Why ‘Avatar’ failed at Oscars?

Vantage Point

The 2010 Oscars is behind us now and looking back, this year's battle appeared to be the David-Goliath show at the podium. The lesser mortal gave a big blow to Cameron's Goliath 'Avatar' - the much anticipated mega movie of all-time. Much to the 'hurt' of King James, his ex-wife took away the laurels becoming the first women ever in history to win the best director's Oscar coinciding perfectly with Women's Day! More than the battle of the sexes, the ex's sweet revenge or changing paradigms in Hollywood, 'Avatar's thumbs down at the Oscars is a matter of bigger magnitude. Commiserating with 'Avatar' fans, I couldn't get over the thought of why the epic blockbuster failed to impress the Academy committee.

Avatar has been going strong, grossing billions all over the world, breaking the 12- year collection record of 'Titanic'. 'Hurt Locker' on the other hand, is film people have started giving a thought to after its Oscar success. Why did 'Avatar' fail to have a make an impact at the Oscars?

Often the real has an edge over the surreal. Though Avatar narrated a story which has never ever been told before - out of emptiness, 'Hurt Locker' told the story of bomb defusing squad; something more real and happening. Thus it was like a battle between live-action performance versus digital technology. If the audience loved the gigantic weird looking Avatar over Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), then the credit definitely goes to technical innovation.

Besides, Cameron's baby - the concept of performance-capture or motion capture - which he had used in many of his earlier films was something too novel to the old school of acting where actors are judged by expression of the feelings and emotions over technical perfection. But Cameron himself had made it clear that his attempt was to capture the 'emotion' calling it performance capture technology as it includes capturing even the subtlest expressions of the actor and converting them to animate digital characters.

The success of the movie depends largely on audience interaction. The audience needs to empathise with the characters and in 'Hurt Locker', it was more a direct involvement while in 'Avatar', the involvement was further removed because of extensive usage of technology. But it would be dire injustice if you say 'Avatar'lacked emotions. It had everything - exposing the greed of humans, the decline of morals, and the ultimate victory of justice - redefining the word humanity in a rather abstract way. But again the plot required that mode of expression...the very concept of the movie would have made no impact if it was told in a different manner. Cameron could have made real or rather say clumsier Navi's but it's not about that. One must understand what he was trying to bring up there.

Some would say Avatar didn't bring tears to their eyes, but can they say that they watched the movie for 2 hours and 43 minutes simply appreciating the technical perfection? The beauty of Pandora owes to technical perfection, but if you have really felt being there, it has got something got to do with the story concept more than mere perfection. In fact performance-capture isn't that easy as it sounds. The pains beyond all their effort do require a better appreciation. Cameron and crew would be happy about the money they amassed, but nothing compares to the Academy honor. Four years of tiring effort of the crew deserved more than three Oscars. We may get another 'Hurt Locker', but another 'Avatar' ain't that easy.

A decade back, Cameron exclaimed at the summit of his achievement - "I'm the King of the world!", but he had to give away his throne to a Queen this time! But still, the king has got the masses! And the risk he took will take the movie industry to a long way.