Posts Tagged ‘Kathryn Bigelow’

Showbiz Kids: The Oscars, Charlton Heston and Steely Dan

February 3, 2010

Before we begin, there are two important things to remember about the Oscars. The first is the Charlton Heston Rule. That rule is that the Academy is made up of a lot of people like the late Charlton Heston—old fogeys with traditional tastes. Wonder why Crash beat out Brokeback Mountain or There Will Be Blood didn’t take best picture in 2008? It’s not a hard or fast rule, but think about what your grandmother might vote for. There are a lot of retired actors and techies out there who have a say in what wins.

The second rule has been inaugurated this year. It’s the Steely Dan Rule. What do the ‘70s jazz-funk duo have to do with the Academy Awards? You might remember in 2001, their disc Two Against Nature beat out stiff competition from Radiohead’s Kid A. The reason commonly given was that the producers, engineers and other tech-heads who made up the Recording Academy wanted to recognize the painstaking approach Fagen and Becker took in the studio. Two Against Nature didn’t win because it was filled with great tunes like “Do It Again.” It won because, to a group of voters who use their ears for a living, it sounded great.

It’s this latter rule which makes me think that James Cameron is going to have a good night. Avatar is pretty much a turkey as far as movies go and a staggering display of kitsch. There’s no denying, however, that legions of effects people have spent a lot of time making it look good. That effort will, Squally thinks, be honored by the Academy. Cameron also gets the credit for marshalling that effort. Say what you want about Avatar. Like Titanic it took a guy with a genuine Napoleon complex to put it on screen. The Hurt Locker may be the better movie, but it’s still a more modest achievement—especially in terms of box office. At least Kathryn Bigelow gets a chance to work again, which nobody was expecting after The Weight of Water Avatar’s victory, though, is somewhat bittersweet. That the movie should be honored with a best picture nod when wiser heads understood that its acting and script were somewhere around the level of that Tucker Max flick is a pop culture crime of the highest order.

So now onto the rest …

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Best of the Decade, No. 96: The Hurt Locker

January 7, 2010

If filmmakers took their time before jumping on Vietnam, Hollywood was determined to report on Operation Enduring Freedom as it was happening. Indeed, rarely has mainstream film jumped on contemporary events so quickly. Audiences stayed away in droves, but history will hopefully one day return to films like Redacted and The Battle of Haditha. Those movies had points to prove. Kathryn Bigelow’s canny thriller prefers to tie her issues up in the sheer visceral routine of a bomb disposal unit. Locker first and foremost deserves to be celebrated for its suspense sequences—Jeremy Renner’s first day in the field could have made Hitchcock’s palms sweat, while the dispatch of a sniper seems set in the same absurdist desert where Bunuel planted St. Simon of the Stylites. Bigelow emphasizes stress over pyrotechnics. While big name stars are hurriedly put into the ground, the real casualty in this movie is American manhood and the audience’s nervous system. The most enduring image of the film, however, might just be when Renner’s cowboy sergeant returns to the United States and stands bewildered in front of a massive wall of cereal boxes.

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Trailerama: The Hurt Locker

June 12, 2009

MIA Kathryn Bigelow does the Iraqi war, via a bomb disposal unit. The way she blows sh*t up makes Michael Bay look like a rank amateur. Too bad the trailer makers had to over-do it with the slamming nondiegetic sound FX.

Thespobits: Natasha Richardson and Ron Silver

March 19, 2009

natasha-richardsonNatasha Richardson has been entered into posterity’s log-book as Vanessa Redgrave‘s daughter and Liam Neeson‘s wife. But before becoming domesticated, she carved out an intriguing career for herself that has more than its fair share of things for cultists to get excited about. She essayed Mary Shelley in Ken Russell‘s Gothic, the title roles in Paul Schrader‘s Patty Hearst and Volker Schlondorff‘s The Handmaid’s Tale, and again for Schrader in his head-scratching adaptation of Ian McEwan’s The Comfort of Strangers. Richardson brought to the parts a beauty and an enigma that was all her own. Hollywood wasn’ for her, but motherhood apparently was. She leaves behind a grieving husband and two sons. Richardson was 45.

ron-silverWe don’t remember if he turned out to be the killer or not, but Ron Silver‘s performance in Kathryn Bigelow‘s Blue Steel is both sexual and filled with coiled menace. Reading his obituaries, it came as a surprise that he first got his start playing a neighbor in Rhoda. Silver was a smart guy–he got a Masters in Chinese History, and he applied that intelligence to the roles he played, whether it was Alan Dershowitz in Barbet Schroeder‘s Reversal of Fortuneor back-room boy Bruno Gianelli in The West Wing. He also had a considerable passion for whatever cause he supported. Silver is remembered on The Huffington Post by Ben Stiller and Alec Baldwin, among others. He was 62.