Saturday, March 13, 2010

Alexander Cockburn on the Oscars


If you want a signifier of the changed image of empire, and imperial adventures in foreign lands, think about last Sunday’s six Oscars for The Hurt Locker, including ones for Best Movie and Best Director. The film’s director, Kathryn Bigelow, said at the end of her acceptance speech, “I'd like to dedicate this to the women and men in the military who risk their lives on a daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world and may they come home safe.”

Suppose Bigelow’s former husband, James Cameron, had won Best Director for Avatar. There is surely no way Cameron would ever have dedicated his Oscar to any soldiers, American or Canadian, serving as members of the imperial coalition – volunteers all – in Iraq or Afghanistan, unless they had defected to the other side or mutinied and been put in the brig or were facing a firing squad for treason. There is also surely no way that any movie about a serving unit in Iraq would have been in the running for an Oscar back in Bush time.

I hoped Avatar would get a big Oscar rather than the consolations ones for cinematography and special effects. It would have honored a truly uncompromising anti-war, anti-American-Empire movie. I haven’t seen The Hurt Locker and don’t plan to, having endured more than one bomb-disposal films in my movie-going career. Also, the circumstances of the movie’s filming seemed distasteful, with scenes shot in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan. “We had these Blackwater guys that were working with us in the Middle East and they taught us like tactical maneuvers and stuff – how to just basically position yourself and move with a gun,” Hurt Locker actor Anthony Mackie told the New York Times’ Melena Ryzik. “We were shooting in Palestinian refugee camps. We were shooting in some pretty hard places. It wasn't like we were without enemies. There were people there looking at us, 'cuz we were three guys in American military suits runnin' around with guns. It was nothing easy about it. It was always a compromising situation.”

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