With the Oscar nominations fast approaching, this marks the time of year where we are in the throes of the awards season.  There are several films and directors that seem to be a shoe in for a nomination.  One of those directors is Kathryn Bigelow along with her film The Hurt Locker.

A lot of people may associate female directors with your typical romantic comedy, or period piece.  Not a lot of people will associate the term with the action genre.  Kathryn Bigelow seemed to throw that rule book right out the window from the get go.  Let’s highlight a few of her films.

Near Dark (1987)
Set in the sleepy Midwest, a good ole country boy meets and is instantly entranced by Mae.  Caleb is soon caught in the web of Mae’s “family”, who turn out to be vampires.  Fighting the inevitable change that is overtaking him, Caleb tries to break the new bonds, while trying to protect his human family as well as trying to convince Mae to come with him.

I remember the first time I watched Near Dark.  I was intrigued with the darkness of it.  The casting of the vampires was perfect.  Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein, all James Cameron staples, conveyed the evil that should be associated with the undead (sparkly vampires need not apply).  A young Adrian Pasdar played Caleb and staple 80’s actor Tim Thomerson played Caleb’s father.

Serving as director and the writer of Near Dark at the beginning of her career showed the film industry that Kathryn Bigelow was fully capable and a force to be reckoned with.

Point Break (1991)
Rookie FBI Agent Johnny Utah (has there been a better name??)gets partnered up with a salty vet and assigned to find a group who has been responsible for a string of bank robberies.  Going undercover and infiltrating a group of possible suspects, Johnny finds himself immersed in their thrill seeking ways, but inevitably he reaches the crossroads and must determine where his loyalties actually lie.

Ahhhhh Point Break.  The film that got loads of people to try sky diving as well as surfing.  I will admit I’ve done the former, but not the latter.  And actually I didn’t sky dive until years after this film came out.  But watching it did make me want to just hurl my body out of a plane cruising at 6000 feet.  Sounds fun right?  But I digress….

With Point Break, Bigelow showed that she had the chops for some great action.  There was some issues with the surfing scenes, but the sky diving scenes are phenomenal.  There is also the foot chase between Bodhi and Johnny.  That is one of the best foot chases I’ve seen.

Keanu Reeves was probably one of the best choices to play Johnny.  Love him or hate him, he had that laid-back-hang-ten quality the character needed.  Casting Patrick Swayze as Bodhi was great as he had that zen-like quality in pretty much every role he played.  We weren’t used to seeing him as the bad guy, but he was one of those bad guys you loved.

The film does have it’s flaws.  The dialogue isn’t the greatest, but if it’s pure action you’re looking for, I’d say this one fits the bill.

Strange Days (1995)
Set on New Years Eve of the millennium, former street cop turned drug-like virtual reality pusher, Lenny Nero finds a VR clip in his possession that is first hand proof of a high profile murder and the police cover up that ensues.  Aided by his friend Mace, they find themselves caught in a web of lies, deceit, blackmail and murder, all against the backdrop of impending chaos of the new millennium.

Casting Ralph Fiennes perplexed me at the time.  Having only seen him in Schindler’s List and Quiz Show, I wasn’t sure he would be able to pull off the grungy, sleazy like quality that Lenny embodied.  Goes to show what I know.  He was indeed grungy and sleazy, but also likable as well.  Angela Bassett kicks major ass as Mace.  That woman is not to be messed with.  Juliet Lewis, Tom Sizemore and perpetual baddie Michale Wincott also star.

Written and produced by James Cameron, it definitely has the feel of one of his films.  It’s gritty with a bleak outlook, but always has that beacon of hope on the horizon.  The action isn’t on a grand scale, but it’s still intense.  One interesting aspect of the film is the role reversal with Lenny and Mace.  Normally it’s the male lead who is stronger, but here it’s Mace.  It’s an interesting, but incredibly effective switch.

Strange Days didn’t get a whole lot of love, but I feel it’s underrated.  If you’re a fan of Bigelow or Cameron, you should definitely check it out.

The Hurt Locker (2008)
Set in Iraq, this film follows the exploits of an US Army elite EOD unit charged with the task of identifying and dismantling of various type of explosive devices.

Starring Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker is a white knuckle ride if there ever was one.  This was one movie where I was on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Renner does an excellent job as SFC William James.  He is able to convey the stress that James goes through to do his job, but there is also a underlying calmness that he has as well.  His real discomfort comes from being in a home setting doing the mundane tasks like grocery shop.

The film is again, gritty.  It’s a subject matter that isn’t to be taken lightly and that comes through as well.  Bigelow has an excellent eye for action and it really shines through here.  We did a review for this back in August and you can find that here.

The Hurt Locker, Jeremy Renner and Kathryn Bigelow have been nominated for loads of awards so far.  Some have been won, while other lost, but the granddaddy of them all is fast approaching.  I am pulling for this film to get some sort of recognition at the Oscars.  I would love to see Bigelow take it for Director.

While there are other films that she has done that I haven’t listed, I think this list really highlights her career so far.  She has proven to be a capable director who doesn’t shy away from a challenge.  She was just attached to another film called Held by the Taliban.  You can read our story about that here.

Oscar nominations are announced Tuesday Feb 2nd at 5:30am PST.  I know I’ll be watching.