Director of 'Avatar' in battle with ex-wife for top honour
IT WILL be both a battle of the sexes, and a battle of the exes: James Cameron and his former wife Kathryn Bigelow are preparing to share the spotlight at next month's Academy Awards after their films 'Avatar' and 'The Hurt Locker' led the field by being shortlisted in nine categories when the Oscar nominations were announced yesterday.
Hollywood's blue-riband event for 2010 is now likely to revolve around a David vs Goliath clash between two movies which, despite their intriguing provenance, couldn't be more different in style and tone, and which have enjoyed compellingly different paths to success.
Cameron's 'Avatar' is an extravagant 3D science-fiction blockbuster with state-of-the-art special effects and a $400m (€286m) budget.
It has topped the box-office charts since its release shortly before Christmas and this week became the highest-grossing film ever made at more than $2bn (€1.5bn) .
Bigelow's war drama 'The Hurt Locker', by contrast, is a gritty look at a US army bomb-disposal team working in Iraq shortly after the 2003 invasion. It was pulled together on a shoestring budget of $11m (€7.8m). But despite winning critical acclaim and endless accolades this awards season, it made just $16m (€11.5m) at the box office
Cameron's film is widely seen to represent the future of Hollywood, with its huge profile and expensive 3D technology. Bigelow's is an example of the virtues of independent movies, which are made outside the major studio system and tend to struggle commercially.
The pair, who divorced in 1991 but remain friendly, were both shortlisted for the Best Director award. If Bigelow goes on to win that battle (and the bookmakers currently have her as the odds-on favourite) she will become the first woman to ever receive the accolade.
Asked how that felt, she said yesterday: "I am perhaps overwhelmed with joy. But I do hope that someday we can lose the modifier and that becomes a moot point whether the person is male or female and they're just film-makers making statements that they believe in."
The full line-up for next month's Oscars was announced by actress Anne Hathaway early yesterday.
While 'Avatar's' remaining seven nominations came in technical categories, 'The Hurt Locker' got nods for its star Jeremy Renner as Best Actor, and writer Mark Boal for Best Original Screenplay.
In a second potential milestone, 'Precious', the hard-hitting tale of an abused black teenager in 1980s Harlem, got six nominations, including Best Film.
"After 82 years, it's the first film nominated for Best Picture directed by an African-American," said its director Lee Daniels. "Isn't that great? It's so exciting."
Gabourey Sidibe, the teenage star of 'Precious' who won her part at an open audition while she was working at a call centre, continued her staggering rise when she was nominated for Best Actress.
Sidibe faces stiff competition from rivals Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep, but her toughest opponent is perhaps Sandra Bullock, whose film 'The Blind Side' is also a surprise nomination for Best Picture. Despite mixed reviews, the tale of how a housewife adopts a black orphan teenager who goes on to become an American football star has been a huge hit with Middle America and was one of the top-grossing films of 2009.
Other surprising nominations for Best Picture were 'District 9', a South African science fiction satire about apartheid, which got a total of four nods, and Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglourious Basterds. Jason Reitman's recession comedy 'Up in the Air' received six nominations, while Pixar film 'Up' is a shoo-in for the Best Animation gong.