What the Oscars metaphorically tell us about international relations

I can't believe I watched the whole thing -- the 2010 Academy Awards show made Avatar seem tightly paced.  Seriously, the show went downhill the moment Neil Patrick Harris left the stage. To be fair, there were no real surprises among the actual winners, draining any suspense from the proceedings.

Of course, this is a Foreign Policy blog -- so are there any lessons that can be drawn about world politics from such a pop culture phenomenon?  Actually, yes: 

1)  Clearly, security studies trumps international political economy when it comes to the Academy Awards.  I noted yesterday that Avatar, The Hurt Locker and Inglourious Basterds were all about war and resistance.  Those films received ten academy awards.  The only nominated film that addressed IPE was Up in The Air, and it got shut out. 

2)  That said, the awards also suggest that in Hollywood, Thucydides' dictum that "the strong do what they can, the weak do what they must" does not entirely hold.  Despite being the highest grossing picture in history, Avatar got clobbered by The Hurt Locker. So much for financial power translating into prestige. That said, I'm pretty sure Kathryn Bigelow could take James Cameron in a fight, so maybe there was a different kind of power at work here. 

3)  Hey, that was some hard-core bargaining going on between Disney and Cablevision as the awards show was beginning. 

4)  The person with the greatest amount of "soft power" in Hollywood?  Tina Fey. The woman could be paired with an eggplant and she'd get the eggplant some laughs.   

5)  Clearly, the Academy Awards has problems dealing with asymmetric threats. How else do you explain a three-minute homage to horror films in which the entire zombie genre gets less than a second of screen time??!!! Hello?!  Chucky from Child's Play got a longer shot, for crying out loud! 

Fools -- they clearly haven't thought this through. I mean, based on the John Hughes tribute, Judd Nelson is already a member of the living dead. 

One final thought:  if there was any justice in the world, the Best Visual Effects Oscar would have been a tie between Demi Moore and Michelle Pfeiffer. In general, I found a rough but direct correlation between age and fashion sense. The older the actress, the more chic they looked. 

Post your own thoughts in the comments.


Daniel W. Drezner

Handicapping the 2010 Oscars

As always, your humble blogger will be watching the Academy Awards show -- especially since the Powers That Be took 50% of your humble blogger's advice with regard to hosting duties this year. 

That said, this evening's festivities are a bit odd, in that there are so many mortal locks in the major categories.  Christoph Waltz is gonna win for Best Supporting Actor, Mo'Nique is gonna win for Best Supporting Actor, Jeff Bridges is gonna win for Best Actor, and so forth. 

For reasons that passeth all understanding, Salma Hayek did not appear in a Major Prestige Picture.  This leaves the Best Actress category is a bit more muddled.  Unfortunately, I fear that Sandra Bullock will win in a year when Gabourey Sidibe, Carey Mulligan and especially Meryl Streep gave better performances. 

The real uncertainty is over who wins Best Picture.  With the voting rules having changed, the conventional wisdom has The Hurt Locker edging out Avatar and Inglourious Basterds for Best Flick.

It's interesting that these are the three films being talked about, since they're all war pictures, even though they're operating in very different keys.  Long-time readers know how I feel about Avatar, so I won't regurgitate it here.  I finally saw The Hurt Locker last night.  It's much better than Avatar -- there are nuances to the characters and everything -- its massive adrenaline rush began to wear off about two-thirds of the way into the picture (though the final 10 minutes are better than entire hours of Avatar).  And as that rush worse off, so did the willing suspension of disbelief

Then there's Charli Carpenter, who's rooting for the Basterds:

Tarantino has done what he always does best, though not always in the same way - something unexpected that makes us uncomfortable. Partly because so many of the uncomfortable conversations the film would have sparked are about one of the most important moral issues of our day: the limits of just war theory. And partly because Basterds does something most films don't do: make us think about film itself as it ties into power politics. 

In what is likely a sign of advanced aging, the film I'll be pulling for is Up -- because the directors of this movie had the audacity and skill to put this effortlessly heartbreaking sequence into a children's movie.   Oh, and because of Dug

I'll live-tweet the show itself, with a wrap-up post sometime in the morrow.