Weekly insights into our crazy world.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


March 10

Last night at the Academy Awards, the little guy beat the big boss. The HURT LOCKER won Best Picture. It was made with the tiny budget of $11 million (tiny? We’re talking Hollywood here!). It beat out the most expensive movie ever made, AVATAR which cost whopping $400 million to film. It nabbed Best Picture and Best Director and continued a trend: Academy voters chose a film involving current events over fictional themes.
And what current event could be more relevant to American audiences than the Iraq War? It’s a conflict we are all taxed for yet understand very little about. Overall, the HURT LOCKER has received positive response from Iraqi war veterans as an accurate portrait of the conflict. The screenplay was written by Mark Doal, a journalist embedded in an US army unit. Particularly of note was Doal’s portrayal of the relationship between US servicemen and Iraqi citizens, including many children.

For me, this was the most disturbing part of the movie, and the war in general. Our forces are marshaled in secure bases and the notorious GREEN ZONE, a part of downtown Baghdad surrounded by heavily armed walls. Interactions between soldiers and civilians are tense and always involve immense Humvees and loaded machine guns. The HURT LOCKER shows us how the war is mainly being fought in family neighborhoods.

To historians, this is a step backwards. In the ancient world, there was no distinction between soldiers and civilians. When Rome invaded Cathage in the 3rd Punic War, they burned the city to the ground, killed all men and enslaved women and children. Over time, battles slowly shifted from city streets to remote battlefields. Napoleon was defeated on the isolated fields of Waterloo. World War I was slugged out on unpopulated trenches.

Over the last century, civilians have been dragged back into armed conflict. TV shows us more and more crying mothers staggering away from a destroyed home. As in Vietnam, armies don’t appear on the plains of Gettysburg. Rather, they lurk around, planting bombs on city streets. The principles of warfare have retreated backward, becoming less organized and less civilized.

No one will forget that our current global conflict began with the initial 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden decided that innocent citizens are now defined by nationality or religion, and not as individuals. The HURT LOCKER shows how this horrible trend continues and deserves to win Best Picture for making this relevant, if painful, point.

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