Common sense prevails

The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker

I don’t normally pay much attention to awards ceremonies as those nominated often aren’t the ones who deserve to be so, and the winners are usually selected for commercial reasons. Like Forrest Gump winning all those Oscars when The Shawshank Redemption came out the same year.

However, I was really pleased to see that Kathryn Bigelow has just won the Directors Guild of America‘s award for feature film this year for the superb The Hurt Locker.

It was up against some real competition (worthwhile, such as Jason Reitman‘s Up In the Air and commercial, such as AvatarInglorious Basterds and Precious made up the numbers) but it was without a doubt the best film on the shortlist.

With the exception of Precious, it’s also the cheapest with a budget of around $11m, and a small gross (as of November 2009) of around $16m. Compare that to Avatar with a budget in excess of $230m (maybe as high as $480m including marketting) and a gross pushing $2b!

It just goes to show that you don’t need a stupid budget, a script ripped from Pocahantas and a bunch of stretched Smurfs to win an award. I seriously hope she goes on to get the related Oscar when those awards come up – or at least someone else as deserving.

[UPDATE: I just spotted that a week earlier, The Hurt Locker also won the equivalent award from the Producers Guild of America. Superb.]

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Up In The Air

Up in the Air (film)
Up In The Air

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one and squeezed it in on a Wednesday night around travel arrangements and coursework.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: George Clooney plays Ryan Bingham a well-travelled businessman who lives most of the year on the road… or more accurately on the airways.

Quick stuff first – I really, really enjoyed Up In The Air. I’m not a massive Clooney fan, though I do seem to enjoy a lot of his films. However, there’s no doubting he was a perfect choice for this role and it really does allow him a lot of range. His character is a little… different from what we’d consider normal. A man who revels in the fact that he doesn’t stay at home, instead living out of a small wheeled backpack.

His life seems about to take quite a change when a young upstart at his company comes up with a new method of doing their job (which, incidentally, is firing people) – doing it via webcam. This reduces costs and – importantly to Bingham – travel. His one aim in life is to hit a certain targetted number of air miles so that he can enter an elite club belonging to American Airlines, who it’s incredibly obvious must have sponsored the film.

As an aside, this movie has the most obvious sponsorship deals I think I’ve seen since the last Bond epic. American, as mentioned, are the only airline whose logos you see. Car hire is courtesy of Hertz, and mobile communications are exclusively Blackberry. Surprisingly, no laptop manufacturer seems to have been lured in. It’s actually unusual not to see the name of a tech company prominently displayed on the open lid of a computer – in all cases the badges are obscured.

Jason Reitman has done a great job of directing with the pace changing more rapidly than a tango. Swift, half-second montages cover the sections of Bingham’s life that are oft-repeated whereas the more emotive scenes are allowed a lot of time for them to sink in. The dialogue is simply wonderful. Witty, clever and reminiscent of the banter that I miss so much from The West Wing.

What’s even better is that, although it starts to turn into a feelgood movie the ending isn’t perhaps what you’d expect. As ever, I’ll avoid spoilers but I’m glad it didn’t just fall into a formulaic pattern and ruin an otherwise good film.

Definitely worth seeing, although it’s slightly too long for its own good.

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