Nomination: Art direction, cinematography, directing, film editing, music (original score), best picture, sound editing, sound mixing, visual effects
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
Synopsis: A paraplegic former Marine gets his legs fixed in exchange for assisting in the conquest of a distant planet -- Pandora -- and its humanoid inhabitants to get a precious material. But he bonds with the natives and falls in love.
The record-setting film, which received nine Oscar nominations, has astounding 3-D effects and a money-fueled plot.
"The most clear sort of view about money in any movie this year was really 'Avatar,' because it's really a movie about corporate greed versus deeper values that have to do with personal connection," says Hutzler, who also has taught at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
The greed to uncover a valuable mineral -- worth $20 million per kilogram -- on the planet that's home to the blue-skinned Na'vi drives the action in the film. The humans perceive that they have a right to the mineral, even to the detriment of the Na'vi. "It, in many ways, reinforces the idea that we don't necessarily have to work hard for riches per se," says Al Martin, an adjunct professor of sociology at DePaul University in Chicago and president of What Works Communications, a marketing communications firm.