LOS ANGELES (CBS) — An Iraq war drama that chronicles the perilous adventures of a U.S. Army bomb disposal team outshined Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time, at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. The Hurt Locker, brainchild of writer Mark Boal – who spent time embedded with an explosive ordnance disposal team in Baghdad – won six of the nine awards for which it was nominated, including best picture.
After dedicating the award for best original screenplay to director Kathryn Bigelow, his father, and U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Boal discussed his time in the Middle East. “I had an eye-opening experience in Baghdad at the end of 2004,” he said. “I thought that the story of these guys who have one of the most dangerous jobs in the world would be an interesting way to look at the war in a broader sense. I’m tremendously grateful and humbled by the outcome.”
It was also a remarkable evening for Bigelow, who made history as the first woman to win for directing. “I hope I’m the first of many, and of course, I’d love to just think of myself as a filmmaker,” she said of her win. She also beat her ex-husband James Cameron, whose 3D work of art, Avatar, has made more than $2 billion worldwide. Despite the highly publicized irony of the situation, she told the press that “Jim is very inspiring.”
Avatar also received nine nominations, but only took home awards for art direction, cinematography and visual effects – an obvious disappointment for a film that cost $300 million and took 14 years to make. Cameron conceptualized the film in 1995 – two years before the world fell in love with Titanic – but was forced to wait more than a decade for technology to catch up with his imagination. When it was finally time to bring the world of Pandora to life, Cameron called on a linguist from the University of Southern California to create an entire Na’vi language for the planet’s inhabitants. Cameron, clearly aware that he had crafted an epic, ended the film abruptly with the intention of transporting audiences back to Pandora. Although it didn’t take home any of the most coveted awards, Avatar has already funded any and all of Cameron’s future endeavors, which will likely include a trilogy capable of outdoing the more than $4.3 billion Star Wars empire.
The evening may have been most disappointing for Quentin Tarantino, who, like Cameron, spent an unusually long time crafting World War II fantasy Inglourious Basterds, which was nominated for eight awards. Only supporting actor Christoph Waltz, who plays ruthless “Jew hunter” SS Colonel Hans Landa, took home an Oscar for the film. However, Waltz praised Tarantino’s 10 years of work in his acceptance speech: “Quentin, with his unorthodox methods of navigation – this fearless explorer – took this ship across and brought it in with flying colors and that’s why I’m here.” Even with just one award, painstaking attention to detail and awe-inspiring performances by Waltz, best actor nominee Brad Pitt (Lt. Aldo Raine) and French beauty Mélanie Laurent (Shoshanna Dreyfus) make this film a genuine masterpiece.
Disney Pixar’s Up, winner of the awards for best animated feature and best original score, was also a long time in the making. “Boy, never did I dream that making a flip book out of my third grade math book would lead to this,” stunned writer and director Pete Docter said. In the extraordinarily heart-warming film, Carl Fredrickson (Ed Asner) loses his wife, Ellie, and is forced to live out their dreams out alone. Thanks to a million balloons that carry his house to South America, as well as Russell the adolescent Wilderness Explorer, Kevin the female bird and Doug the dog, Fredrickson realizes that just like his flying home, things are starting to look up.
After four previous nominations, things are most certainly looking up for Jeff Bridges, who won the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as struggling country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart. Backstage, I asked Bridges what part of his character he most identifies with. “The music, that’s what I most identified with Bad,” he said. “I have been writing music, playing music since I was a kid. He had four probably great wives that he got rid of, but I have a very strong marriage. You know, Bad didn’t have that. There’s a lot of stuff he didn’t have.” Because millions of music fans fell in love with film’s soundtrack – which also took home the award for best original song for “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett – I also (jokingly) asked if he would consider starting a band with co-star Colin Farrel. “I don’t know about forming a country band. Sounds like a good idea. I’ll talk with those guys, maybe.”
It was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of Mo’Nique’s life to prove that she is infinitely more than a comedienne by taking on the role of Mary Jones, the monstrously abusive mother of Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. After receiving the award for best supporting actress, she was asked if she could see any part of herself in her character. Surprisingly, she said she could: “Yes, in that last scene. And I will ask you, have you ever had a dark moment when you were unlovable? Didn’t you want someone to love you through it? That was the same for me. For as cruel as Mary Jones was, for the monster that she was, everybody – and I don’t care who you are and what crime you’ve committed – everybody deserves to be loved, even when they are unlovable.” Geoffry Fletcher also won the award for best adapted screenplay and dedicated his win to “precious boys and girls everywhere.”
Like Mo’Nique, best actress winner Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side proves that her talent reaches far beyond comedy. “I would like to thank what this film is about for me, which are moms that take care of the babies and the children no matter where they come from. Those moms and parents never get thanked. I, in particular, failed to thank one,” she said through tears. “So, if I can take this moment and thank Helga B. for not letting me ride in cars with boys until I was 18 because she was right, I would have done what she said I was going to do.” In reference to both her award and the film, which is based on the upbringing of Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman Michael Oher, she humbly quipped, “This came out of left field – every pun intended.” – Jenn McBride