Bigelow. Kathryn Bigelow has released ten films to date (2020) since her debut in 1981. Four of these have landed in the archives with The Hurt Locker, in 2008, as her single greatest work. It found a spot at the very end of my top 500 of all-time and there are very few directors left as I count down from #1 to #250 on my top directors list with a top 500 all-time film. Somewhere since 1981 (I believe it was before Hurt Locker) Bigelow is quoted to have said “action cinema is pure cinema”- and she makes a compelling case for that with how strong she is behind the camera.
Best film: The Hurt Locker. It is a series of unbelievably intense episodes. Bigelow’s talent and precision are the perfect match for the time and space deadlines on display. It is Dunkirk without the formal macro-level puppeteering and parallel editing achievement of Nolan.
total archiveable films: 4
top 100 films: 0
top 500 films: 1 (The Hurt Locker)
top 100 films of the decade: 1 (The Hurt Locker)
most overrated: Bigelow has a few overrated films by the TSPDT consensus. The most egregious is Point Break at #846 of all-time. I like Point Break– don’t get me wrong. It is a fun movie, kind of a guilty-pleasure film… enjoyable. But I don’t see evidence of the artistic achievement that would warrant a place in the top 1000. It is an easy movie to pop-in and watch though, so I look forward to my next viewing to see if I missed anything.
most underrated : Instead I’d take 1995’s Strange Days. It seems to be the biggest budget Bigelow ever had to let extravagant set-pieces and cinematic ingenuity run wild. It opens with a long tracking shot, there’s lots of first person POV camerawork like De Palma (there’s a lot of De Palma in general in Strange Days). I like the excess-riddled street party a-la Day of the Locusts as well.
gem I want to spotlight : Near Dark. It is just a gorgeously shot vampire western to put it simply. Its production polish stands out 30-plus years later in a subgenre (vampire-horror) that has been cluttered with lesser films. It is a gorgeously shot vampire western.
- The long shots in Near Dark are stunning but Bigelow is at her best within the action genre or at least action sequences featuring tight controlled camera movements and crisp editing. The results are well-crafted set-piece-centralized action sequences of space and time deadlines (this is the entirety of Hurt Locker essentially)
- It is not surprising to see The Wild Bunch as one of her favorite films—and I think Michael Mann (De Palma and John Woo maybe) would be a comparable contemporary (though she probably most-often gets compared to her former husband and sometimes co-producer James Cameron)
- As I said above, she’s been quoted to say “action cinema is pure cinema”
- The Hurt Locker
- Near Dark
- Strange Days
- Zero Dark Thirty
By year and grades
|1987- Near Dark||R|
|1995- Strange Days||R|
|2008- The Hurt Locker||MS|
|2012- Zero Dark Thirty||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives