I'm sure I'll get many a "what does this have to do with Defense Tech?" comments from the purists, but sometimes I just can't help myself.
I rarely indulge in the Oscar back and forth, usually ignoring the whole spectacle as yet another chance for overindulged, undertalented phonies to reinforce eachother's deep-seated lack of self-esteem by reminding themselves just how great they are -- and making us all feel lucky that we can take a swipe at their self-licking icecream cone once a year.
(My favorite movie, maybe of all time, is Tropic Thunder...go figure)
Well, this year the best picture nominees include three films with gobs of defense tech, two of which I have reviewed for Military.com.
I'll start with Avatar.
As you might remember, like everyone else, I loved the 3D effects, but bristled at the portrayal of human military force. The tech in there was mostly Aliens holdover gear, so that didn't wow me either. After marinating in reviews since mine, I've gotten even more bitter about the whole experience, agreeing with critics who think what Cameron did just penned an allegory he thought was blatantly obvious about America's image overseas. It was Hollywood at it's most pedestrian.
Hurt Locker is another story entirely.
And I'm reluctant to let loose on this one as well, because I will say that I sat down with writer Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow in DC before I wrote my review. Mark couldn't have been nicer, though you could see that the former feature/culture writer was taking right too his new Hollywood halo. But he was earnest and excited about his project and genuinely interested in my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan with EOD units. Kathryn too was gracious, open and poised. My problem stems from their obvious lack of passion for the subject they put to film.
Mark, God bless him, spent about two weeks /with an EOD unit in Baghdad, spun the experience off into a Rolling Stone article, which popped in a Hollywood (where most people in the industry get their war news, I guess) casting around for a reason to show they weren't ALL anti-war. The movie itself was a bit confusing and included some scenes that just flat out didn't make sense at all (the sniper duel with the SAS/contractor head hunters?)...
I had already seen the movie when I spoke with Kathryn and Mark (be sure to re-read my REVIEW) so I asked them "if you were screening this movie to an EOD unit, what would you tell them it was about?" A softball, right? Anyone who went through the trouble to put together a movie on a particular subject should at least have some pat answers to questions like that. Long silence from Ms. Bigelow...Mark too, had some problems with the question. Which leads me to think their depth of passion for the subject they worked so hard to portray on film was shallow. It's like a hardcore video gamer trying to get into the head of a SEAL. There's no way.
So, in my opinion, those two shouldn't have even made it to the Oscar process because they're more reflective of Hollywood's "we support the troops" guilt complex and antiBush-waronterror-protreehugger leftyism than any cinematic excellence. From a defense tech standpoint, it was great to see EOD guys get their day in the sun and some of the gear and TTPs were accurate -- though I've never once even seen a full-on bomb suit in the AO.
Now for District 9.
Totally awesome. From both a technical standpoint and a cinematogrphy one, the movie was just amazing. Mean ass South African security contractors (they practically invented the modern soldier of fortune charicature), intersteller spacecraft that don't get all FTL on us, a story that cut with a clean scalpel instead of a saw blade and casting that made us at once sympathic and uncomfortable (contrast the Distric 9's off-putting "prawns" with Avatar's elegant Na'vi). In terms of pure creativity, stellar acting and a gritty, realistic portrayal of an allegoric social conflict, District 9 hands down gets Defense Tech's vote for best picture.
And the winner is...?