Generally speaking, very, very few surprises last night.
And, no matter how many people get pissed at me (and they have), I still think Bullock winning is ridiculous. Not when Carey Mulligan was just absolutely exquisite in An Education. Yes, I know I haven't seen The Blind Side, and I really don't think I care to. Sorry, folks.
Jeff Bridges taking it home makes up for Matt Damon not getting a deserved nomination for The Informant!
Of course, the big story is the amazing Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director. I'm a fan of her work for many years, and what I find most inspiring about this is that she made the best movie of the year (No, The Hurt Locker was not on my 2009 Top Ten. It would've been, had I seen it before I wrote that list. I finally saw it on home video, and I am DYING to see it on the big screen.), and it's, frankly, just a very thoughtful action movie.
It's not a speechifying morass of "good for you" proselytizing about the horrors of war, or the virtue of military service and the American agenda. It's a story of three men in what has to be the most intense and stressful environment imaginable. It's a film of technical achievement that never loses sight of the idea that people are what make stories interesting.
Which is exactly what's she always made.
Her filmography is full of tough but intelligent action pictures. She made Point Break, for God's sake! I first caught wind of her with her absolutely classic vampire western Near Dark, and my personal favorites would be Blue Steel, Strange Days and K-19: The Widowmaker. She's skilled with the camera and with storytelling, and she's paid her dues.
Exactly the sort of director who's earned the right to be recognized.
Notice I said "director," not "female director." See, while I think it is fantastic that a woman has achieved this honor, I think it's much more powerful that a woman flat-out earned it. No one can say Kathryn didn't grasp that little gold man on her own merits, not because the tides of political correctness swept her way.
And how much sweeter the victory is for it.
Bigelow's win doesn't have anything to do with her sex. It has to do with the fact she shot a brilliant fucking film. That she won it for exactly the kind of work she's always done. She didn't have to curry favor with anyone to do it. She never, ever played the sex card. You never heard her talk about it. She talked about her film, her collaborators, her team. She kept her focus on THE WORK, not on the politics of the situation.
You see, I believe, very fiercely, in equality. No one should be held back from anything because of their skin tone, sex, or sexual orientation. I strive to live my life by that ideal. No artist should be dismissed for these factors, but neither should the be elevated, either.
If we all are equal, then are we not to be judged solely on the merits of our work? I see a movie, read a book, watch a TV show, and I like or dislike it, the sex of the creator never crosses my mind. Maybe it does for some people, but this blog is about me. I can't answer for them. I can't, and I won't.
Much like when the uproar happened over Publisher's Weekly's Best Books of 2009 List, I find myself wondering when artistic merit had to pass through some crucible of political correctness. If I, Publisher's Weekly, or the Members of the Academy pick our "best," that's just that, their opinion. All awards, best-of lists, or other rankings function best as a way to encourage discussion.
Taking the Publisher’s Weekly situation, for example…Why should it be expected that women writers MUST be represented? In my mind, only the ten best books (in their opinion) MUST be included. Publisher's Weekly found their top ten books of 2009 included no female writers.
The people who put together the list (including women) liked 10 other books more. Go figure. They say it themselves, "We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the “big” books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male." So, they're basically saying they picked the books they liked most, and were surprised as anyone else that all the authors were male.
This led various feminist organizations to list off the female writers who had published works in 2009, Lorrie Moore, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Mavis Gallant, Rita Dove, Heather McHugh and Alicia Ostriker….
Well, so what?
This is one of those situations where I'm sitting here, a straight, white male, and wondering if I should even say anything. If I should even mention that this smacks of saying that, well, we know you thought this work was better, but you should really honor this work, simply because it was created by a woman. Women In Letters And Literary Arts (WILLA) even created their own top ten list, with no men allowed.
Isn't that exactly what they were accusing Publisher's Weekly of?
We all want a world of equality, but equality, by it's very nature, is not a one-way street. Yes, there are plenty of examples of crimes of omission in the past, but, if you really want a better world, the time has come to look forward. To strive to acknowledge that artistic achievement is a matter of opinion in almost every sense, and that no one deserves special treatment.