Last week Entertainment Weekly published a list of the 100 All Time Greatest Movies. It is interesting to note that out of the 100 films, sadly only three were directed by women– Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (#74), Jane Campion’s The Piano (#92), and the Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstal’s Olympia (#84). None of these film made it into the top 50.
Getting named to Entertainment’s culture canon as a female director seemed to ride on the action film, since 2 of the 3 films were action oriented films. So let’s turn our attention to studying 3 films of 1st-in-class director, Kathryn Bigelow – arguably the most successful and critically acclaimed female darling of the action genre.
The first Bigelow recommendation is Near Dark (1987). A cross between a western, vampire initiation and a boy’s coming of age story, the film’s female vampire, dewy Mae (Jenny Wright) “twilights” the fetching Caleb (Adrian Pasdar). Bigelow crafted unforgettable and visceral images (one I particularly like is Mae nursing Caleb with vampire blood from her wrist as oil rigs pump behind them in the desert) that make Near Dark one of the best vampire movies of all time.
If there was any doubt of Bigelow’s firm grasp of the action genre, Point Break (1991) squashed it. The film is a modern classic game of cat and mouse between surfer/bank robbing leader Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) and surfer/undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) sent to infiltrate his robber surfing crew. Keanu vs. Swayze. See these two in their heyday, as Bigelow utilizes their screen presence with pulse quickening action and bro-mance dramatic tension in every frame.
Finally, we come to the aforementioned The Hurt Locker (2008). The first 20 minutes is a masterpiece in action filmmaking as the audience holds its breath as a EOD military team attempts to diffuse an IED. It is a film that made a star of lead actor Jeremy Renner and earned Bigelow a Best Director Oscar, making her the first woman to win that award.
While Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Strange Days (1995) and The Weight of Water (2000) also offer strong examples of Bigelow’s talent with actors, the three films listed above watched together make for a great action genre study to see her evolution as a director.
Near Dark, Point Break and The Hurt Locker can be found on demand at iTunes, Netflix and Amazon Instant.
– M.A ST JOHN (@theReelScoop)