Well, we are here. It is Oscar night. The final hurrah for the best films of 2009. A life-changing night for many people who will have a new title to affix in front of their names forever.
But the change isn’t just limited to the winners; tonight, the very way that we look at the Oscars could change. If Best Picture goes to “Avatar,” the Academy will have shown its support for 3D, motion capture, and box office receipts. If “The Hurt Locker” wins, it reaffirms the Academy’s value of powerful, classic filmmaking. ”Avatar” would be the highest grossing Best Picture winner ever; “The Hurt Locker” would be the lowest.
The media has enjoyed calling the race “David vs. Goliath,” but I’m not sure that’s what I would call it. It is Goliath vs. Goliath, two very big movies in their own right and their own distinctive way. The Oscars have always been about the movies, not the money (as much as we think – or know – that it plays a part), and both of these movies are fantastic pieces of filmmaking.
In most of my conversations involving “Avatar” this year, people have said, “I loved the movie, but I don’t think it should win Best Picture.” To all of those people, I give you this message: we have been worked into this notion of what Best Picture should be due in large part to the similarities of the recent winners. This year could be about redefining how we see Best Picture forever, and I’ve now prepared myself for it. There are much worse movies than “Avatar” that could have led the charge. And eventually, there will be a 3-D winner; there will be a motion-capture winner; there will be a sci-fi winner. Giving Best Picture to “Avatar” could inspire some great filmmakers to try their hand at the medium, and cinema would truly be raised to new levels.
I’ve talked to some people who haven’t even heard of “The Hurt Locker.” It’s not the kind of mainstream, popcorn movie that attracts a lot of people without hearing that it has been nominated for nine Oscars. But it’s the kind of movie that people are happy to discover, and the awards have led many people to watch it who probably wouldn’t have before. If those people didn’t care to rent the movie, they’ll see it’s win as typical Academy pretentiousness. To them, I say that sometimes, you have to look past the multiplex to find the best movies. A win for “The Hurt Locker” would probably leave Best Picture at the status quo, and plenty of people are fine with keeping their preconceived notions of the prize.
So, I hope everyone can enjoy the show whether or not your movie wins. But remember this: an Oscar win makes it their movie. Sometimes, if the Oscars don’t reward the movie you like, it becomes your movie.
I’m still sticking by my conviction that “Up in the Air” was the best movie of 2009, but I doubt that it will take home Best Picture. I’m getting a feeling in my gut that “Avatar” will win, but my prediction is still “The Hurt Locker.”
But just remember – change isn’t always a bad thing. It’s their decision, not ours, and it’s best not to fight it. Accept it. Enjoy it.