The Morning After

Who’d a-thunk that when the heat’s turned on, Kathryn Bigelow would look like roadkill on legs while Sandra Bullock would turn into Lincoln at Gettysburg? Anyway, I’m basically happy for Bigelow, if only because I’ll forever prefer the scale of films like The Hurt Locker to that of Avatar, and without a real dog in the race I was glad to see another bugaboo knocked down if only to make people stop talking about it.

But the fact that a woman has finally won the director’s Oscar is mostly a statistical nugget, even if it was shamefully late in coming. Bigelow’s chances weren’t hurt by her film’s choppy, ADD-inflected camerawork and editing, a style that’s basically interchangeable with that of its fellow Best Picture nominee District 9, not to mention most of NBC’s Thursday night lineup. Mostly, though, she was given a leg up by her approach and subject matter: an apolitical, shallowly existential look at what’s probably the most hair-raising job in our armed forces. To put it as lightly as possible, it’s not a subject requiring a woman’s touch per se, and in no case is The Hurt Locker what you’d call a “personal” film unless you’re talking about the personality of a drum machine. (I don’t see how even Bigelow’s biggest fans could detect her hand in the proceedings without being clued in beforehand.) Unless you’re really that glad that the human who won happens to come with a pair of ovaries, it’s a breakthrough in name only. The day the Academy gives the nod to a film that feels like it really came from a woman—like some of Varda’s films, or even certain parts of Fast Times at Ridgemont High—and picks it over the CGI blockbuster and the relevant action flick which might’ve come from any of a hundred male directors—well, then we’ll be getting somewhere.

That isn’t to say the night was without its pleasures…

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