If “The Hurt Locker” can beat the “Avatar” machine to Best Film, there is hope for intelligence and plot in cinema. I have soft spots for dumb movies, monster movies and crime movies but “The Hurt Locker” was one of the very best movies released last year. I am lucky enough to have only experienced war on screen, but Kathryn Bigelow’s smart script and classy pacing made me pretend I was there disarming bombs – at a safe distance.
Unrelentingly, the story gripped and demanded a serious attention span, building up tension and pulling the viewer in. I am a fan of all of her movies. To see Bigelow win six awards, including Director and Cinematography, seems to more than balance out the “Avatar” juggernaut. Brits, it would cheeringly appear, still go for cleverness and visual integrity.
Outstanding debut honours for “Moon”, Duncan Jones’ compelling science fiction story, also lifts the spirits. Heck, given the cold weather in Britain, it’s truly warming to think this indie take can win a major award. I’ll go see anything he directs in the future, because he has an original eye that brings fresh life to the familiar conventions of the space movie.
Outstanding British film went to “Fish Tank”, which is another great movie that celebrates human hope. Again, it avoids easy and predictable plot choices and challenges the viewer to deal with depth and poverty of ambition, and yet still find a way forward. Despite some downbeat sections, the whole is uplifting and celebrates the will of an individual to create new ways of behaving, despite difficulty.
The two supporting actor awards feel right too. Christoph Waltz for “Inglourious Basterds” (how I hate spelling those words that way) and Mo’Nique in “Precious” both gave quirky and dominant performances that stayed in the mind for some time after the films faded from memory.
Production design and special visual effects can go to James Cameron’s “Avatar” with no raised hackles from me. “Up” certainly deserved the music and animation awards. Even though I didn’t care for “Up In The Air”, it’s a witty script and the adapted screenplay award for Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won’t bother me.
The leading actor and actress awards do give me qualms. I think Colin Firth won for his performance in “A Single Man” because he was a straight man playing a safe and cuddly gay man and I feel uncomfortable about that. It’s a great performance, but I hope he won for his elegant take on repression rather than for pretending to be “other”.
While Carey Mulligan was very good in “An Education”, I fear the win is more about the identifying of the voters with the obvious and class-riddled sub-text of the plot, rather than with the young Lynn Barber living through fast and fun times. The film made me uncomfortable in a bad way, because it ticked too many politically correct boxes for my brain. I felt it was predictable. Mulligan will be great, but I am not sure this movie gives conclusive proof of that.
Rising star went to Kristen Stewart and I did enjoy her take on repression in the “Twilight” movies. “Twilight: New Moon” is good on creating a cohesive mood and a different atmosphere and I enjoy understated yearning.
All in all, it was a good year for the right winners. I hope that Oscar values intelligence and originality as much as Bafta – but I predict the “Avatar” industry will win out and blue people will rule that night.