They’re calling it the non-story that won’t die, the Oscar voting scandal surrounding the best picture frontrunner “The Hurt Locker.” A few days before the final Academy Award voting ballots were mailed out Tuesday, the war film’s producer, Nicolas Chartier, emailed voters, soliciting their support and dissing best picture rival “Avatar” for costing a lot of money to produce.
Nothing new here, really. Though Academy rules forbid any derogatory references to other nominees, sabotaging rivals is an old Oscars tradition. In 2002, when “A Beautiful Mind” was scooping up Oscar nominations, it was hit by accusations that its subject, schizophrenic math genius John Nash, was an anti-Semite. Nash denied the charges, and some in the film industry said the whisper campaign was designed to hurt the film’s Oscar chances. In 1999, “Shakespeare In Love” studio Miramax was widely accused of – and denied – orchestrating a smear campaign against “Saving Private Ryan.” The year before that, someone circulated a rumor that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck had not written “Good Will Hunting.”
Still, the “Hurt Locker” brouhaha was embarrassing, kind of like your mom calling kids in your class and urging them to elect you to student council. Chartier publicly apologized for his “extremely inappropriate” message and the principal
barred him from attending prom – sorry, the academy governors ousted him from Sunday’s Oscar ceremony. Minnetonka-based director and Oscar voter David Burton Morris put the stink in perspective thusly:
“It was really dumb dumb dumb. You’ve had to have woken up from under a rock to know that writing something like that is a big no no. I still believe ‘Hurt Locker’ is the best film of the year and what an idiot producer has to say doesn't really matter. Producers are famous for saying dumb things. I’ve personally heard hundreds. That’s why they don't direct, thank God, though they think they can.”
Now the plot thickens. A platoon of Iraq war veterans is heaping last-minute criticism on the film for inaccuracies. Attacking from another coordinate, Master Sergeant Jeffrey S. Sarver, who war correspondent turned screenwriter Mark Boal interviewed, says “The Hurt Locker’s” bomb squad leader is based on him. He has filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit. If someone wrote a movie that made me look like a tough-as-nails badass, I’d give him a big hug, but people are different I guess.
It seems awfully convenient that these folks all waited until right before the voting deadline to get complainey about “The Hurt Locker.” Quite the coincidence. An unlikely confluence of events. Kinda hinky. Just sayin’.