Friday, January 27, 2012

Land use at the “Oscars”

The Oscars nominations for Best Picture came out this week, and it’s time to determine which of them has the best chances of winning . . . presuming, as we are to do, that land use will be the primary concern in the judges’ minds. 

Some urbanists may argue that Hugo will win for its transit-oriented development themes associated with a young boy living in a train station.  Others may argue that Midnight In Paris will win for its historic preservation-inspired romp through Twenties’ Parisian streets.  But I think the hands down land use Oscars favorite has to be The Descendants, in which George Clooney plays a lawyer who, along with a large divided family, must decide whether to sell a large plot of Hawaiian lands to a developer or preserve them in an undeveloped state. 

Other than Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, when was the last time a land use issue played such a pivotal role in an Oscar-nominated film?  I can’t recall of one. 

And perhaps of greater issue:  could The Descendants be nominated for the Oscar if the family had decided to sell the land?  I think not.  Part of the redemptive nature of the story is not choosing greed over family, a storyline that would get too muddy if Clooney’s character started negotiating deal points in the wake of his wife's death, no matter what the economic or environmental result was.  Has an Oscar ever gone to a film where the protagonist was a developer, for that matter?  Or a land use professor? 

Something to think about when the stars start walking down the red carpet in a couple weeks.

Stephen Miller

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