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Why “The Hurt Locker” isn’t hurting for awards.

Why “The Hurt Locker” isn’t hurting for awards. (photo)

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Our long, slow death march through awards season continues with this morning’s Golden Globe nominations, which delivered nothing unexpected. All our familiar friends — “Precious,” “Up In The Air,” Jeff Bridges, Christoph Waltz et al. — are present and accounted for.

Notable “snubs” (I suppose) include not nominating Lee Daniels, Carey Milligan for her much-praised turn in “An Education,” and, uh, Abbie Cornish for “Bright Star” (that last one’s kind of a stretch, but I guess some people believe anything).

The biggest snub, though, is Jeremy Renner for “The Hurt Locker,” which otherwise got the three big nominations it needs to keep it moving through trophy season: Best Picture/Director/Screenplay. Odd, since it was agreed upon in pretty much every review that Renner gave a break-out turn as Sergeant First Class William James, expert bomb defuser and rock star of the battlefield. And Renner is, indeed, excellent: innocuous-looking but freakishly relaxed in the tensest of situations, taut when it’s unnecessary.

But what is it with this movie and its near-universal critical acclaim? (Check out this awards scoreboard, in which its status as critics’ circle darling is fleshed out.) It’s one compulsively entertaining and watchable film, but — at least from where I’m sitting — it has some serious, far from negligible missteps, most notably (MAJOR SPOILERS) a willingness to not just kill kids for gut-level impact but to do so in the most graphic way possible, not to mention Renner’s abysmal, unsalvagable final monologue — delivered to a baby, no less — where he explains exactly what he’s about, making the perfectly obvious explicit. He likes adrenaline! He likes thrills!

Admittedly, I’m way in the critical minority here, and “Hurt Locker”‘s highbrow/middlebrow critical consensus has been remarkable and overwhelming. It’s striking that many of the high-profile reviews — David Denby, Scott Foundas, Lisa Schwarzbaum, A.O. Scott, Kenneth Turan — all insisted rather over-loudly on two key points:

One: This is a kick-ass action movie you should see for the visceral thrills as much as anything else (“If ‘The Hurt Locker’ is not the best action movie of the summer, I’ll blow up my car.” — A.O. Scott).

Two: This is the best film about the war in Iraq yet (“will be studied twenty years from now when people want to understand something of what happened to American soldiers in Iraq” —David Denby), which means it’s the first good one of the bunch, so you shouldn’t be wary of seeing it.

12152009_hurtlocker6.jpgThere was also an insistence that the film was both non-ideological while somehow giving the “truth” about the war and — more compellingly — many, many commendations of Bigelow for delivering a spatially coherent action movie that didn’t go all cubist-blender-Michael Bay and stuff.

My thinking isn’t that the impeccable action groove validated endorsing an Iraq film, finally, but rather the other way around: grave subject matter elevated the lowly action movie to critical godhood. Critics love to give lip service to well-crafted action movies, but they can rarely place them at the top of their lists: there’s a mental block there leftover from the ’50s or something.

“The Hurt Locker” is action par excellence, but it’s Iraq action, which has safely brought it to the critical forefront. Personally, I think “Near Dark” is better, but it’s about vampires. This is about The War We’re In — it’s an action movie you don’t have to feel guilty for thinking is the best of the year. Whatever. If this is what awards bait looks like in 2009, I can totally live with that.

[Photos: “The Hurt Locker,” Summit Entertainment, 2009]


Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at


Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.


Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…