Idol Chatter

While much is being made about expanding the Oscar’s Best Picture category this year to include more commercial, high profile pics such as “Up” and “Avatar,” it is of no surprise to me that the award ceremonies continue to give awards to an Important Film About a Major Social Issue. This award season’s Important Film About a Major Social Issue is “The Hurt Locker”, a film that is getting more attention now that it is on DVD than it ever did last summer when it played in very limited release. The movie about an elite squad of soldiers in Iraq has already made history by giving<a href="//"target="_blank" director Kathrym Bigelow a win at several award ceremonies. Last weekend, the film cleaned up at the BAFTAS – the British version of the Oscars -as well as The Writers Guild award ceremony last week.
I certainly consider “The Hurt Locker” to be a very good film, and , yes, even an Important Film About a Major Social Issue, but I wouldn’t say it made my top five list for 2009. So it is still is slightly surprising to me that an independent, gritty,war movie is going to upend “King of the World” James Cameron’s technical and commercial achievements on Oscar night. So this brings up some interesting questions -at least if you’re a movie buff.

Is Hollywood actually more interested in being politically correct than increasing its sagging TV ratings and outdated image? To somehow honor a box office juggernaut over a thoughtful, serious movie that shows Hollywood’s moviemakers are intelligent and compassionate would be out of the norm of Oscar history. Otherwise I imagine Pixar would be campaigning left and right to get “Up” its due and James Cameron would be pouting more about being beaten by a girl.
But isn’t “Precious” an Important Film About a Major Social Issue? Why isn’t it this season’s Oscar equivalent of “Crash”? Maybe it really is because “The Hurt Locker” is a better film because it is so different than other war movies. Or maybe “Precious” isn’t the right Important FIlm ABout a Major Social Issue because it’s not about Iraq. Just a theory.( And this doesn’t even bring into discussion Important Films like “Seraphine” or “The Stoning of Soraya M.” which did not get nominations.)
I think all of these mixed signals Oscar is sending simply reinforces the obvious disconnect between Tinseltown and the rest of us. Mainstream America is supposed to tune in to see funnymen Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin host as well as to watch fan favorites like Sandra Bullock pick up a gold statue. At the same time, the biggest awards of the night are going to go to movies that most of mainstream America hasn’t watched or maybe even heard of.
So who’s going to be the real winner Oscar night? Well, some of the biggest movie stars, but not some of the best movies of the year, in my opinion. And the audience? Well, I am not sure yet if I think Oscar is one step closer to cultural irrelevance and extinction or if this year’s race will have just enough pizzazz to make audiences relate to Oscar just a little bit more.

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