Before Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, she was either known as James Cameron’s ex wife or just another woman director. On Sunday, March 7th, 2010, Bigelow made Oscar history and for that, she will never be considered just another woman director.
Bigelow was born November 27th, 1951. After High School she studied painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. She eventually moved to New York after winning a scholarship and from there decided to change her focus in life from art to film. In 1978, she made her first short film, The Set-up, which focused primarily on the topic of violence. From her body of work you can tell violence is a recurring theme in all of her films. In 1979, she earned her Master’s degree in film theory and criticism from Columbia University. And from there the story and success of Kathryn Bigelow begins.
In 1981, Bigelow directed and co-wrote The Loveless. This movie was not only her breakout film, but also for another newcomer at the time, Willem Dafoe. So, I pretty much love Bigelow for bringing Dafoe into our lives. From there Bigelow began directing major studio projects including, Blue Steel (1989), Point Break (1991), Strange Days (1995), The Weight of Water (2000) and K-19: The Widowmaker (2002). Each film got mixed reviews but she gained praise for their intense violence, action scenes and imagery.
In 2009, her life truly changed when she brought the words of Mark Boal to the big screen. That film is known as, The Hurt Locker. If you haven’t seen this movie, it tells the story of an Army Explosive Ordnance Disposal team and their chilling and emotional journey in Iraq during the current war. This film was absolutely loved by critics for its suspenseful action and its honest depiction of soldiers during a time of war. This film eventually went on to win numerous awards, including the top honor at the Academy Awards – Best Picture.
The major difference between Bigelow and most women directors is obviously an Oscar, but more than that, her style of directing and the movies she chooses to take on. Her movies are more geared towards a male audience; unlike most women directors, who tend to lean towards making movies that will attract a female audience. As you can see by her resume, her trademark is films that consistently deal with violence and tension.
Bigelow has taken over a male dominated genre and put a woman’s touch on it, without anybody even realizing. She took on a film about the current war and made it so real and absolutely terrifying. Just like many critics out there, I loved how honest the film was. I loved how I could feel the fear and every other emotion within the soldiers while watching it. It absolutely terrified me and not because of what is shown in the film, but because everything that was shown is happening as we speak.
Bigelow made a truly honest film and in my book, I consider that a very hard task. One scene I will never forget is when Sergeant First Class William James played by Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner, picks up a wire and finds himself surrounded by a group of bombs. She took a terrifying situation and honestly, gave me chills. I had dreams about that scene for months. I could go on and on about how all of those scenes in the movie brought goosebumps to my body and made my heart race. If you have seen the film, you know the terror she made the audience feel. And if you haven’t seen it, I guess you’re just going to have to trust me on this one or just go out and rent the movie. Now!
The only negative comment I have to say about it her is, if not for The Hurt Locker, I believe that audiences still wouldn’t know who she is. There are so many women directors out there that are household names such as Sofia Coppola, Nancy Meyers, Nora Ephron, Jodie Foster, and Barbra Streisand. Before The Hurt Locker, Bigelow wasn’t a name you could add to that list of women. I just hope that this film wasn’t her one lucky shot and that the rest of her career will be just as successful as when The Hurt Locker was released. To me she’s like Ben Affleck; she made a great film, but was it all based on luck or is she really a great filmmaker? I guess time will tell.