Oscar needs an upset in the best picture category on Sunday night.
The Academy Awards owes it to the viewing public to be like a great movie that builds suspense and pays off big with a surprise ending.
The squawk leading up to the awards show has all been about the indie low-budget Iraq war film “The Hurt Locker” duking it out for the big prize against the almighty dollar biggest money making movie ever, “Avatar.”
The consensus is the Oscar for best movie is that two-picture race —- even though this year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated 10 movie for best film rather than the traditional five.
It will be a boring show if “Avatar” sweeps or gets close to it by winning 7 or 8 awards.
It will be an anti-climax if “The Hurt Locker” wins as expected.
So how about, say, “District 9″ for best picture and screenplay?
Or, “The Blind Side” winning for best picture and best actress?
Not going to happen. The Academy nominated 10 movies, but five were pretty much out of the running from the get-go because they didn’t have a corresponding director.
Speaking of directors —- Kathryn Bigelow is a sure-fire winner for directing “The Hurt Locker.” Bigelow, who has been a study in humility the whole awards season which included her winning the Director’s Guild Award, will nevertheless be in the spotlight Sunday night.
Bigelow will become the first woman to win an Oscar for directing a major motion picture. Look for the standing ovation she’ll receive for her history-making (if you call anything Hollywood does historic) achievement.
Not only will Bigelow have beaten the big boys at their own game, she will have done so by making what is essentially a guy’s movie —- which explains why it bombed at the box office. It’s not your girlfriend’s date movie.
It’s about war. Not only any war, but George W. Bush’s war.
The ony thing that will prevent “The Hurt Locker” from winning the best picture is not so much the mega-hit “Avatar” (which doesn’t have the juggernaut effect of James Cameron’s other blockbuster “Titanic”.) It will be politics.
It remains to be seen if the liberal tree-hugging, global warming knee-jerks of Hollywood can overlook the fact that if they win the producers might end up not only thanking the troops but Bush and Cheney —- because if it wasn’t for them the film could not only never have been made, but even conceived as fiction.
If “Hurt Locker” wins, Hollywood will pat itself on the back and think they’ve answered the critics by saying “see, we honor the troops.”
It’s actually a no-lose situation for Oscar: If “Hurt Locker” prevails, the Academy can also brag that it honors the little pictures that could over the behemoths.
Should “Avatar” win, Hollywood will be accused by its critics of rewarding commerce. It won’t matter, since everyone has seen the movie, Tinseltown won’t have to worry about feeling blue.
More often than not, Oscar takes itself seriously —- maybe too seriously, which is why comedies don’t win best picture.
Oscar has been frivilous in the past with some of their best picture choices. But for every “The Greatest Show on Earth”” there’s a “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “On the Waterfront,” “In the Heat of the Night,” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Or for every “Around the World in 80 Days” there’s a “Hamlet,” “A Man for All Seasons,” “Amadeus,” and “Gandhi.”
Oscar has honored blockbusters like “Gone With the Wind,” “Ben-Hur,” “The Sound of Music” and “Lawrence of Arabia.” And selected the underdog film like “Marty” and “Rocky.”
The Academy Award has gone to some great movies like “Casablanca,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and “The Godfather.”
But it has missed the mark on occasion as well by choosing the likes of “The English Patient,” “Out of Africa,” “Ordinary People” and “The Deer Hunter.”
It’s not very often though that Oscar goes for the upset. Maybe once a generation. If that.
The last upset winner that had the audience in attendance at the Oscarcast gasp was when “Crash” won best picture over “Brokeback Mountain” in 2005.
In fact, in the last several years, Oscar’s selections for best picture —- except for Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” in 2006 —- have been forgettable.
The crop of movies nominated this year don’t seem to be memorable either.
Don’t expect many surprises either.
The four acting categories are a lock. The same performers who won the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild awards will command a repeat performance on Oscar night:
Jeff Bridges, best actor, “Crazy Heart.”
Sandra Bullock, best actress, “The Blind Side.”
Mo’Nique, best supporting actress, “Precious.”
Christoph Waltz, best supporting actor, “Inglourious Basterds.”
If there is any surprise, it’s going to be that “Avatar” is going to have a bad night. Sure, it’s the movie audiences probably want to see win. No one has gone to see “The Hurt Locker” —- it’s more popular with people in the movie industry —- and they do the voting.
“The Hurt Locker” should come away with as many as 5 Academy Awards:
1. Best Picture
2. Best Director Kathryn Bigelow
3. Best Original Screenplay by Mark Boal
4. Best Editing by Chris Innis and Bob Murowski
5. The fifth Oscar will be for one of the two sound awards presented (the other will go to “Avatar.”)
The telecast will run about four hours. That’s four hours you’ll never get back.