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Why Kathryn Bigelow Should Win the Oscar for Best Director

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 10:46 pm - March 1, 2010.
Filed under: Military,Movies/Film & TV,Strong Women

If there is any justice in Hollywood, this year will be the first year a woman takes home an Oscar for Best Achievement in Directing.  And not because she’s a woman, but because of the believability of the scenarios she staged.  At times, I thought I was watching a documentary, but the Hurt Locker wasn’t even, as far as I can tell, based on a true story.

It was more a portrait of a man who enjoyed the thrill of disarming bombs in Iraq in 2004, as terrorists were increasing their attacks on civilians and the U.S. military, often using IEDs (improvised explosive devices).  It was not just the direction of Jeremy Renner as Staff Sergeant William James where Kathryn Bigelow showed her stuff.  It was how she showed his interactions with his fellow soldiers, particularly Sergeant JT Sanborn (Anthony Mackie).  

You could see Mackie attempt to keel his cool as snipers fired upon his unit in the desert.  You believed his unease–and relief–after he had completed the task.  This seem like the way a man would act.  When she shows the soldiers interacting with one another, it seems real because this is the way men interact with one another.  And by man in this paragraph, I mean our sex not the species.

And that’s where Bigelow really distinguished herself.  Like the best of her male counterparts, she can direct the other sex.  Watching this film was bit ironic for me, given that just over a month ago, after seeing Julie & Julia and It’s Complicated, films directed by women where the male characters don’t act like male individuals, rather serve as a type of feminine wish-fulfillment, behaving as women want us to behave, I had e-mailed some friends wondering if woman could direct men.  Well, Kathryn Bigelow can–and in the most masculine of situations–the heat of battle.

There is much to like about this movie from a production standpoint.  From a narrative one, however, it doesn’t really hold together.  It is more like a series of vignettes around a common theme used to paint a picture of men in wartime.  We see James’ determination to meet the challenge of each bomb, to see the mission through until he has detonated it.  He even expresses admiration for the terrorists’ handiwork, their skill at making a explosive device difficult for him to defuse.

And while she barely shows the enemy, Bigelow does show the evil they do, murdering a boy and mutilating his corpse which they have rigged with explosives, locking explosives onto a man so he can’t remove this “suicide vest.”

Above all, she shows the tenacity of men in wartime.  We admire them even as we see their flaws.  She appreciates the work they do and the toll it takes on them.

While I’ve seen the work of a number of accomplished directors this past year, for the Oscar, it’s not even a contest.  Or shouldn’t be.  Kathryn Bigelow has earned this honor.  The Hurt Locker is one brilliant piece of work.

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15 Comments

  1. Is this the same “Hurt Locker” that soldiers are calling a “huge slap in face to every soldier who’s been on front line”?

    Sources here and here.

    I havent seen it, and don’t intend to, but I dont think we should be rewarding pictures that offend the people they are about.

    For my money, if their were any justice, no one would watch the Oscars this year at ALL.

    Comment by American Elephant — March 1, 2010 @ 11:32 pm - March 1, 2010

  2. ugh! “their” should be “there”

    Comment by American Elephant — March 1, 2010 @ 11:35 pm - March 1, 2010

  3. Really, soldiers are offended by this? I’ll check out the links.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 2, 2010 @ 12:09 am - March 2, 2010

  4. Dan, as much as I like you, this film is a joke. As a vet, I can tell you that I’d like to shoot the so called protagonist in this film. This is a huge insult to every man and woman who has ever served. This film is a slap in the face of every one who served honorably. You need to check this out alot deeper than you have. Hurt Locker is an attack on the integrity of our military. No ones runs so out of control. It simply doesn’t happen, no way, no how. And I don’t give a flying F**k what torrentpino or tano says.

    Comment by John in Dublin CA — March 2, 2010 @ 1:15 am - March 2, 2010

  5. John, as you know, I’m not a vet, but value the work our servicemen do and our vets have done. To me, it seemed a story of courage under fire. And I respected the guys how they bore with it all

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 2, 2010 @ 2:02 am - March 2, 2010

  6. I am a soldier in Iraq, and before we deployed my commander paid for the entire unit to see this movie. Not because it was a realistic depiction of what we would see when we arrived here, rather because it was a realistic depiction of the courage required to serve here. Where our enemy is among the friendlies, and the enemy is very cruel, and we must be able to live with each others flaws to get through this. Soldiers who watched the movie from this perspective, a movie about the people who have to fight, survive and win peace, love the movie. Soldiers who watched it thinking it was a documentary on how the war is fought hated it.
    I agree, KB should win the Oscar. It was a movie, not a documentary. And it was a riviting movie, I watched it at least 4 times and each time I thought for sure they would be able to succeed and save that man’s life…but alas, wishful thinking did not change the outcome.

    Comment by Margaret — March 2, 2010 @ 2:26 am - March 2, 2010

  7. Dan, I wasn’t meaning to insinuate that you dont care about the troops or anything like that. I just figured you hadn’t heard about the objections that some are raising.

    Comment by American Elephant — March 2, 2010 @ 2:42 am - March 2, 2010

  8. no, AE, I hadn’t. I thought the main character came across as dedicated, committed. . . yet flawed — as are we all.

    Thanks though for clarifying

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — March 2, 2010 @ 3:45 am - March 2, 2010

  9. I’d never even heard of it until Dan mentioned it a few weeks ago. Still don’t know anything about it. Saw those links AE mentioned on Drudge, though.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 2, 2010 @ 5:37 am - March 2, 2010

  10. I agree with the comments on “It’s Complicated” and “Julie and Julia.” I felt like I was watching an Oprah episode while enduring “It’s Complicated.” It seems producers are trying to tap the market that revealed itself when “Sex and the City” hit the big screen. Meryl Streep can act but can’t pick a script to save her life.

    Comment by patrick — March 2, 2010 @ 8:49 am - March 2, 2010

  11. From the comments of one of your links:

    “Now you Army guys know how we Navy guys felt when “Top Gun” came out. ”

    Its a movie. Not a documentry.

    Comment by gillie — March 2, 2010 @ 9:23 am - March 2, 2010

  12. Really poorly handled on the details; amazing cinematography. Otherwise I don’t understand the hype.

    Comment by Retcon — March 2, 2010 @ 9:44 am - March 2, 2010

  13. Its a movie. Not a documentry.

    And then you can get into the whole “Law & Order juries” discussion or the growth in CSI classes due to that show. Folks think that not only will they be processing the crime scene, working in the lab AND making arrests while it’s more likely they get to clean up the gruesome mess and then get coffee for everybody else.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — March 2, 2010 @ 10:45 am - March 2, 2010

  14. I’m wondering if the Avatar people are pushing this meme, since it seems that Hurt Locker might be gaining on Avatar in the Oscar competition.

    Comment by Leah — March 2, 2010 @ 11:14 am - March 2, 2010

  15. Well, considering James Cameron is her ex that might be true.
    However, I did hear that our troops stationed over there did not like their depiction at all!

    Comment by PatriotMom — March 2, 2010 @ 12:04 pm - March 2, 2010

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