THE BIGELOW ENIGMA

28 Jan

As we discussed yesterday in an in-depth primer, the 62nd DGA Award on Saturday evening will give us our most reliable indication yet of who win the best director Oscar (winners have corresponded on all but 6 occasions) and what will win the best picture Oscar (winners have corresponded on all but 13 occasions). The two favorites are, of course, Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”) and James Cameron (“Avatar”), ex-spouses whose films couldn’t be more different but whose directorial achievements this year are both astounding, leaving experts divided about which of the two will take home the prizes.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is already certain: Bigelow has gone where few other women have ever gone before in the awards season. Indeed, only six other women have ever been nominated for the DGA Award — Lina Wertm├╝ller for “Seven Beauties” (1975), Randa Haines for “Children of a Lesser God” (1986), Barbra Streisand for “The Prince of Tides” (1991), Jane Campion for “The Piano” (1993), Sofia Coppola for “Lost in Translation” (2003), and Valerie Faris, who was nominated with co-director Jonathan Dayton, for “Little Miss Sunshine” (2006). (Only three — Wertm├╝ller, Campion, and Coppola — went on to earn a nomination for the best director Oscar, and none of them ever had a serious shot at winning, as Bigelow does.)

For the past 30 years, Bigelow has quietly but steadily carved a niche in the film industry: she is a female director who makes “guy movies” — particularly of the action, sci-fi, suspense, thriller, and/or war variety, with lots of shootouts and/or explosions — as well as virtually any male, and for a lot less money. “The Hurt Locker,” which is as intense as any movie this year and cost only $15 million to make, is the best example of this, but far from the first.

Bigelow’s first film, made while she was a student at Columbia University, was a self-professed exploration of “why violence in cinematic form is so seductive.” It was a short called “The Set-Up” (1978), and according to IMDB it features “two men beating each other to a pulp in a dark alley, while two professors analyzed the philosophy of it all on the soundtrack.” In other words, it was clear from the start that Bigelow wasn’t interested in making romantic-comedies or Cinderella stories.

Here is a brief look at each of the eight feature films that she has made…

  • “The Loveless” (1982), a drama set in the 1950s in which a motorcycle gang stops in a small town and clashes with the locals; starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Gordon

  • “Near Dark” (1987), a horror film in which a young man is unwittingly turned into a vampire by a young woman and struggles to escape from her family and protect his own; with Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright

  • “Blue Steel” (1989), a suspense thriller in which a cop is accused of killing an unarmed man, only to discover that the person who took the culprit’s gun from the scene and used it to commit several murders was her own boyfriend; with Jamie Lee Curtis and Ron Silver

  • “Point Break” (1991), an action film about an undercover FBI investigation into a series of bank robberies; with starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze

  • “Strange Days” (1995), a sci-fi thriller in which an ex-cop races against time to try to prevent a murderer from striking again; with Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett

  • “The Weight of Water” (2000), a thriller in which the members of a group investigating long-ago murders begin to turn on each other; with Sean Penn and Sarah Polley

  • “K-19: The Widowmaker” (2002), a thriller set during the Cold War in which a Soviet nuclear submarine malfunctions in the north Atlantic, threatening to spark World War III; with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson

  • “The Hurt Locker” (2009), a war film in which an elite Army bomb squad charged with dismantling IEDs in Iraq struggles to survive its tour of duty mentally and physically intact; with Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie

Photo: Kathryn Bigelow. Credit: Film Reference.com

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