Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, March 05, 2010

Kathryn Bigelow,Queen of the Cinematic Wild Frontier

With the Academy Awards less than three days away,the odds for safe bets on who will win Oscar gold start narrowing down right to the wire. Nevertheless,the surest thing going in Hollywood is that Kathryn Bigelow will be the first woman to win for Best Director,a honor she deserves based on her body of work more than her gender.

Bigelow is one of those directors that seem to fly under the radar yet has her finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to making movies that excite,entertain and bring some substance to material that could in other hands result in forgettable pulp fiction thrill rides. She also has an uncanny knack for picking up on trends that are destined to dominate the pop culture landscape,if not at the time then someday soon. Let's look over her filmmaker's resume to see the evolution of an artist at work making genre movies play:

NEAR DARK: The first Bigelow movie that I saw was this tough and tumble take on vampires back in 1987. The story line took a number of offbeat turns from the typical cliches of the vampire film,first by having an innocent male lead(Adrian Pasdar) being lured into the dark underworld of roving bloodsuckers by falling for the not-so-sweet young thing in their midst.

Also,these vamps are not moody romantic kind at all. Their full on assaults when looking to feed their blood need put the Lost Boys to shame. Before True Blood made country style vamps chic,Near Dark's fang gang cleared the path for them with plenty of cutthroat carnage on the sidelines:

BLUE STEEL: Jamie Lee Curtis gave one of her best performances here as Megan,a rookie police woman whose gun falls into the hands of a deranged witness(the late Ron Silver) to her first violent confrontation on duty and becomes the target of suspicion when bullets with her name on them wind up in several shooting spree victims.

Not only does Megan have to deal with opposition at work and home,her new romantic interest happens to be the mad man who's causing all of the trouble. The movie gets a little over the top towards the end but the believable acting by Curtis and Silver is what keeps you clicked into the story and anxious to see what happens next. A juicy little thriller that's good to the last drop:

POINT BREAK: This is one of Bigelow's best known films and it does have a bit of a cult following amongst all sorts of fan groups who either admire Keanu Reeves as the undercover FBI agent who joins a gang of bank robbing surfers or adore recently departed Patrick Swayze,who played the charismatic leader of the Ex Presidents or just love the whole campy concept of the flick.

The ultimate success of the film is that it's a perfect marriage of crime thriller and beach movie,with the suspension of disbelief beautifully balanced out. You may not want to admit it,but Point Break is still as engaging a movie today as it was when it first arrived in theaters,a claim that not many other movies can make:

STRANGE DAYS: A very underrated film that touched upon the virtual reality craze early on and showcased a touching yet tortured romance between Ralph Finnes' sleazy VR dealer and Angela Bassett's gun for hire gal who are caught up in a cover-up with deadly political implications that threatens to explode on the last night of the twentieth century.

Strange Days didn't get the love it deserved back in 1995 but with Bigelow's star on the rise lately,more people might be willing to tune in and see what all the fuss is about. If you're new to this film,prepared to be dazzled emotionally as well as visually,folks:

TV TIME OUT: Bigelow has a few small screen credits as well,with an episode of David Lynch's surreal sci-fi series Wild Palms and some work on the acclaimed series Homicide: Life on the Street.

She was the director for the sixth season finale,a two part episode called "Fallen Heroes",which had the cool as a cucumber Dt. Pembleton crumble under pressure when his partner takes a bullet for him during a raid. Pembleton wound up turning his badge in and leaving the force,for more than one reason but the first cracks in his emotional armor were strongly showcased by both the actors and the director,making this scene extra poignant:

While The Hurt Locker has been plagued with a couple of small scandals during this crunch time towards the Oscars, I don't really think that any of it will affect the voting when it comes to Bigelow. She made an amazing movie about war and the toll it takes on those who must directly wage it,with respect for all involved and no demands made on the viewer to take any political sides.

Kathryn Bigelow is a true heroine of the silver screen,one who follows her vision and refuses to play petty ego games or cater to what others deem should be the proper path for a female film maker. Even if by some bizarre quirk of fate she loses on Sunday,Bigelow will no doubt take that with the grace and dignity she has shown in winning previous awards for The Hurt Locker so far. In truth,the real winners will be those that follow in her footsteps and use her thoughtful approach to film as a template for being the best that they can be:

1 comment:

Martin said...

Great director!

I didn't really like "Near dark", but overall great director! :)