(There are no The Hurt Locker spoilers here, no worries, since about 15 of you have seen it.)
It took 82 years, but there’s finally a woman who holds the title of Academy Award-winning “Best Director” .
But it’s about more than just a woman taking home the big prize.
As a writer, I saw something incredible happen for a change at the Oscars. A little movie won. A movie won that was all heart, all story, all controversy, and had absolutely nothing “easy” about its content and no sell-out ending.
A lot of people who’ve not seen The Hurt Locker might think the film’s about the Iraq war, but like I was told by more than one person, it’s not. It’s not a movie “about” the Iraq War. It’s about one man trying to find his place. It’s about the hardest, most dangerous job in the world and what drives a man to do it. That just happens to be during the Iraq War.
Ask anyone who’s seen the movie if it’s pro-war or anti-war and they’ll have to stop and think — because it’s neither.
What The Hurt Locker is, really, is just an incredible story that does what stories used to do — engage the viewer on every level, including philosophically.
Last night, it wasn’t just that a woman took home the big prize for directing a “war” movie. It’s that she did it without softening it up or having to put female touches on it. She just made the movie she wanted to make, without having to worry about doing it “as a woman”.
Anyone who’s ever looked into learning about film and writing for them has got to be a little wowed that The Hurt Locker won. After all, everyone said Crash was such a surprise it won, ‘cos its grosses were so low. The Hurt Locker, though? It earned a quarter of what Crash did. Less than $13 million at the box office. Yes, $13 million. Less than a tenth of Avatar’s opening weekend take — and that’s during its entire run, including after Oscar nomination hype.
I’m still STUNNED about it all. With its approaches to war and its unclear trajectory, the questions it asks, the dilemmas it explores, the fact that The Hurt Locker ever even got made sort of astounds me.
That Hollywood picked it as its Best Picture for 2010?
Wow. What more can I say? Wow.
Add that a woman was responsible for making it so hard and unflinching and real a look at the ethical/personal dilemmas faced in being at war, and, yeah, I’m a pretty happy film fan this Monday morning.
For once, story, editing, acting, writing, directing, and music and EVERYTHING came together for one brief, great movie that serves the purpose film SHOULD serve:
It made us think.
Somewhere along the line, movies became “entertainment”. Sit down, shut your brain off, and enjoy, right?
But once upon a time, we believed the world could be changed through pictures and films.
And if not the world, well, maybe at least our minds. We could see stories and dilemmas, we could reason them out, enrich our perspectives, see things in new light.
That was the old days, though. A long time ago. When directors made movies like Citizen Kane.
Nowadays, the world’s too full of chaos and confusion. It’s best to “enjoy” a movie than overthink it. Look at all the winners in the last 50 years. Who really pushed controversial buttons?
Honestly, to find a movie that asks similarly uncomfortable questions and doesn’t provide glossed-over military-machine answers, or didn’t polish up its content to offend the least amount of people, you’d have to travel back to 30 years ago, for a little movie called The Deer Hunter.
The last time a movie really had as much emotional impact and left the viewer in as much confusion about its ethical themes was indeed the legendary The Deer Hunter, in my own “movie fan” POV.
I like that a woman won for a “man’s” kind of movie. I don’t think that’s a sell-out. I’m female and I LOVE movies like The Hurt Locker and The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now. I don’t like tidy stories, I love ethical quandaries, and edgy-looking films. I don’t know why being female means I have to be relegated to movies like Terms of Endearment, Mystic Pizza, or Thelma and Louise. They’re not my bag, never have been.
Just as a viewer, these gritty, unflinching movies like The Hurt Locker — with or without a woman director — NEVER win. This movie made $12.6 million! It wasn’t bankrolled by the big boys, politicked into victory with a flashy campaign.
It was simply one of the best movies ever made about war, if not maybe even the best, because it doesn’t resolve anything and leaves you, the viewer, with a headfull of baggage to think over when those last credits roll.
As a writer, I love that a story won.
As an editorialist, I love that, for once, the questions and dilemmas didn’t need to be watered down for the “lowest common denominator” viewer.
As a woman, I love that Kathryn Bigelow doesn’t apologize for liking and making edgy boy flicks. She’s great at it. She doesn’t need to be making fluffy Driving Miss Daisy shit or selling her movie as a “vision” like her ex-husband did for Avatar.
You may not have seen The Hurt Locker, but you should. And you should not sit on your ass waiting for one of 12 copies Netflix is circulating. Rent it. Experience it. Ask yourself the big questions it asks of its protagonist. Demand more movies like these from Hollywood.
Most of all, enjoy the reality that, in 2010, a little film no one ever heard about came out with its gloves off, never softened its message, never dumbed itself down, never got fully bankrolled for distribution…
And still it won.
Oh, and, for the first time ever, a woman can say she’s the king of the world and the best director in the business. For now.
PS: Please, people, don’t pirate this movie. Pay to rent or buy The Hurt Locker. Prove to Hollywood in the only way it knows — through money — that movies that don’t cling to the comfort zone are movies that smart people really do want to see. As of yet, Avatar has grossed $2.5 BILLION so far. That’s about .05% of Avatar’s grosses that The Hurt Locker has earned. What do you think the totals say so far to Hollywood? Pay for this movie, people.