Best Picture #82: The Hurt Locker

Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is The Hurt Locker (2009).

It took 82 years but the Academy finally realized women direct films too. Probably not much of a coincidence it took that film being a war film for it to receive recognition though. It’s as solid a war epic as any, finding intense moments of suspense throughout its harrowing depiction of a war torn land, but it functions best in its character work. So often, the men in these films are depicted as heroic figures but here they seem much closer to the people I know who have gone into the military. They may be idealistic or chasing a rush, and they may convince themselves of the greater value of their work, but at the end of the day, it is just work done by regular people. More dangerous and stressful than many other people’s jobs for sure, but done for a paycheck or perhaps an escape from home just like anything else. Were more films closer to that honesty found here, I imagine many young men (Deryck are you reading?) would be less enthusiastic about joining up.

The Real Best Picture:

Strangely, through all the years starting with this one since the category was expanded to include more nominees, I’ve generally felt less strongly about the choices made. Perhaps I’ve just seen more films from the last decade that weren’t nominated and far exceeded the merits of anything that was or maybe the variety of choice allows for more thinking more do or don’t deserve it. Regardless, I am still a big fan of Up in the Air and would’ve certainly voted for it this time.

Best Picture Winners

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