The 2009 Academy Award nominations have been released, and for the first time since 1943 there will be 10 nominations for “Best Picture.” The Academy’s nomination of ten instead of five movies makes perfect sense for the marketing arms of studios and production companies, but it should not divert attention from the qualities of two films that are widely considered the front-runners: Avatar (James Cameron) and The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow). Their distinctions couldn’t be greater.
The technical production of Avatar is radically different from all the movies that have come before it. It creates an artificial 3-D world, expansive and brilliant, and has already shattered box-office records with its mythological folk-tale of the outsider who risks all to save a dying world and win the love of its most cherished daughter.
In comparison, The Hurt Locker is a small, pointed movie that follows three American soldiers who try to safely detonate mines and bombs intended to kill them and disarm suicide bombers in Iraq. The film is intense, its narrative scope sometimes confined to the few centimeters of one soldier’s bewildered mind, with a brilliant performance by Jeremy Renner. War is central to both movies, but The Hurt Locker is the greater film for my vote: its ensemble acting, honest portrayal of men disturbed by war, and steady gaze at the mind-set that war creates and requires are particularly forceful at this time in history.
-- Richard LaManna, Chair, Arts & Communications
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