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Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker is like Star Wars vs. Annie Hall

Blue with envy
Blue with envy

Just when you thought the 70's were over, along come the 2010 Academy Awards. What do I mean? In 1977, Star Wars blasted into theaters and forever changed the way that movies are made. Many sequels to this landmark film followed (although each sequel/prequel was worse than the one before).

There was just one problem with this movie, the Academy decided. The problem was that movies like Star Wars had to be stopped. Star Wars could not win the award for Best Picture that year. Hopefully, neither could any such films in future years.

No, the big winner at that year's ceremony was -- the envelope please -- Annie Hall! That's right, that oh-so-memorable classic that has had such a lasting effect on life as we know it. So memorable that you can't find one single person on planet Earth who has ever seen or heard of Annie Hall.

Yes, that year the Academy decided to snub Star Wars so that Annie Hall could be enshrined as Best Picture. Why? Because Hollywood was trying to make a statement. A statement that said that special effects and big budgets -- the "WOW" aspects of movies -- should never trump the classic methods of storytelling.

Fast-forward to 33 years later, and Avatar is pitted against The Hurt Locker for Best Picture.

You guessed it, The Hurt Locker wins over the landmark technical masterpiece, Avatar. Don't get me wrong, The Hurt Locker is a good film (just as I am sure Annie Hall is a good film as well). But it is not a "WOW" film the way Avatar is. In a few years, few people will remember The Hurt Locker, whereas many people will own Avatar DVDs, video games, and other paraphernalia.

I'm not saying that financial success and computer graphics are what movies are all about. I've seen plenty of big-budget, technologically impressive movies that absolutely stink. But Avatar is a great movie in enough ways that make up for its slightly-less-than-great storyline.

I don't think 3-D movies are a passing fad, and computer graphics technology certainly is not going away. And I am glad that Hollywood is starting to make films about the Iraq War; hopefully it will step up and make films that are unabashedly controversial.

All that said, however, once Avatar's effect on the movie industry is fully realized, 2010 may be another year the Academy will blush about, just like 1977.


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