The 82d Academy Awards

The big ‘Hurt’

Bigelow’s ‘Hurt Locker’ takes six Oscars; Bullock, Bridges win acting awards

'The Hurt Locker' The cast and crew of "The Hurt Locker" accepted the award for best picture during the 82d Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on March 7. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
By Ty Burr
Globe Staff / March 8, 2010

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In a classic Oscar upset, “The Hurt Locker,’’ a gritty low-budget movie about a bomb squad in Iraq, won best picture at the 82nd annual Academy Awards last night, beating out “Avatar,’’ the 3-D sci-fi extravaganza that with $2.6 billion in worldwide grosses is the most commercially successful movie of all time.

As if that weren’t enough drama, “Hurt Locker’’ director Kathryn Bigelow won the Oscar for best director over her ex-husband, “Avatar’’ maestro James Cameron. Her achievement was historic as well as personal: Bigelow is the first woman to receive the directing award in the history of the Academy Awards. “There’s no other way to describe it: It’s the moment of a lifetime,’’ Bigelow said upon taking the Oscar from presenter Barbra Streisand. She dedicated the statue to the men and women of the US military.

In a much-expected win, Jeff Bridges received the best actor award for his portrayal of a boozy country music has-been in “Crazy Heart.’’ His first Oscar in five nominations, the win was as much an affectionate acknowledgement of Bridges’ long career as recognition for this specific performance. An exuberant Bridges thanked his late parents for “turning me on to a groovy business.’’

Sandra Bullock won best actress for her role as a feisty football mom who takes a troubled young man under her wing in “The Blind Side,’’ the culmination of a remarkable year that saw the actress decisively re-establish herself as a front-rank star. “Did I really win this or did I just wear you all down?’’ she joked before offering praise to her fellow nominees. (As amusingly coincidental proof of the breadth of her work in 2009, Bullock was also awarded the Razzie for worst actress on Saturday for her performance in the critically-reviled comedy “All About Steve.’’)

Oscars in the supporting categories played out as expected. Mo’Nique won best supporting actress for her fearsome, complex turn as an abusive Harlem mother in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,’’ a stunning about-face for a performer previously known for her stand-up comedy work. Taking the stage to the cheers of the audience, a visibly emotional Mo’Nique acknowledged “Gone With the Wind’’ Oscar-winner Hattie McDaniel as a key forerunner and thanked her husband, Sidney Hicks, for urging her to “do what’s right, not what’s popular.’’

Best supporting actor was won by the Austrian Christoph Waltz for his portrayal of the fiendishly jolly SS officer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds.’’ Both actors had won numerous plaudits in year-end critics’ polls and industry awards, and their Oscars represented heavily-favored victory laps.

The two most nominated films of this year’s Oscars, “Avatar’’ and “The Hurt Locker’’ stood for radically opposed aspects of the American film industry: the blockbuster and the indie drama, the computer effects-driven fantasy and the unstinting work of realism. It’s a measure of how deep industry respect ran for Bigelow’s unshowy craftsmanship that “The Hurt Locker’’ won in nearly every category in which the two films competed head to head: picture, director, editing, sound mixing, and sound editing. “Hurt Locker’’ also won best original screenplay, for Mark Boal’s script.

“Avatar’’ won a total of three Oscars: best visual effects, art direction, and cinematography.

In an unexpected turn, “Precious’’ writer Geoffrey Fletcher won the best adapted screenplay Oscar many thought would go to “Up in the Air.’’ Best animated feature and best original score went to “Up,’’ directed by Pete Docter. Best original song went to “The Weary Kind (Theme from ‘Crazy Heart’)’’ by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett.

“The Cove,’’ a film about dolphin depredations in Japan, won best feature documentary. In a reprise of last year’s upset by Japan’s “Departures,’’ Argentina’s “The Secret in Their Eyes’’ won the best foreign language Oscar over such critically-praised films as Germany’s “The White Ribbon,’’ France’s “Un Prophete,’’ and Israel’s “Ajami.’’

The ceremonies were held at the Kodak Theatre and hosted by stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. In a bid to attract the nation’s key moviegoers, the emphasis of the evening was decidedly on youth, with such up-and-coming stars as Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Amanda Seyfried, and Carey Mulligan drafted as presenters and “Twilight’’ stars Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner hosting a gory tribute to horror movies. The ceremonies also included an emotional farewell to writer-director John Hughes, who died unexpectedly last year, by the now middle-aged stars of his 1980s “Brat Pack’’ movies.

Bridges and Meryl Streep, who had her 16th career nomination for “Julie & Julia,’’ were among the few members of their generation to be seen at the ceremonies. George Clooney appeared to have taken Jack Nicholson’s usual seat in the front row, and other familiar star faces of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were conspicuous by their absence. Only an embarrassingly overwrought dance number cued to the best original score nominees felt like the Oscars as we used to know them.

Adding an element of the unexpected to the increasingly staid awards, the best picture field was enlarged from five nominees to ten this year for the first time since “Casablanca’’ won in 1944. The impetus behind the Academy’s decision was to increase viewership for the telecast and to ensure the inclusion of popular and critical hits like “The Dark Knight’’ and “WALL-E,’’ both of which went un-nominated in 2009. With a broad variety of well-regarded movies in the category and renewed interest in the event as a whole, the tactic appeared to have worked - at least until next year.

For the first time, the honorary Oscars were bestowed not at last night’s ceremonies but at an inaugural Governors Awards banquet last November. Hollywood legend Lauren Bacall, producer-director Roger Corman, and cinematographer Gordon Willis (“The Godfather’’) received honorary Academy Awards. Corman and Bacall attended last night’s ceremony and were honored with an enthusiastic standing ovation from the assembled Academy members.

It was one of the very few moments last night when maturity was served.

Ty Burr can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporting error, an earlier version of this story gave the wrong date for when the Razzie Awards were announced. They took place Saturday.