2009 (awards handed out in 2010) saw the inevitable happen. The expansion of the best picture nominee list to a list of 10 including just the second animated film. The Hurt Locker took home top honors along with it’s director Kathryn Bigelow who was the ex-wife of fellow nominee James Cameron. The true competition was in the best actor category. Jeff Bridges was the nights sentimental favorite despite it being the BEST performance of his career in Crazy Heart. He was up against George Clooney in an out-of-the-park role in Up In The Air and Jeremy Renner from The Hurt Locker.
Let’s look at the remaining nominees beginning with James Cameron’s visually stunning Avatar. The story of workers mining for an extinct mineral on another planet was a huge success at the box office and is still the benchmark for 3D movies. The problem with Avatar was the story was weak at best and the acting felt almost phoned in. How it made it to this short list is beyond me.
Next was the heartwarming feel good movie of the year staring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock in, The Blind Side. The true story of a generous yet traditional southern family taking in a poor and homeless boy who soon discovers he has a talent for football and makes it all the way to the NFL thanks to their help and generosity.
Again we have a peculiar choice and it too hails from the sci-fi genre. The Peter Jackson produced District 9 is about a South African town that has quarantined their alien population due to the fact they infect humans and turn them into aliens. Shot in the pseudo documentary style it was a very smart script that was well made despite a movie that easily could have been horribly done in the wrong hands.
2009 brought the movie that Quentin Tarantino had been working on almost his whole career. Fans had heard stories of his writing the script on the set of Pulp Fiction. It was gonna be his opus and best work yet. Inglorious Basterds proved one thing, too much time may be a bad thing. While it was a good movie and had some classic Tarantino staples in it including great dialogue and acting, Christoph Waltz without question stole the movie. But as a whole movie it didn’t live up to it’s hype. It would have been better as come out of nowhere type.
Then of course comes the token British film, An education tells the story of a teenage girl and how a new playboy in town changes her life. The real jewel here is that America finally discovered Carey Mulligan and that a star was finally born.
The dark and even disturbing movie Precious based on the novel tells about a young, poor urban girl who’s abusive mother and mess of a home life drive her to better her life for her and the baby she is carrying due to the rape by her father. With a stunning a frightening performance by comedienne Monique proving again that sometimes comedians make the best actors.
Up was the first animated feature since Beauty And The Beast to be nominated for best picture. Though it’s animated it’s a very real and emotional story of a shy man whose love of his life passes away and he is determined to take the adventure he and his love were always supposed to take. Aided by the boy scout who accidentally get’s latched on for the ride he takes his journey and discovers that the life he had with her was better than any adventure they could have gone on.
George Clooney was back and so was Jason Reitman who had previously been the center of attention for directing Juno. This time he proved to be the master of what some have called “Dramedies”. Up In The Air is about Ryan Bingham, a man who fires people for a living and spends 270 days a year traveling for this horrible job. he likes the single serving life he lives and has no desire to form relationships and even gives speeches on how not to do so. That all changes when two women come into his life and he is forced to see his lifestyle for what it is and tries to change just before his new found philosophy comes crashing down.
The only movie of the year that was snubbed off the expanded nominee list was the Jeff Bridges wonderment of a movie Crazy Heart. The story of an old broken down, drunken country singer songwriter who falls in love before tearing it all down in an instant. He then goes on to prove it’s never too late for someone to make the best of their life.
So did the best picture win? In this case it’s very easy to make a case for Clooney’s Up In The Air, the animated love story Up and the life changing story of Crazy Heart. They are all equal films for what they are. After spending years in Iraq with nothing but controversy surrounding it, it was due time that a film would make us look differently at war and the soldiers who fight it. The Hurt Locker was the right movie at the right time therefore making it’s statement on Oscar night. It’s hard to argue against this movie since it’s so engrossing and intense on level not felt in quite some time.