Controversies dog 2010 Oscar contenders

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Controversies dog 2010 Oscar contenders

Anti-war, anti-imperialist, anti-Semitic, anti-social, racist: This year’s Oscars best picture contenders have faced a barrage of criticism from commentators eager to exploit the media frenzy surrounding the Academy Awards on Sunday to draw attention to their causes.

While science-fiction blockbuster “Avatar” and Iraq war drama “The Hurt Locker” have been battling criticism on a number of fronts, controversies have also attached themselves to best-picture nominees including “Precious” and British nominee “An Education.”

The environmental, anti-war, anti-imperialist themes of James Cameron’s Avatar, which tells the story of peace-loving blue aliens defending their home from war-mongering American soldiers, has infuriated conservatives.

John Podhoretz of the Weekly Standard has branded the film - the highest-grossing film of all time with more than $2 billion since its release - as “anti-American.”

“The conclusion does ask the audience to root for the defeat of American soldiers at the hands of an insurgency,” Podhoretz wrote.

But public health activists have also taken a potshot at Avatar, angry at scenes in the film where the character played by Sigourney Weaver is seen puffing on a cigarette.

“There is very, very strong epidemiological evidence that the more smoking kids and young adults see in movies, the more likely they are to smoke,” Stanton Glantz, professor of medicine and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, told AFP.

Meanwhile, The Hurt Locker, a tense drama about the activities of a bomb disposal unit in Iraq, has faced a barrage of late criticism from veterans who have complained it inaccurately portrays their profession.

“The depiction of our community in this film is disrespectful,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

Precious was accused of being “brazenly racist” by New York Film Critics Circle chair Armond White for its depiction of an illiterate, sexually abused black teenager from Harlem.

The film’s African-American director Lee Daniels admitted to being baffled by the criticism. “These are people that I know,” he said of the film’s characters. “My movie is the truth. It’s absolutely colorless.”

Equally unexpected was criticism of An Education, where a villainous Jewish character was compared to “the parasitical Jew of Nazi propaganda films” by a critic in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. AFP
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