The Oscars: Avatar, Hurt Locker, and the Environment

Na'vi Blue, Avatar

The Oscars are coming. Watch the 82nd Academy Awards on Sunday, March 7, 2008 on ABC. Why? Because of the environmental themes, that’s why. I’m not going to cover everything but here are some of my picks, of course based on, yes, the environment.

AVATAR is my number one pick, not because it had the best actors, not because of a fabulous screenplay but because of the environmental justice themes. Go to Rue Mapp’s Outdoor Afro to learn more about the connection to environmental justice and environmental racism in the film.

Next in the running is District 9, another film with environmental themes. The aliens who land in Johannesburg, Africa are a metaphor for apartheid in Africa, segregation in the US, and racism around the world. Their ship breaks down and the South Africans responds by corralling the insect aliens into a camp–a garbage dump, a shanty-town of shacks–in much the same way the US did with the Japanese during World War I with internment camps in the deserts of California and Nevada. The movie also points to how much humans, citizens, and aliens, illegal aliens or immigrants, are very much the same. I also love science fiction so there.

District 9

My third pick is THE HURT LOCKER. It’s all about the Iraqi landscape. White hot sun. Dry desert. The acting and screenplay are also amazing focusing on adrenalin junkies and post-traumatic stress syndrome among American soldiers in Iraq. So there are also themes of health and medicine in a great film.

So onto another category. Since JULIA AND JULIA was not nominated for Best Picture, Meryl Streep for Best Leading Actress will represent for the entire movie. Part of the film is set in Brooklyn. One of the Julias writes her blog on cooking all of of Julia Child’s French cuisine recipes while living above a storefront in Brooklyn. Concrete. Asphalt. Metal bars on doors and windows. It may not be everyone’s ideal environmental paradise but it’s what many a city-dweller is accustomed to compared to the wild. And we can watch the foodways of a Brooklynite cooking French food and an American in Paris coming up with a French cookbook. A bit convoluted but it all works for me. So Meryl Streep gets my Best Actress nod.

So here is the big Barbara Walter’s question she often asked during her Oscar special that precedes the award ceremony: if you were a tree, what tree would you be? And I’ll add why did you choose that tree. I am a Gingo Biloba tree because I saw so many planted in squares of earth that was surrounded by concrete when I worked in Manhattan.

Gingko Biloba

I haven’t seen all the movies nominated in the Best Picture category but hope to as I search for other environmental themes on the big screen. See you at the Oscars.

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