Kathryn Bigelow as Best Director? Bring Her On!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The day of golden statuettes is coming and Jennifer Merin is fed up with the media's fixation on the story of Kathryn Bigelow vying with ex-husband James Cameron for the best director Oscar. Let's stop treating a director as someone's ex-wife.

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Jennifer Merin(WOMENSENEWS)--March 7 brings us the Academy Awards and a chance to see Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win a best director Oscar.

"The Hurt Locker," Bigelow's taut drama about U.S. soldiers deployed to defuse bombs in Iraq, transcends its action-thriller genre to tell a compelling tale about the effects of war on the human psyche.

If you haven't seen "The Hurt Locker" yet, you really must. Consider it a civic duty. It's still in theaters and already out on DVD.

The movie has earned nine Oscar nominations, including one for best picture. It's ranked No. 1 on Movie City News' critics' top-10 scoreboard. The Alliance of Women Film Journalists (where I'm president) has given the movie five awards.

Bigelow, well-respected for directing "k-19: The Widowmaker" (2002), "Blue Steel" (1989) and other mainstream movies, is the fourth woman to be nominated for the best director Oscar. On Jan. 30 she became the first woman to win the Directors Guild of America's top award

She's up against four men: James Cameron, Lee Daniels, Jason Reitman and Quentin Tarantino. Their films--"Avatar," "Precious," "Up in the Air" and "Inglorious Basterds," respectively--are also nominated (along with five more) for best picture.

As we approach the day of golden statuettes, mainstream media is making much of Bigelow's former marriage to Cameron.

Too frequently, this means Bigelow is described as Cameron's ex-wife.

On the rare occasion when he's referred to as her ex-husband, I'm still not happy. Where in the qualifications for best director is ex-mate listed as relevant?

This is all-too-typical sexist tabloid hype and tripe distracts from the comparison of the two movies. And when it comes to artistry, interesting comparisons can be made between Bigelow's film and Cameron's "Avatar."

Rife with blood, sweat and grit, "The Hurt Locker" is a gripping story of our immediate times. It's about combat soldiers who could be my next door neighbors, and I care about them.

"Avatar," by contrast, is considered obligatory viewing for anyone keeping up with movie-making technology, and the film has set records for ticket sales. But what is it really? It's an animated effects-laden sci-fi fantasy about human scientists who submerge themselves into pseudo bodies to commune with an alien species, while greedier humans occupy and exploit the alien species' fictional planet. It's a captivating, predictable fable that's sometimes obscured by the full-on effects.

Between these two directors, it's probably obvious that I'm in Bigelow's corner. But not because she's a woman who's busted through Hollywood's celluloid ceiling. I love her movie and think she's done the better job of directing the better film.

Back to This Month's Run

Now let's get on with next month's new releases, which include a batch that focus on the younger set.

March 5 offers a spectacular version of "Alice in Wonderland," in which Lewis Carroll's audacious little girl, now 19, returns to the scene of her childhood adventures to take on the role of heroine in her old friends' mission to end the Red Queen's reign of terror. Working in IMAX 3-D, Tim Burton directs a screenplay by Linda Woolverton, known for penning "The Lion King" (1994) and "Mulan" (1998). Young "someone to watch" Mia Wasikowska stars as Alice, along with Helena Bonham Carter as the demonical Red Queen, Anne Hathaway as the White Queen and Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

(As a business aside, Disney, the distributor of "Alice," is angering European cinema operators by planning to release the DVD 13 weeks after the theatrical opening, versus the usual 17 weeks, according to the Financial Times, which reports the cinemas could be mulling a boycott. So European readers, look out for that.)

March 12 brings the limited release of "The Exploding Girl," in which Zoe Kazan stars as a young woman with epilepsy who is struggling to reconcile her feelings for a new college boyfriend and her longstanding best male pal.

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