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Hurt Locker v Avatar: The decider

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Will Gompertz | 12:16 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

Hurt Locker versus Avatar is the story of this year's film awards season and it's playing out like the final stages of UEFA's Champions League. Avatar won 2-0 at the Golden Globes. Now Hurt Locker has responded with a 6-2 thrashing at the Baftas, leaving things nicely poised for the big decider: the final on 7 March at the Oscars.

Kathryn Bigelow and James cameronThe fact that Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron are ex-husband and ex-wife adds a bit of spice to the competition, as does the perception that Avatar is a big, expensive "commercial" movie, while Hurt Locker is taken to be a low-cost work of heart. Will the Academy really vote against the 3D spectacular, which many see as the future of cinema? And is it simply a case of one or the other for Best Picture? A Serious Man, anyone?

The general feeling among the cognoscenti I spoke last night was that Hurt Locker won more for its subject matter than for the quality of the movie. And while there were plenty of good tidings for the British clean sweep of best actor for Colin Firth (A Single Man) and best actress Carey Mulligan (An Education), there was a general feeling that home advantage might have come into play.

So we move on to the Oscars, looking into the sediment at the bottom of last night's wine glass for Bafta signs of would-be Academy winners. In the past, the Baftas have only been a partially-reliable indicator of Oscar success. Can Mulligan and Firth complete the double away from home? And will best supporting actress Mo'Nique (Precious) and best supporting actor Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) score a hat-trick after succeeding at the Golden Globes and now the Baftas?

The one I will be watching out for is Kathryn Bigelow. Last night, she became the first woman ever to win the best director Bafta. And she would also be the first to win the best director Oscar. Now that would be quite a double.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    According to their imdb pages, Avatar has won 16 awards and The Hurt Locker has won 67. The Oscars don't give out enough awards to make it even close to equal.

  • Comment number 2.

    Since Avatar is heavily anti-imperialist, and by implication anti-American, I don't expect it to win the Oscar. Hurt Locker, in contrast, is a paean of praise to 'our brave boys', and will, therefore, win the award.

  • Comment number 3.

    I think the BAFTA'a are often a better indication of quality than the Oscar's, although the selection of Colin Firth and Carey Mulligan is a bit baffling, home advantage indeed i think.
    But when the pomp and ceremony retuirns to Hollywood and the votes are cast on financial success and who's friends with who you will see a different (more shallow) set of results, and i think they will look a little like this:
    Best Film - Avatar
    Best Director - James Cameron
    Best Actor - Jeff Bridges
    Best Actress - Sandra Bullock
    But i still expect Mo'Nique and Christopher Waltz to collect the supporting honours.

  • Comment number 4.

    Decisions like Bafta made last night grate on me and it seems to be the same every year at the bafta awards and the oscars.

    Why do the "panel" that judges the awards for best film hardly ever go for the biggest box office success the only time in my life when this hasn't been the case is when Titanic and Lord of the Rings:Return of the King won best film Oscars and I am 32.

    It seems that the judges always seem to think they are above the public who have watched Avatar in its millions, I have seen the Hurtlocker and it is a very good film but its not a gamechanger or as enjoyable experience as Avatar is. I understand the acting catagory choices but in best film surely the popularity counts and approaching $2bn in box office takings around the world surely Avatar is the peoples choice which continues to be ignored.

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm usually very anti-Oscars because they just promote Hollywood mainsteam film. The best thats out there are not the ones up for these awards especially this year even though the line up has increased its still relatively weak.

    Having said that the whole Avatar vs Hurt Locker match up is quite interesting. Common sense would give the best awards to The Hurt Locker which is by far and away a much better film than Avatar. I admit the experience of watching Avatar was amazing and the 3D was literally out of this world but the film itself was incredibly poor. Unoriginal plot and cliched characters with the brute colonel, the ruthless business man wearing a tie and playing golf in his office etc. Ironically for this 3D spectacle the plot and characters were seriously one dimensional. Cameron made this "movie" purely to surpass the earnings he made from Titanic so I guess he's achieved what he wanted to.

    The Hurt Locker does have everything that Avatar didn't and should be rewarded in this case although not a great film by any means. Jeremy Renner was brilliant and its a shame he won't win best actor but he is now established, better things to come. Bigelow should win best director although its a shame its taken this film to get her recognised, shes been around making films for a long time.

    None of the other films have really impressed me apart from Inglorious Basterds which I surprisingly enjoyed a lot. Christoph Waltz has to be a dead cert for best supporting actor, he was simply superb.

  • Comment number 6.

    # 3 Jack

    It would be pretty depressing if those predictions came true.

  • Comment number 7.

    SimonB

    How can you say Avatar is the peoples choice? Granted it made hell of a lot of money but it doesn't mean that everyone who saw it loved it. I for one thought it was an awful movie, it was only the 3D experience that saved it for me. The Oscars recognise Hollywood mainstream movies and nothing else, the best films out there aren't the ones that make the most money, they are often the ones you haven't even heard of, that get limited releases etc.

    The Hurt Locker is by no means a great film but up against Avatar it undoubtedly is.

  • Comment number 8.

    In response to comment 2 by Douggielee, the implication that a anything anti-imperialist is also anti-American is only valis if one is of the opinion that America is an imperialist force, which i doubt enough of the academy are.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sorry this moderation process is ridiculous, over 25 minutes for a comment to be approved? Sort it out please otherwise how are we supposed to have discussion/debate?

  • Comment number 10.

    SimonB, there are seperate peoples choice awards, usually organized by MTV and popular magazines, to suggest that box office takings are the most omportant thing when giving awards is ludacris. If it was then the list of best films ever would be dominated by Harry potter and pirates of the Carribbean with SHREK 2 lying 12th!
    The popular awards should be kept seperate from the quality awards and recognized seperately just as entertaining films are acknowledged differently than well made films (occaisionally being both).
    Plus Titanic (which would lie second using your logic isn't actually very good and hasn't aged well).

  • Comment number 11.

    I hardly think that since the movie is anti-imperialism that it is anti-american or that americans see it that way, but promotes a message that was encouraged.
    The quality of the movie is to be judged.

  • Comment number 12.

    I disagree millions of people went to watch avatar I dont think the same can be said of the Hurtlocker why are people being so pompus and snobby to think that they know better than the film going public. I agree the story was rehashed working of other stories and that the acting was better in the hurtlocker but did at any stage the hurtlocker make you go WOW !!! and was it different from other films in the genre ?? Avatar did and is.

  • Comment number 13.

    In reponse to comment 6 by pulpgrape, indeed it would be, but that's Hollywood (unfortunately), i mean come on, these people gave best actress to Halle Berry!

  • Comment number 14.

    Avatar = cowboys and indians in space. Paleface is found by princess and introduced to her tribe. Nothing special about it apart from the special effects.

  • Comment number 15.

    Comment #9 - Agreed, it's hardly quickfire debate here.
    Although Pulpgrape and I seem to be the main contributors and we seem to have similar opinion, this'll be more apparent when all the comments are up.

  • Comment number 16.

    In the business of film making, box office matters more than gongs.

    The awards are a consolation prize.

    C.

  • Comment number 17.

    Pulpgrape and Jack Hoedemaker

    What makes you think that you opinions are correct and opinions of millions are wrong I have hardly met anyone who didn't enjoy the avatar experience surely movies are about entertainment.

    I agree with you about Titanic I hated the movie but Because that was my personal opinion I didn't persume that all the people that loved it were wrong. I agree the acting awards should be about quality acting perfomances but maybe the best film should be the most enjoyed.

    P.s Christopher Waltz was fantastic in Inglorius

  • Comment number 18.

    Surely no one goes into making a film for it not to be entertaining or make money ?

  • Comment number 19.

    SimonB

    Again your logic is flawed. So you think that because millions of people go to see a film that it MUST mean they all loved it. Do you only go to see films that you know you will love? The Hurt Locker didn't get a wide release here in UK and certainly didn't have the same marketing campaign as Avatar does which is excessive to say the least. Like I previously said The Hurt Locker wasn't great but it did have some brilliant scenes which were incredibly tense. Avatar used a tired plot with one dimensional protagonists and antagonists, there was nothing new there just the 3D effects. Doesn't mean it's snobby to like The Hurt Locker better than Avatar.

    I feel bad for you if you judge the merit of a film on how many people go to see it, you haven't seen any great films in that case.

    AGAIN SORT THIS RIDICULOUS MODERATION PROCESS OUT.

  • Comment number 20.

    SimonB, i don't think it is snobbish not to think that a film that millions flocked to pay £10 a ticket to see in 3D is automatically better than all the others, it did make me go "WOW", but then again so did Batman Forever when i first saw it aged 12. Money doesn't always equal quality.

  • Comment number 21.

    Avatar is an outstanding technical achievement, but that's all it is. It rightly won a Bafta for Production Design, but didn't deserve to win in any other category. All too often, particularly with American movies, we see vast budgets wasted on the technical side of film-making, and not enough spent on scripts. Still, I don't suppose they care: they make movies to make squillions of dollars, rarely for other reasons.

    In any case, while technical accomplishments should be applauded, let's not go overboard about them: they'll be superseded by something better in a few years anyway. We all gasped at Ray Harryhausen's work, and believed Superman could really fly, but how lame do those effects look now, especially after Lord of the Rings? In another 20 years, we'll all be laughing at Avatar, and thinking 'how did we ever believe that was real?"

    Will Avatar sweep the board at the Oscars? Hard to say: one the one hand, it's James Cameron who made Titanic, Americans love successful movies (i.e. ones that make squillions of dollars), and it's Americans who created the effects: all these factors will no doubt be recognised. But on the other hand, it does, as you have pointed out, take a not-so-subtle dig at imperialism and perhaps indirectly, US foreign policy. The Oscars can be deeply political in its choices sometimes, and this too might have an effect. Overall, I think it will get some Oscars (maybe 3) in recognition of the work that's gone into it, but it won't get Best Pic or Best Director.

    Incidentally, anyone noticed how similar Avatar is in theme to Princess Mononoke? 'Inspiration', perhaps?

  • Comment number 22.

    I don't know why people kept on talking about Avatar. Undeniably, the 3D technology and graphics make Avatar great to watch but the storyline is nothing special. Japanese manga movies touched that subject and similar storyline ages ago. I am more entertained by District-9 than Avatar in terms of sci-fi movie storyline.

  • Comment number 23.

    BAFTAs don't mean a thing, stop kidding yourselves. It's the yearly Brit self-congratulatory bore-fest. "Oh yes.. Simply ALL the best films are essentially British quack quack."

    Apart from that, Avatar to win the Oscar by a mile. Brilliant movie. So glad my kids dragged me along.

  • Comment number 24.

    Why did The Hurt Locker win so many awards? There have been so many better films in the last year. It certainly did not deserve best cinematography, editing or sound; that shaky camera effect just does not cut it. Avatar should have, at the very least, received all of the technical awards - I think sound should have been among them, anyone who saw the film in IMAX will know what I'm talking about. As for the cinematography, Both Star Trek and Avatar should've been up there, and, odd a choice it may be, the most recent Harry Potter - the cave scene was shot incredibly well.

  • Comment number 25.

    Really, REALLY?! Anti-American, anti-imperialist I think you need to watch this movie again douggielee the fact that Americans are in the movie is because it is an American made movie and the fact that they fought back in this movie has nothing to do with anti-imperialist is just what someone would do if people were trying to blow up your home and not care about killing members of your family so don't sit there and compare and contrast avatar and hurt locker like they are both trying to compare a war because the are totally different avatar has nothing to do with "our brave boys" as you so call it. I love how you can sit there and describe movies like you really know what they mean and I love how you think you know that hurt locker is gonna win the award just because it has to do with the war. You cant see the future and not every movie is anti-American just because they are getting killed in a movie they just picked Americans to be in the movie so please why don't you help America have a brighter future of smarter Americans and please refrain from commenting again unless you actually know what something is about and just enjoy the movies I cant stand people who cant just watch a movie without having to say what they think the movie was about and act like their opinion was what the movie was really about.

  • Comment number 26.

    "In the business of film making, box office matters more than gongs."

    LOLZ! An Oscar is worth MILLIONS for a lot of people! Have a think about it!

  • Comment number 27.

    SimonB

    Calm down, I've never stated that my opinions are correct. I just strongly disagree with you when you say that because millions of people saw Avatar that it is the best film. That is nonsense. I went to see it because I wanted to experience the 3D and hoped it would be a good film but I was very disappointed in the film itself. Are you saying I'm the only one who feels that way about Avatar and that everyone else loved it?

    I suggest you head over to imdb.com and check out the discussions on Avatar message board. You're in for a shock.

  • Comment number 28.

    In response to comment 17: The beauty of opinions is that all are right and also wrong at the same time, it's a personal thing.
    My point was that the amount of money a film makes should not be a guage for how good it is, if you look at a list of the 50 highest grossing films you'll see that they are mostly very entertaining films but not many should be given a lot of awards.
    There are also a lot of adaptions and sequels, so the hard part of building a fanbase is done already and people know hat they're getting and are more likely to buy a ticket.
    You are also right that many films are made to make cash and be entertaining, this is reflected in the fact that many of the films considered to be truely good films have grossed relatively poorly.

  • Comment number 29.

    #21 (Graphis) - I think it reeks of "a man called horse", although Richard Harris in 3D would be hillarious.

    This moderation is ridiculous now, it's pushing an hour, on any other website we'd have over a hundred comments on how.

  • Comment number 30.

    Pulpgrape

    are you saying that very few of the millions of people that watched Avatar actually liked it, Films become popular because of word of mouth. I liked hurtlocker it was a good movie but Avatar was a Landmark movie that will long be remembered while the hurtlocker will be forgotten.

    Like Starwars Avatar will revolutionise cinema in a way the hurtlocker never could there is nothing new there. so for that alone it deserves awards and by the way it was the foreign press in hollywood that awarded Avatar best picture at the golden globes so not americans awarding an american picture as it was anti american really.

  • Comment number 31.

    Graphis

    The effects were done by WETA which is a New Zealand company that mainly employs Kiwi's so its no self congratulating on behalf of the americans for the special effects if they award Avatar the best picture oscar

  • Comment number 32.

    Lets face it, there aren't many truly well made films being produced any more, entertainment is in abundance (which is good) but because films now are normally effects laden eye candy it leaves people like us on this board trying to decide which is the best of a bad bunch.
    Effects do enhance the viewing experience, that is definitely beyond doubt, but because they blow your mind doesn't mean the film as a whole is naturally going to be brilliant, the effects have their own awards, the best picture award (which has been the focus of our discussion) needs to go to the best product when taking into account all factors.

  • Comment number 33.

    Avatar wouldn't even be mentioned if it wasn't for the 3-d element. The story and characters are, rather ironically, one dimensional in the extreme.

    "The future of cinema" - not really. More "the future of big budget films that need some sort of gimmick to make it worth £10 to watch"

  • Comment number 34.

    While I have not seen the Hurt Locker (though Apple TV beckons), I thought I would pitch in for the defence of Avatar. I wholeheartedly disagree with those who are constantly criticising the film, either because it's fashionable/cool to do so or because they genuinely believe it to be bad. It might be a classic theme of the culture clash and the conversion of the outsider, but that doesn't mean it isn't brilliantly done.

    I think it would be hard to deny that the two bad guys are relatively flat characters. But convincing villains are perhaps the hardest part of writing any story, which is why we so often cling to the great ones (Iago, Saruman, Palpatine, Benjamin Linus, Kathryn Merteuil, the Joker etc.). Avatar is a film that has a great deal of rewatchability - the depth of the world both visually and intellectually invites further assessment. The alien culture is hardly a rush-job, but rich, intricate, detailed, or so it appeared to me on first viewing.

    Furthermore, the idea that Kathryn Bigelow should win (even partly) because she'd be the first woman director to do so is as absurd as all those people who voted for Obama because he was black, rather than on the strength of his policies or character.

    Also Graphis, I cannot understand why you are rubbishing progress on the basis that it won't be permanent. Obviously we look back on old films now and laugh at the graphics, but without such advances at the time, we would never have reached the stage we are at now. James Cameron literally created the cameras and technology needed to complete his vision because nothing existed to fulfil that need at the time, cameras and technology that will now be used in countless films to follow until they in turn are advanced upon. I think it's outstandingly arrogant to belittle bringing enjoyment and immersion to millions upon millions of movie-goers as mere 'technical achievement'. This kind of 3D enhances one's immersion into the film and the world created within it. Would you criticise the excellent Pleasantville because it doesn't work if you watch it on a black and white screen?

  • Comment number 35.

    Also, HaHaYourFunny (should be You're, BTW), I think you're definitely in the wrong place if you don't like to read any analysis of a film beyond the surface level. If you genuinely can't see any anti-imperialist connotations in Avatar (not to mention eco-friendly ones), then it's you that needs to watch the movie again.

  • Comment number 36.

    -Sam- wrote:
    "Why did The Hurt Locker win so many awards? "

    Because for every male soldier sent overseas, there are about three females at home who want to feel proud and important vicariously.

    The thing about the hurt locker is that it is a war film written by a woman for women. All the characters are deeply emotional and react to their world in profoundly emotional ways.

    It is a film about how soldiers would feel if they were all female.

    And so it is politically correct and highly useful propaganda as well.

    It is also, if you have ever been in an infantry unit, hysterical rubbish and completely absurd.

  • Comment number 37.

    SimonB, I'm not sure how you can confuse the numbers of people who see a film with how good the film is. Just because people go to see a film doesn't mean they walk out thinking it's a great film or it should win awards. I've seen 'Titanic' at least three times, but I don't think it's a great film. Enjoyable, yes, mildly. Great, most definitely not. I've rarely not enjoyed a film I've seen in the cinema, but that doesn't mean I think they're worthy of awards. People went to see 'Avatar' because it looked interesting, its advertising was everywhere and it was billed as the film of the year/decade/century and they thought they'd give it a try. That's about marketing, not about quality. For the record, I didn't think either 'Avatar' or 'The Hurt Locker' were Oscar/BAFTA-winning films. Both were good, neither was great.

  • Comment number 38.

    25. At 4:07pm on 22 Feb 2010, Hahayourfunny wrote:
    Really, REALLY?! Anti-American, anti-imperialist I think you need to watch this movie again douggielee

    I'm afraid the movie was without doubt a (very) thinly veiled dig at US foreign policy - the corporate driven 'westernized' civilisation travel to a foreign land in order to procure an important natural resources from the 'less civilised' natives - when diplomacy fails, an excuse is made and war is declared.

    Sound familiar?

    On a personal level, I found Avater rather disappointing. I wouldn't be as harsh as some have, but I found it failed to live up to the hype and followed a standard Hollywood formula. For the record, I also fail to see the big fuss about 3D: There were literally one or two moments in the entire movie that impressed me, 3D wise, the rest just irritated me.

  • Comment number 39.

    I think to many people here have been really hard on Avatar, at least it isn't trying to be true to life...

    The Hurt Locker is pretending to be real, and yet it from la-la land! Hurt Locker simply fails in potraying what is actually happening out there and people here are saying it is amazing?!

    Pfft! You actually know nothing!

  • Comment number 40.

    The Awards Season for films would be more significant if the voting process included professional judges as well as the relevant film guilds (as approp. BAFTA, OSCAR etc) and Top Critics (eg Rotten Tomatoe category). Then this listing films according to individual measures of favouritism might actually mean something!?

    Instead, the backstory that captures the public imagination inverts itself and becomes a big factor on the votes EG: "battle of the ex's", "David vs Goliath", "Blockbuster vs Arthouse", "American vs Foreign", "Critical vs Public" and "First Female Best Director/Picture" ad hoc. The picture of Bigelow & Cameron FACING AWAY FROM EACH OTHER is irksome for example as is the constant reference to Bigelow storming away with the awards because of her sex and less her real talent and merit's as a film-maker. Equally if people appreciated the Best Director category they might see this race as far closer than the critical awards herd mentality suggests.

    Quote: "The general feeling among the cognoscenti I spoke last night was that Hurt Locker won more for its subject matter than for the quality of the movie"

    Several implications here. But one being, a conclusive Best Picture for The Hurt Locker is less clear. Again on the other hand the arguments for Avatar not being worth Best Picture are just as cloudy and imprecise as demonstrated in many of the additional comments above and to date. Few facts and arguments based on a feeling of ethical "rightness to their opinions" that Hurt Locker is superior fail to be persuasive. Equally I can see many reasons why Avatar should have been awarded Best Picture: Creating a new genre of cinema experience successfully that is novel, people voting with their wallets, masive worldwide (not just US) appeal, cultural impact both themes and film industry and a classic story that friends, family and all demographics, nationalities of people have been entertained immensely by.

    Quote James Cameron: "It's very satisfying as a filmmaker to know you're communicating, and to a global audience," he says. "That the audience is having an experience -- that's the part of it that's most satisfying..." http://www.seattlepi.com/movies/415634_film32323688.html

    Quote James Cameron: "So the fact that 'Avatar' is resonating is meaningful. Maybe that's what gets these guys more riled up than anything, the fact that maybe they don't have their finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist like they think they do." http://theenvelope.latimes.com/la-en-cameron10-2010feb10,0,1912811.story

    As for the BAFTAS, they are as parochial as OSCARS are under the current voting system.

  • Comment number 41.

    I wouldn't say Avatar is so much anti-imperialist or anti-American as it is anti-rationalist. It portrays primitive, spiritualist society as inherently superiour to advanced civilisation with all its scientific progress. A classic example of the 'noble savage' genre.

    It's a shame Avatar presumes primitive societies to be peaceful and advanced civilisations as warlike when the exact opposite is true; even in the most dangerous western cities, there's many times a smaller proportion of death from violence than in the average tribe. Not to mention the lack of reliable food sources, medical treatment or education and all the suffering that comes along with that.

    The ideology behind Avatar is child like in it's naivity. The only good thing about the movie relative to the Hurt Locker is its special effects, which are incidently only possible because of the western scientific progress which James Cameron evidently detests so much.

  • Comment number 42.

    I was dragged to the cinema to see Avatar and expecting it to be bad and was still disappointed at how absolutly dire the film is. Yes the 3D graphics are lovely and pretty and stunning and revolutionary etc, but none of that made up for a weak, stilted script, a plot that was a veritable clichefest, and exposition that was unimaginative. I came out of the cinema bemoaning the fact that I'd just wasted hours of my life that I could never get back. Clearly a case of hype over substance.

    Despite all this it's bound to be a shoe in for the Oscars simply because the Hollywood machine cannot allow it to be seen to be a critical failure.

  • Comment number 43.

    @SimonB

    How many of those millions of people who went to see avatar

    - actually enjoyed it
    - haven't seen the hurt locker
    - hadn't even heard of the hurt locker until last night
    - are too young to appreciate the hurt locker

    Etc

    You just can't base an award on the box office success or the general public.

    Just look at the rising star award. Kristen Stewart pretty much admitted she got the award because of all the twilight fans, young teenage girls who are the most likely to vote for this sort of thing. It had nothing to do with her acting credentials even though she is a good actress and I enjoyed her in adventureland.

  • Comment number 44.

    @ SimonB

    I agree with your point of view.

    Avatar is a phenomenon in cinema and does great service to the evolution of B-movie, peripheral sci-fi films but also to the wealth of creative ideas in sci-fi literature, it encapsulates tons of great ideas in a classic story with revolutionary visuals that can be compared favorably to other movies now, and as you suggest, to the future of movies. Finally the visuals in movies and great ideas in books in this genre are worthy of each other and the plot may be familiar but it is full of innovations, maintains a very "Avatar" heart and is supremely entertaining.

  • Comment number 45.

    I disagree with the running assumption that Avatar's anti-imperialism theme will turn off Academy voters or Americans. Clearly we Yanks had no problem with that theme judging by our box office receipts. In fact it dovetails into our collective myth that we are not an imperialist nation, but are on the side of the "common man". Or alien.

    The fact that The Hurt Locker reminds us as a nation of our messed up war, something the general public seems content to forget, won't hold sway with Academy voters, who might take this chance to flex Liberal muscles and correct their long standing omission of not awarding a woman director.

    It will be interesting to see how they swing.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ Kapnag:

    "Future of cinema"

    - is a slogan not a logical deduction! EG

    (1) This means Avatar has been tagged by journalists as the notable, novel film to bring a 3D experience to millions worldwide. aka "Game-Changer".
    (2) Sorry but saying "without the 3D" is not acknowledging that this alters the experience (you are underestimating the technology's affect on the film, as much as editing or CGI have done previously).
    (3) 3D format is good for cinemas providing another product to diversity their portfolio to paying customers and bring renewed attention away from other competing entertainment industries - so economically for the big-screen YES it is a commercial future voted by paying punters.
    (4) As with 3D, Blockbusters are not so much a distinct format as a distint style or genre of movie for you to watch. Usually visuals and excitement through sensational or novel means is the major part of the film's appeal. They will not replace other films if you prefer complex character development as opposed to broadly cast archetypal characters, but film as a visual medium is very well served by exemplars of their genre/style such as Avatar clearly is (according to people voting with their wallets: $2.49 billion to date indication). Blockbusters make a lot of money but this is exceptional.

  • Comment number 47.

    #34 ThatSingingGuy:

    Agree with this: The achievements both of the film Avatar and director James Cameron are clearly numerous, distinct and of real quality.

    #36 democracythreat:

    Quote: "It is also, if you have ever been in an infantry unit, hysterical rubbish and completely absurd."

    Katheryn Bigelow makes good movies, for sure, but if anyone chooses a war movie that trumps it's conception of the realism and human condition experienced in war, they set a very high standard of authenticity to match to, imo. The Hurt Locker judging by personal opinion, some personal experience and other informed opinions falls short in some areas here that leads to disbelief and lack of connection with the movie. It's still a very good movie but the question is, how good based on it's own merits? Jeremy Renner does not match my expectation of a bomb disposal soldier.

  • Comment number 48.

    I enjoyed Avatar and believe that any movies to be awarded awards should have been avalible to the mainstream public which few are. I was just relieved that films have moved away from the bucket of gore scheme, it caused me to abandon movies for the longest time (ghost ship, sweeny todd, etc).

  • Comment number 49.

    18. At 3:28pm on 22 Feb 2010, SimonB wrote:
    Surely no one goes into making a film for it not to be entertaining or make money ?
    ----------------------------------
    Have you ever watched a film in an art installation? Badly made, shoddy and unwatchable but you need to have creativity to achieve it!

  • Comment number 50.

    21. At 3:41pm on 22 Feb 2010, Graphis wrote:
    Avatar is an outstanding technical achievement..... and it's Americans who created the effects
    ----------------------------------------
    No! Many effects were produced in London and yet more by Weta in NZ. ILM of course did many shots in the states, hence the Star Wars look of some of the machines.
    Weta Digital has been nominated for an Academy Award for Avatar.

  • Comment number 51.

    movies are about escape and believing that with in the context of the film that all these things are possible. Avatar caught my eye because it did that! It was an escape that worked, yes the story line is old, think disney's pocahauntas (spel?), anime, a history book (us settlers and gold miners etc against the native population), and many others. Personally I liked Star Trek better, better storyline.

  • Comment number 52.

    The box office taking doesn't say anything about a film aside from how much money it made. It is not a sign of quality, something Avatar neatly illustrate.
    It's a very spectacular film, and the visuals are stunning and it deserve the awards it have won for that. But in terms of the actual film as in the story it's fairly disappointing. But then, that's not the draw of the film either, people don't go to see it for the story, you go and see it for the spectacle. It's a true cinema hit, it really deserves to be seen on the big screen, but I think it's going to be disappointing at home.

    It wasn't the only film out that disappointed in the story department, Star Trek did the same I thought, but it's certainly the most talked about.

  • Comment number 53.

    The beauty of movies is that there is a wonderful equilibrium between those who contest that movies should be about art, and those who think they should be about entertainment.

    This Oscar battle straddles the issue well. The Hurt Locker wins if we consider the art: well-made, atmospheric and meaningful, but with no real storyline arc. Avatar wins for the entertainment - a sheer spectacle, enjoyable and escapist.

    But A Serious Man blends both aspects exquisitely and would be my choice.

  • Comment number 54.

    Avatar is a spectacular visual achievement, this clearly deserves attention and respect and of course the appropriate awards. However it was one of the most hackneyed un-original films i have ever seen. Within the first 20 minutes you can predict exactly what format the movie will follow, you know exactly how all the characters will play out as you have seen all of them in hundreds of movies before it. Nothing new here.

    Theres also the matter of record block buster takings at the cinema, i think you will find if a cinema chain charges around double the price of a ticket this will of course reflect in these numbers. Factoring this in, has it really did better than other films at the box office?

  • Comment number 55.

    I'm amazed by all these very serious soul searching, political, conspiratorial comments. We're discussing a couple of films. They were both pretty entertaining, but just films after all. I liked Avatar, good story (there are only a few originals - as those of us who know our Shakespeare can confirm), massive effects, good audience atmosphere. I liked Hurt Locker, story, emotion, thought. Perhaps some people are mistaking these bedtime tales for real life? Time to move on and watch the News. I'm looking forward to Alice in Wonderland too. Anyone else just like it simple?

  • Comment number 56.

    There is nothing original (or particularly good) about Avatar except the special effects. It deserves the visual effects award, but nothing else.

  • Comment number 57.

    How James Cameron managed to raise a $300 million dollar budget to produce such a bad film as Avatar,I will never know. But it paid off.
    He deserves an OSCAR for that alone !!!

  • Comment number 58.

    I think SAW VI was a better movie than both Avatar or Hurt Locker. You wont see it win any awards but it was great and with Saw VII being made for 3D it will be even better.

  • Comment number 59.

    Avatar deserves the visual effects award, and im sure nobody is gonna turn against it. but why is it everybody talking about Avatar and The hurt locker? the best thing about Avatar is its especial effects part, it does not have a good story line, and when we talk about the hurt locker the only best thing about that movie is the explosions. for me the best movie of 2009 is Inglorious Basterds. or how about District 9. Up in the air is another big flop for me. i dont kno why people like it. maybe because of Clooney or Jason. For me even Jasons Juno sucks. i dont think Avatar or the hurt locker should get the best picture Oscar. if Kathryn Bigelow wins oscars best pic and directors award then its cause of her gender, yeah i mean come on, why is it Bigelow n her boring iraq war movie. A movie is about entertainment. hurt locker dosent have that feature. look back at 2009 you will find better films than Avatar, The hurt Locker, Up in the Air or Julie and Julia.

  • Comment number 60.

    I'm afraid as far as I'm concerned neither film has any great merit. Avatar is just "Dancing With Smurfs...", same story as Wolves but with blue aliens instead of native americans...

  • Comment number 61.

    Will Gompertz: "Hurt Locker versus Avatar is the story of this year's film awards season and it's playing out like the final stages of UEFA's Champions League. Avatar won 2-0 at the Golden Globes. Now Hurt Locker has responded with a 6-2 thrashing at the Baftas, leaving things nicely poised for the big decider: the final on 7 March at the Oscars."

    That's a fair description and dramatic comparison that IS/WILL BE the big story come Oscar's night. There's outside chances for Inglourious B(sp.) but original screenplay and supporting actor for this film I suspect for it's 2/8 noms. The other main categories are pretty much sewn up already.

    Both are very good films, both are very good directors. The new voting system could influence Hurt Locker favourably is the only caveat, but all in all, I'd expect to see Avatar win at least 7/9 including Best Picture. People can speculate and "play" at giving out their own nominations all they want, if that amuses them, but speculating on who will win with any real accuracy does depend on estimating the calibre of the films against the competition and what makes one film stand out from the others for whichever nomination they are pitted in.

    Put your money where your mouth is and slap down some big bets with bookies, and you could be in for some rich returns, this year.

    It's not every year you get a phenomenon such as Avatar or a classy war film by a really cool female director that is critically pushed but commercially such a tadpole, at the same time, or a broad range of films to split the rest of the spoils, left over from "game-changing" Avatar.

  • Comment number 62.

    Avatar was a decent experience but not a great film in my opinion. Is the category best film, or best experience? I haven't seen Hurt Locker but it looks more appealing to me.

    However I would gladly throw all the alternatives out of the window for a vote in favour of 'Up', which has an incredibly moving story and amazing visuals! It would be a big blow for the 'real people' if the animated movie walked away with the top prize. I don't see it happening but think it would be well deserved if it did

  • Comment number 63.

    Anthony you make a good point about Up. Obviously it doesnt have a chance in hell of taking the awards but on reflection I enjoyed it a lot more than Avatar. It was incredibly moving, I never thought an animated Pixar film would almost reduce me to tears but it did. Avatar on the other hand just got silly, I had no investment in any of the characters and really didn't care what happened to the Na'vi.

    You should watch The Hurt Locker, its a film worth seeing even if you dont enjoy it. I've stressed that I dont believe it to be a great film by any means but it kind of sets a new benchmark or convention for the war genre.

  • Comment number 64.

    Avatar's stunning special effects should win the FX Oscar, but taking the whole package; FX, script, acting, plot - it pretty much sucked.

    The Hurt Locker had it all; it is head and shoulders above Avatar - well deserving of the Oscars for best film and director.

  • Comment number 65.

    democracythreat wrote, "The thing about the hurt locker is that it is a war film written by a woman for women. All the characters are deeply emotional and react to their world in profoundly emotional ways."

    except The Hurt Locker wasn't written by a woman but by a man called Mark Boal.


  • Comment number 66.

    Wow. The most comprehensive interview with James Cameron, to date about his thoughts on Avatar, his working relationship with Kathryn Bigelow and his serious concerns for the environment and finally his "fantasy" hopes for Oscars Night:

    http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/10866

    Just for the record, both movies and directors are great!

  • Comment number 67.

    Avatar, like the majority of James Cameron films, is a victory of style over substance; if its storyline were any cheesier it would have "mature" stamped all over it. In contrast, Hurt Locker is a superb film and features some extraordinary performances, as well as being well directed, intelligently filmed and carefully written. Let's hope the Oscar judges make the right decision!

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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