“The Hurt Locker” crushes “Avatar”
BY ROBERT W. WELKOS
Decades from now, Hollywood may still be debating the events that unfolded Sunday night at the 82nd annual Academy Awards and wondering how David came to slay Goliath?
How did “The Hurt Locker,” a small, independent film about a bomb disposal squad in the Iraq War made on a shoestring budget, manage to crush “Avatar,” the biggest box office movie in history?
“The Hurt Locker” captured six Oscars overall, including best picture, director and original screenplay. It also made cinema history for its director, Kathryn Bigelow, who became the first woman in the 82-year history of the Academy Awards to win best director.
Bigelow, the fourth woman ever nominated for director, called her win “the moment of a lifetime.”
While “The Hurt Locker” and “Avatar” were considered the favorites going into the evening, each having picked up key wins in the previous months, it still came as a surprise when “The Hurt Locker” dominated the evening.
Adding to the uncertainty was the fact that for the first time since 1943, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had expanded the list of best picture nominees from five to 10 films. The last time this had happened, “Casablanca” had captured best picture.
In a twist of irony, Bigelow and Cameron were once married to each other and all during the awards season they had battled it out to see who would receive the most honors either as director or for their films. Cameron previously won the Oscar for his blockbuster hit “Titanic.” Bigelow was only the fourth woman nominated for best director.
When the envelope was opened and Bigelow’s name was read as best director, Cameron, who was seated directly behind her at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, stood and applauded and could be observed saying, “Yes, yes.”
If Bigelow and “The Hurt Locker” provided historical dramatics to this year’s Academy Awards, Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock provided emotional tugs to heartstrings.
The 60-year-old Bridges won best actor for his role as a heavy-drinking country singer in “Crazy Heart.” It was his first Oscar win after losing out on four previous nominations stretching back decades.
Looking toward the rafters of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, the bearded, good-natured son of screen star Lloyd Bridges raised his golden statuette in one arm and said, “Thank you, Mom and Dad, for turning me on to such a groovy profession.”
Recalling how his father would teach his the basics of acting while sitting on the bed at night and how his mother would have her children entertain at parties, Bridges added: “They loved showbiz so much, I feel an extension of them. This is honoring them as much as it is me.”
Bullock, viewed as America’s Sweetheart in so many romantic comedies throughout her career, seemed genuinely stunned when Sean Penn opened the envelope and read her name. The Kodak’s celebrity-studded crowd stood and applauded as she took the stage to accept the Oscar for her performance in “The Blind Side” as a suburban mom who takes in a homeless black youth and helps turn him into a pro football player.
“Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?” Bullock deadpanned, alluding to the long awards campaign season she had just been through.
Mo’Nique won best supporting actress for “Precious,” in which she played an abusive mother of an illiterate, overweight grown daughter.
“I would like to thank the academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics,” said Mo’Nique, also giving thanks to Hattie McDaniel, the first black actress to win an Oscar for supporting actress in the 1939 classic “Gone with the Wind.”
The Austrian-born Christoph Waltz won best supporting actor for “Inglourious Basterds”
“Hurt Locker” screenwriter Mark Boal won the Oscar for original screenplay. He called Bigelow an “extraordinary and visionary filmmaker.”
Best animated film went to “Up,” the third-straight time Disney’s Pixar Animation had won feature animation.
“Never did I dream that making a flip-book out of my third-grade math book would lead to this,” said “Up” director Pete Docter, whose film also won for best musical score.
Argentina’s “The Secret in Their Eyes” won for foreign-language film, while “The Cove,” an investigation of dolphin kills in Japan, won for best feature-length documentary.
“Crazy Heart” won for original song with its theme tune “The Weary Kind.”
In addition to best picture, director and original screenplay, “The Hurt Locker” picked up Oscars for sound editing, sound mixing and film editing.
“Avatar” won for art direction, cinematography and visual effects.
“The New Tenants” won for best live-action short. “Music by Prudence” won for documentary short. “The Young Victoria” won for costume design and “Logorama” won for animated short.
The awards highlighted an amusing, if uneven, Academy Awards show that was co-hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin.
Martin previously hosted the Oscars in 2001 and 2003, while Baldwin, the Emmy-winning star of the hit sitcom “30 Rock,” was nominated for an Academy Award for the film “The Cooler,” but lost. They co-starred with Meryl Streep in the recent comedy “It’s Complicated.”
Martin and Baldwin poked fun at their co-star during the Oscar show. Streep, who was nominated for best actress for “Julie & Julia” and has been nominated 16 times overall throughout her career, more than any other performer in history, leaned her head back and laughed as Martin said: “Meryl Streep holds the record for most nominations as an actress, or as I like to think of it, most losses.”
When the material was right, Martin and Baldwin had the audience roaring with laughter.
“Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock?” Martin asked rhetorically at one point.
“Well tonight,” replied Baldwin, “we may find out.”
But some gags felt tired if not puzzling, like the film clip of the two sharing a bed in a hotel room, flopping around on top of and under the covers, unable to get to sleep, until Martin slugs Baldwin and he tumbles onto the floor.
Throughout the telecast on ABC, there were long stretches of tedious speeches that seemed to suck the air out of the auditorium.
Each of the best actor and best actress nominees were personally introduced by someone connected to them from their past. Bridges, for example, listened with appreciation as actress Michelle Pfeiffer, his co-star in 1989’s “Fabulous Baker Boys,” gave a heart-felt introduction. Bullock meanwhile, was introduced by Forest Whitaker, her director in 1998’s “Hope Floats.”
By the time the best picture was announced (with extreme brevity by actor Tom Hanks), we were all relieved that the ordeal was over.
The win for “The Hurt Locker” culminated a turbulent final days for the film. The film’s financier, Nicolas Chartier, one of four credited producers, was forced to apologize after he sent an e-mail urging friends and colleagues to vote “The Hurt Locker” instead of “Avatar.” Although he did not mention “Avatar” by name, Chartier was punished by the academy, which barred him from attending the Academy Awards.
He was missing on stage as Bigelow and the other producers went on stage to receive their Oscars.