Saturday, 27 March 2010

Movies: The Academy Gets It Wrong, Again


Once again, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could not recognize true greatness when it stared them in the face. And this time, the greatness was in 3-D, no less.

For the Academy to vote for as The Hurt Locker as Best Picture ahead of Avatar demonstrates a straightforward lack of understanding of what defines greatness. It also demonstrates again that the Academy members are gullible enough to allow Oscar campaigns and a short-term perspective to completely cloud their judgment.

The Hurt Locker is a well-meaning but fairly routine war movie. Strip away the current context of the ongoing war in Iraq, and The Hurt Locker's significance as a movie fades into nothingness. Apocalypse Now, Coming Home, Full Metal Jacket, Hope and Glory, Born on the Fourth of July, Three Kings, Saving Private Ryan...modern war movies all, and a case (a very strong case, for some) can be made that these are all better movies than The Hurt Locker. None were selected as Best Picture.

On the other hand Avatar will be remembered for generations to come as the movie that redefined the art and the science of movie making. Not only will it be talked about as the most successful movie ever, it demonstrated what new 3-D technology is capable of, while creating an intricate new world unlike anything ever seen in the moves before, and effectively combining live acting with state of the art animation. Yes, the plot was corny and contrived in parts, but let's not enter that argument, since The Hurt Locker had no plot. And Avatar, at its essence, has either re-awakened or strengthened a message of environmental and native conservation without the preachiness of documentaries.

In other words, Avatar is a landmark film, that will stand the test of time. The Hurt Locker is, bluntly, not in the same league, and was not even the second best movie of the year; that honour goes to the thoughtful and understated Up In The Air.

Yes, the Oscars are the Academy's baby and they can choose to vote for whomever they want. It is just highly unfortunate that for such an influential industry and art-form, too many small minds who lack an understanding of the international and historical influence and scope of the movies get a vote.

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The Academy's choice of The Hurt Locker as Best Picture is a reminder of the truly terrible era between 1977 and 1998 when close to half of the Best Picture winners were overshadowed by better, more significant and in some cases great movies that did not win. Since 1999, the Best Picture winner had been a reasonably acceptable choice...until The Hurt Locker.

The more blatant examples of the Academy getting it wrong between 1977 and 1998:

1977: Annie Hall wins ahead of Star Wars.
1979: Kramer vs. Kramer wins ahead of Apocalypse Now.
1980: Ordinary People wins ahead of Raging Bull.
1981: Chariots of Fire wins ahead of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
1982: Gandhi wins ahead of E.T: The Extra Terrestrial.
1989: Driving Miss Daisy wins ahead of Born on the Fourth of July and Field of Dreams.
1990: Dances With Wolves wins ahead of Goodfellas.
1991: The Silence of the Lambs wins ahead of JFK.
1996: The English Patient wins ahead of Fargo.
1998: Shakespeare In Love wins ahead of Saving Private Ryan.

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