Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Kathryn Bigelow!

Picture Legend
1. Kathryn
2. Hard at work
3. Relaxing during a photo shoot
4. “The Loveless” with William DaFoe
5. The “Near Dark” Clan, with Bill Paxton
6. “Blue Steel” with Jamie Lee Curtis
7. “Point Break” with Patrick Swayze & Keanu Reeves
8. “Strange Days” with Ralph Fiennes
9. “The Weight of Water” with Catherine McCormack
10. “K-19: The Widowmaker” with Liam Neeson & Han Solo
11. “The Hurt Locker”
12. In heat
13. First woman to get an Academy Award for Best Director
14. “Zero Dark Thirty” with Jessica Chastain
15. On Time
16. Ms Bigelow

   It is my great pleasure and honor this morning to give a great big happy birthday shout out to one of my favorite film and television directors... and Gap models, Ms Kathryn Bigelow!
   Like many of us Kathryn was born at a very early age. She happened to be born in San Carlos, California (37° 29′ 57″ N, 122° 15′ 48″ W), "The City of Good Living,” located about 24.4 driving miles south of San Francisco, and 25.1 miles northwest of San Jose, where I was born... also at a very early age. 
   During World War II San Carlos was home to the US Army War Dog Reception and Training Center, which trained dogs for war. Approximately 4,500 dogs went through the facility during that war, and according to the U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum in Fort Lee, Virginia, these dogs “saved the lives of a number of soldiers in combat.”
   Last June 12th, Surf Air began regularly scheduled air service from San Carlos Airport to Burbank. They added two flights a day to Santa Barbara in August.
   Kathryn was the only child of Gertrude Kathryn Larson, a librarian, and Ronald Elliot Bigelow (whom Kathryn derives her surname), a paint factory manager. 
   I was a paint locker manager while in the navy, which is extremely interesting considering Kathryn’s most widely acclaimed film to date is entitled “The Hurt Locker.” The locker she was concerned with contained hurt. Mine contained paint, of various colors, but mostly white, red lead and haze grey. 
   We also had rain lockers which civilians call showers.
   Kathryn’s mom was of Norwegian descent, and her dad’s last name is probably English (Merseyside and Cheshire): most likely a habitational name from a place in Cheshire named Big Low in the township of Rainbow. This place name is not on early record; it means ‘big mound’, from early Modern English big + low ‘mound’, ‘hill’ (Old English hlaw). 
   Unfortunately her parents are no longer with us, Ronald passing in 1992, and Gertrude in 1994.
   Kathryn started out as a painter (her dad liked to draw cartoons. "His dream was being a cartoonist, but he never achieved it ... I think part of my interest in art had to do with his yearning for something he could never have."), studying at the nearby (24.8 miles) San Francisco Art Institute from 1970 to 1972, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, which is a lot more than I ever earned in college.
   While there she won a scholarship to the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of Art, which required her to move to New York City , which was also unfortunate, but one has to do what one has to do. While there she became interested in another artistic medium. 
   "My movement from painting to film was a very conscious one. Whereas painting is a more rarefied art form, with a limited audience, I recognized film as this extraordinary social tool that could reach tremendous numbers of people."  
   Kathryn apprenticed with artists such as Vito Acconci (an American designer, landscape architect, performance and installation artist), Richard Serra (French literary critic and cultural theorist), and Lawrence Weiner (formulator of conceptual art, sometimes called Conceptualism, is art in which the concepts or ideas involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns, like when making movies. “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” -Sol LeWitt
   During her time in New York Kathryn made some extra bucks by flipping apartments in Manhattan with the American composer Philip Glass, distant cousin of Seymour and Boo Boo. It is said she spent a good deal of time hand sanding wooden floors.
   She made her first short movie, “The Set-Up,” in 1978. It was 20 minutes long and explored the topic of violence, which just hasn’t been explored enough in this country.
   The famous Czech-American director, screenwriter, and professor, Miloš Forman, who you may know from films like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,” and “Amadeus,” and “The People vs. Larry Flynt," saw an unfinished copy of “The Set-Up,” while teaching at Columbia University and found it impressive enough to offer Kathryn a scholarship there. She earned her master's degree in film theory and criticism from Columbia in 1979, and then moved to feature-length projects.
   Do you know the actor Willem Dafoe? The one who seems to be in every other movie that’s ever been made... like Samuel Jackson, and has recently been playing Satan in Mercedes-Benz commercials?
   Well besides an uncredited role in one of the biggest flops in the history of film, “Heaven’s Gate,” Mr. Dafoe started out in Kathryn’s 1981 full length feature, “The Loveless,” a biker film,  which was partly inspired by her love of the 1954 classic, “The Wild Ones,” which starred a young, unfat Marlon Brando. The producer Monty Montgomery co-directed. Here’s the trailer. The film earned critical acclaim, but I have no idea how much money it made, if any. 
   Kathryn probably knows. Ask her.
   I became familiar with her work with her next effort, the vampire/biker/western “Near Dark (1987),” which she co-wrote with Eric Red (“The Hitcher”), and which stared Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, and Bill Paxton, who Kathryn stole from her future husband, James Cameron, when he finished using them in “Aliens (1986).” 
   Now I saw this when it first came out and really liked it. I didn’t realize at the time that the future director of “Zero Dark Thirty,” had made it. I wouldn’t know that for 25 more years when “Zero Dark Thirty was finally released. 
   But I really liked that movie. I saw it again Monday night as a matter of fact. 
   It cost $5 million (American) to make, and earned $3,369,307.19, exactly, but has made money no doubt through rentals and other distribution methods, and indeed has achieved the status of “Cult Favorite.” Here’s a scene compilation. Spoiler Alert, the vampires lose.
   That year she also directed a music video, “Touched by the Hand of God,” for the group, New Order, which I’ve never heard of.   
   In 1989 Ms Bigelow lost her innocence by entering the studio system, making “Blue Steel,”  starring Jamie Lee Curtis, and by marrying the future King of the World, director James Cameron. They divorced in 1991, and Kathryn has remained single since. 
   Hey Kathy baby. You’re hot! Come and see me.
   Anyway, “Blue Steel,” a movie about a rookie police officer who becomes entangled with a murderer, played by Ron Silver (I never did like that guy) got mixed reviews, and earned $8,217,997.34, on a budget of, I don’t know what the budget was. Kathryn probably does... ask her.
   Here’s a clip.
   Next comes 1991s “Point Break,” starring Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves. The story concerned a suffer gang headed by Swayze, who earn a little extra cash by robbing banks, and who are infiltrated and pursued by FBI agent Canoe... I mean Keanu. 
   Here’s the end scene. Spoiler Alert, Swayze gets wet.
   I saw the film, was unaware Kathryn directed it, and thought it was... okay.
   But a lot of people thought differently, and since its release has become a huge worldwide cult hit, and financial success. 
   Way to go Kathryn!
   In 1993 she directed one episode of the television mini-series “ Wild Palms,” which if memory serves was kind of science fictiony, starring James Belushi, Dana Delany, Robert Loggia, Kim Cattrall and Angie Dickinson.  
   Next she made one of my favorite science fiction films, 1995s “Strange Days,” written by ex-husband James Cameron and former porn star, Jay Cocks. It stars ex-Nazi concentration camp commandant Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore (before his career imploded via Heidi Fleiss), Vincent D'Onofrio, and blind radio astronomer William Fichtner.      
   “Strange Days,” is a simple tale, based on a true story, set in the future, which is now the past. Here’s the trailer
   As I’ve stated, I really liked the movie, liked the way it was made. The acting was top notch, as well as the production values. The story was fresh and unique, an epic film really. I was still unaware that Ms Bigelow was the director, but so what? I continue to be amazed that “Strange Days,” wasn’t received well, both critically and financially (it cost $42 million to make, and earned just $7,959,291 at the box office. Ouch!).
   Hey, guess what. “Strange Days,” has become another cult hit.
   “If you hold a mirror up to society, and you don't like what you see, you can't fault the mirror. It's a mirror. I think that on the eve of the millennium, a point in time only four years from now, the clock is ticking, the same social issues and racial tensions still exist, the environment still needs reexamination so you don't forget it when the lights come up. Strange Days is provocative. Without revealing too much, I would say that it feels like we are driving toward a highly chaotic, explosive, volatile, Armageddon-like ending. Obviously, the riot footage came out of the LA riots. I mean, I was there. I experienced that. I was part of the cleanup afterwards, so I was very aware of the environment. I mean, it really affected me. It was etched indelibly on my psyche. So, obviously, some of the imagery came from that. I don't like violence. I am very interested, however, in truth. And violence is a fact of our lives, a part of the social context in which we live. But other elements of the movie are love and hope and redemption. Our main character throws up after seeing this hideous experience. The toughest decision was not wanting to shy away from anything, trying to keep the truth of the moment, of the social environment. It's not that I condone violence. I don't. It's an indictment. I would say the film is cautionary, a wake-up call, and that I think is always valuable.”
   In 2000 Kathryn made “The Weight of Water,” which every 4th grader knows equals 18.01528 g/mol, which translates to grams per mole (g/mol) a mol being a unit of measurement used in chemistry to express amounts of a chemical substance, defined as the amount of any substance that contains as many elementary entities (e.g., atoms, molecules, ions, electrons) as there are atoms in 12 grams of pure carbon-12 (12C), the isotope of carbon with relative atomic mass 12. This corresponds to the Avogadro constant, which has a value of 6.02214129(27)×1023 elementary entities of the substance.
   That said, “The Weight of Water,” stars Sean Penn, suitably bikinied Elizabeth Hurley, our friend Sarah Polley, Josh Lucas and Catherine McCormack, and concerns  two women trapped in suffocating relationships while investigating a murder, and switches from the past and the present, and so forth. Here’s some scenes
   I have not seen this film.  It received mixed reviews, and made $102,622.85, which isn’t a whole lot of return for a film that cost... I don’t know how much it cost to make... Kathryn probably does... you know what to do.
   In 2002 she directed “K-19: The Widowmaker,” starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson, based on a true story about the crew aboard the Soviet Union's first nuclear-powered submarine during a nuclear reactor malfunction. The film cost $100 million to make, and earned $65,716,126.31 worldwide, receiving mixed reviews (some liked it, some didn’t).
   I saw this film right here in my home, and it was... okay. Harrison played against type as a stern, disciplinarian, Soviet naval Captain who has no Russian accent, and the story certainly demonstrated it’s not as easy serving on a nuclear submarine as one might think.
   Here’s the trailer
   Returning to television, Ms Bigelow directed episodes of the crime drama “Karen Sisco,” starring the very lovely and talented Carla Gugino,  and “The Inside,” starring the similarly lovely and talented, Rachel Nichols.
   Next comes “The Hurt Locker,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival (the one in Italy, not the one next to Santa Monica) in September of 2008.  
   This is the story of a mild mannered  Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team in Iraq, and stars  Jeremy Renner, Brian Geraghty and Anthony Mackie, with cameos by Guy Pearce, David Morse and old buddy Ralph Fiennes. 
   Written by American journalist Mark Boal, “The Hurt Locker,” was nominated for nine Academy Awards, and won six, including Best Director for Kathryn, the first woman to win this award (as well as the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Director), and Best Picture. Mr. Boal won for Best Original Screenplay. 
   "I was fascinated by his stories—by the idea that these bomb technicians are always walking toward the thing that everybody else is running away from. It's kind of an epic, lonely walk that only the man in the bomb suit performs," Ms Bigelow explained to Marie Claire magazine one day.
   “The Hurt Locker” won a whole bunch of other awards and honors from critics' organizations, festivals and groups, including five other BAFTAs ( British Academy of Film and Television Arts).  
   Kathryn was the fourth woman in history to be nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards, and only the second American woman (the others being Lina Wertmüller, Jane Campion and Sofia Coppola). 
   She competed with her ex-husband for the Best Director Oscar that year (2010, he was nominated for ”Avatar”), which marked the first time that (ex-)spouses were nominated alongside each other in this category. He already had one (for “Titanic”), so it was her turn to win.
   The film made some money too, costing $15 million to produce, and earning $49,230,772.47 worldwide... I’m sure it’s made a little more by now, which is always nice.
   It has been said that Ms Bigelow often utilizes slow motion techniques to emphasize dramatically certain aspects of her films, such as action scenes in “The Hurt Locker.” This is totally false. She just likes to see things blow up really slowly. 
   As do I.
   Here's a behind the scene look at "The Hurt Locker."
   Soon after Kathryn won her Oscar this article appeared in The Frisky:
10 Reasons we are Thrilled Kathryn was the One to Make Oscar History. -Kate Torgovnick/ March 8, 2010
“1. For being a female director whose movies aren’t even slightly girly. “Point Break,” Kathryn’s first big movie, was about a group of rough-and-tumble surfers/bank robbers. “Strange Days” was about a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles. “The Hurt Locker” showcased a bomb squad in Iraq. 
2. We so appreciate that romantic comedies and love stories just aren’t Kathryn’s thing.
3. For not squealing or goofily laughing once during her acceptance speech. “It’s the moment of a lifetime,” she said, seeming overcome with sincere emotion. Plus, how freaking sweet was it that she was backstage, having just given her speech, when “The Hurt Locker” won for Best Picture, too?
4. For beating her ex-husband, James “Avatar” Cameron, and not giving him another ego-tastic “I’m the king of the world!” opportunity.
5. On that note, for showing that ex-wives aren’t all bitter shrews and can actually get along with and still appreciate their exes, even if things didn’t work out.
6. For making a thoughtful war movie, period. “War’s dirty little secret is that some men love it,” Kathryn said in an interview. “I’m trying to unpack why, to look at what it means to be a hero in the context of 21st-century combat.” We also appreciated that she filmed in Jordan and used many displaced Iraqi actors in the film, rather than going the more “Hollywood” route and filming in Morocco. [Newsweek, A.V. Club]
6. For being a champ while filming in 135-degree heat. “There were a lot of macho guys on the set,” says Mark Boal, who wrote and co-produced “The Hurt Locker.” “I’m not walking this hill, no way in hell. I drive past one of the crew who’s literally puking on the side of the road. People are dying on this hill. I drive up, and Kathryn is already at the top. She’s beaten everyone up there.” [Newsweek]
7. For showing that life isn’t always a direct path from A to B. She grew up wanting to be a painter, and even was a fellow at the Whitney Museum. “My dad used to draw these great cartoon figures. His dream was being a cartoonist, but he never achieved it, and it kind of broke my heart,” she says. “I think part of my interest in art had to do with his yearning for something he could never have.” [Newsweek]
8. For showing that a woman can still be smokin’ hot at 57, without oodles of plastic surgery.
9. On that note, for showing that beauty and brains can come in the same package. In addition to her directing resume, she was also once a Gap model.
10. And for making a vampire movie, before everyone else did. Hers, “Near Dark,” came out in 1978.” 
   Okay, we here at Joyce’s Take were thrilled as well, however... Number 10 above is only true if you change the date to 1987, and forget about “Nosferatu (1922),” “Dracula” (1932, “Welcome to my home. Enter freely of your own will and leave some of the happiness you bring.” Technically this quote is in Bram Stoker’s book, not the film... but I love it so),” “Dracula's Daughter” (1936),” “Son of Dracula (1943),” “Dracula’s Cousin First Removed” (1944),” “House of Dracula” (1945),” “El Vampiro (1957),” “Dracula (1958),” “Blood and Roses (1960, Starring lesbian, communist, pro-choice vampires),” “The Vampire Lovers (1970, more lesbians),” “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein” and Dracula (1948), “The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967),” “Vampira (1974),” “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966) The first Vampire/Western, a genre in which “Near Dark” is often placed, although with a “Biker” influence. Spoiler Alert: Billy wins),” “The Brides of Dracula (1960),” “Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966),” “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968),” “Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970),” “Scars of Dracula (1970, appendectomy),” “Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972),” “The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973),” “The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974),” “Count Dracula (1970),” “Countess Dracula (1971),” “Blacula (1972),” “Leptirica (1973, The first Serbian horror movie),” the first “Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973),” “Blood for Dracula (1974),” “Zoltan, Hound of Dracula (also known as “Dracula's Dog” 1978),” “Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979, a Werner Herzog Joint),” “Dracula (1979, with Laurence Olivier),” “Nocturna: Granddaughter of Dracula (1979),” “Love at First Bite (1979),” “A Vampire Out of Work (1916),” “Fright Night (1985), “Once Bitten (1985),” “Lifeforce (1985, nude, space vampires),” “The Hunger (1983),” “Lost Boys (1987, premiered before “Near Dark”),” and literally hundreds of other vampire films.
   “If there's specific resistance to women making movies, I just choose to ignore that as an obstacle for two reasons: I can't change my gender, and I refuse to stop making movies. It's irrelevant who or what directed a movie, the important thing is that you either respond to it or you don't. There should be more women directing; I think there's just not the awareness that it's really possible. It is.”
   Ms Bigelow’s latest film was 2012s “Zero Dark Thirty,” which tells the story of the hunt, and eventual assassination of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and which stars the lovely and talented actress Jessica Chastain, who got a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her trouble. 
   Here’s a scene, and another, and another. And here she is talking to David Letterman about her movie.
   “I feel we got it right. I'm proud of the movie, and I stand behind it completely. I think that it's a deeply moral movie that questions the use of force. It questions what was done in the name of finding Bin Laden.”
   “Zero Dark Thirty," received wide critical acclaim, and was nominated for five Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Original Screenplay (Mark Boal again), winning for Best Sound Editing. The film also earned four Golden Globe Award nominations, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, and Best Director, winning for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Jessica.
   “Zero Dark Thirty” cost $40 million dollars to make, and made $138,720,716.64 during it’s initial theatrical run worldwide, which continued Kathryn’s disgusting habit of making a lot of money.
   Who knows what she’ll do next? I don’t. She probably does. Perhaps she’ll comment on this post and tell us.
   “I always want to make films. I think of it as a great opportunity to comment on the world in which we live. Perhaps just because I just came off The Hurt Locker and I'm thinking of the war and I think it's a deplorable situation. It's a great medium in which to speak about that. This is a war that cannot be won, why are we sending troops over there? Well, the only medium I have, the only opportunity I have, is to use film. There will always be issues I care about.”
   Here’s a clip with Kathryn talking to Charlie Rose about directing.
   In the early 1980s, Ms Bigelow modeled for a Gap advertisement. I don’t know why.
   Her acting credits include Lizzie Borden's 1983 film “Born in Flames,” as a feminist newspaper editor, and as the leader of a lesbian, communist, pro-choice cowgirl gang in the 1988 music video of Martini Ranch's "Reach," (another band I’ve never heard of) which was directed by  Jimmy Cameron.
   And all of us here at Joyce’s Take wish Kathryn and her family and friends, continued good health and fortune, and of course, a very happy birthday.
   Happy birthday Kathryn!

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