Few female filmmakers have left a bigger mark on cinema than Kathryn Bigelow. A painter turned director, Bigelow was the first woman to win the Academy Award for Best Director, and has made landmark films such as “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty.” Over the last thirty years, Bigelow has made several impressive films, and has established herself as a serious cinematic talent.
In her early years, Bigelow worked in the visual arts before moving to film relatively later in life. She enrolled at Columbia University, where she studied film criticism. Upon earning her MFA, she began her work as a filmmaker.
After making some shorts, she co-directed “The Loveless” with Monty Montgomery. Starring Willem Dafoe as a biker, the film earned positive reviews but was far from a hit.
Her next film, “Near Dark”, was a horror-western with vampires. Though not a commercial success, the film opened to positive reviews and has gained a cult following. Bigelow’s visual sense is cited as “Near Dark’s” main strength, and she was given a Saturn Award nomination for her work on the film.
From there, Bigelow moved on to making music videos, before directing the action films “Blue Steel,” “Point Break,” and “Strange Days.” All three were successful, especially the latter two. These mainstream, Hollywood pictures established Bigelow as a talent that could tackle both intellectual, artistic material, and popcorn, action fare.
The two films to follow, “The Weight of Water” and “K-19: The Widowmaker” were noticeably less successful. Still, her talent as a filmmaker was undeniable in every outing.
After, “K-19” was released in 2002, it would take the director seven years to make another feature; but the film that would come of those seven years is a certified masterwork.
When “The Hurt Locker” was released in 2009, it sent waves through the film community. It was, without a doubt, the best war movie to be released in years and certainly the best about the conflict in Iraq. Critics and audiences alike were enthusiastic in their response, and the film ended up being a major success. “The Hurt Locker” would go on to win six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
Riding high on success, Bigelow then dove in to what would be her most ambitious and controversial project. “Zero Dark Thirty” attempted to tell the story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, through the eyes of the woman in charge of the investigation. It is an expansive and sprawling spy epic, featuring incredible action sequences and expert story telling.
The film received criticism for its depiction of torture, but ultimately it was a success. It garnered decent box-office, good reviews, and managed to pick up an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.
Bigelow’s next project is yet to be announced, but judging by her last two films, we can expect a politically-charged, expertly constructed war film.
Have you seen anything by Kathryn Bigelow? What did you think? Let me know in the comment section below or you can find me on Twitter @TuckerPoikonen.