Sunday, January 31, 2010

May the Best Ma...err...Wo...err...Director Win.


Last night Kathryn Bigelow won the prestigious Directors Guild of America award for her achievement in "The Hurt Locker".
Throughout the week leading to the ceremony a lot of people were torn between James Cameron for "Avatar" and Bigelow (I myself prefer Bigelow's work to Cameron).
Most of the ones who thought Bigelow would win attributed a big part of their theory around Ms. Bigelow's sexual organs.
"It's about time they reward a woman", "a woman has never won and it's time", "they'll wanna make history with a woman", "a woman needs to win this someday".
I say bullshit to all that.
Kathryn Bigelow won simply because she was the best director in the category.
This way of thinking comes off as slightly naive in a world where sexual equality is still an urban legend of sorts.
The minute "The Hurt Locker" became so popular among critics it was rare of them not to bring up Bigelow's gender as a plus.
Not only is she a woman, but she dared make a movie about men and not only that, but men at war in one of the most disastrous conflicts America has been stuck in.
She also showed them how it's done.
Many theories began to surface around how she would be recognized by awards groups because most of them would have a hard time understanding that this movie wasn't directed by a man. That isn't completely true because all of them brought up Kathryn's sex before even beginning to think about the movie.
To all of those I have to ask, what is so threatening about a woman understanding a man so well?
Why is it so incredible to believe that a woman might get the essence of war in ways Spielberg and Eastwood only wish they could?
Why is it so hard to believe that a woman would deliver one of the best action films of the decade and showed Michael Bay that action does not invalidate reason?
Before we go that far I offer you two examples: just two years ago Isabel Coixet proved she dominated Philip Roth in ways no other filmmaker ever could.
In "Elegy" she not only got one of the greatest performances Ben Kignsley's ever given, she also showed that sometimes women are the best "men" for the job.
Coixet captured all the nuances, fears and lust that a man would've thought of as personal invasion. Directing like hers' requires a sort of fearlessness and awareness that beyond the obvious there lies a bigger truth.
"Elegy" wasn't about a midlife crisis, it was about a person.
Sofia Coppola did the same for bittersweet Bob Harris in "Lost in Translation". As played by Bill Murray with charm straight out of a Preston Sturges movie, he created the ultimate version of a movie star: the one that has to come down from the firmament and acknowledge his earthiness.
Sure Coppola also fashioned a great character out of Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) but wasn't Bob the one that stuck with you the most?
In a fair world, Sofia would've won the best director Oscar, but of course the Academy had to correct the mistakes it had made two years before and reward Peter Jackson for his cumulative directorial effort in "The Lord of the Rings".
I might even add-and I know few will agree with me-that Jane Campion should've won back in 1993 for "The Piano".
Had history gone that, way not only would this whole "woman" thing be over and done with, the best nominees would've also won.
Deep inside I know that the whole "let's make history" need has been a predominant trend in the last five years or so.
How wouldn't it? When society starts falling into the kind of decay it has over the last decades, people need a reminder that change is possible, a reminder that we don't have to remain stuck in mud up to our necks.
Here is when-even for a second or two-the idea of making history gets the best in us. Content with this forced progressive mindset, society then moves into making the next "historical" even occur.
I wish that a day will come when gonads will no longer factor as ways to evaluate an individual's achievement.

3 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

I keep signing off and you make me want to keep rebutting. Okay, first I wanted Cameron to win. Aaargh [I am soo bad, I know :)]. And Coppola, really. I mean, hmmm, no. I don't think so. But on Campion, I guess - I mean Schindler's List is fine - but I think Ivory, Campion, Scorsese and Sheridan could have easily trumped him - but that's just me. Anyhow, at least the winner wasn't Tarantino or Daniels or [gasp] Reiteman.

OT. To be honest, Bigelow seems just as cocky as everyone says her ex is. But it's between her and him, and I don't mind either. They're both good.

Castor said...

Great post. This is what result from a male-dominated industry and world. The great thing is that Bigelow removed this "barrier" by being the first and future female winners will not have to go through that kind of treatment again.

Ryan said...

Brilliantly written, Jose.

As a director myself, sometimes you need to come at your subject from an "opposite" in order to get what you want to show.

I disagree about Campion or Coppola winning in their respective years, but I would not have been disappointed in their victories either.