Can Kathryn Bigelow Win the DGA Award on Saturday?

by Melissa Silverstein on January 27, 2010

in Awards,Women Directors

I’m still bitter over the Golden Globes.  I can’t let it go.  I really thought that Bigelow would win best director and she, of course, didn’t.  I wish that I didn’t care this much but I find the fact that we girls have a horse in the race for best director so empowering.  I can’t imagine what it is doing for women in film schools or for women directors in the business. (Any of you out there have any thoughts?)

Just like Hillary Clinton said in her speech when she dropped out of the presidential race, that there are 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, this Kathryn Bigelow best director conversation has moved the bar on women directors further than we have ever gone before.

We all know that it’s probably because the film had such wide appeal to men and even though I wish that women who direct films about women or emotions had wider appeal, the more we dive into awards season, the less I care.


I know this is not about me, but in some way I feel it is.  I hate to put the pressure on other folks but we have been waiting a long time.  While it looks like we’re going to have to wait a long time for a female president, we women can finally get our first female winner at the DGA Awards and hopefully at the Oscars.

While folks were thinking that James Cameron and Avatar had all the momentum after the Globes, The Hurt Locker pulled a huge upset and stole back that momentum this past weekend at the Producer’s Guild Awards and won best picture.  Why is this win so important?

Here’s what Oscar watcher Scott Feinberg said on his blog And the Winner Is:

That’s right, producers, that rare breed of money-hungry urchins, liked the movie that’s made a mere $16 million so much that they gave it their prize over the one that’s made $1.8 billion (on the very day that it surpassed “Titanic” to become the highest-grossing movie of all-time). In case you need it spelled out for you, that’s an upset of epic proportions — the cinematic equivalent of David slaying Goliath.

Thanks, however, to tonight’s PGA shocker, Cameron and his ex-wife appear to have on their hands a serious battle for custody of not only the best director Oscar but the best picture Oscar, too.

Sasha Stone at Awards Daily breaks down the Director’s Guild nominees and comes away with mixed feeling of calling a potential winner:

After the PGA’s shocker, I feel unsure of even calling Kathryn Bigelow to win this thing hands down, although if there is a frontrunner, she is it.

Here’s her case for Bigelow (she makes cases for all the nominees)

The Hurt Locker is a film that has come through against all possible odds.  There isn’t a single “sellable” thing about this movie.  No stars, a woman director, a movie about the Iraq war — by rights, this film should be left on the pile to be discovered years from now.  But it just didn’t happen that way.  It was one of those movies you had to see and if you saw it, you would find that it tells the moving story of three men on the ground in Iraq fighting our futile and unwinnable war.  People say it doesn’t take sides – what it doesn’t do is lecture.  It goes right into the motivations behind this war and it reveals the ultimate impossibility of it: there are always going to be scrappy warriors who can build better IED that kill us despite our military might.  If 9/11 didn’t say it all, The Hurt Locker most certainly does.

Bigelow is not getting accolades because she is a woman.  She is there because her film has the goods.  Someone made the argument recently that had it been directed by Ridley Scott it wouldn’t be getting the same attention – and while I’ll concede that the idea of a woman winning for the first time in 82 years is a thrilling prospect — Ridley Scott could not have directed this film this way because it is wholly Bigelow’s vision.  One would have to be familiar with Bigelow’s work to know this, but from the way she directs actors, to the sequences of the action shots, to the eroticism – this is all Bigelow.  With much help from writer Mark Boal.  I know it’s difficult for some people to wrap their mind around the fact that a woman could actually direct a film that wasn’t about whining, men and weight loss, but there it is.  In fact, women have been directing great films all along; it’s just that no one has ever felt like they directed the best film of the year.  Until now.

Women don’t usually win on the first time out.  It takes a while to create the climate for women to lead and win.  I believe that Kathryn Bigelow is a leader and that directors are seen as leaders in our culture and society because they are seen as the leaders on the set.  They are in charge and the buck stops with them.

Bigelow should be glad that she’s not the first woman to have been nominated because it is not about the novelty but about the accomplishment.  She walks in the shoes of the women who came before her.  It’s just that her shoes just might be the ones to finally kick through the ceiling.


The Director’s Guild Preview (Awards Daily)


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Faith January 27, 2010 at 11:59 AM

I’m a female filmmaker who is also rooting for Bigelow. But I have to take issue with the line about wishing “women who direct films about women or emotions” get more accolades. I agree that a big reason that Bigelow is getting the attention, outside of making an amazing film, is that she makes films “like the boys” that have male leads and are heavy in action sequences. But “The Hurt Locker” has emotion too, it just manifested differently because these men are soldiers at war. Ideally, this conversation shouldn’t be a conversation. Arms should be open for women directors who make more women-centric films, as well as for films like “The Hurt Locker” or Mary Harron’s “American Psycho.” Hopefully a Bigelow win at the DGA and the Oscars will erase those arbitrary lines.

Ann January 27, 2010 at 1:19 PM

I think she has a good chance of winning the DGA award and hopefully the Academy Award for Best Director as well. Her main competition is Avatar, which is visually spectacular, but lacks a unique story. Boal’s screenplay is far superior to Cameron’s, however there is also the direction of the actors to consider. Cameron gave us cartoon “bad” guys and “good” guys, without much dimension. This sells well, but is also a typical weakness of American films. In contrast, Bigelow’s film had fully developed characters. One of the ways she got such good performances was by constantly moving the camera. The actors stopped playing to the camera, inhabiting their roles. Her film is also an extraordinary technical achievement relative to it’s low budget. I do believe guild members and the academy will recognize this, but who knows.

Most directors are happy when audiences embrace their film. In that sense, she’s already been wildly successful and at least the conversation has been started regarding the status of women directors.

Ann January 27, 2010 at 2:59 PM

“I can’t imagine what it is doing for women in film schools or for women directors in the business. (Any of you out there have any thoughts?)”

Melissa, I was going to quit the business until I saw Kathryn Bigelow on the cover of the Sunday NY Times magazine. I had come to the conclusion that it was impossible for a woman to do the types of films I wanted to make. That image changed my mind.

insania January 27, 2010 at 7:51 PM

A little off topic but has anyone read this before?

Chris Evans January 27, 2010 at 9:14 PM

I am so, so rooting for her on Saturday. I’ll be crushed if she doesn’t win. :(

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) January 28, 2010 at 8:49 AM

Relatively speaking, few people saw Hurt Locker. She was nominated for great storytelling via the medium of film, regardless of the gender of the characters or the gender of the audience.

In film, the “busk” stops with the producers and executive producers, who are very often women, though it is a supportive position and not very popular. they don’t get famous. A lot of them are women. The creative vision “buck” so to speak, starts and stops with the director….after the writer has written it. Directors get the glory and and are blamed when it’s bad, but, then again so do the lead actors… It’s such a collaborative medium; I am shocked every time I encounter blatant sexism on set and in the industry in general. How did bigots get so much control? When? What can we do about it? Remember, before the unions, women were directing more.

I’m on my way to set. I’m working in a position that is usually held by men, 1st AD, with a female boom op, a female 2nd AC -which are also positions rarely held by women. My pro-feminist male 2nd AD was the 1st AD on my directorial. We have a male director, male producer. We are changing the industry, right now.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) January 28, 2010 at 8:53 AM

I had to think for a minute to figure out what he meant by “his ex-wife”
bizarro male prejudice, when will it stop?

Dear bigot, she has a name and an identity of her own, before during and after he was Kathyrn Bigelow’s ex husband.

Margot Magowan January 28, 2010 at 4:04 PM

This is kind of a superficial comment but Kathryn Bigelow isso pretty AND smart looking. In a world where women are so often forced into one category or the other, its great to see her photo everywhere, not as model or actress, eventhough she looks like one, but director. And also, for men for so long, their smarts make them attractive, whereas for women, its the opposite, we have to be smart inspite of being pretty or whatever. KB looks so smart in her photos, you can always see her brain ticking.


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