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Avatar The Hurt Locker

"The Hurt Locker" v. "Avatar": A Film Hassle by Gary Chew

GARY CHEW/Sacramento

Once upon a time it was an Oscar stand-off between "Crash" and "Brokeback Mountain." Now look for a showdown with "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" facing off.

"Avatar" has been selling tickets like hotcakes since it opened. "The Hurt Locker" hasn't been seen by many only until the last couple of months: a low budget but superbly made movie that falls into the category of one not to miss.

Promotion for the humongously budgeted pic by James Cameron has been bigger than the running time of his movie is long. Public relations folks were even showing clips of "Avatar" as it advanced through the production process long before being released.

It's been 8 months since I've seen "The Hurt Locker" and there's not been a better new film on my radar. And it's been, as Frank Sinatra would sing, "A Very Good Year."

The Oscar people have disinvited Nicolas Chartier, one of the producers of "The Hurt Locker" to Sunday's extravaganza because he wrote inappropriate notes to some members of the Academy asking them to vote for his picture instead of "Avatar." Whoops, that's not cool, according to the policies of the Oscarians in La La Land. But they aren't disemboweling "Locker" from the competition. That is cool.

By the way, Chartier was involved with the finances of the controversial Oscar-winning Best Picture, "Crash," directed by Paul Haggis. Mr. Chartier is also French, so expect a deluge of conspiracy theories about him on talk radio. I can see the headline now: Frog Film Financier Flim-Flams Academy.

Then there have been some military people who say that Mark Boal's script for "The Hurt Locker" doesn't reflect well on those in the service of their country. Is this strike two for "Locker," and a grand slam for "Avatar?"

Then there's this: Geoffrey Fieger of Tennesee has just filed a lawsuit against the makers of "The Hurt Locker," alleging they used an article by Boal, published in Playboy, about Fieger and his IED defusing squad in Iraq, never offering him a fig for the story.

I think if what Fieger is saying is so, they should lay some dough on the guy for his trouble and, mostly, for his service to the country. But the real rub for moviegoers is this: there are some veterans saying the movie is inaccurate in depicting IED guys in combat and we've got another vet saying that "The Hurt Locker" is so right-on about his exploits in Iraq that he wants compensation. Which is it, guys?

At first blush, seems to me the military people saying the movie doesn't show grunts in an authentic way is just so much bull puckey. I was in the US military and what I saw in "The Hurt Locker" comes exceedingly close to the way lots of guys behave in uniform. Very real looking stuff.

Moreover, other negative responses have included that "The Hurt Locker" suggests that fighting in a war can become addictive, as if that's something untrue, or, on the other hand, if so, something not to be revealed. Gimme a break. Both are reason enough to shout to the world via any kind of media. It's one of the most compelling aspects of "The Hurt Locker," especially when coupled with the commitment these guys show defusing bombs hidden in Baghdad streets. Not nice work, if you can get it, I imagine.

Quite possibly, the hassle now unfurling between "The Hurt Locker" and "Avatar" for the Best Picture Oscar connects well to six items: TV ratings, prestige, money, money, money and the fact that Kathryn Bigelow, director of "The Hurt Locker" and Cameron were once husband and wife.

Jeremy Renner, who plays the man fashioned after Geoffrey Fieger in "The Hurt Locker," is also up for Best Male Lead in a Film, but will likely lose to Jeff Bridges. Bigelow and her ex are also head-to-head for the Best Director Oscar.

As with their films, that win seems a bit more "Up in the Air," which was also another good movie released last year.

One more thing: "The Hurt Locker" opens with a phrase taken from a quote by Chris Hedges, "War is a drug." And as I mentioned in my "Hurt Locker" review of last July, "…the product of that specific addiction being Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)."

Oscars coming to the small screen Sunday, March 7.

Gary Chew can be reached at garychew@comcast.net,
Facebook.com/justin.playfair and Twitter.com/orwellingly.

Copyright © 2010, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.

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