it looks “drawn,” it doesn’t feel as naturally Directed, on a human, emotional level.
Meanwhile, the Direction in Hurt Locker is traditionally strong, but not heavy-handed. Bigelow (who also directed Point Break) doesn’t overdo the scary music in Locker, she doesn’t rely on Tarantino-like phony gore (just for shock value), and she doesn’t overly-sentimentalize the characters into cliches. And the other key is the pacing. Most audience members are on the edge of their seats throughout. On that note, it is a little hard to watch. It’s “enjoyable” as a quality film, but it is hard to enjoy the process of watching characters you like continuously facing imminent deadly explosions. It’s NOT like James Bond, where you don’t REALLY have to worry about him getting lasered in the crotch, even if Goldfinger expects him to die.
Below are a half-dozen photos celebrating Girl Power, because Oscar fits Bigelow to a Tea. Click on them to ZOOM IN.