Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” is this year’s worst nightmare for advocates of the 10 Best Picture nominee program.

Those people probably hoped “Star Trek,” “Up,” and “Harry Potter Does More Tricks” would make the balance of a list composed of indie films.

Instead, the one film everyone agrees is number 6 automatically is “The Hurt Locker,” a searing, sensational piece of filmmaking about a fictitious American bomb squad in Iraq, with starmaking performances by Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner.

(1 through 5? Just a guess: “Precious,” “Nine,” “Invictus,” “Up in the Air,” “An Education“).

Yesterday at lunch, “The Hurt Locker” got a Veterans Day salute at the 21 Club. It was supposed to be just an average celebration, with Bigelow and Mackie in attendance as well as screenwriter Mark Boal. A great group was in attendance too: Buck Henry, making a rare appearance in New York; plus Oliver Stone, producer Ed Pressman, Bob Balaban, Tovah Feldshuh, writer Eric Alterman, producer Fred Zollo, actor Bob Dishy, Dan Abrams, legendary WNBC newsman Gabe Pressman, the effervescent Toni Goodale, and so on.

There was a moving surprise though: our own Gerry Byrne, of the Nielsen Company, a former US Marine, introduced a Marine who’d been dining downstairs with some buddies. The Marine, a vet, spoke poignantly ‘ in his content and manner, because of many reconstructive surgeries ‘ about his harrowing tour of duty in this war. It was one of those revelatory moments. The Marine got a standing ovation, and “The Hurt Locker” felt all the more real because of it.

No, there will be no “Star Trek” or “District 9,” much as I loved them. More slots for Best Picture means more movies like “The Hurt Locker.” Wait, and see.

And by the way: another former US Marine, Harvey Keitel, was not in town for Veterans Day observances. Word is he’s filming secret scenes with Robert DeNiro for “Little Fockers.” It’s going to give the comedy a Scorsese kick.

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