Between them, husband and wife duo Avatar and the Hurt Locker have eighteen Oscar nominations this year. They're directly against each other in seven categories. Here's how I think they'll do.
The Hurt Locker is beautifully shot. Iraq (shot in Kuwait) feels intimate, close, open, familiar, alien. Heat and tension emanate from the screen. Avatar, on the other hand, redefines what Cinematography means, using a bizarre mix of camera styles that has never been tried before - and succeeds. And the Oscar goes to The Hurt Locker, because it's real even though it's not.
Film editing is critical in defining the pace of a film, fine tuning the audience experience. The Hurt Locker vs Avatar here is a fine balance between the traditional art taken to its extreme, and the art of film editing completely redefined. And the Oscar goes to Inglorious Basterds, because of the opening scene in the house in the fields.
A tough one here. Good scoring underlines the themes of a film and stays with the listener far beyond the cinema, while at the same time being almost inaudible and unmemorable. Both of these movies are triumphs of subtlety, so it's very hard to choose. And the Oscar goes to Up, because it made me cry.
Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing
Two categories in one here - both are about the art of creating a fictional reality, about adding depth to a two dimensional picture. And the Oscars go to pretty much anyone. These are really technical awards, and not likely to garner much attention. Star Trek could win.
Both The Hurt Locker and Avatar are strongly directed. Of the two, Avatar is clumsier and clunkier, but nonetheless interesting. The Hurt Locker is tense and intimate, but it's somewhat unvaried. It's a symphony in beige, with explosions. The art of the director is the art of creating a cinematic experience that utterly absorbs. For me, therefore, the Oscar goes to Inglorious Basterds, Tarantino's strongest film to date by quite some way, a huge step up in terms of his talent and confidence.
Well, it's not going to be Avatar or The Hurt Locker. Avatar looks great, it's got smurfs and dragons, and the plot of Pocahontas, and bits of Aliens soldered on for good luck. In a cinematic environment where anything can happen, cliches are bound to happen. I guess.
The Hurt Locker is a turgid plop of a film. Based on some things a journalist saw once, it's tense, you grow to care about the characters to some extent, but it's a dramatic mess, and the performances are all un-nuanced. There's a reality to it that's hard to achieve in cinema these days, mainly because it's not interesting.
And the Oscar goes to... something else.