James Cameron’s waxy face and silvery mop of hair were far more irritating the second time he climbed the Golden Globe stage. Did Avatar deserve the award for best drama? Well, if your definition of cinematic greatness is a whiplashing moviegoing experience and genius use of CGI technology, then yes. If you need a nuanced story, intelligent writing, and developed characters, then no. Both positions are defendable. My personal prejudices tend more to the latter.
What really added the sting to Cameron’s second victory was Kathryn Bigelow in the audience, who directed the Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker . Seven critics’ groups named Bigelow the year’s best director, while five called her film best picture. No critical circle gave Cameron a best director nod for Avatar . If Bigelow had won the Golden Globe for either best director or best drama, she would have been the first woman ever to do so. Bigelow is also Cameron’s third of five wives. Cameron is Bigelow’s only husband to date.
The Hurt Locker ’s third Golden Globe nomination was in the best screenplay category, while Avatar ’s other nominations were for the original score. So even the Hollywood Foreign Press knew deep down that The Hurt Locker was a better movie, if we take depth and originality of story as fundamental judging criteria. “Frankly, I thought Kathryn was gonna get this,” Cameron even admitted in his best director acceptance speech.
There was a quick shot of Bigelow, too-part of the traditional schadenfreundlich loser montage. Look how well he hides his pain! Look how you can sort of see her pain in her left eye muscles! Look how he’s practically crying!
Cameron and Bigelow seem amiable. Four years after their divorce in 1991, they even collaborated. Cameron wrote and produced Strange Days , which Bigelow directed. But really, Cameron has been working on Avatar since 1994. He had 15 years to release his monster spectacle and yet had to do it the same year his ex-wife, struggling for decades in the boys’ club of Hollywood, made the most critically beloved movie of the year?
My bitterness really comes from his acceptance speech. Mo’Nique set the tone for the evening. She dedicated her best supporting actress award to victims of sexual abuse and, staring at her husband, remembered their more modest past: “I look into the eyes of the man that I stood next to at 14 years old and said, ‘We’re gonna be stars…’ He said, ‘You first.’ ”
Cameron chose not to weave a tale of dreams-comes-true or speak against injustice or defend his obvious fortune in a time of global trauma. “I just think this is the best job in the world,” he said. “You know … it just really is.” Yes, James Cameron, it’s probably pretty sweet to be a multimillionaire artist, so adored that kids are threatening to kill themselves on Internet chatrooms in order to escape to the fantasy world of your brain.
“I just wanted to say give up for yourselves,” he continued. Really? Isn’t that what the whole ceremony is for? “We all have the best job in the world and what we do is we make entertainment for a global audience. And that’s what the Golden Globes mean.” It was a masterful performance of self-congratulation, while at the same time justifying Avatar ‘s victory over The Hurt Locker , a film that lacks the global language of in-your-face rainforest.
All the women who gave speeches throughout the evening managed to channel surprise, humility, and emotional paralysis. Even Meryl Streep, no stranger to the Beverly Hills Hotel stage, admitted relying on the memory of her mother for the strength to grin at the flash bulbs, given the tragedy in Haiti. Is it that men can get away with callous displays of self-love, while women can’t? Or can a man only get away with it if he’s made the two top-grossing films of all time?