Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Best: Yet To Come?

The Hurt Locker was far from my favorite movie of 2009. Out of the ten nominees for Best Picture, I liked four films more than Kathryn Bigelow's entry. It wasn't even the best movie that dealt with the Iraq War; that distinction goes to In The Loop, a comedy about the spread of misinformation that brilliantly leaves the word "Iraq" out of the entire script. But it was The Hurt Locker that won big on Sunday night, to the surprise of few that have been following the awards circuit. Even though it wasn't a box office smash (it made only six million dollars more than its production budget), critics loved the film, as did most of the public sans veterans. More importantly, its win washed away the fear and apprehension studios had about bankrolling a film centered on modern conflict. Every Iraq or Afghanistan themed movie before the The Hurt Locker has tanked in the theater, and you can't blame studio executives for shying away from a broken model. Sunday's sweep at the Oscars could mean that studios will ease their concerns and jump at a script that promises to be the next Hurt Locker. Veteran disapproval of the film was not overlooked in Hollywood. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the next movie would bring aboard combat veterans as technical advisers (or critics) to see if anything is out of place. Greyhawk has the same line of thinking, and he's willing to tolerate five bad war movies for every great one.

Even if you didn't like the film, The Hurt Locker's impressive victory at the Oscars bodes well for modern war movies. It means the good ones Greyhawk looks forward to have a better chance at finding their way to theaters. Who knows, maybe a veteran felt so strongly about the inaccuracies in The Hurt Locker that he's well on his way to writing the next Platoon. All that is certain is that our stories need to be told. We can only do so much from a series of tubes and the media has never done us any favors. A film we can call our own is something we need, to point to and say, This, this is what it was like. The Hurt Locker isn't that movie, but it made that movie possible.

***

This is the end of my Hurt Locker posts, which I'm sure is a relief to many of you. I'm off to New York City tomorrow for spring break, so I won't be able to see Green Zone this week. If you were unhappy about the licenses The Hurt Locker took, I would suggest you stay 500 feet from the nearest multiplex, lest you suffer a heart attack by proxy. Have a good week dear readers, I will be back soon.

14 comments:

Paul Salvette said...

It certainly was the best of the nominations this year, but it is a far cry from the great war movies (Full Metal Jacket, Deer Hunter, and as Greyhawk mentioned, The Best Years of Our Lives). There was not enough character development, which is essential to all war movies and a definite selling point for a lot of veterans, IMHO. I also hope that it will open doors too.

Alex said...

Paul,

Did you see Moon? If you want a character arc, look no further (or if you've have fantasies of Kevin Spacey voicing an updated HAL 9000). It was overlooked by many but it was one of the best of the year to me. Same for In The Loop, which was the most I've laughed in the theater since the South Park movie.

CI-Roller Dude said...

After some careful thought, I realized the Hurt Locker was just like Avatar...some crazy shit some pogue made up...a pogue I suspect sat his ass in the Green zone and asked a few questions of the EOD folks when they came back. Then, took all the crap hollywood has made about crazy soldiers and made up a fiction movie. I was unable to watch more than to the part where the "star" of movie took the plywood off the windows to his room. That would have fucked up the AC- which nobody would have done...just a retarded POS movie.
I guess all wars have to have a few.

Pattie Matheson said...

Thought of you yesterday when I realized I'd missed the Academy Awards and checked out the results online.

Six out of nine(?) - not bad. Haven't seen The Hurt Locker, or any of them actually, so I have no opinion on the selections/winners. No more of the movie marathons Jesse & I loved :(

Did I read somewhere that the screenwriter was embedded with an EOD team?* isn't an EOD vet (with a big gun lawyer at his six) suing the writer saying the story is about him?* and why - if the lead character is such a cowboy - would this vet want to claim credit for endangering his men?*

Watched some acceptance speeches and was pleased to see that an indie film could do so well. Gives hope to other budding young screen writers/directors/stryker vets ;)

Don't know the answer to this but wondering if the oft-mentioned war movies of the past paid more attention to military detail than those of today.....

Have fun in NY!! Regards to Kate :)

*I'm finding that memory lapses/holes common to older folk have become part of my life -- frustrates the hell out of me!

Joe said...

"HAY! I support the troops! I saw Hurt Locker! I know exactly what combat is like now!!"

Paul Salvette said...

I did not see Moon, but I'm living abroad now so don't get all the good indy movies. I'll try to dig it up. Honestly, I thought "The Road" was one of the best movies in a long time, but it was based on one of the best books in a long time.

schmal said...

I've heard good reviews - in some cases phenomenal - from other veterans but I remained a bit suspicious. I've always been a huge critic of "our war" movies (I swear Home of the Brave is some sort of comedy/parody), and your reviews really helped me get a better picture for what to expect. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Alex,
I've been following your blog for some time now- my boyfriend spent a year in Iraq and reading your backposts and current ones while he was there was somehow helpful. That being said, you are a really gifted writer- I am an English teacher, so I see all kinds of writing every day. :) You say that maybe "A Hurt Locker" will encourage a vet to write his own story for a movie, and I'd encourage you to do so. I know you're in school, so maybe it can be summer project for now, but I think you could make a great script. Just food for thought. Your loyal reader,
Julie

Kimmy said...

I have now just watched the Hurt Locker twice in 12 hours. I loved every moment. While I know some of the specifics were way off, I felt like I got the idea of team, fear, love, and loyalty to one another. I cried at the end only because I am a girl, and I understood why James felt he had to serve. And as a wife, I would be supporting him. God Bless our troops!

A Veteran is someone who, at one point in their life, wrote a blank check made payable to The United States of America, for an amount up to, and including their life. That is honor; and there are way too many people in this country today who no longer understand that fact!

FOARP said...

Curious to know what you make of the Wikileaks video covered here:

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/04/the-lies-of-the-pentagon.html

Glad to see you've picked up you posting by the way.

Alex said...

FOARP,

Not sure what all the controversy is about. It appears they acted accordingly with the ROE - the group of men were clearly armed with weapons and the journalists took the risk to go out with insurgents looking to attack Americans. As for the accusation that they shot at kids on purpose or didn't take them into consideration, I didn't see the kids in the bongo truck the first time I watched the video. It took software aided zooming to focus on the kids, something the pilots either didn't have or didn't use at the time. It's sad that innocent people were hurt and killed, but no one can be blamed for putting those kids in there besides the people driving the truck. Andrew Sullivan has quite the hyperbolic streak with these things.

jbrkam said...

Wow. You've really grasped the intangibles of what is going on with the polarized reactions veterans have had with Hurt Locker, greater than anything I've read on the matter. Personally I really enjoyed the Hurt Locker, and felt affected by the end as it reminded me of a couple of soldiers I served with who reenlisted overseas while their lives at home were falling apart. And for awhile it REALLY pissed me off that some high profile veterans, such as Paul Rieckhoff and Jon SOlts were making comments to the effect that the movie was an insult to all veterans and we're all already in agreement on it. I felt like "what gives you the fucking right to say veterans cant enjoy the movie? Was it that you think you served harder then i did so u can try and speak over me?"

It's strange to feel so aggravated, be so pointed over something as pointless as movies. But in the end I can respect the criticism for what you said; the capacity for it to transmit to more accuracy in future movies. And if I can get upset for actually liking a movie, its natural for someone to feel the same for disliking it.

PatricktheRogue said...

I certainly share your desire to see movies that accurately and less judgmentally depict the experience of our Iraq and Afghan war vets. Back in 2006 Bing West told me that he was having meetings with a Hollywood studio and working on a script for a film version of No True Glory, his book about Fallujah. Harrison Ford was reading for the part of Gen Mattis. Apparently those plans were derailed, in can only suppose due to the lackluster performance of Iraq themed films.

What Hollywood does not understand of course, is that films like the Hurt Locker and Jarhead, that basically depict all soldiers and Marines as disfunctional, undisciplined, trigger happy malcontents who are essentially victims of a larger context that is beyond their understanding. As this is likely the view that most Hollywood types have of soldiers, they probably do not recognize the hunger American audiences have to see a film that is well-made, realistic, and honoring of the true character of our nation's warriors. Mel Gibson are you listening?

Anonymous said...

I felt that Hurt Locker failed in many ways to get at the realities. Unfortunately I think it was MORE realistic than some of the "great" war movies mentioned. Platoon and Full Metal Jacket in particular were cartoon depictions. The only war movie I feel hits the mark for modern times is Blackhawk Down.