Road to Oscar: Cameron vs. Bigelow

Tuesday, February 2 by

BEST DIRECTOR SHOWDOWN
This year’s Oscar nominations have been announced, which means it’s time to take the frontrunners from each category and throw them into the Thunderdome where they’ll wage a bloody battle to the death for the honor of taking home a Shiny Gold Dude.  Alas I’m speaking metaphorically, though I suspect this scenario wouldn’t be beyond the realm of possibility for our Best Director frontrunners, Kathryn Bigelow and her ex-husband James Cameron.  Yes, the directors were once married.  It’s almost like something out of a movie, though not one either Cameron or Bigelow would direct. We’ll leave that to some hack like Mark Steven Johnson.  If this were a Mark Steven Johnson movie the pair would spend the first ac fighting and the second act rekindling their love, followed by a big misunderstanding to kick off the third act that would culminate in them either co-winning the award or both refusing to accept it.  Thankfully this isn’t a Mark Steven Johnson movie (too bad the same couldn’t be said for When in Rome, Ghost Rider or Daredevil).  This is real life, which means on March 7th one director shall emerge victorious, while the other must suffer the indignity of losing to someone they used to bang.

KATHRYN BIGELOW

When I was told that Kathryn Bigelow was working on The Hurt Locker I was certain I’d heard wrong.   “Did you say she’s working at The Foot Locker?”  An easy mistake:  While Bigelow was responsible for one of the greatest action movies of all time — Point break — she’d all but disappeared from showbiz after the Clinton years.  Still, Hollywood does love a comeback and I’d be hard pressed to name a more impressive comeback than Bigelow’s.  But is it enough for her to win Best Director?

PRO:  The Hurt Locker is an actual good film.  Not that Avatar is bad, but Cameron’s Dances with Smurfs should not be confused with high art.  By way of comparison, Star Wars was nominated for a bunch of Oscars in 1978 but only managed to win in the technical categories — because it was up against Annie Hall.  Of course in 1978 most Americans still had functioning cerebral cortexes so this comparison may not be apropos.

PRO: Looks matter, and Kathryn Bigelow is quite possibly the most attractive 58-year-old woman on earth.  Cut her age in half and she’d still be over-the-hill per my usual standards.  I’ve never been all that into post-menopausal women… hell, I’ve never been all that into post-pubescent women.  But there’s something about Ms. Bigelow that makes me want to don the old ski mask, fire up the windowless van and treat her to an unsolicited romancing she’ll never forget.  Believe me, when I was through with her “The Hurt Locker” wouldn’t just be the name of her movie, it would also be our pet name for her neener. 

James Cameron meanwhile, despite possessing enough money to have every internal organ in his body replaced three times over, has not aged nearly so gracefully.  While his ex-wife looks like the centerfold from GILF Magazine, Cameron looks like a half-melted stick of butter wearing a hobo wig.  It’s like he’s not even trying to look ALIVE anymore.  He has so much money and power that he can look like something that washed up on shore — say, a rotting seal carcass — and A-list actresses will still line up to give him oral.  But that doesn’t mean anyone wants to see him on TV.  His “I’m the king of the world!” speech was almost endearing in 1998, but twelve years later it’ll look like grandpa forgot to take his meds again. 
 
PRO: Kathryn Bigelow just won the DGA Award, the first women to do so since… since… well, forever.  That her peers chose to recognize her is indeed impressive, but it also must be taken with a grain of salt.  Consider that most directors are male, unkempt and somewhat dorky.  And that Kathryn Bigelow is a stone-cold fox.  She’s like the cute girl in the IT department surrounded by the gaggle of mouth-breathing Poindexters.  Those dweebs will do ANYTHING to get in her pants.

CON: She’s a woman.  The male members of The Academy are huddling together on the glass ceiling, making sure Kathryn doesn’ break through in to their club. 

JAMES CAMERON

Believe me; no one wanted to see James Cameron fall on his face more than me.  Not that he hasn’t made movies I genuinely love.  Terminator is my favorite film plagiarized from the works of Harlan Ellison, and Aliens is a bonerfide masterpiece.  But post-Titanic, it seemed that the director’s ego had inflated like a hot air balloon and carried him off to the same land of oblivious delusion where George Lucas currently resides.  That he was due for a face plant was only further reinforced when I saw the Avatar trailer, which reminded me of a videogame cut-scene, only without a red X button to mash so I could skip ahead to the end-of-level boss.  However the moment I strapped on the 3D glasses to actually watch Avatar I knew that bastard had gone and done it again.  It was unlike anything I’d ever experienced, and I’ve been in a Tijuana prison on mushrooms.

PRO: Avatar is a game-changer, probably the first of its kind since The Jazz Singer proved that Neil Diamond could actually act.  Or perhaps I’m thinking of that OTHER The Jazz Singer, the one that introduced sound to moving pictures for the first time.  Regardless, what Cameron accomplished with Avatar belongs in the history books.  Not that anyone will know how to read in the future, but at least the information will be there for our alien overlords to peruse when they’re not busy turning us into zombie slaves for their salt mines.

PRO:Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time.  In a utopian society with universal healthcare and copious leisure time, where art, love and life are put on a higher pedestal than commerce – you know, France – the amount of money Avatar made at the box office wouldn’t matter.  But this is AMERICA, damn it.  Our Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science is a professional society dedicated to advancing the motion picture INDUSTRY.  In other words: this is business, kids, and keeping James Cameron happy is good business.    

PRO: James Cameron is a man.  And making movies — like getting married to five different women and cheating on every one of them — is man business.

ADVANTAGE: CAMERON

Kathryn Bigelow deserves every bit of the praise she’s received for The Hurt Locker.  She deserves the resulting resurgence of interest in her directing talents, and she deserves the dedicated lovemaking skills of a younger man who only cares about her pleasure, and who happens to be wearing a ski mask and who owns a blacked-out van.  But alas I don’t think she’s going to win a Best Director Oscar. 

The Academy Awards – like the Grammys and every other televised awards show – is ultimately a populist affair.  And at the end of the day your average shlub would rather watch a fantasy movie about a war in a far-off land driven by evil corporations seeking to pillage the natural resources of its indigenous people…. than one about an ACTUAL war in a far-off land driven by evil corporations seeking to pillage the natural resources of its indigenous people.  Iraqis aren’t blue, feline-esque and oddly arousing to look at.  But beyond all that, what Cameron accomplished with Avatar was more than simply making a great film.  He brought back the spectacle, the magic, and in so doing reinvented the medium.  Also, he is a man.