After Sunday night's Oscars went mostly to other predicted winners, the Academy Award for Best Picture was a stunning surprise: The little movie "The Hurt Locker" snatched this grandest prize from "Avatar."
"Avatar" embodies many of the expected liberal Hollywood elements. It is a sci-fi Western in which an environmentally sensitive native people fights against money-driven corporate invaders who look and sound like today's Americans.
Nowadays in politically correct Westerns the Native-Americans are the heroes. The cowboys, except those who turncoat and join the native tribe or who try to defend tribal rights, are the villains.
Hollywood finds it easy to put black hats on cowboy Americans for two reasons. It satisfies liberal ideology's blame-America-first, capitalism-is-evil values, and, more importantly, films that criticize America play better in overseas markets where America continues to be viewed with a mixture of distaste and envy.
"Avatar" as of this past weekend has earned approximately $720 million in the U.S.; only about 28 percent of its worldwide $2.5 billion gross. Director James Cameron has once again made himself wealthy with a film that depicts wealth as bad.
"The Hurt Locker," by contrast, does not demonize the American soldiers it depicts defusing terrorist bombs in a far Muslim land. And at the Academy Awards, "Hurt Locker" Director Kathryn Bigelow went out of her way to praise the soldiers, firefighters, and other brave heroes who, to paraphrase Rudyard Kipling, "guard us while we sleep."
A deep character study that explores many facets of our soldiers and, through them, our situation in the Middle East, "The Hurt Locker," by not making the usual liberal attacks on America, comes across as a pro-American movie.
As of this past weekend, "The Hurt Locker" has been in U.S. theatres for 23 weeks, almost half a year, and is only now approaching ticket sales to match its reported $15 million cost.
After winning Best Picture, Best Director and other Oscars, its box office should now increase dramatically, at least in the U.S.
The foreign box office for this movie in which Americans wear dusty, but not black, bomb suit helmets will likely remain low.
So how could this relatively tiny film, put out by the same fledgling studio Summit Entertainment that has done the Stephanie Meyer "Twilight" teen vampire movies, out-Oscar an "Avatar" 15 years in the making at a reported cost that might be as low as $200 million or as high as $500 million?
Has Hollywood seen the light and begun to return to an earlier era of pro-American movies? Don't bet on it.
Tinseltown remains liberal, and its studios are now multinational corporations dependent on foreign money and moviegoers.
A closer look might help explain Sunday's Academy Award surprise.
"Avatar," although set in the future year 2154, comes from 20th Century Fox.
Yup, that's Fox as in Rupert Murdoch and the Fox News Channel, despised by liberals everywhere, including Hollywood.
Last year's big winner, "Slumdog Millionaire," came via Fox's hipper Fox Searchlight division, which grabbed the opportunity to distribute an essentially already-made film with Bollywood spice and lots of negative impressions of Westerners.
This did not arouse a liberal anti-Fox vote, but despite its liberal message, "Avatar" might have, at least to some small degree.
"The Hurt Locker" is a nuanced film that, depending on one's bias, could be seen to contain anti-war as well as pro-American facets.
Moreover, it came from Summit Entertainment, a studio involved with the anti-war film "In The Valley of Elah," with liberal George Clooney's film "Michael Clayton," and other movies that might have given "The Hurt Locker" a bit of innocence-by-association among Hollywood liberals who scarcely bothered to see it.
Feminists were also empathetic because its director is a woman.
But the most likely factor determining which of these two films won as Best Picture was selfishness.
Movie theater owners, especially IMAX owners, love James Cameron, whose creation "Avatar" has people leaving their 50-inch home flatscreens to pay high ticket prices to see his high-tech 3-D film.
Many people quit going to movies after buying a television set, at least until giant screens brought them back to local theaters. Cameron's new technology offers hope of salvation to today's near-empty cineplexes. But theatre owners do not vote for the Academy Awards.
One in 5 Academy voters is an actor, and to some actors Cameron is the devil incarnate. His technologies make it increasingly easy to replace actors with computer-generated screen characters that will become more lifelike every year.
Academy voters this year for the first time had to rank their preferences 1 through 10 for the 10 Best Picture nominees.
Using this well-intentioned ballot, if a thousand or fewer actors ranked "Avatar" 10th, this could have pushed Cameron's movie out of first place and shifted the prize to "The Hurt Locker."
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