Why Avatar lost the Oscar!
Really, looking back, did "Avatar" even stand a chance?
"Avatar" is still raking in the profits, but failed to produce the critical success that Cameron's previous film, "Titanic," generated 12 years ago. In fact, "Avatar" -- the most financially successful film of all time -- was easily the most mocked film of the evening.
Sure, it was an easy target. No other nominated film featured blue aliens. Oscar co-host Steve Martin participated in a bit where he used bug spray to defend himself against "Avatar's" jellyfish-like creatures. Ben Stiller attempted his best Na'vi impression as a presenter -- oh, that could have been much, much worse.
However much audiences may enjoy the visually stunning imagery in "Avatar," it seems, when it comes to the Oscars, nothing beats real, live human beings.
Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein sums up this sentiment by writing, "My suspicion is that academy members still find it difficult to believe that films largely created and sculpted in the computer--whether it's "Avatar" or the long string of brilliant Pixar films -- can be just as worthy and artistic as the old-fashioned live-action ones."
But if anyone was going to defy the big-budget-visual-effects-films-don't-win-Oscars rule, everyone seemed to think it could be James Cameron.
In 1997, James Cameron's other box-office behemoth, "Titanic," accomplished the rare feat of box-office and Oscar dominance. "Titanic" was nominated for a record 14 Academy Awards and won a record 11 awards. "Avatar" only won three of its nine nominations: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Visual Effects. Cameron's "Titanic" also won those same three awards, plus 6 others, including the Academy Award for Best Picture and Best Director; "Avatar" lost Best Picture and Best Director to "The Hurt Locker."
"Avatar" had the unfortunate luck -- if you can call a movie that's made over $2.5 billion worldwide "unfortunate" -- of being right smack in the middle of the science fiction genre. A genre that, historically, doesn't win Oscar gold no matter how successful financially. In 1977, "Star Wars" became the most financially successful film of all time but lost the Best Picture Oscar to "Annie Hall." Similarly, in 1982 "E.T." set box-office records but lost the Academy Award to "Ghandi." The closet thing to science fiction to ever win Best Picture would be 2003's "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" -- and even that film series needed three attempts before it finally won.
This year, Cameron was frustrated that his film wasn't taken seriously as an "actor's film." He worked hard in his Oscar campaign to spread the notion that actors acting in front of green screens and using computer generated technology are just as worthy as actors not engulfed by special effects. (Actors make up the largest segment of the voting Academy.) Clearly, the campaign did not go over so well at the Oscars. However unfair it may be, it seems no one likes the idea of being replaced by a machine.
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