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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One last Hurt Locker note: You're welcome

As show business pundits analyze the Oscar night David-vs.-Goliath victory of little-seen The Hurt Locker vs. highest-grossing-film-ever Avatar, The Vulture's Bilge Ebiri points out the crucial role of the film's disrespected champions in the press:

Apparently, the lowest-grossing film in Oscar history to win Best Picture, the one with no studio behind it, the one sporting one of the most disastrous releases ever, and the one made by a filmmaker whose previous height of awards glory was a Silver Raven at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film in 1988, somehow managed to become an awards-season juggernaut because of … well, what? Magic? Sheer pluck and steely-eyed determination? The messianic hosannas of Jeffrey Wells? Some have credited word-of-mouth, but usually word-of-mouth translates to some kind of box office.

No, The Hurt Locker owes much of its Oscar success, frankly, to critics. The film came into the awards season trailing a litany of not just good, not just great, but practically levitational reviews — from Richard Corliss of Time anointing it a “near-perfect war film” on the eve of its Venice Film Festival premiere (in September … 2008!) to Scott Foundas of the Village Voice and L.A. Weekly calling it “the best American film since Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood way back in June. (Our favorite was A.O. Scott of the Times promising that “If The Hurt Locker isn’t the best action movie of the summer, I’ll blow up my car.”)

Those marginal, maligned movie critics as a force for good in the world? Stranger things have happened, I guess.

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