Best Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I am aware that this topic is well past its relevance point, and a sea of people have covered it more thoroughly and accurately than I have, but I simply had to write a thousand words on this particular topic just so I can sleep at nights. Believe me when I say that I really, really tried to leave this alone. It’s one of those things that bugged me to my core, but I knew that no one else cared about or wanted to hear me rant about on any deeper level than fleeting small talk. So I resisted. And resisted. But nope, just like Scottish whiskey and Irish women, I’ve caved in and decided to rant to the one medium that doesn’t take no for an answer (besides Ben Roethlisberger): the internet. Early mornings be damned, let’s get our blog on.

I guess we just chalk this one up as a failure of willpower.

I dislike The Hurt Locker. I don’t hate it in the same way I do certain movies (BioDome, anything starring Sarah Jessica Parker), and in fact there are several irrefutably positive aspects to this film, a few of which I will list now:

+It is (mostly) well acted.
+It is well-made (in terms of production value, continuity, ease of suspension of disbelief, etc.).
+It is well directed.
+I like what the director of photography did (most of the time).

I know, you’re asking: “So if you just confirmed some of the most necessary items needed in order to make a great film, how could you have possibly disliked this film? Especially when I know for a fact that you rented (and enjoyed) Ninja Assassin this weekend?”

To which I reply, wow, you know a shocking amount of specific detail about what I do with my personal time. But here’s the thing, Ninja Assassin is a terrible movie. You know it, I know it, it knows it. And that’s what makes it better (to me) than The Hurt Locker. I don’t even mean that in a mocking way, like when you watch Sorority Row just to ogle the hot actresses and laugh at all the unintentionally funny moments. I mean I actually enjoyed a movie whose premise was “a child assassin turns into an adult assassin, who then assassinates the assassins who tried to assassinate him. Assassin. Oh and they’re ninjas.” But I liked it because I took it for what it was, and appreciated it. Fast action, great effects, 90 minute runtime, a brainless romp that’s a great way to kill an hour and a half on a rainy day. That’s all it wanted to be, that’s all it was, some people enjoyed it, most didn’t.

What makes The Hurt Locker bad is the exact opposite of what makes Ninja Assassin good (funny how the opposite of bad produces good, right?). The Hurt Locker is supposed to be an ultra-serious, almost documentary-level-of-realism look at certain aspects of a war. It was billed as moving, insightful, and a dozen other Oscar adjectives that I can’t repeat here without getting queasy. It was supposed to be one of the best pictures of 2009 — and then it officially won Best Picture of 2009 from the only film-governing body that anyone really cares about (sorry Golden Globes and BAFTAs). And in a year where James Cameron reinvented the technical aspects of movie-making, Quentin Tarantino directed the hell out of several miles of film, and District 9 used a wonderful story to blend message with entertainment, The Hurt Locker was not the best movie. And that’s what bugs me almost more than anything else; I don’t mind undeserved success (Lord knows the industry is riddled with it), I just mind undeserved success at the cost of better films/people receiving that same success. As stated above, The Hurt Locker isn’t a bad movie in most senses of the word, it’s just not a good one, and certainly not the best one. It is boring, it feels the same as any war movie that has been churned out since the 90s, and the only true emotion it produces is the tension you feel when they’re disarming a bomb…which isn’t even their great movie-making, it’s just that any normal person feels tension if a bomb is potentially going to go off (don’t believe me? Take a bomb in to work with you tomorrow morning and see if everyone isn’t more tense than usual). The pacing is terrible, the character arcs (if you can even call them that) are weak at best, the direction isn’t at all innovative, and what it passes off as a story/plot is so thin that it should model for Marc Jacobs. Again, no one is saying these errors are so glaring that the movie shouldn’t have been made at all, or that the technical aspects of the production and acting aren’t better than the vast majority of what Hollywood produces, and I am truly glad that a female director won Best Director and we’ve moved closer to true equality. I’m just upset that she wasn’t actually the best director, and she didn’t actually make the best movie.

All awards systems are flawed, and clearly this isn’t the first time the Reuben Studdard of movies has undeservedly beaten out that year’s Clay Aiken for top honors, it just kills me to see the politics of movie-making outweigh the original purpose of industry awards: to see the year’s best artists and technicians congratulated by a jury of their peers for producing the year’s best work.

The only thing that keeps me sane in all this is that I’ve been blessed with perspective enough to understand and acknowledge that none of this actually matters. Sure, Hurt Locker won an award it probably didn’t deserve, but ultimately it’s just a piece of engraved metal that’s only worth whatever stock you personally put into it (and whatever five pounds of gold is worth in the current market of exchange). James Cameron still has his billions, Quentin’s legacy and street cred wasn’t damaged, and a District 10 sequel has already been greenlit. If just one person enjoyed this movie on any sort of deeper level (and obviously there were loads of people who did), then it was a good thing this movie was made. It just doesn’t mean it should’ve won best picture.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to rest so that I can summon the whole of my acting/performance ability/knowledge in the morning to help fifth graders perform a pirate musical.

Peace, love, and rock,
Dustin

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One thought on “Best Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

  1. […] for more? Check out my dated post on the 1980 cast of Saturday Night Live, my dated post on The Hurt Locker, and my post of predictions on the 2010 Academy Awards…which is, as you may have assumed, a […]

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