Monday, March 22, 2010

The Hurt Locker

The Oscars, bless them, are a strange affair. all film fans want to see "the right" films get rewarded. whether it's your personal favourite or the film more or less everyone saw or heard about, that's what you want to see celebrated on the one and only night glitz and glamour can go mercifully guilt-free. it's always a frustrating conversation when they get the big awards wrong. The Hurt Locker, sadly, is one of those moments of frustration.

considering it's a bit of a con that it even qualified for the 2009 awards, seeing as it made and released in 2008, it's rather curious that a film so few had actually seen made it to the nomination stage, let alone win the big awards. as of last weekend, The Hurt Locker had made $26,500,000 at the American box office. this, comparatively, is not a lot of movie ticket sales for 8 or so months, and certainly indicates very few saw it. not that the biggest money maker should win the award, mind.

well, i gave it a watch as open-minded as i could. the conclusion, alas, is that this is the worst Oscar decision since Peter Finch got the Best Actor award for Network on the basis that he died before the awards, and thus got sympathy votes that should have been celebratory ones for the amazing work the likes of De Niro and a young Sylvester Stallone did that year.

there will be *** SPOILERS *** ahead. this is worth pointing out as not many have clearly seen the film, but then again i suspect not that many will be off to watch it.

ostensibly, The Hurt Locker follows a bomb disposal unit during the last month and a bit of their current tour of duty in Iraq. their "explosives expert", played by the brilliant Guy Pearce (more on him later), gets blown up and so for the last few days the team has to contend with a new, somewhat maverick expert played by Jeremy Renner. that's it.

if you leave to one side the "been there, done that" thoughts of this story line, you are still left with a problem in that there's not a great deal to the story. no, i am not belittling the service men and women in the real world, before you start. but if you are making a film to inform or (as the first poster for the film, right at the bottom shows) entertain, a good idea is to come up with something of substance for the two hour duration. this doesn't have that.

Jeremy Renner has been getting applause for his role in the film, and to a degree this is justified. unfortunately, he looks good by comparison rather than in his own right, outside of the two "cameo" appearances there's little in the way of competition on screen for him. characterization in this film is threadbare to the point of needing that massive Hubble telescope to see it. characters walk around in some sort of minimalist silence for the most part, only for every 40 minutes or so for them to deliver a deluge of dialogue. when those moments come along, you really wish they didn't - for the most part the soldiers dialogue sounds like it was written by someone whose entire experience of what the troops should say was based on a number of screenings of the end bit of Rambo : First Blood Part II, as well as watching and not quite understanding Platoon.

the notion that this features anything to make it the Best Picture or the best directed film of the year is bewildering. the director lacks the courage of her convictions - half the time we have "shaky cam", made to look good in the Bourne films and dire in all others that have copied it, for the rest we are treated to visuals which wouldn't be out of place in a lesser day time soap opera. how odd, just as one example, that the year Tarantino proves that he really is a gifted director with the dazzling Inglorious Basterds he gets overlooked for someone who makes a film that appears to be worse made than even the laziest of his efforts (Death Proof, Kill Bill 2 spring to mind.).

i have a theory that The Hurt Locker started off life as a "mockumentary", very much along the lines of Reno 911! and This Is Spinal Tap. vast chunks of the film look like they were filmed "documentary style" in a way to play for laughs, only to be re-edited into a more serious "fictional documentary style" when it was clear that the subject matter was no laughing matter and the film certainly wasn't funny.

in regards of this idea, it would explain the brief appearance of two quality actors in a cameo role, Guy Pearce and Ralph Fiennes, only to be killed off within five minutes of appearing. let's also consider the first posters for this film, before it was given such oh, so serious reviews. an example below.

now, does that look like a poster for a serious film, or does it look like some sort of humour being injected to promote some kind of action film? exactly.

The Hurt Locker appears to have won the awards because politically it seemed a good idea to recognize a woman for making a film about America's armed conflicts around the world, to show that films don't have to make lots of money to get recognized because the Oscars are about "art", and/or just because they really didn't want James Cameron to win. i defy anyone to show how this film was even close to being as good as, let alone better, than a number of films released in 2009. off the top of my head, Inglorious Basterds and Moon would have been better choices, given a few moments i bet i could list more. and i dare say you could, too.

it's rare that i would say don't bother with a film, but 2 or so days after seeing it the status of it in my mind has changed, with some thinking, from "average" to "a waste of two hours". if the curiosity of seeing the "best film" of "last year" gets the better of you, well, you've been warned.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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