Hurt Locker dethrones 'King of the World'

By Russell Baillie

Timeout editor Russell Baillie offers a movie reviewer's take on the winners and the losers at this year's Academy Awards.

So The Hurt Locker did what it threatened to do by knocking off James Cameron's King of the World crown. The film won six of its nine nominations including best picture, best director - Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to triumph in the category - as well as best original screenplay for former reporter Mark Boal.

The biggest surprise other than Avatar being largely sidelined, though effectively winning New Zealand four more Oscars, was the odd conservatism of the awards.

Hurt Locker is an Iraqi war film which effectively says US troops have it tough over there but not much more in its war-is-hell-but-it-sure-is-exciting story of bomb disposal and male bonding.

Best actor Jeff Bridges plays a washed-up country singer in Crazy Heart, a film that could have been made any time in the last fifty years.

Best actress Sandra Bullock is the brassy southern woman and inspirational figure - some have pegged her as Palin-like - to a black football player.

True, the gritty African American social realism of Precious did scoop two awards - best supporting actress for Mo'Nique and its screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher. But that film came blessed by the hand of Oprah and might have gone ignored otherwise.

But there were few surprises, other than the fact a movie so few people have seen could take down the biggest movie of all time.

The final total

Avatar 3
The Blind Side 1
Crazy Heart 2
Hurt Locker 6
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 2
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1


Russell Baillie's Oscars ceremony commentary:

6.02: But the best picture winner is The Hurt Locker, making it the smallest-grossing movie to ever win the category. Bigelow thanks anyone wearing a uniform anywhere for their service, and after being briefly sidelined by Martin and Baldwin for their goodnights, leaves the stage with an Oscar in each hand.

6.00: Then again it could just be the reputation that Cameron has got around Hollywood that meant he missed out on best director. Could Avatar still win best picture? Tom Hanks on to present from the 10-strong category.

5.56: And the Oscar goes to Kathryn Bigelow, the first woman to win a best director Academy Award. Also the first ex-wife of a fellow nominee.

5.53: It's Barbara Streisand to present best director, which might be prescient. Cameron or Bigelow? Win this and the best picture is also a lock.

5.49: Sean Penn opens the envelope and it's Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side.

"Did I really earn this or did I just wear you all down?"

It's a double for Bullock who just won herself a Golden Raspberry too for her performance in All About Steve. Her speech is a winning mix of teary-eyed gratitude and comedy.

5.40: The best actress awards also get the personal tribute treatment from co-stars with Forrest Whitaker on Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side); Michael Sheen on Helen Mirren (The Last Station); Peter Sarsgaard on Carey Mulligan (An Education); Oprah Winfrey on Gabourey Sidibe; Stanley Tucci on Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) who says he is spearheading a movement to have her Oscar nominations capped. But could Gabourey Sidibe's fairytale have an even happier ending? If not, Bullock.

The total so far:

Avatar 3
Crazy Heart 2
Hurt Locker 4
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 2
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1

5.34: Presented by Kate Winslet, the Oscar goes to: Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart. He gets a standing ovation and spends much of the early part of his speech thanking his showbiz ancestry.

"Thank you mum and dad for turning me on to such a groovy profession."

5.25: The best actor award with co-stars past and present of the nominees paying tribute to each nominee. Michelle Pfeiffer gets her Fabulous Baker Boys leading man Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart); Vera Farmiga on Up in The Air leading man George Clooney; Julianne Moore on A Single Man's Colin Firth; Tim Robbins on his Shawshank Redemption partner Morgan Freeman (Invictus); Colin Farrell on The Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner. Jeff Bridges is the frontrunner, it's also something of a Hollywood long service award for The Dude.

5.20: Kathy Bates, a bit player in Titanic, presents the best pic recap for Avatar. But could this indicate only Misery lies ahead?

5.17:But it's Argentina's El Secreto de Sus Ojos takes the prize.

5.15:Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Aldomovar present best foreign language film which is possibly a showdown between A Prophet (France) and A White Ribbon (Germany).

The total so far:

Avatar 3
Crazy Heart 1
Hurt Locker 4
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 2
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1

5.09: And the Oscar goes to Hurt Locker. Next up Keanu Reeves presents the film's best picture recap, having been directed by Kathryn Bigelow in Point Break, a film which curiously received very little Oscar attention.

5.07: Best editing. It's another Hurt Locker vs Avatar showdown. Hurt Locker likely to take it.

5.05: And the Oscar goes to The Cove, which is finally getting released in Japan soon due to its Oscar attention.

5.03: Matt Damon to present documentary feature. Our pick prediction Japanese dolphin slaughter expose The Cove.

4.58: Kevin Bacon recaps best picture possible Up in the Air, the George Clooney flick which appears to not be getting much love from the Academy tonight.
The total so far:

Avatar 3
Crazy Heart 1
Hurt Locker 3
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 2
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1

4.57: And the Oscar goes to Avatar, with the Weta Digital team of Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R Jones taking the awards.

4.55: Best visual effects...Avatar, surely.

4.53: And the Oscar goes to Up and composer Michael Giachino.

4.48: Jennifer Lopez and Sam Worthington on to present best original score, which comes with a full choreography work-up for each soundtrack by The League of Extraordinary Dancers. Bet the ceremony bathrooms are doing a roaring trade about now... Best score? Avatar's was awful. Apparently the Na'vi are a tribal people but despite living on the other side of the galaxy, still like major chords played by loud brass instruments. The music over that tear-jerking montage in Up just might swing it.

4.40: The annual roll call of the Academy's dearly departed is presented with James Taylor on stage singing The Beatles' In My Life over the montage.

4.37: Nope, the Oscar goes to Avatar's director of photography Mauro Fiore, who in acceptance speech thanks "everybody in New Zealand". Though he may just mean the ones he worked with in Wellington. Nice bloke.

4.36: Sandra Bullock on to present best cinematographer. Hurt Locker again?

4.30:John Travolta, whose own career was revived by Quentin Tarantino casting him in Pulp Fiction, presents the best picture recap for Inglourious Basterds.

The total so far:

Avatar 1
Crazy Heart 1
Hurt Locker 3
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 1
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1

4.27: Sound mixing also goes to The Hurt Locker, indicating the film is gathering momentum as it heads towards the night's bigger awards.

4.24: Sound editing goes to The Hurt Locker.

4.22: The awards for sound editing and mixing; Avatar might have a lock on both.

4.13: A tribute to horror films. Cue Jaws theme, Psycho theme, The Shining, Rosemary's Baby, lots of slasher films, quite a lot of blood and a medley of screaming. Pretty boring actually.

The total so far:

Avatar 1
Crazy Heart 1
Hurt Locker 1
Inglourious Basterds 1
Precious 2
Up 1
Star Trek 1
Young Victoria 1

4.13: Charlize Theron presents a recap on Precious, the toughest movie of this year's wider and diverse best picture contenders.

4.10: And the Oscar goes to: Young Victoria, the third win for British designer Sandy Powell.

4.09: Sarah Jessica Parker and Tom Ford on to present best costume design. Surely Coco Before Chanel?

4.09: And so it is, with set decorator and Aucklander Kim Sinclair among the four on stage. Mr Sinclair's American colleagues hog all the thank you time.

4.08: Sigourney Weaver presents art direction, which has an NZ connection via Avatar which is the likely winner.

4.04: Colin Firth presents best picture recap for Brit drama An Education.

The total so far:

Precious 2
Hurt Locker 1
Up 1
Inglourious Basterds 1
Crazy Heart 1
Star Trek 1

4.00: And the award goes to: Mo'Nique for Precious. The comedienne gets a standing ovation and delivers a strident speech thanking the academy for showing it "can be about the performances and not the politics".

3.58: Robin Williams on to present best supporting actress, which should go to Mo'Nique for Precious, judging on past form.

3.56: A quick recap of the many honorary Oscar recipients awarded earlier with Lauren Bacall and Roger Corman getting a standing ovation.

3.52: And the Oscar goes to Geoffrey Fletcher for Precious, who adapted the novel Push by Sapphire. The teary-eyed writer offers up one of the night's first big displays of emotion in his affecting thank you.

"I wrote that speech for him," quips Steve Martin afterwards.

3.50: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rachel McAdams on to present best adapted screenplay. Tough one to pick but flip a coin between Precious and Up in the Air... Up in the Air?

The total so far:

Hurt Locker 1
Up 1
Inglourious Basterds 1
Crazy Heart 1
Star Trek 1

3.44: Jeff "The Dude" Bridges presents the recap for The Coen Brothers' A Serious Man.

3.42:And the Oscar goes to: Star Trek.

3.37: Ben Stiller comes dressed as one of the Na'vi Avatar's alien race. Here to present best make-up. Which Avatar isn't actually nominated for... but of the three nominated, I reckon Star Trek.

3.37: Best live action short: And the Oscar goes to: The New Tenants.

3.35: Best documentary short: And the Oscar goes to Music by Prudence.

3.33: And the Oscar goes to: Logorama.

3.30: An Education star Carey Mulligan and Avatar/Star Trek star Zoe Saldana on for best short films... haven't seen any of them so no best guesses here.

3.25: Morgan Freeman, presents a recap for best picture nominee Up, which has already won best animated feature. Ed Asner is still working on that smile of his...

3.20: Tribute to the late John Hughes, the master of the 80s teen movie presented by Molly "Pretty In Pink" Ringwald and Matthew "Ferris Bueller" Broderick and other now grown-up cast members of his many hits.

The total so far:

Hurt Locker 1
Up 1
Inglourious Basterds 1
Crazy Heart 1

3.15: And the Oscar goes to: Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker, who wrote the script after spending time as a embedded reporter in Iraq. This might be the start of the giant-killer film's big night...

3.12: Robert Downey Jr and Tina Fey are on to present best original screenplay, presented as an amusing debate between actors and writers. The Hurt Locker should take this one.

3.08:Best picture recap for the Peter Jackson produced South African-set District 9. You don't often seen talking aliens featuring in Oscar footage. This year, they're just everywhere...

3.06: And the Oscar goes to: Yep, Ryan Bingham and producer T Bone Burnett win for their Crazy Heart country song. Funnily enough Ryan Bingham is also the name of the character that George Clooney plays in Up in the Air.

3.03: Miley Cyrus and Amanda Seyfried out to present best original song with two noms for Randy Newman and his songs on The Princess and the Frog among the five. Suspect Ryan Bingham's The Weary Kind for Crazy Heart will take the award though.

2.58pm: And the Oscar goes to: Up, another one of Pixar's wondrous hits directed by Pete Docter, his first Oscar from six nominations. Ed Asner who voiced Up's grumpy lead character Carl can be seen out front attempting to crack a smile.

2.58pm: Cameron Diaz and Steve Carrell are the presenters for best animated feature, complete with characters from Coraline, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Secret of Kells, The Princess and the Frog and Up talking about the joy of being nominated. Betcha Up wins.

2.53pm:First best picture recap of the night is for uplifting American football movie The Blind Side. You can sure see why Sandra Bullock's role has drawn comparisons to a certain former Governor of Alaska...

2.50pm: That's quite a collection of accents among the nominated roles. And the award goes to: Christoph Waltz, the only actor to use his own. That's an uber bingo. First thank you speech of the night is quite touching, especially for a guy who played a Nazi Jew hunter.

2.45pm: Penelope Cruz on to present best supporting actor, which I guess is likely to go to Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds...

2.38pm: Long-winded but funny opening remarks from Martin and Baldwin taking the mickey out of the big-name nominees in the front rows including their It's Complicated co-star Meryl Streep, Precious star Gabourney Sidibe (said Martin: "like Gabourney in my first movie I was a born a poor black child", he quipped in reference to his own The Jerk), James Cameron and many more.

2.35pm: Hooray for Hollywood? Doogie Howser? Sorry Neil Patrick Harris in chorus line mode? Well we didn't expect MCs Steve Martin or Alec Baldwin to hoof it across stage but crikey...

2.30pm:Right we're off in the first Oscar race in years that actually feels like the race hasn't already been run.

In that audience are ten New Zealanders - or folks with ties to the NZ film industry - with their names on nominations, some in competing categories in the technical divisions. A few will be going home with a wee gold man in their luggage, especially those from the Avatar camp.

But first the opening, which after Hugh Jackman's song and dance number last year, has quite an act to follow...

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