I had been saying that it would win Best Picture, but have since reconsidered, (sorry past-me of last week…) but here’s why I think “The Hurt Locker” will win Best Director.
1) It Won’t Help Avatar, but Will Help Hurt Locker. Avatar will be the biggest grossing film of all time. The only way that changes is either a) If James Cameron outdoes himself again, or b) If god makes a film called “the true history of the world” wherein she interviews Jesus, Moses, etc. Since both of those are unlikely, Avatar will remain the money champ for a long long time; whether it wins another award or not, it will be seen and paid for far into the future. The Hurt Locker, on the other hand, stands to be greatly impacted by a major Oscar victory, and this will tilt voters towards “Hurt Locker.”
2) Voters Want to Make Films Too. The industry is hurting, and small films are hurting most. Financing and Distribution are harder to find than ever, and many good films go unseen every year. Including, for the most part, The Hurt Locker. Since many more industry members stand to make small films than big films, (big films are fewer in number and harder to put together), and since they need to show that small films can “make it” profitably, they need to show that a worthy smaller film like The Hurt Locker can win big recognition, and thereby incentivize the future financing and distribution of smaller films.
3) Female Directors Shut Out for Too Long. With only 3 Best Director nominations in Academy history and no wins, female directors’ face greater difficulty than males do in finding industry financing and distribution support, a factor that perpetuates this gender gap. This makes Hollywood one of the last industries to publicly support gender equality by action, rather than just word; there is a female star Ice Truck driver for gosh sakes. So it’s somewhat embarrassing, or should be, that an industry known for passionate speeches about human rights, strident support for environmental issues, and staunch opposition to war, seems peevish about acknowledging woman as creative equals. This will, or should, also tilt voters towards The Hurt Locker. (Couple this with an incremental “youth movement” and more voters born after WWII and the movement in women’s equality since then, and I think you have additional readiness to address this).
4) People Hate James Cameron. While Hollywood has great respect for Cameron’s proven and astonishing big-film talent, as it should, I have yet to hear a story -secondhand or any hand- of someone in the film industry who thinks that James Cameron is a nice, or even good, person. Even with the environmental/zen/anti-war message of his latest visual orgy. He’s a great visual storyteller, no doubt, but there are only one or two other celebrity figures who are as soundly disliked on a personal level, and I think this will have an influence on those who might vote him a personal award.
5) The Death of Writing. There are several times in Avatar where the dialogue is -for lack of a better word- cringeworthy. “Unobtainium” as a word is the antithesis of good film writing. It takes the viewer out of the film (reminds them that they’re in a theater watching a movie and their car is parked in a towaway zone, etc.) and it does so gratuitiously and dumbly. There are also several sections of dialogue where one I had to bite my tongue to avoid bursting out in laughter. There are thousands of Hollywood writers who could have easily fixed these problems, so there’s no other obvious reason for this other than that it was clearly not considered an important enough aspect of the film to get the best people in to work on it. Cameron didn’t skimp on the effects or the overall narrative (for the most part) but the dialogue is so bad in parts that it seems to have been deemed irrelevant. With reality shows causing writer layoffs, and sparsely-scripted slasher films making money by the bloody bucket-load, anyone who hopes to keep the craft of writing tied to the craft of filmmaking, will prefer The Hurt Locker over Avatar.
So there you have it. Will any of these be enough to also unseat Avatar for best picture? I used to think so, but I now think “probably not.” But do you care to take a guess which one I’ll be rooting for?