Why This Year’s Academy Awards Have Me Worried About the Future of Film

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I must admit the outcome of this year’s Academy Awards has me a bit skeptical for the future of this famed award show. First and foremost, I want to discuss the bestowment of best picture to The Hurt Locker. Now before you write me off as some pessimistic dissident with no substantive evidence to frame this perception, I would like to say that I did, to some extent, enjoy The Hurt Locker. The film had me on the edge of my lazy boy throughout its entirety and I believe its message has a lot to say about our troops overseas. However, from a strictly cinematic perspective, the film did not live up to its billing. We will get back to that momentarily.

Oscar night is one Sunday I look forward to in the early months of the New Year. Not only is it a retrospect into the past cinematic year but it also signifies the beginning of a new season. The sun finally seems to glisten through the cloud-ridden sky and people begin to awaken from their winter slumbers. This Sunday was no different. As my friends and I gathered around our television, we had hastily come to terms with Avatar taking home the grand prize. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about this; however, I do acknowledge that the film is years before its time.  James Cameron created a visionary experience that is second to none.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin had me off the wall from the get go, and Christopher Waltz, with the well deserved Best Supporting Actor Award to kick of the show, established what I believed to be a memorable Oscars experience. Let’s fast forward to just before 12 O’clock central time, when Tom Hanks appears to swiftly announce Best Picture. It happened so quickly, and before I knew it, the 2010 Academy Awards were over. The Hurt Locker receives top honors.

As I mentioned before, I had a pre-conceived notion that Avatar was going to sweep the show. However, my favorite film in the 2009 Oscar’s running was A Serious Man. To me, it was a beautiful character study of an average man attempting to live up to the norms in which he himself put forth. It is reminiscent of the Italian neorealist film Bicycle Thieves, in which the common man has to question his own morals, and in both individual cases, ends up paying the price. The Hurt Locker, in my initial impression, was simply on the ballot due to the increase in nominees. The Hurt Locker for best picture? Not a chance.

The Hurt Locker is the story of a United States Army Explosive Ordinance Team in Iraq. The film is a thriller. Yes, it is a war film, but its objective was to evoke temporary sensation in its viewers, much like a horror film does. There are several films that function similarly and do peak a cinematic experience for me. However, movies such as these rarely elicit stimulated introspection. In short, the sensation doesn’t tend to last. The film should have revolved around antagonist Owen Eldridge. I was infatuated throughout the film by the deep passionate influence that war had on his character.  His constant questioning of death, and the reasons for which he entered war in the first place kept we yearning for elaborated examination throughout the films entirety. Instead, the film concentrates on cowboy William James, who time after time puts his teammates in jeopardy by his questionable antics. The way in which the film operates does not elicit an entitlement of a “great movie,” much less Best Picture.

The reason I am worried for the future of The Oscars is simple. Are these the kinds of movies we can expect top tier producers to create in years to come? Yes, of course movies like The Hurt Locker will continuously enter our local movie theaters year after year, and I am excited to find out the path that the war genre will take. What I am concerned with, however, are producers and directors who once believed they could create a film of genuine elegance, and be rewarded for their work. Will cinematic artists off the screen now dismiss their creative brilliance for films that they believe may elicit an Oscar? This year’s Academy Awards have set a new threshold for the requirements for what a “Best Picture” entails. For better or worse, only time will tell the future of The Academy’s standards. I’m keeping my fingers are crossed.

-Rockwell Gust

  1. Myles says

    The Hurt Locker made many, many, many end of year top 10 lists. I guess it was good after all. (It has earned its place on more Top 10 lists than any other film of 2009.)


    To say it was a “cinematic abomination” might be a bit excessive.

  2. Barton Keyes says

    I’m sorry Myles, but The Hurt Locker was the worst movie I saw all year. It is horribly unrealistic. Any higher ranking officer that witnessed a bomb defuser jeopardize the lives of his entire squad would be banned from ever serving his country again. The way he went about doing his job put everyone at risk.

    I thought Renner’s character was unoriginal and unbelievable. It was cliche making some hot-headed, narcissistic, reckless soldier who finds a soft spot for some local kid selling porn dvds. He is fond of this boy but doesn’t seem to care for his family back home, completely contradicting this relationship. And then when he finds out this little boy was killed, he runs off into the streets of Iraq in the middle of the night to solve the mystery. First of all, a white American soldier in the streets of Iraq would not last long alone. Secondly, it had nothing to do with the plot.

    If I hadn’t repressed this film from my memory I could comment further on the other cinematic abominations. I do remember enjoying a few of the scenes, especially the opening and sniper scene.

    I do agree with you that the Academy Awards are somewhat of a joke; and this is why I wasn’t the least bit surprised The Hurt Locker won Best Picture.

  3. Myles says

    Let me get this straight. You’ve only *now* become worried about the Oscars?

    A narrow-minded award ceremony that celebrates the “best” American movies of the previous year? Please. Like the Grammy’s, the Golden Globes and any other “award” ceremony, these events are organized to A) gather Hollywood’s elite in the same place and B) hand out awards to movies that were voted on by the 5500 voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Members such as Sam L Jackson, who have been quoted in the past as saying that he didn’t care about voting and left it up to his wife/kids. Does that system work, you think?

    Furthermore The Hurt Locker was easily the best movie of last year. It wasn’t because of “its message”, but rather for the way it conveyed the realistic situations in which those soldiers are put into everyday. The writer, Mark Boal, was embedded with an American bomb squad, and that’s why the movie is so good. It’s well written and accurate.

    Renner’s character is a bomb defuser. How can you say he “puts his teammates in jeopardy by his questionable antics”? Isn’t HIS job dangerous enough? He’s the one defusing the bomb, not his team. He is putting himself in danger, not his team.

    This is the end of my rant, and I hope you won’t take it personally, but you need to reflect upon a movie’s real purpose before discounting its achievements.

    1. Rockwell says

      Hey Myles. Thanks for the input.

  4. gen says

    Very well written!
    I liked it!

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