Wednesday, 10 March 2010

well done, kathryn bigelow

it's a little late, but i thought we shouldn't let kathryn bigelow's win at the oscars for best director and best picture go unmentioned. not that i have anything particularly profound to say about that (other than i think it's great), so i'll just copy and paste bits of what other people have said.

from here:

Her win will not be devoid of controversy. Kathryn Bigelow has charted an atypical career for a female director. She doesn’t direct “chick flicks,” never has, and most probably never will. She works outside the gender box that so many women get stuck in.

In spite of the deep and abiding desire to see a woman break through this particular glass ceiling, the real possibility that the first Oscar award winning woman director will win for making a war film is almost a kick in the gut to many who make the types of films that most interest female ticket buyers. Bigelow works in a male paradigm and is being rewarded for that. Sasha Stone of Awards Daily said: “…the Academy and the industry are the ones to fault here for paying attention to a film directed by a woman because it is about men. The only thing that’s new about it is that a woman was able to make a film every bit as good as a man would have.” The honest truth is that women’s experiences and lives don’t rate at the same level with men’s, and Bigelow is just another reminder of that fact.

One of the big reasons why The Hurt Locker has vaulted to the top is precisely because men love this film. In an email, awards watcher Pete Hammond wrote: “No matter how crass this sounds, (the film) actually looks like it was directed by a man. We don’t often see gritty war movies with female directors.” There is almost a sense of awe mixed with condescension that a woman could have directed such a movie.

and a bit of gushing from here:

I remember when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first female Supreme Court justice; I remember when Madeleine Albright became the first Secretary of State; I remember when Shannon Faulkner became the first female to go to the Citadel; I remember when Eileen Collins became the first woman to command a space shuttle mission; I remember when Nancy Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House.

And I will remember last night.

I will remember it because it came on the dawn of International Women’s Day, when many of us pause and think about the struggles that many women and girls in the world go through each and every day just to survive.

We all know that last night was symbolic, that one woman winning an award won’t help all the other women working each and every day to get their films made. But I am betting that this morning women directors around the world will walk a little taller, smile a little brighter, and feel a bit stronger and more confident as they sweep up the glass that Bigelow shattered last night.

and finally, i really liked this comment at shakesville:

About The Hurt Locker: First, what a surprise: the first time a woman wins best director and picture, it's for a movie about dudes. Shock.

Fortunately, it's rather brilliant about dudes. IMExperience--and I've got a bit--what Bigelow did was really unique for movies about men: she showed men, not as they want to be portrayed--and no matter how "honest" they try to be, I think just about every movie made by men ultimately does this--but as how they actually are, oftentimes, especially the kind of men portrayed in her film: desperate for bonding and love, but doing so--and becoming only able to do so--over shared pain.

The other thing about The Hurt Locker is the Chris Hedges quote at the beginning, which is from his terrible and beautiful book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning. It's not there for decoration. The Hurt Locker is almost the novelization of the book, or at least its main theme: that war, and the adrenaline rush it gives, and the sense of engaging in an activity that unlike so many others in industrialized society actually has meaning make it a desperately addictive drug, one that become harder and harder to give up. (Hedges talks movingly and at length about his own struggle to stop going back out into battle zones again and again.) That's the journey of Jeremy Renner's character, and it's why he acts the way he does--which I agree is not particularly military at times--and why he makes the choice he does at the end.

It's a desperately poignant story about men and the pressures they impose on themselves and thus transcends in a way relatively few movies have the constraints of the "war movie" genre.

so there you go. and if you didn't manage to catch the oscars (like most of us in nz, i would think), here's a rather elongated you tube clip of the best director bit:


Hugh said...

I have to disagree with this interpretation of The Hurt Locker. It's a pro-war film. Not an all-war-is-great-always film, and certainly not a the-Iraq-war-is-great film, but definitely a film that sees war as having positive aspects.

That being said, it is a very good pro-war film, and certainly deserved to defeat Avatar, which was arguably an anti-war film but was very, very bad regardless.

Julie said...

Thanks for this anjum, in particular for not going down the path that so many others seem to be; namely focusing on who Bigelow used to be married to as opposed to what she's achieved.

Julie said...

(Pssst @Hugh, quite a few people would like you to come back to this post and explain your disagree :-) )

Grace Dalley said...

One of the biggest gender-bias problems in Hollywood is the extreme predominance of male screenwriters. The ratio can be as high as 85:15.

The vast majority of Hollywood films feature a male protagonist -- this is so usual that we scarcely even notice it. How many recent films can you name that have a female protagonist? If we always see a story from a man's point of view, how does that affect our society?

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

Shame that the producers of the Oscar show decided to present Bigelow's best director Oscar with a shitload of condescending head-patting.

As one person put put it, "I Am Woman? If Cameron had won, would be have left the stage to the strains of 'It's a Man's Man's Man's World', or do we just take that as read?"

And a massive sexist-fail to the media for the lazy, condescending "battle of the exes" lede. Kudos to Bigelow and Cameron for not playing up to a media-constructed narrative, but they shouldn't have been in that position in the first place.

The honest truth is that women’s experiences and lives don’t rate at the same level with men’s, and Bigelow is just another reminder of that fact.

oh, wow... I don't know if I even want to start deconstructing the "not a real feminist..." bingo in play at that link. But when women film-makers, writers and executives already face so much sexism in the industry (and not just in Hollywood), I'm struggling to see anything feminist in another slap-down of an uppity woman who refuses to follow the script.

Women like Bigelow, Gale Ann Hurd and Jane Espenson who work outside the "chick-flick" paradigm really get enough shit from fanboy patriarchs who feel emasculated by the estrogen getting all over their nice clean genres. Do they really the same old crap in a new box?