One of the programs that we’ve been conducting in the residence hall where I live is what we call our “Oscarfest”: we’ve been taking students to see all of the films that have been nominated for Best Picture (and making DVDs available for those that are no longer showing). We used to add in films with notable performances that weren’t nominated for Best Picture, but with that category expanded to ten this year, the only extra film we’re including is Crazy Heart.
At each of the post-film discussions at which I’ve been present, when the talk turns to a discussion of which film should be named Best Picture, the two films that inevitably become the subject of discussion are James Cameron’s Avatar and (his ex-wife) Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. I’ve seen the former twice (in IMAX); the latter is on the docket for a home viewing this weekend. Almost all of the students think that The Hurt Locker should win. They find it “powerful,” “groundbreaking,” and “realistic”; they think it “speaks” to their generation. They think it’s different from other war movies, which they see as action films that romanticize war.
The Hurt Locker may be that good. I’ll write about it once I’ve seen it. But the students’ comments make me wonder what war films they’ve actually seen. At least since Apocalypse Now (1979) almost thirty years ago, American war films have tended to be brooding meditations on the futility of war. Even films that overlay a more archetypal storyline — for example, Oliver Stone’s Platoon — or make use of a more conventional narrative structure — for example, Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan — have made it a point to dramatize the ugly violence of war in visceral terms that assault the audience. So I’m wondering if I will find The Hurt Locker any more “gripping” or “realistic” than, say, Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001).
Is the The Hurt Locker a breakthrough film in the war film genre? Or is it simply a well-made film that forces today’s college-age kids to come to terms with a war that they’ve taken for granted and about which they have worried less than the Vietnam generation did about its war?
Maybe they’re not so much thinking of post Vietnam movies about American wars — which do tend to reflect that kind of brooding — but about the many other forms of media (like video games) that do romanticize war and movies (like Avatar) that romanticize war outside the confines of specific American history. A feeling that American military history has turned stupid and pointless over the last forty years, after all, has not hindered the glorification of the civil war either.
You have hit the nail on the head with the idea of a generational “re-experience”! My family and I are often making references to the endless remakes that are making it big.
This morning I heard Donnie Osmond interviewed about his new syndicated radio show!? Who is Donnie Osmond? A friend of Michael Jackson, a teenage heart throb from way back, a dancer with the stars where the producers dug up a bunch of dinosaurs that would appeal to a target demographic (the show is also my Nonno’s favourite TV program).
The marketing genius Marilyn Manson and his remake of “Sweet Dreams” (a version I believe to be much more entertaining than the Eurhythmics’).The endless sampling that is created into dance or euro beats not to mention Rap.
The Beatles are resurrected for every generation. The Rolling Stones and Aerosmith just keep on going (not based on their most recent work I dare say).
I loved every aspect of Apocalypse Now and my father was sure I was the “right age” to be appreciative of all it had to offer. Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987) was another generation’s war movie. Dr. Strangelove and so many more “anti-war” war movies all have a message to offer their generation. Some of it is boring glory-glory stuff and some of it is art…the dialogue in Inglorious Bastards where the SS investigator is asking the milk farmer questions about his missing neighbours is second only to my love of the “Royale with cheese” Tarantino offers in Pulp Fiction.
On that note, I must say that although the Hurt Locker is impressive, it is not the groundbreaking war film the majority of my uniformed generation believes it to be. It is another adrenaline rush …just not as pretty as the X Games, or as hilarious as Raoul Duke’s mess in Las Vegas (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas 1998).
I must change my NYUAD Portfolio…
I will be the SECOND woman to win best director.
@Chani: Yes, I remember your saying that you had that rooting interest during the desert dinner!
Oh I did watch the movie The Hurt Locker…it seemed pretty realistic to me but honestly I dont think it was “Best Picture” material.
There are a number of other films much more worthy of winning…
Suspense, thrill, heart-pounding action…all of that was part of the movie’s gripping effect on its audience…It might be worthy of a nomination…but I think another movie should have won instead.
@Clive: Which of the 10 nominated films would you have picked?
Hmm…I would be torn between “Precious” and “The Blind Side”
Avatar was spectacular but those two films are just so much more pregnant with meaning and emotion…much more worthy of an Oscar.