Monday, March 8, 2010

The Hurt Locker's Kathryn Bigelow Makes History at Otherwise Snoozy Oscars

Posted By on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 at 12:07 AM

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From Scene staff writer Ron Wynn:

It took almost three and a half hours, but history was finally made at the 82nd annual Oscar Awards Sunday evening on WKRN-Channel 2. Kathryn Bigelow smashed the embargo on women winning the Best Director honor. Her award was one of six the indie drama The Hurt Locker grabbed, including the coveted Best Picture trophy.

Hopefully, the honor will be significant in another way, namely helping eliminate or at least minimize marketing concerns being the dominant factor in filmmaking. As Bigelow and other Hurt Locker winners continually remarked, it was made without the input of focus groups or consultants. Instead, it represented its creative team's final product, a practice that decades ago was basically how most movies were made.

In the current era of remakes and sequels, The Hurt Locker's victory is one for creative freedom and directorial vision -- a rare occasion of the Academy's tastes synching up with the highbrow voters in the annual Film Comment critics' poll. But even Bigelow's win wasn't a surprise on a night that sorely lacked spark and drama.

There weren't any upset victors -- something that doesn't invalidate anyone's success, but reinforces the process's predictability. Certainly it was great to see a longtime actor's actor such as Jeff Bridges, whose first nomination came in 1971, finally break through with his Best Actor nod for the country-music drama Crazy Heart. Christoph Waltz fully deserved his Best Supporting Actor win for his suave, ruthless Nazi in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, even if his role could have easily been bumped up to the lead actors' category.

Likewise, it was good to see Mo'Nique, hardly the "typical" Hollywood leading lady, nab Supporting Actress honors for Precious. Let's also hope her comments about the Academy honoring "the process and not the politics" are actually true and prove the case in future years.

Only time will tell whether the decision to expand the Best Picture category to 10 nominees results in improved ratings. But what the results show is that Academy members value technique and message over popularity and commercial impact. That puts them at odds with the network and its advertisers, who clearly care more about audience numbers and demographic breakdowns.

That dichotomy is also reflected in Academy programming decisions that include eliminating from the telecast performances of the Best Song nominations, and giving awards for such categories as sound mixing, makeup and cinematography on air, rather than off-camera. It's also why the Oscars will seldom end in less than three hours, because the Academy wants everyone to get their moment in the spotlight.

Everyone, that is, except the four Governor's Award winners: Roger Corman, Lauren Bacall, cinematographer Gordon Willis and producer/studio exec John Calley. Though each screen legend deserved an on-air tribute, their honors were relegated to a chintzy collective segment, while valuable broadcast time was squandered on embarrassments such as a generic horror-movie montage and an excruciating interpretive dance. This was arguably the night's biggest stumble. Which would you rather watch: highlights from the career of genre-movie guru Corman, or a breakdancing suicide bomber detonating himself to The Hurt Locker's nominated score?

Despite the show's occasional gaffes, however, and its lack of upsets and stretches of tedium, the Oscars mainly rewarded artistic excellence this year rather than record profits and blockbuster draws. In this era of celebrity overexposure and movie marketing on steroids, that's something worth celebrating.

A full list of the winners:

Best Motion Picture of the Year

Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier, Greg Shapiro

Best Achievement in Directing

Winner: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2008)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Winner: Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side (2009)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Winner: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart (2009)

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year

Winner: El secreto de sus ojos (2009) (Argentina)

Best Achievement in Editing

Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Bob Murawski, Chris Innis

Best Documentary, Features

Winner: The Cove (2009) - Louie Psihoyos, Fisher Stevens

Best Achievement in Visual Effects

Winner: Avatar (2009) - Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, Andy Jones

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score

Winner: Up (2009) - Michael Giacchino

Best Achievement in Cinematography

Winner: Avatar (2009) - Mauro Fiore

Best Achievement in Sound Mixing

Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Paul N.J. Ottosson, Ray Beckett

Best Achievement in Sound Editing

Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Achievement in Costume Design

Winner: The Young Victoria (2009) - Sandy Powell

Best Achievement in Art Direction

Winner: Avatar (2009) - Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, Kim Sinclair

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Winner: Mo'Nique for Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009)

Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

Winner: Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (2009) - Geoffrey Fletcher

Best Achievement in Makeup

Winner: Star Trek (2009) - Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, Joel Harlow

Best Short Film, Live Action

Winner: "The New Tenants" (2009) - Joachim Back, Tivi Magnusson

Best Documentary, Short Subjects

Winner: "Music by Prudence" (2010) - Roger Ross Williams, Elinor Burkett

Best Short Film, Animated

Winner: "Logorama" (2009) - Nicolas Schmerkin

Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen

Winner: The Hurt Locker (2008) - Mark Boal

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song

Winner: Crazy Heart (2009) - T-Bone Burnett, Ryan Bingham ("The Weary Kind")

Best Animated Feature Film of the Year

Winner: Up (2009) - Pete Docter

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Winner: Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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