question of the day: Is there a last-minute guerrilla campaign against ‘The Hurt Locker’?

Last week, Hurt Locker producer Nicolas Chartier was banned from attending the Oscar ceremony on Sunday over the emails he sent to Academy members. According to The Los Angeles Times, this is the first time such a ban has been instituted. I didn’t understand at first why an email asking for an Academy member’s vote would be an issue — how is it any different from all the other Oscar campaigning that goes on, like all those “for your consideration” ads that run in the trade magazines this time of year, or the sending of screeners? Turns out that wasn’t the problem; Chartier “was deemed in violation of the academy’s ban against creating a negative impression of a rival nominee” (says the Times); he “disparaged one of the other contending films” (according to an Academy statement quoted at the Times).

Fair enough. Chartier is either a colossal jerk, or he didn’t know the rules (though it’s hard to imagine how that could be the case), or he figured he could get away with something that surely goes on all the time (it’s hard to imagine nominees not disparaging some of their fellow nominees, at least in private, to members of the Academy).
But then there was this: Last week — after the story about the Chartier emails had broken but before the Academy had decided on a punishment, the L.A. Times ran an article entitled “’The Hurt Locker’ sets off conflict.” It’s not about the Chartier controversy instead features “a number of active soldiers and veterans [who] say the film is Hollywood hokum, portraying soldiers as renegades while failing to represent details about combat accurately.” As Nicole LaPorte at The Daily Beast notes:

Given that The Hurt Locker was released in theaters last summer (a more likely time for critics to come out of the woodwork) and that the due date for Oscar ballots was four days after the story ran, one Oscar consultant—who has nothing to do with Hurt Locker— called the article “Smear 101.” (As’s Steve Pond has pointed out, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and the Associated Press have all run stories about soldiers’ and veterans’ reactions, concluding that the majority of them approved of the film. The Daily Beast also featured a story about a real-life Marine EOD soldier who thought the movie captured his experience.)

And then there’s this:

Besides the timing of the story, there were omissions, according to sources who worked on The Hurt Locker‘s publicity campaign. For example, the story quotes Paul Rieckhoff, the executive director and founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, saying, “We are not cowboys. We are not reckless.”

Yet it is not reported that besides being an Army veteran, Rieckhoff is a Hollywood producer with his own films in the works. According to, Rieckhoff is a producer on nearly half a dozen war documentaries. Newsweek also recently published a piece, this one penned by Rieckhoff, that does not mention his role as a filmmaker.

And if it all is intended as a smear campaign, it may be working. LaPorte continues:

At this point, most voters have already cast their ballots, thus the effect of the Times’ revelations is minimized. However, one publicist claimed that some members of the Academy were demanding new ballots in order to change their vote.

That can’t happen — its against Academy rules — but it is indicative of a souring of mood toward the film.

But then again, yesterday, the L.A. Times again, in a piece at Patrick Goldstein’s blog The Big Picture, comes the news that one of the real soldiers profiled by Mark Boal in the nonfiction article that was the basis for the fictionalized film is all of a sudden suing Boal:

According to the release, the suit will allege that “virtually all of the situations portrayed in the film, were, in fact, occurrences involving Master Sgt. Sarver that were observed and documented” by Boal. The suit will also contend that Sarver coined the phrase “The Hurt Locker” for Boal. According the release, the suit will argue that the filmmakers “falsely claim” that the characters in the film are fictional and that the filmmakers “decided to cheat” Sarver out of financial participation in the film.

Goldstein does appear to suggest, at least in a sideways way, that the timing here is suspicious too:

Boal says that he invited Sarver to see the first screening of “The Hurt Locker” in New York shortly before its release. “He liked it and told me, ‘Nice job.’ ” Boal recalls. “He wasn’t upset. He even invited some of us to visit the military base where he was stationed in New Jersey. I didn’t know there was a problem until recently, when the lawyers got involved.”

Is there a last-minute guerrilla campaign against The Hurt Locker? Or is it all just bad luck and coincidence?

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Wed, Mar 03, 2010 11:46am

It’s probably a little bit of both. If these people’s agenda really was to derail The Hurt Locker’s Oscar chances, they would’ve released all of these information weeks ago and not a week or two before ballots are due. So if this was their plan all along, then it’s all a bit too little too late.

I think the “normal” amount of Oscar politics and whatnot were going on, but nothing too crazy UNTIL Chartier sent that email. It sort of gave people an opening to go after a film that has since dominated at the precursors, because everyone loves to go after the favorite.

So yes, there is a guerilla campaign against The Hurt Locker like the other Best Picture nominees–Cameron is egotistical bastard and his picture is a rip off of Pocahontas/Dances with Wolves, Mo’Nique refuses to do press and Precious is a blatantly racist film, Inglourious Basterds is too violent and the Weinsteins are up to their same tricks again–so I think it’s just par for the course, sad to say. And again this all happened way too late for it to have any meaningful impact on the results.

Wed, Mar 03, 2010 11:55am

It’s about Bigelow, of course. Her Oscar is this close to being in the bag, and the boys’ club is desperate to prevent that.