James Cameron has been nominated for three Oscars in the past. And he’s won three Oscars.
Statistically, that’s what we call a 100% pass rate.
It also means that not only do the blokes working behind the scenes at the Academy Awards like Cameron, they’re also more than a little inclined to shove awards his way whenever he makes a film.
We like them odds.
Nobody can deny that Avatar is a pioneering piece of work.
The fact that Cameron had to wait so many years while technology caught up with his ideas is proof of the flick’s ambition.
Pushing special effects forward, if not light-years, but really pretty darn far, its believable CG characters are porous, expressive and fluid. Avatar made CG grow up.
Importantly, the flick’s progressive in a way that won’t scare the fuddies at the Academy, using its CG to create a subtle, nuanced jungle world.
Quite simply, Oscar loves an epic.
Ben Hur , Braveheart , Chariots of Fire , Gone With the Wind .
The bigger the filmic canvas, the better where Oscar’s are concerned.
And Avatar is nothing if not big.
Big vistas. Big themes. Big aliens ...
Let’s not kid ourselves, Avatar ain’t backwards in coming forwards. Its subtext is writ large in the crashing, burning foliage and the tribe-like portrayal of its alien clans.
Subtle this ain’t.
But Oscar loves a message, and Avatar makes no bones about what it wants to say.
Roping in military corruption, it’s a battle cry against the raping and pillaging of native lands by outside forces.
It’s Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ as blockbuster.
Oscar knows what he likes.
Back in 1990, the Academy awarded Dances with Wolves a massive seven polished baldies.
And by Cameron’s own admission, Avatar is “very much like Wolves ”, just “looked at through the lens of science fiction”.
Two decades on, we doubt the Academy’s tastebuds have changed that dramatically.
War probably isn’t really that high on the Academy’s agenda at the moment, and we sort of understand why. The Bush/Blair administration is probably the reason a lot of people flocked to the cinema over the past decade, in a bid for freedom from the depressing reality of their everyday existence (that’s why we go, anyway).
But could this be the year the Academy confronts the subject? Kathryn Bigelow’s Hurt Locker is hoping so.
Avatar , though, could be a far safer environment for the AA to broach the topic. It’s still a war movie. There are blinding 9/11 references. But it’s all set against some lovely waterfalls and jungle wildlife. Sold.
The CG is staggering. But it’s nothing without its performances.
Enter Zoe Saldana.
In a brilliantly physical performance, Saldana loses herself entirely in her character.
Developing her own alien body language, way of speaking, way of moving, her feisty, wild and warm Neytiri is the film’s heart, and could be key to Avatar taking Best Picture.
We love her, and so does the Academy.
To date, Weaver has been honoured with no less than three Oscar nominations – for her performances in Aliens , Working Girl and Gorillas in the Mist .
Wait up, Aliens ? You got it. Though she didn’t win, Weaver is clearly not only Jim Cameron’s muse, but also a bit of a good luck charm ( Aliens won two Oscars that year).
Could she be a lucky rabbit’s foot for Avatar ? Her “goddammit”s and “bullshit”s were all over this one (just like in Aliens ), adding a touch of wry charm to proceedings.
If anybody can do it, The Weave can.
For the past two months, money has changed colour from green to blue.
Not only did Avatar cost a rather sizeable heiress’ fortune to get made, it’s also taken enough shiny pennies to feed everybody in India like kings for an entire decade. Maybe even two.
In other words, Oscar loves it when the money is ladled on. In past years, the Academy has rewarded such pricey endeavours as Titanic , The Return of the King and Ben Hur .
And you can’t argue with a cool (almost) $2bn.
Weepies are an Academy staple.
Million Dollar Baby , The English Patient , Hamlet and Kramer vs Kramer all had the Oscar judges reaching first for the Kleenex, and then for their voting ballots.
Alright, Avatar isn’t going to win many awards for sensitivity, but its central moment of destruction (you know what we’re talking about) is a brilliantly constructed piece of blockbuster tragedy. And its impact is felt through the rest of the film.
Unless you think Avatar winning is just tragic in itself...