As of March 8, awards season may have been over, but for all of you haters who thought that would mean idly speculative newspaper commentary also being done with for the year — ha! Think again. For what would any “significant” cultural event be without its post-game analysis, I ask you? Possibly all the better for it, but that’s a story for another day.
Oscars night yielded few real surprises, but critically, just enough raised-eyebrow, I-sort-of-wasn’t-expecting-that moments (at least in the last half-hour) to make following the whole thing on YouTube and blog feeds not seem like the biggest waste of time imaginable (that would be watching the Grammys).
Devoted followers of these pages — and while we’re on the subject, I know there are some; I got sent all kinds of pissy letters after last issue demanding to know what I have against the Academy (for the record, nothing; I just think they’re a bunch of slightly reactionary sentimentalists who only sometimes get things right) — will remember that I predicted that Avatar would win Best Picture, but that Katherine Bigelow would win Best Director for The Hurt Locker.
In the event, The Hurt Locker did rather better than that, winning — as if anyone needs reminding — not only the top two prizes, but also statues for Best Editing, Best Original Screenplay, and some sound awards no-one really cares about. As much as it’s never a good idea to look a gift horse in the mouth and question how or why Bigelow’s low budget, little-seen Iraq movie did so well, its victory over Cameron’s behemoth does have some interesting lessons.
It’s quite likely that the reason The Hurt Locker so trounced Avatar is because this year, for the first time, the Academy introduced a system of weighted voting, and so whereas on previous occasions, everyone just chose one film, this time the shortlisted nominees were ranked from one to ten. Avatar, a film which polarised opinion, will certainly have got a lot of first-place votes, but probably not so many second or third choices. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, evidently fared very well all round. The fact that there were twice as many nominees will also have helped Bigelow’s chances: ten films dilute the vote and reduce the chance of a runaway winner, which Avatar looked sure to be at one stage. Finally, The Hurt locker won because the anti-Hurt Locker campaign simply kicked in too late: by the time one of the film’s producers had been barred from the ceremony for sending anti-Avatar begging letters to voters (hey guy, here’s a tip: if you’re not Harvey Weinstein, don't try muscling a win. That’s not for novices) and mutterings of plagiarism and lawsuits had begun to emerge, most voters had already cast their ballots.
And so, with that mystery solved, on to some of the other questions the evening presented: namely, would Steve Martin be funny? Why was Lauren Bacall not being allowed to accept her Honorary Award on the night itself? And, with Precious nominated in so many categories, which token black face (Morgan? Denzel?) would the camera cut to at every mention of the film’s success?
Well, the answers are, respectively, “Sort of, but only sometimes” (best joke of the night: “Everyone who works with Meryl comes away thinking two things – ‘can that woman act’, and ‘what’s with all the Hitler memorabilia?’”), “Because the Academy are idiots who think Hannah Montana has more star power than The Woman Who Was Vivian Rutledge”, and “Oprah”.
I think that about wraps everything up. The only question I have left is, why are there butterflies all over Bigelow’s dress?