Sunday, March 7, 2010

And the Winner IS...

Well, tonight’s the Oscars! I look forward to this every year, but not nearly with the fervor of my youth. I used to be SO on top of this stuff that I would have seen every single film nominated in every single category prior to the awards just so I could make my own judgments about who should win. Of course, that was in the days of having a valid student ID and living in rural Midwest America where tickets to films in the theatre were $3 a pop and there really wasn’t anything better to do on a weekend night if it seemed too early to hit the bars.

Then I went and started studying film for a living, and I can now safely say, some days the LAST thing in the world I want to do is see another film. I’ve gotten to the point that I can tell, regardless of accolades, whether or not I will like something from trailers and buzz, and I simply just don’t care to see things that I’m not going to like. For example, Sailor was shocked that I had never seen No Country For Old Men, to which I replied, “Why would I? I saw Fargo. I didn’t like it. It’s like Fargo, with Tommy Lee Jones.” After months of arguments about the cultural value of this film, its amazing direction, etc., I finally sat down to watch it and guess what? Yes, I get it. Yes, I appreciate the acting. The directing is pretty much what I expected (kind of a slower more methodical version of Tarantino), which is fairly over-indulgent and gory for the sake of proving the point that mankind is vicious and that death is meaningless. Fine. I GET IT.

So, I have not seen all the films up for Oscars this year, but I have seen most of the ones I actually want to see. Inglorious Basterds? No thank you. See above. And yes, I understand that Quentin Tarantino did Kill Bill and Pulp Fiction and I still think his directorial style can be compared to that of an over-eager puppy. Precious? A film about incest and abuse involving a 16 year old? I’d rather sleep through the night. I almost passed on The Hurt Locker simply because I’m not a big fan of war films, but decided to give it a shot since I’ve liked Kathryn Bigelow’s work (Point Break is amazing, and I really liked K-19 even though it didn’t get the greatest of reviews). And it’s REALLY good. Like, wicked good. Better than Avatar good. And that’s from someone who’s not really into war films. My guess is that it will win tonight, if only because people are still a little miffed at the year that was Oscars 1997 and this film is sort of like the Platoon of our generation. But then again, the Oscars of 1997 DID happen, so it's anybody's game.

But what I’m really dreading is the AFTER…especially if it’s anything like the lead up has been. How many times have media outlets referred to Bigelow as James Cameron’s ex-wife? Why aren’t they calling James Cameron Bigelow’s ex-husband? Don't believe me? Type "James Cameron's ex-wife" into Google News and see just how many times the term is used (it's over 1000 stories, try the reverse and you get only 500 hits, most of which aren't even about Bigelow).  It really irks me. As if she wasn’t anything before marrying Cameron, and now that she’s not married, she’s defined by it – like, the reason you’re a good film-maker now is that you had time to sit at the hand of a god like Cameron, so really in a way, The Hurt Locker is kind of Cameron’s film and it’s a win-win for him. But the reverse is not assumed. She gets no implied credit for Avatar. That’s just Cameron being brilliant. So, if the film wins tonight, all the stories tomorrow (or even later tonight) are going to be about how Cameron’s ex-wife nabbed the Oscar from his awesome film that made way more money, and there will be quotes about how he’s “so happy” for her and “always knew she had amazing potential.” If Cameron wins, watch the war metaphors that will appear...clash of the spouses, humble deference, requests for peace.

This is the kind of stuff that frustrates me when I hear students and even colleagues say they are not feminist because women are equal and we don’t need to be political about this stuff any more. If that’s the case, why is it that a woman directing an amazingly brilliant war movie is constantly referred as an ex-wife? Her ex-husband and her relationship to him define her accomplishment. And even in the places where the press isn’t fixated on her former relationship with Cameron, they laud how “humanized” the film is, implying that a woman’s view of war is more empathetic and caring. I could link to a ton of stories using this kind of rhetoric and they all make me sick. Not to say that there isn’t value in a standpoint – or that standpoints aren’t essential to understanding gendered experience – but when the standpoint is defined by sex and marginalization and then used in a way to uphold traditional patriarchal values (it IS a war movie after all), it crosses the line into this complex grey area that Americans are easily willing to dismiss as apolitical, thus, reifying their beliefs that feminism is no longer really useful or necessary.

Phew! That was a lot to get off my chest on a Sunday morning! Feel free to comment my few dozen readers. Also, feel free to chime in with your Oscar favorites since that’s what the purpose of the post was to begin with before I got all worked up about media.


  1. *clap* *clap* *clap* Thank you!

    I nearly chocked on my drink last night when during the "Official Oscar Pre-Show" one of the people hired by whoever puts on the show actually referred to her as Cameron's ex. I could have thrown a slipper at the TV it made me so angry!

    Congrats Kathryn. May you make more awesome movies and tv shows in your long career ahead.

  2. I LOVED Inglorious Basterds and I was disappointed it didn't win more. However, I am just glad James Cameron's ridiculous Avatar won nothing of importance. That film was merely a thinly veiled retelling of Pochahantas and John Smith in Blue 3D. I was totally disappointed by Avatar as Titanic is one of my favorite films.

    So for me it was only fitting that his talented and gorgeous ex should slaughter him at the Oscars,