Locals weigh in on Oscar buzz

By Kevin Wilson: CNJ staff writer

Local movie fans are conceding “Avatar” is going to do well in Sunday’s Academy Awards. But they wouldn’t be surprised — and some would be hopeful — to see Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” take Best Picture.

The two films are part of a 10-picture field up for this year’s best picture contest, and each has a bevy of other nods.

Will “Avatar” prevail with its immense computer-generated world, or will “The Hurt Locker” win Sunday night’s awards with its tale of wartime?

Freedom New Mexico found a group of people who love movies, and asked them about the Oscar field, what’s the best and what could be better.

The Oscars begin 6 p.m. Sunday on ABC.

Who we talked to:

• Paul Hunton is a parts manager at C&S Oil in Portales. He majored in broadcast production while in college and has directed a few short films.

• Addie Calkins, a senior at Eastern New Mexico University, said she and her friends pretty much converse using movie lines.

• Stephen Quinn of Clovis, a district judge, remembers his junior high days when he would walk from Marshall Junior High to the Lyceum and Mesa theaters to catch doubleheaders and the serials.

• Don Elder, a history professor at Eastern New Mexico University, catches himself in class and on the radio making more movie references than are necessary.

Best picture:

Hunton thinks no picture tops “The Hurt Locker,” which follows military explosives ordnance removal teams in Iraq.

“I thought ‘The Hurt Locker’ was the best movie that I’ve seen this year, from the standpoint that it covers all the bases,” said Hunton. “It tells a really timeless story about man and war and coming back to regular life, and how it’s tough for the transition to happen.”

Elder said one thing in the corner of “The Hurt Locker” is its director, Kathryn Bigelow.

“Having a female director for ‘The Hurt Locker’ changes things,” Elder said. “Hollywood always has liked to pat itself on the back for its social conscience.”

What about ‘Avatar’: Calkins is a fan of other James Cameron works, and considers “Titanic” to be her favorite movie. That’s why — while conceding it’s neurotic — she refuses to see “Avatar,” which she calls a “money train” of special effects and not much story.

What story is there, Quinn said, is a classic tale at its roots.

“One of the things I kept thinking of was ‘Dances With Wolves,’” Quinn said. “The aborigines in their very simple existence, being intruded upon and attacked by the so-called educated, cultured people.”

Hunton related it to “The Last Samurai” for the same reason, but mockingly calls it “Pocahontas in the year 3000.”

On the other hand, Hunton said he paid to see it, twice, and he hopes that’s not a reason “Avatar” will get more acclaim than “The Hurt Locker,” which had a limited release.

“I want to say that sanity will prevail and ‘The Hurt Locker’ will sweep director, writing and best film categories,” Hunton said. “But whenever a film like ‘Avatar’ makes $1 billion for its industry, the industry will want to reward it, and what better reward than the Oscar.”

Calkins concedes that, but she doesn’t have to like it.

“Anyone will pay $9 to go see ‘G.I. Joe six times, and that helps the industry,” Calkins said. “But it’s still ‘G.I. Joe.’”

Bigger field: This year, the best picture field jumps from five nominees to 10. Consider Elder on the fence.

“At first, I thought it was a good idea because there are films that are good that may not be in that top five category,” Elder said. “On the other hand, a movie that might have won on its own merits is losing votes to somebody that would have been in the 6-10 portion.”

Hunton said it’s all subjective anyway, so he doesn’t see a problem with token nominations noting that “The Blind Side” has no chance to win, but it “did gangbusters at the box office.”

Quinn likes the change.

“I think it’s better,” Quinn said, “You can think of several examples of very good motives that did not make the top five (in previous years).”

What are the Oscars missing: Each was asked what aspect of films gets overlooked.

Hunton: “They’ve got to get a best comedy. They just have to. The hardest thing to do is make someone laugh. ‘The Hangover’ was really original. Most movies would have been about that night, instead of that next day, trying to figure out what happened.”

Calkins: “I think movies like ‘Harry Potter’ should be considered for more awards. Those movies can be real accomplishments.”

Quinn: “Woody Allen seems to make really great movies, and they always get overlooked.”

Elder: “I’m of the opinion that movies that really explore character in a quiet way don’t often get enough play. There have been really good performances.”