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Entries in Kathryn Bigelow (20)

Saturday
Jan302016

Stretch Linkstrong 

Randomness
Film School Rejects it's all about talking animals who sound just like celebrities this year
Towleroad ABC rejects a TV ad for Carol because (GASP) naked lesbian shoulders
John August shares depressing box office stats on why we get so many sequels
Guardian picks 5 best moment of Jane Fonda in the movies - bizarre choices beyond her Oscar winning roles
Guardian investigation of why movie posters are so terrible in comparison to their aged counterparts
The Wrap TV adaptation of American Gods (a must read from Neil Gaiman) has cast Ricky Whittle (the 100) in the leading role
MNPP ...goes all out with an endless gratuitous post celebrating Whittle
Awards Daily Awesome crusading Senator Elizabeth Warren loves The Big Short


New Projects
Tracking Board Chan-wook Park to direct the adapation of sci-fi novel Genocidal Organ about homemade nuclear devices
Coming Soon Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker) are reteaming for a film about the 1967 Detroit Riots. Shooting to start this summer
Variety Ruh-roh Jennifer Aniston is doing a true life sports drama called The Fixer -- she's got her eyes on The Blind Side's surprise prize if you know what I mean
Coming Soon (sigh) Dear Toni Collette's Agent, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? I know we ask this all the time but you have not answered. (Toni is now signed to do a bureaucrat role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage because Hollywood weirdly believes we want every Vin Diesel franchise revived)
/Film Stretch Armstrong series (yes, the boys doll with stretchy arms) is going to Netflix. For kids.
Variety Meg Ryann behind the camera. Her first film Ithaca did not yet find distribution which is weird (all star cast) but she's signed to direct a second, a romantic comedy even, called The Book 

 Theatre People
Playbill Zachary Quinto, about to reprise his Spock role on the big screen, on why he prefers theater to film or television 
Playbill Dominic Cooper returning to the stage for a new production of The Libertine about the hedonistic Earl of Rochester in 1670s London. Did any of you ever see that Johnny Depp film version of the play?

Today's Watch
A well timed brief history of white actors playing ethnic roles from Screen Crush. (Minor Quibble: Technically some consider Russian born Yul Brynner as Asian -- he claimed Mongolian heritage but others denied it was true)

Awards Update
Everyone's making their final moves -- Oscar ballots out on Feb 12th. Jennifer Jason Leigh is getting a tribute at the American Cinematheque. They'll be screening Hateful Eight, Georgia (the closest she ever came to a nom' previously), her divisive Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle (she's excellent), Single White Female and breakout hit Fast Times at Ridgmont High.

Finally, the ACE Eddie Awards were handed out last night. The winners:

  • Mad Max: Fury Road (Drama)
  • The Big Short (Comedy)
  • Inside Out (Animated)
  • Amy (Documentary).

 

Thursday
Oct012015

Women's Pictures: Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark

Welcome, guys and ghouls, to our special October edition of Anne Marie's "Women's Pictures!"

 This month, rather than focusing on 5 films by 1 female director, we will be watching 5 films by 5 female directors with 1 thing in common: horror. Because what's the one thing scarier than working in a boy's club industry? I reached out on social media to ask the internet what it wanted to see, and got an overwhelming response for these five films. Going chronologically, the first film on our list is a vampire flick by beloved Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.

In true 80s Bigelow fashion, Near Dark is a grim action thriller; part Western, part gang movie, part family drama, with enough explosions and gruesome special effects that you might miss the moralistic AIDS allegory underneath. Whenever the mainstream heaps praise on Kathryn Bigelow, their focus is usually on the fact that Bigelow does not work in "women's genres," which is to say films with "feminine" themes or plot lines. However, beneath the edgy synth soundtrack, the sex, violence, and hair gel, Near Dark is a surprisingly conservative film about the redemptive power of family. More...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul232015

Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's K-19: The Widowmaker

Anne Marie's 'Women's Pictures series' continues with July's subject Kathryn Bigelow...

Films about the Cold War are an unusual bunch. Whereas most war movies have a streak of jingoism necessary to the action ("fight the enemy, kill the enemy, win the war for God and country!"), the point of films about the Cold War - barring any alternate realities - is to actually avoid conflict. Men in these movies are forever preparing for war, even as they frantically try to prevent it. Instead of fighting soldiers, men fight bureaucracy, accidents, and misinformation. Done poorly, these films can feel like a trip to the DMV: too much paperwork and waiting in line. Done well, the looming cloud of Doomsday can overshadow even the most seemingly insignificant decision. There may be no genre more anti-war than the Cold War Film.

K-19: The Widowmaker, Kathryn Bigelow's first war film, is a fictionalized retelling of the misfortunes onboard Russia's first K-19 nuclear submarine that nearly caused World War III. Amidst government negligence, rushed manufacturing, and political malarky, Captain Alexei Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) is assigned to captain the submarine's crew, led by the former captain, Mikhail Polenin (Liam Neeson). 

Neeson & Ford's Gruff-Off after the jump...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul162015

Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days

On April 29th, 1992, the Rodney King verdict set Los Angeles on fire. Over 6 days, crowds rioted in South Central LA, protesting the acquittal of four LAPD officers who had been videotaped beating a black man. This was not LA's first race riot, but it came at a fraught time for the city, when the skyscrapers that were supposed to signal the start of a new era of prosperity loomed over widening economic and social gaps. By May 4th, it was clear that though the riots had "officially" ended, they had left a scar on the psyche of the city. Over the next few years, that scar would surface in one of Los Angeles's most prominent exports: film. After the Rodney King riots ended, a series of scifi blockbusters - including Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days - took to the streets of LA to predict the worst for the city's future.

Strange Days (another collaboration between Kathryn Bigelow and ex-husband James Cameron) is part of a group of dystopian action thrillers that cropped up in the wake of the Rodney King Riots. Escape from LADemolition Man, and Strange Days used their futuristic settings to do what science fiction does best: they created an allegory for contemporary fears about violence, inequity, and police brutality. 

Los Angeles is a good setting for a dystopia. Unlike New York City, America's Melting Pot, where people from different socioeconomic backgrounds intermingle on the street, Los Angeles is more a series of villages connected by highways. In LA, communities whose names are synonymous with wealth and prestige set their gates a handful of miles from infamously poor neighborhoods. But the two worlds never meet.

According to the movies, only three groups travel between these separate-but-unequal islands: cops, criminals, and entertainers. Lenny Nero, the protagonist of Strange Days, is all three: an ex-cop turned con-man who sells recorded memories and emotions via a "SQUID" machine - data discs that play directly in your cerebral cortex. When an anonymous donor leaves Nero a clip of his friend's rape and murder on New Year's Eve 1999, Nero and his friend Mace (Angela Bassett) get pulled into a plot that involves murdered rappers, police coverups, music producers, and Nero's lost love (Juliette Lewis). But bubbling under this detective story is a growing sense of unrest between police and the populace.

James Cameron's screenplay sets up a lot of ideas - drug allegory, the nature of memory, police militarization, the right to riot, institutional racism - and it is Kathryn Bigelow's very heavy duty to sort through these themes while also keeping the film on track. Miraculously, she is mostly successful. Though the structure of the script sometimes lags under the weight of its own ideas, Bigelow keeps the film moving at a clipped pace. Her fascination with point of view also becomes literal in Strange Days. the SQUID machines record from first person POV, which Bigelow uses to occasionally comic, often thrilling, and (in one incredibly intense murder scene) chilling effect. By virtue of its technical difficulties, First Person POV can look gimmicky on film, but Bigelow overcomes the difficulties to instead stage a series of fantastic action pieces.

The only failure of the film is not in its setup or its action, but in its conclusion. The complex problems of racism and violence which had occasionally bubbled to the surface - mostly in a B plot surrounding Angela Bassett's character - are neatly solved at the end of the film, though this denoument does give one intense image: a SWAT team beating an unarmed woman. It's probably too much to ask for moral complexity from an action thriller. Though insipred by riots that had proved there were still no easy answers in reality, Strange Days is still a product of its genre; commodified violence for the sake of box office. 

This month on Women's Pictures...

7/23 - K-19: The Widowmaker (2002) - Hands down the most requested film after Point Break, this film follows Harrison Ford racing to prevent a nuclear holocaust via submarine. (Amazon Prime) (Netflix)

7/30 - The Hurt Locker (2008) - The film that put Bigelow's name down in history as the first female director to win the Academy Award is a thriller about a bomb squad in the Iraq War. (Amazon Prime)

Thursday
Jul092015

Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's Point Break

I have a confession to make: people have been telling me for years to watch Point Break, and I always blew them off. "Sure it's a great genre film," I thought, "but the genre is action and the film is about bank robbing surfers." Oh, Anne Marie. You did not give bank robbing surfers (who also skydive, by the way) enough credit. After having watched it (twice in a row), I confess that Point Break is quite possibly the perfect early 90s action flick: that brief bridge between the buffed up ridiculousness of 80s action movies, and the self-serious grittiness of later 90s action films.

It's a space and genre that Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron (who were married in 1989 and divorced in 1991, the same year Point Break came out) occupied gleefully. Point Break was a collaboration between the two writer/directors (though because of Writer's Guild rules, neither's name appears in the writing credits). Together, they created a spectacle-driven, tightly-plotted action movie that manages to both poke fun at, and take advantage of, the hyper-macho tropes of the genre. Action was, after all, the genre of Stallone and Schwarzenegger's muscles, as well as Willis and Gibson's swagger. A lot has been written about movie masculinity and homoeroticism in action films, but I believe that what makes Point Break so good, beyond the adrenaline-high sports scenes and the tense action, is the way director Kathryn Bigelow examines (with a thankfully very thorough lens) the men in her film.

Point Break is a film that improbably can have its beef-cake and eat it too.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jul022015

Women's Pictures - Kathryn Bigelow's The Loveless

If you're new to Anne Marie's 'Women's Pictures' it's a weekly series that takes on a new female director each month. Previously covered: Ida LupinoJane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Agnes Varda. - Editor
 

Kathryn Bigelow & Andy Warhol in 1981. Photo: Philippe LedruWelcome to Kathryn Bigelow month!

Considering that July is traditionally one of the bigger blockbuster months, it seemed like the perfect time to delve into the career of one of the most famous female directors currently working. Undoubtedly, Bigelow is most famous for being the only woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. In 2008, she and The Hurt Locker unexpectedly became the symbols of art "fighting back" against bloated CGI behemoths represented by Avatar, directed by her ex-husband, James Cameron. The irony of this is that before making smaller, serious war movies, Bigelow had made her name (occasionally working with Cameron) on action flicks. So, pop some jiffy pop, lie back in your recliner, and let's get ready for some gun fights!

...But maybe not just yet. Surprisingly, 1981's The Loveless is virtually devoid of any explosions, catch phrases, car chases, or fun. Co-directed and co-written by Monty Montgomery (who would eventually produce Jane Campion's The Portrait of a Lady), The Loveless is a biker movie that falls into genre cliches even as it tries very hard to shed them.

Willem Dafoe (in his first credited film role) plays Vance, one of a gang of bikers who stop in a small town to fix a bike on the way to Daytona in the 1950s. The presence of the oversexed, understimulated bikers sends violent ripples through the stifled town, but the movie takes a long time to build to its climax. First, there are scenes of nearly shirtless Dafoe staring moodily into the distance while smoking. There are homoerotic knife games between gang members. There are downright voyeuristic shots of the biker boys as they leer at women. It's a sex-obsessed movie, is what I'm saying. Just not in the way I expected.

There is either a lot going on in this movie, or nothing at all...

Click to read more ...