May 30, 2017

Ready for your closeup, Oscar


By ROBERT W. WELKOS
“The Hurt Locker” vs. “Avatar.”
Bullock vs. Streep.
Cameron vs. Bigelow.

If this sounds like matchups at a sporting event, well, the Academy Awards is all that and then some. Who was it who said the Oscars are women’s Super Bowl?

Well, a lot of men will be watching, too, on Sunday night when the envelopes are opened and the golden statuettes are handed out at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

The big contest, of course, is for best picture. Two heavyweight films that have wowed critics are vying for this title: the 3-D sci-fi yarn “Avatar,” the biggest grossing box office hit of all time, and the Iraq War-themed indie film, “The Hurt Locker,” which has walked off with a slew of pre-Oscar awards.

Will this be the year that Sandra Bullock proves she has acting chops to win an Academy Award for best actress in “The Blind Side?” The only one standing in her way seems to be perennial nominee Meryl Streep.

And what better plot twist could the Academy Awards hope for than a contest between former spouses James Cameron (“Avatar”) and Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) for best director?

This also is the year that veteran Jeff Bridges is considered to be a shoo-in for “Crazy Heart” in the best actor category.

By all appearances, this could be one of the most watched Academy Awards telecasts in years. That’s because “Avatar” has been such a draw around the world and also because the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences expanded the number of best picture nominees from five to 10, conferring nominations on films big and small, including sci-fi, drama, and animation. This year’s show is being hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.

The list of best picture nominees includes: “Avatar,” “The Hurt Locker,” “Inglourious Basterds,” “Up in the Air,” “Up,” “District 9,” “An Education,” “A Serious Man,” “Precious” and “The Blind Side.”

Christoph Waltz is the favorite to capture best supporting actor race for “Inglourious Basterds,” while Mo’Nique is favored to walk off with an Oscar for “Precious.”

Since the Oscars attracts television viewers from around the world, and film is truly a global business these days, foreign coverage of the Academy Awards has been intense. After all, readers from China to Lapland are eager to know everything they can about Oscars past and present.

The Daily Telegraph in London, for example, took a look back through Oscar history and found that the longest acceptance speech was not by Gwyneth Paltrow, but Greer Garson, winner of best actress in 1943 for “Mrs. Miniver.”

“Her rambling thanks clocked in at a remarkable five minutes and 15 seconds, whereupon she burst into tears,” the Telegraph reported. “This year, winners’ speeches are limited to just 45 seconds.”

The film critic for Toronto’s Globe and Mail found that “the fact that there were three sci-fi films nominated this year was unprecedented. A science fiction film has never won the best picture prize, which some say, is one factor against “Avatar” taking in. But this year, with the ten nominees, and “Avatar” as the biggest box office success in history, sort of re-writes the rules.?

The Jerusalem Post predicts “The Hurt Locker” will win best picture, but added that “the spoiler in this category could be Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.”

Even the Arab-language website, Aljazeera.net, is weighing in on the Academy Awards, noting the competition for best picture seems to be between “Avatar” and “The Hurt Locker.”

But then Aljazeera.net adds: “Despite the variety of films on this year’s list, critics say the Hollywood movie industry has lost its edge.”

Everyone, it seems, has an opinion about movies when the Oscars roll around.

About Robert W. Welkos

Executive Editor: Robert W. Welkos is an award-winning journalist who covered the entertainment industry for 15 years as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. During this span, he wrote extensively about the movie industry from turmoil in the executive suites, the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and box office hits and bombs to visits to movie sets as well as profiles of top stars and A-list directors, cutting edge features on the newest indie films and visits to famous film festivals like Sundance and Cannes. Prior to entertainment, Welkos worked as a reporter and assistant city editor in The Times’ Metro section where he undertook major investigations for the paper as well as covering breaking news and writing in-depth features. Before joining The Times, he worked for the Associated Press in Reno, Nevada, and City News Service in Los Angeles.

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One Comment

  • March 6, 2010 | Permalink |

    The Hurt Locker must win. What a great piece of superb filmmaking. Avatar is more like a very nice cgi movie, not old style filmmaking.

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