The Films of Kathryn Bigelow Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
4Apr/140

Kathryn Bigelow – Strange Days (1995)

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Kathryn Bigelow, with Strange Days, puts her studio-backed creativity in a nauseous, sprawling, and pessimistic view of the future as technology, memory, and experience fuse into one.  It put off audiences then, and is due for a revisit now.

Cutting to the pointAndrewCommentaryBannerBuddy, before we go too in-depth on Strange Days, I have a question.  Which film do you think would have benefited more with tighter editing - Strange Days, or Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds?Kyle Commentary BannerI will go wholeheartedly with Strange Days on that one. This is a movie that, while I really like it, starts off with such promise that to see it veer into the various territories (and sometimes, seemingly, genres) that it eventually becomes muddled up in is a little disappointing. I don't begrudge Bigelow & co. the audacity to tackle a sprawling story, but I'd have liked to see one that maintained the ambition of the opening act and not branching off in so many unrestrained directions.

3Apr/140

Kathryn Bigelow – Point Break (1991)

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Kathryn Bigelow had a mainstream hit with the philosophical heist film Point Break.  Kyle and Andrew's back-and-forth seeks to settle an important question - is Point Break better remembered for it's iconic struggle, or best left behind as a detour in her career?

That's enoughKyle Commentary BannerSo here we are at what was probably Bigelow's most famous film prior to The Hurt LockerPoint Break was always one of those movies I knew of growing up because it came out just before I hit the age where I was firmly within the demographic movies like that were (and are) totally inappropriately marketed to. It never quite registered as a pinnacle of late '80s/early '90s action movies, but it was always there lurking in the shadows.

It doesn't seem right to call it a cult classic (maybe it is—I have no idea how much it made on release), but it seems to be remembered that way. All of this mostly makes sense to me considering how much of the movie seems to fit the familiar action movie tropes of the era while still managing to undercut some of those in sometimes interesting ways. It's important to emphasize "sometimes" there.  What was your impression this time around, and did it differ from how you remembered the movie from whenever the last time you saw it was?AndrewCommentaryBannerIt's really difficult for me to get a proper context for the movie because of how much it's been referenced since.  The biggest one for me is Hot Fuzz, where the blend of philosophy and action in Point Break seems to have given the bumbling cop his entire focus in life.  But, honestly, I didn't have much of a reaction to it outside of that funny reference before watching it again, and now that I'm able to put it into a bit more context with the rest of Bigelow's career it's unlikely that it'll be a film I revisit.

Point Break isn't plain, exactly, but it's not that impressive either.  The same kind of genre blending that punctuated Blue Steel and Near Dark is in play, but it's like the idea of mixing philosophy into action films directly is the start and stop point for the film.  So instead of this complex mix of images bouncing off one another we end up with a bunch of pretty people basically sitting around between action scenes going, "Man, isn't thinking great?" before stuff happens.

14Mar/140

Kathryn Bigelow – Blue Steel (1990)

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Kathryn Bigelow's first major studio film enlists Jamie Lee Curtis for Blue Steel, a film that tries to cover all the psychosexual, financial, slasher, crime, romantic, buddy-cop influences that the '80s had to spare.  Like Frankenstein's monster it means well even if its intentions get a bit muddied in the presentation.

Survival through rageAndrewCommentaryBannerKyle, this week feels like we're taking a slight step back for Kathryn Bigelow.  I think I may have been spoiled because of how many films I've watched, even in the past year, that try to put to rest the harmful gender stereotyping of slashers.  But Blue Steel fuses that with a romantic drama, business potboiler, and suspense thriller all at once, so it feels like the kind of mess I'd expect a first film to be, not a third.Kyle Commentary BannerYes. There are a couple of reasons for that I think—one very specific one I want to get to later, but then also on a more general level, which is that Bigelow plows through (and sometimes then back and through again) so many of those narrative elements you mention that it becomes difficult to root the subversive elements in a character-driven story as opposed to a device-driven one.

We get a few scenes that try to genuinely develop Jamie Lee Curtis' character—the barbecue scene where her friend introduces her to a guy, the dinner scene establishing her abusive, disapproving father—but these gradually get pushed aside to make room for more and more (and more) scenes where she's manipulated, scoffed at, etc. The movie seems intent on pushing her over the edge at times simply so we can watch it, rather than observing how she as a person reacts to the situations she's put in.

7Mar/140

Kathryn Bigelow – Near Dark (1986)

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Kathryn Bigelow's sophomore effort, Near Dark, removes the Gothic mystique around vampires and puts them into the grungy west.  Caleb, out for a bit of action, thinks that he's hit the perfect mark when he connects with Mae.  Instead, she gives him pleasure he didn't expect and can't handle when he's indoctrinated into a nomadic vampire band.

Near DarkAndrewCommentaryBannerKyle, I type with no hesitation that today's film is the most interesting point in Kathryn Bigelow's career.  Near Dark is my favorite vampire film of all time, beating out the likes of Nosferatu and Let The Right One In.  So before we go any further I'm dying to know your reaction to the movie.Kyle Commentary BannerI really liked it. I probably wouldn't go as far as to say it's my favorite of all time, but I also can't pull any immediate contenders for that spot off the top of my head. I think the most impressive thing to me was how condensed the timeline is that we're dealing with — the majority of the movie feels very claustrophobic and doom-ridden. And that gets worse over time. The fact that we don't get any time to break and deal with the main character assimilating to his new situation, and that the night just wears on and on for the most part, makes it seem like we're embarking on some (and I realize this is unintentionally mentioning a film from last week again) Blue Velvet-esque nightmare odyssey that has to be minutes away from ending in disaster.

The irony is the crew Caleb falls in with—led by Lance Henriksen as some kind of Charles-Manson-possessing-Lou-Reed's-body father figure—have been doing this for a long time. Everything to them is old hat, which makes our dread even more substantial. I haven't seen a lot of vampire movies that consider the timelessness of the "vampire plight" in that way. Some that approach it with a kind of tragic, epic regard, but none where every night is the same kind of debauched lunacy, and one that the characters are ok with.

28Feb/140

Kathryn Bigelow – The Loveless (1982)

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A diner stuck in the '50s becomes the hot spot for dread and dry heat as bikers and townspeople glare at one another with mutual hostility.  Can these people drop the act and be honest with their rough natures, or will their desire manifest itself violently?  Kathryn Bigelow examines this tension in her first film, The Loveless.

Leer AwayAndrewCommentaryBannerThanks for tuning in to the first in our look at the films of Kathryn Bigelow. Kyle and I are going to do something a bit different and try more of a conversational back and forth. We encourage you to leave comments and criticisms as we go along in the project.

Starting broadly, for a first film The Loveless is really impressive—almost doubly so as this is also the screen debut for Willem Dafoe—though the film goes at a very deliberate pace, and I admit it took me the first act to really fall into rhythm with it.Kyle Commentary BannerIt's definitely a movie you could unfairly write off in the first half-hour or so. My patience was waning pretty hard toward the end of the first act, mostly because I wasn't quite sure how to take what Bigelow was doing. It vacillates back and forth a little between being flat and objective, just watching the characters (which gives them a sense of potential danger that fits with what the slicked back hair and leather jackets of the era were supposed to accomplish), and a contrasting, almost surreal level of seriousness when regarding what even in the early 80s had to be campy stereotypes.

I definitely want to touch more on the interplay between those two things, but I'm curious—what was it that caused you to fall into rhythm with it eventually? (And that's a good way of putting it I think.)