Kathryn Bigelow has been challenging stereotypes and conventions both on screen and off. She is a woman director who has steered clear of chick flicks to deliver action films that kick butt on much of what her male counterparts are turning out. With more than two decades worth of films to her credit, she is finally raking in awards for The Hurt Locker. Here’s a look back on her career.
Kathryn Bigelow actually began by studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. But she decided to turn to filmmaking and in 1982 made her feature film directing debut with The Loveless which she co-directed with Monty Montgomery. Borrowing from The Wild One, The Loveless casts Willem Dafoe as a Brando-esque biker causing trouble in the conservative deep South of 1959. Visually stylish film announced Bigelow as a talent to watch.
Near Dark remains Bigelow's best and freshest film. She gives the vampire film a noir Western twist with a bit of doomed romance thrown in for good measure. The word vampire is never mentioned, but Lance Henriksen heads a dysfunctional family of bloodsuckers cruising the Midwest for victims. Jenny Wright is the attractive girl who seduces and turns Adrian Pasdar. To quote Bill Paxton's character, "It's finger lickin' good."
New Order: Substance, video "Touched By The Hand Of God" (1989)Bigelow also tried her hand at directing a music video. Bill Paxton appears and takes a Terminator-style punch at a car windshield.
Say what you will about Point Break but it's made an indelible impact on pop culture. Keanu Reeves is a surfing FBI agent and Patrick Swayze plays his nemesis, a philosophizing crook that robs banks so he can afford to surf around the globe. The action comedy Hot Fuzz affectionately referenced the film and spoofed its male bonding. This one is "100% pure adrenaline!"
Ralph Fiennes plays a cop turned street-hustler that uncovers a police conspiracy in 1999 Los Angeles. Bigelow creates a flawed but visually audacious genre bending sci-fi thriller that taps into pre-millennial tensions. Bigelow has called it a "cautionary" tale and a "wake up call." It divided audiences and critics as it held up a mirror to a flawed society looking toward an uncertain future.
Adapted from Anita Shreve's novel, The Weight of Water interweaves two stories – one set in the 1870s, another in the present – but both dealing with women and jealousy. In the contemporary storyline, Catherine McCormack is a photographer who becomes obsessed with an unsolved murder mystery from the past. Ambitious and flawed, the film got very little distribution.
Bigelow delivers a taut submarine thriller about a mishap during the maiden voyage of Russia's first nuclear sub. Tensions rise as the crew tries to prevent a disaster. Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson may have wavering accents, but the film is well-paced and no-nonsense.
'Mission Zero' (2007, short)Bigelow falls off the map for a few years and then surfaces with this action short. It features Uma Thurman as a woman pursued by killers.
But Bigelow returns to peak form in 2009 with this Iraqi war drama about a bomb specialist played by Jeremy Renner. A tense and surprisingly intimate portrait of a man who's not a gung ho warrior but who is addicted to a good adrenaline rush. It serves up an unconventional perspective on the war told in a straightforward, gritty style.