The Hangover That Never Ends: What I Learned From the Golden Globes

I’m still bitter about the Golden Globes. Of all the things that I could potentially be bitter about, I admit, this is probably the most absurd. I don’t watch the Golden Globes. I don’t care about the Golden Globes. Who cares about the Golden Globes, really? I just use them the way everyone else uses them, to figure out the odds for the Oscars. And I also stopped watching and caring about the Oscars, several years ago, so… yeah. However, this year I actually do care about the Oscars; as silly and vapid as that might be, I have a developed a deep emotional investment. This deep emotional investment’s name is Kathryn Bigelow. Before the Golden Globes, I was pretty sure that she was going to be the first woman ever to win an Academy Award for Best Director. And now, I’m starting to feel that she won’t be. This has done things to me it will take an epic amount of yelling at you to even begin to explain.

For example: the Cameron-versus-Bigelow thing, which was previously just a nice little grace note, has now become something about which I am kind of absurdly intense. Avatar will almost certainly get nominated for the Academy Award, and so will The Hurt Locker, so we are almost certainly going to see this again. And it needs to not play out this way next time. My understanding is that the two of them get along great, and no hard feelings, and I bet they have barbecues together every weekend and sing campfire songs and whatever: I don’t care. It’s not a Brangelina thing, because they are strangers to me, and their emotional and personal lives are their own. I just so happen to want Kathryn Bigelow to mop the floor with James Cameron and wring him out into a dirty bucket after the fact. In a professional sense.

Let us start with the most obvious reason for this, which is: the movies themselves. And let us start with the most obvious statement about either of these two movies, which is: Avatar looked really, really great. I mean, it was so pretty! And largely less fake-looking than anything else along those lines I had ever seen! And it was in the 3-D, which I guess is exciting! And I even got mildly invested in the action at times. Yes, James Cameron got me to feel a certain amount of tension and involvement with an action sequence featuring cutting-edge technology, 3-D effects, dinosaurs, dragons, floating mountains, helicopters, hugesplosions (like explosions! But HUGER), and topless blue aliens. It was quite the achievement.

Here’s the thing, though: Kathryn Bigelow got me to feel a much greater amount of tension and involvement with scenes of a guy moving some wires around in a box. And I saw it in two dimensions. On a crappy screen. I mean, I can’t even imagine what would have happened if I saw The Hurt Locker in IMAX – or, God forbid, in IMAX 3-D, if they had ever made it in that format. I probably would have passed out. I would have to process it in therapy. It is intense, that movie. And it is intense because of the acting, the pacing, the screenplay, the sound: you know, movie stuff. Or, I guess, what “movie stuff” used to be, before we figured out how to make perfect three-dimensional computer-generated photo-realistic representations of Zoe Saldana’s boobs, and they became the Future of Cinema.

Avatar is a specific kind of entertainment: the kind of lavishly financed, technologically advanced, hyper-blockbusting spectacle that is practically obligated to make a billion dollars at the box office because it cost so much to make, the kind of movie that just wants to show you what it can do with all its machinery. I mean, I almost feel bad pointing out that Avatar is a dumb movie. Avatar has to be a dumb movie. Because, if it were smarter, fewer people would see it, and some of them might not get it. And Avatar is a movie that’s designed to be seen, and understood, by everyone. Everybody understands that dinosaurs are awesome and corporate goons are bad and when they fight and go splodey, you root for the dinosaurs, especially if they are really cool-looking. And that’s the level Avatar operates on, and that’s fine. You shouldn’t go to Avatar looking for a great story or great characters or anything other than some really exciting scenes featuring awesome CGI dragons. But you also shouldn’t reward that as if it’s the best thing a movie can possibly be.

The Hurt Locker, meanwhile, is just a way more exciting and involving movie. The Hurt Locker has better characters and scarier action scenes and it can definitively establish a man’s character and make a statement about the alienation of modern life and basically explain what the entire movie is about with a shot of a dude looking at some cereal in a grocery store. It is a movie that gets you very excited even though there are no dinosaur fights in it! There is no reason it should not win! EXCEPT.

To backtrack to another award that night: the fact that The Hangover won the Golden Globe for Best Comedy, in the year that Humpday was released, makes me so, so angry. I mean, I’d be mad about The Hangover anyway, but the fact that it was released so close to Humpday is what makes me sick. Humpday is another movie by a female director – Lynn Shelton – and it is my other favorite movie of the year. And also, no-one saw it. “You can’t really be surprised that Humpday didn’t get nominated for anything,” someone said to me when I brought up this as one of the many many reasons why The Hangover win made me so angry. And it’s true: I can’t be surprised. But the fact that I can’t be surprised is the problem. There were so many obvious things stacked against Humpday from the get-go, like the fact that it cost approximately three dollars to make, and that no famous people are in the movie except Josh from The Blair Witch Project, and most compellingly the fact that it is about two straight dudes who decide to have sex with each other for an indie porn festival to impress the sex-positive queer chicks that one of them wants to have a threesome with, and also to prove that they are still wild dudes who will get up to anything because they are so cool, even though the fact is that neither of them is cool, and they are in fact both assholes, and they are both just now catching on to that fact.

I mean, how do you get people to see that? People apparently thought, for about five seconds, that it would be a big-deal crossover hit, and they were trying to pitch it at the Apatow crowd, but I will bet you cash money that a substantial portion of said Apatow crowd looked at the poster of two naked uncomfortable guys in bed and was like, ick, a gay thing. And the people who were going to like the movie, like me, looked at the Apatow comparisons and were like, gross, another super-edgy sex comedy for stupid dudes. And it’s neither of those things – in fact, it is kind of the opposite of both those things – but what it actually is, is a movie about aging, and intimacy, and masculinity, and gay panic trying to masquerade as something other than itself, and pretentiousness, and… it’s not a thing you are used to seeing, this movie, so therefore no-one saw it. And the big-deal award-winning comedy of the summer, the one that really managed to capture audiences and the votes of the Golden Globe folks, is the one where some guy yells “PAGING DOCTOR FAGGOT” through a window. I mean: Best Comedy. As in, this is the best we can do. Jesus fucking Christ.

And, I mean: I know! I know! Awards aren’t fair! They’re often given to movies that don’t deserve them, and almost always to movies that cost more than a package of ramen to make! I did not just figure this out! But the thing is, of course a movie like Humpday‘s going to be tiny. Because female directors don’t usually get to tell these original, idiosyncratic, un-pin-downable stories, in their own ways, for a wide audience. They don’t get to be the auteurs, or the quirky big-budget indie wunderkinds with the startlingly individual artistic visions: every time you hear about one of those, it’s going to be a dude. Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Noah Baumbach, whoever else it is that they’ve picked to be the guy this week – he’s always going to be a dude. Or else he’ll be Diablo Cody, who is not a director but a screenwriter, and people will still hate that more than anything you’ve ever seen. Even the most positive reactions to Humpday were like, “marvelously, a woman has managed to make a movie about dudes! Perhaps she is in fact more like a dude than a lady! What a startling creature this she-director be, what with her not exclusively filming her own vagina as a tribute to Judy Chicago!” What women get to do is mainstream romantic comedies written within a fairly tight formula. And even if they’ve helped to create that formula, become expert at it, polished it and perfected it and branched out into doing some interesting things with it – even if they are, say, Nora Ephron, a woman so well-versed in her genre that her name is synonymous with it – they’re going to lose to Whoops, I Roofied All My Friends When We Were Trying to Get Drunk and Go See Strippers, apparently. Because that’s just how it goes.

So, you know: when a guy looks like he might win an Oscar for HAVING THE MOST EXPENSIVE-LOOKING MOVIE – basically NO OTHER REASON, it is JUST THAT – well, given the fact that men are pretty much ALWAYS the ones to be in charge of the most expensive movies, I start to get twitchy.

Because, every once in a while, you get a lady who manages to work her way up, and doesn’t get trapped in the no-one-will-see-it box or the everyone-will-see-it-but-no-one-takes-it-seriously box. You get Kathryn Bigelow. Whose films are independently financed, but also very accessible. And she makes a really, really good movie. And there is nothing in the way of her victory, of her being officially recognized as the Best Director of the year – in a ceremony that is big and flashy and notably not worth anything because it will straight-up give awards to Crash if it wants to, but that still means something to a lot of people – nothing in her way, I tell you, except for James Cameron’s Check Out This Sweet Shit I Got Airbrushed On My Van: The 3-D Motion Picture Experience. And suddenly, that seems like a major obstacle.

If you’ve ever heard that old second-wave saw about how women have to be twice as good and work twice as hard as men to get the same or fewer rewards, and have wanted to verify it for your very own self, I submit to you that you can just re-watch the last half-hour of the Golden Globes.

Yeah, the fact that Kathryn Bigelow is a woman plays a role in the fact that I want her to win Best Director. A huge role. And yeah, I do specifically want her to beat James Cameron more than I want her to beat anyone else who is nominated. That’s not tokenizing or weird: it’s because she should win it anyway, and he is her most serious competition. It’s also a gender thing, because the whole Cameron/Bigelow story takes place within a very specific, very familiar dynamic. It’s about the fact that, for years, I knew Kathryn Bigelow as “James Cameron’s ex-wife, who is also a director,” and not as “a director.” It’s about this comment thread at The A.V. Club, repeating the rumors that Bigelow’s action scenes were ghost-directed by Cameron because she couldn’t have done them herself, and the fact that James Cameron gets mentioned in that article (“it’s easy to imagine [Bigelow] as one of his two-fisted heroines”), the way that Cameron frequently gets mentioned when we talk about Bigelow, yet Bigelow only sometimes gets mentioned when we talk about Cameron. James Cameron had the potential to overshadow or define Kathryn Bigelow’s legacy, for no other reason than the fact that they were once together. It doesn’t matter if he wanted it to happen – I doubt he did, and it was entirely out of his control anyway – but it happened, like it always fucking happens, because that’s part of the whole Sexism deal. Throughout history, when women with talent got involved with men who also had talent, they were viewed as extensions of those men, were given credit for all of their failures and none of their successes, had their own work and talents drafted – sometimes unwillingly – into the service of the great man, heard people give those men credit for work they had done themselves, or were passed over or minimized in every critical estimation. And when women go it alone, they’re often under-regarded and under-rewarded. A win for Bigelow isn’t just an accurate judgment of her work; it’s a break in that pattern, which has silenced so, so, so many women. I want Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron to be side-by-side, judged against each other fairly, and I want people to admit that this time around, she did better work. That she’s a director, too. That they are, at the very least, equals, but that in this particular case their movies were not equal, and hers was better. This is not incompatible with them liking or respecting each other: it’s just what happens, what should happen, when one person makes a better movie than another person and both movies are considered for the same award. I want her to win, so I want him to lose; if she does lose, to him, there’s no taking sexism (or bad taste) out of that equation. I want her not to lose.

Because I want to avoid the feeling that I had, the moment Kathryn Bigelow lost at the Golden Globes. It wasn’t shock; it wasn’t outrage; it wasn’t even disappointment, really. What flashed across my mind, in that moment, was this exact thought: It wasn’t going to happen anyway. She’s a woman. I think I even said it aloud. Because it’s true: women don’t win these things. No woman has ever won an Academy Award for Best Director. A woman did win a Best Director Golden Globe once, and it was Barbra Streisand, and it was for The Prince of Tides, so I don’t know what’s going on there, but of every single female director you have ever heard or not heard of, she’s the one who got it, and nobody’s gotten it since. Yes, it’s silly to expect an awards show to be a paradigm of fairness, and it’s flat-out wrong to want people to hand out awards as a correction to social injustice, because awards correct nothing, but when a clearly superior work coincides with a chance to break a sexist pattern, I get excited. And yet, when a pattern of unfairness is this consistent, it stops being an outrage and starts becoming an expectation. And it was the moment I realized that – the moment I figured out that, for all the noise I made about Bigelow, I had expected her to lose – that this whole thing really started to hurt.

Also: Sandra Bullock, Best Actress. Who’s Gabourey Sidibe? We don’t know any Gabourey Sidibe! Quick, someone find an award and throw it at the Crash lady! WHAT THE FUCK.

35 comments for “The Hangover That Never Ends: What I Learned From the Golden Globes

  1. January 21, 2010 at 7:16 pm

    And you *know* some of Cameron’s fanbrats are going to back up his impending Oscar win(s) with “But…it’s been more than a DECADE since he’s made a movie!!” or “He’s an artist, so he deserved to win!” or some crap. The caterwauling that would emerge should Bigelow win from the Cameron fan-contingent would be epic, and probably very sad (and telling) at the same time.

    This is an amazing piece, Sady.

  2. Kymberly
    January 21, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    This really is an amazing piece. I’ve felt all of this about Avatar and The Hurt Locker, but have been unable to articulate why I had this roiling uneasiness about the situation. Thank you for spelling it out.

  3. January 21, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Bra-fucking-vo, yes, yes, yes, yes.

  4. January 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    Also, Sady, I have passed over “Humpday” in my Netflix queue I don’t know how many times, but I am going to watch it tonight SOLELY based on your recommendation. If it sucks I’m banning you from the blog.

  5. January 21, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    @Lauren: AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. I liked it? A lot? There were things in there that made me super-uncomfortable, also? But also I think those things were meant to make me feel uncomfortable. Here is what I recommend, when watching “Humpday”: I recommend that you ask yourself, would I prefer to watch this movie instead of thinking about the fact that “The Hangover” won Best Comedy and consequently taking a long hot bath with a fifth of whiskey just to calm down? Because the answer is probably yes!

  6. January 21, 2010 at 8:25 pm


    I liked it? A lot? There were things in there that made me super-uncomfortable, also? But also I think those things were meant to make me feel uncomfortable.

    I’m brewing up a review of “Towelhead” (directed by Alan Ball) which basically made me feel the same way, except it was panned by critics for not being “Six Feet Under” although I thought it captured a remarkably authentic slice of adolescent, female sexuality that was funny and weird without being that one movie with the girl who married Marilyn Manson that scared my mom so badly she put an alarm system on the house to keep me inside. And reading old reviews of it is interesting because it is always inexplicably compared to “American Beauty” which was, the critics say, obviously better because it’s about a man and not a teenage girl.

    I’m veering way off topic with this one, but I’ll try to bring it back around. The marketing for “Humpday” (which I haven’t watched yet, but beware my wrath) makes it look exactly like “another super-edgy sex comedy for stupid dudes,” or what I generally consider an excuse to show the breasts of cute hipster girls, so of course I pass it up, roll my eyes, and watch another documentary. “The Hangover,” meanwhile, I watched fully intending to put my brain on the shelf and just enjoy a wild-and-crazy comedy, but got bored halfway through and turned it off. It just wasn’t that good. It didn’t even offend me because it was so predictable and boring. The marketing for “The Hurt Locker” was almost non-existent, at least on my radar, and what I saw of it I thought, “Explosions, meh.” What it really is is artful. Thoughtful. Unexpectedly beautiful.

    And that’s part of what you’re saying, and why I’m rooting for Bigelow at the Oscars, not just because of the feminist implications of her win but because she would completely hands-down deserve it. Sure, we can hand out masturbatory awards for lowest-common-denominator feel-good movies but it would feel so much better if more artful, thoughtful material was given notice. Maybe it’s that wartime, bad economy malaise that everyone talks about, but it seems like the shitty big-budget flicks are what is getting noticed recently.

    Or maybe all you kids need to get offa my lawn.

  7. Tia
    January 21, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    I saw Humpday and liked it, but I don’t know if I would say it is the best comedy of the year. I lived in Seattle for several years. I love it. But this movie was too steeped in the Seattle ethos to have a widespread appeal, and I even found certain parts gimmicky and sort of, I don’t know, formulaic in a pacific northwest way. It felt like it was created by a robot (a skilled one) who had read every issue of The Stranger and constructed a movie based on an algorithm to maximize its appeal to that audience. That said, it did spark a conversation between me and the two men I went to see it with, and we thought about it quite a bit afterwards. Also, color me unenthused with the whole Mumblecore genre.

    I haven’t seen Avatar since all the hype has turned me off of it, but I did see the Hurt Locker, which I liked.

  8. January 21, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Thank you for this post.

    I, too, died a little when James Cameron won over Kathryn Bigelow, I had so wanted to see her mop the floor with him. I haven’t even seen Avatar. I actually really, really didn’t want to, but now am going to since it’s going to be nominated for every single Oscar. In addition to all the reasons you discussed, a vote for Avatar on the part of the academy is a vote for more jobs in their industry. It’s a vote for a future in which people continue to watch movies in theaters. Sadly, I feel like if this was pre-recession, The Hurt Locker would have had a better shot at an upset. Though maybe not, because, like you said, she is a woman and all.

    Relatedly, it is fucking ridiculous that Lee Daniels didn’t even get nominated. But, of course, black male directors don’t get nominated. John Singleton is the only black man to ever have been nominated for a best director Oscar, for Boyz N the Hood. I had some issues with Precious, (as I kinda did with The Hurt Locker as well,) but Lee Daniels did a pretty great job adapting a book that could have become a real mess going from text to screen. I saw an interview with Sapphire recently in which she discussed how many people have wanted to make a movie of Push over the years, and Lee Daniels was the first one she ever even considered, because she thought he would be able to actually do it right. And, in a lot of ways, he did. I’m sure James Cameron isn’t gonna impress me more with Avatar. I don’t feel like it’s a movie, I feel like it’s a theme park ride. Probably a really impressive one, but still.

    • January 22, 2010 at 12:19 am

      @Constintina: Yeah, too true. Which reminds me: once, in college, to prove a point, I forced my then-boyfriend – who had more movies than anyone I’d ever seen, a whole wall of them, and knew a lot about them, and also had pretty good politics – to go through all of his movies to see which ones he could say, for sure, were not directed by white dudes. We came up with one Nicole Holofcener and Do the Right Thing. We can pretend that the Oscars are silly, and that awards in general are silly, and I’d agree with that! But they also send a message, when they go the same way over and over and over: that movies by certain people are just more worth watching, more deserving of your attention, more “universal” and more necessary for you to know about and more deserving of your acclaim.

      @Tia: Does it help if I tell you that I’ve never really been to the Pacific Northwest – I spent about 3 days in Seattle once, and one in Olympia, for a friend’s wedding – and I related to the movie? I mean, maybe it was very “Northwest,” and very aging-hipster in general – and the same claim was made about “Wendy and Lucy,” especially the Pacific Northwest bits, and I HATED that movie, falling as it did into the whole Lars von Trier “watch this saintly woman fall into the meat grinder of life and never once ask yourself why she seems kind of dim and never really makes any choices” school of filmmaking – but I honestly didn’t get any of those references, and it still worked for me. I didn’t know that Humpfest was real, for example, and I saw it with someone who was very jazzed about the fact that they MENTIONED! HUMPFEST! But I’ve been in spaces where being in radical porn was a point of pride, and I didn’t participate in that because I felt weird about it, and then I felt weird about feeling weird about it because maybe it meant I wasn’t really as radical as I thought I was, and I had to convince myself that it was OK that I had set boundaries and that I didn’t need to do anything to impress anybody because that wasn’t actually radical at all and… yeah. And that’s most of the movie, right there, feeling weird about the fact that you feel weird about things. I think that the movie gets to a very real set of human experiences, specific though they might be. And I’d rather a movie be very “Seattle,” or very representative of a certain set of relatively weird experiences, than very bland and generic and LA or New York or whatever it is that other things are very, these days. I’d rather it be ANY of these things than very CGI.

  9. Shelly
    January 22, 2010 at 1:34 am

    When I first saw your post I was like, “UGH not anOTHER post on the Golden Globes, I don’t care, why does ANYONE care, there are people nominated for them who don’t care” and then of COURSE you go ahead and go way beyond all that, and point out all the other factors that converge in that room, between those people, between the viewer at home and the glowing screen, and just touched on so many other things and of course like always made me rethink those lazy thoughts I am just SO comfortable nurturing and spouting off without thinking twice, like dismissing the Golden Globes without putting all the pieces together, without taking those crucial steps back.

    In short, and I am not the first to say this, you did a superb job of putting my thoughts and frustrations into coherent phrases. Loved the “Whoops I Roofied My Friends.”

  10. piny
    January 22, 2010 at 3:23 am

    although I thought it captured a remarkably authentic slice of adolescent, female sexuality that was funny and weird without being that one movie with the girl who married Marilyn Manson that scared my mom so badly she put an alarm system on the house to keep me inside.

    HA! I remember watching that movie and thinking, basically, Holy fucking shit. It was such a bizarre fusion of gritty realism and high melodrama. And then Holly Hunter gnawed on that girl’s arm at the end. And then she was on the merry-go-round? And apparently out of rehab or whatever?

    It’s Evan Rachel Wood. She’s moved on. To True Blood, not from Marilyn Manson, where she is not playing the messed-up teenage girl character.

    Yours too?

  11. piny
    January 22, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Lars von Trier “watch this saintly woman fall into the meat grinder of life and never once ask yourself why she seems kind of dim and never really makes any choices” school of filmmaking

    That would spoil all the fun. No, not yours.

  12. A Guy In Denver
    January 22, 2010 at 3:25 am

    Avatar was fun and pretty. Hurt Locker was brilliant. That there is considered to be a competition is absurd.

  13. Christian
    January 22, 2010 at 3:48 am

    Isn´t the Hurtlocker a rather masculin film? About a guy hiding his feelings, loving danger, lifing in a mans world with no important women? He can not cope with a normal life with his wife and wants to go back to irak, because there he can live a mans life – dealing with danger, not with his children and wife.

  14. January 22, 2010 at 8:41 am

    I love James Cameron, I really do, but even I was like, “lolwut?”

  15. January 22, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Avatar is one of those “huh” wins. I mean, I get nominations for some epic and elaborate spectacle films…because there is still a plot, good writing, great acting…but outside of the visuals, Avatar is very by the numbers and not anything special. Pretty much everyone is playing stock characters they have played before (tough marine, heartless corporate head, idealizing scientist, tough Michelle Rodriguez character). It only stands out for it’s animated computer 3-D aspect. That’s worthy of a visual effects award…nothing more.

  16. anna
    January 22, 2010 at 9:31 am

    I hate that smug little joke (not your joke): ” “A woman must be twice as smart a man to get the same recognition. Fortunately, this is not difficult.” It is fucking difficult, unfair and exhausting to be expected to work twice as hard and be twice as smart as your better-financed, better-connected colleagues.

  17. Lizzie
    January 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    To be fair to Avatar, it is the first major movie I have seen of this sort that:
    1. Has MULTIPLE female characters in it whose actions and knowledge impact the outcome of the plot. Sometimes there’s one, usually none – for example if you take the putative hero, Rose, out of Titanic, the plot actually hardly changes. In Avatar we have the heroine, the researcher, the pilot, and the shaman = 4. Remove any of them and the outcome of the final battle would change. On the male side we have corporate guy, hero, bolshy tribal dude, and military goon =4. Besides speaking extras (that’s anyone who doesn’t affect the plot at all, or exists solely for exposition – these are all male, sadly – geeky buddy guy, tribal warrior chief) that is the cast. It is UNHEARD OF for a major picture of this size to have even numbers of important male and female characters who actually affect the plot.
    2. Passes the Bechdel test. This means at least one scene where two women discuss something besides a man. 50% of movies fail this test. Avatar has a scene where the shaman and her daughter talk about their world and where the researcher talks to her subordinate.
    3. Does not comment on female authority or power but shows it as natural and accepted – the female pilot, the female head researcher, the female shaman, the female hunter. Hence, there are good female role models.

    There are some sexist stereotypes – the research doctor is the one who negotiates with the aliens (diplomacy is “feminine”) while the military guy bombs them (bombing people is “masculine”) – and very little moral complexity eg if you are a good character you will stay good, a bad one will stay bad, and evil, destructive human culture has nothing to offer the pure-spirited, benevolent alien culture. But, the above things are not small potatoes, in a movie that every girl and boy will see, that says men and women are equally important and strong.

    So a win for Avatar is not a total loss for feminism.

    Oh also, the hero is disabled. Just throwing that one out there.

  18. January 22, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    Okay, I read the article and have these observations:

    * THE HURT LOCKER was by far the better of the two movies and Bigelow is in my opinion a better director than James Cameron. (Has been for a long time. See NEAR DARK to wash the vile taste of TWILIGHT off your cinematic palate) Unfortunately AVATAR is a populist/escapist movie that looks incredible and demands nothing of its audience other than a capacity to enjoy the pretty pictures, and audiences a national climate like what’s going on at the moment respond to well-made confections that utterly remove them from the misery of their identifiable existence. THE HURT LOCKER pulls off the exact opposite in intent, plus it’s too “thinky,” so a nation that suckles at the teat of reality TV and cathode ray candyfloss like AMERICAN IDOL is probably incapable of appreciating it.
    * If we want to see women making films other than romantic comedies and by-the-numbers tear-jerkers, I say it’s down to the mostly female audience that watches that stuff to let Hollywood know they would like something different and send that message home by not wasting money on tickets for movies like SEX & THE CITY (which I still cannot believe got made; am I the only person who wants to see those characters receive a serious beatdown from Pam Grier — not as a character, but as her actual Richard Pryor-intimidating self — or the gangs in SWITCHBLADE SISTERS?). I’m a guy whose friends are mostly women (been that way my whole life, thank god) and I can honestly state that none of the strong, intelligent women I know can tolerate those so-called “chick flicks” because they feel they’re made for people with the psychological/emotional development of an adolescent, and they feel that such material treats all women like a bunch of lobotomized outpatients.
    * While the deck may be stacked in Cameron’s favor in terms of popularity and box office receipts, don’t count either Bigelow or THE HURT LOCKER out yet. The last time a wildly successful escapist flick got as much kudos as AVATAR and seemed an Oscar shoo-in was when the original STAR WARS hit (nearly thirty-three years ago), and it lost both Best Director and Best Picture to Woody Allen and ANNIE HALL (STAR WARS won Oscars that related solely to its score and admittedly spectacular window dressing). Being twelve at the time and a huge STAR WARS booster, I was positively outraged, but as an adult I completely agree with the Academy’s choice and hopefully they’ll do the intelligent thing this time around. Honestly, I just cannot see either Cameron or his pretty 3-D thrill ride taking home the little nekkid guy.

    Oh, and I loved your article, by the way. (Sorry, but I tend to get on my soap box when it comes to movies, and sometimes I forget to pass on props where deserved.)

  19. Grace
    January 22, 2010 at 6:06 pm

    I agree with you, mostly. I am 100% behind your feelings about the way women and men are treated in Hollywood.

    That said, you’re pretty damn patronizing about what makes a good movie, and who is (and is not) able to “understand” that. Although I loved the Hurt Locker, and for the feminist reasons you mentioned, wanted Bigelow to win. I also thought Avatar was mindblowingly fantastic, though, and I can almost feel your head-pat because of it.

  20. alana
    January 22, 2010 at 6:17 pm


    Lee Daniels didn’t adapt Push. Geoffrey Fletcher did. I know what you mean, but it’s an important distinction. If you’re going to give credit for it being a tough book to adapt, along with (rightfully) having some issues with Lee Daniels, you should acknowledge that a screenwriter is actually the one who laid it all out for everyone to then work on. Just as Mark Boal should get credit for his job, because there is no Hurt Locker without Mark’s courageousness.

    Also, interesting that Cameron wrote Bigelow’s best works prior to Locker.

  21. January 22, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Everything you’re writing is true. Wish it wasn’t. Women should support good films made by women. Bottom line. Hurt Locker was the best film of the year. Hands down.

  22. snobographer
    January 22, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Was it last year’s Oscars or the year before when the previous winners got on stage as a group and presented for their respective categories? They did the Best Director category and I think it was Clint Eastwood made this heart-warming speech about how Ron Howard got a leg up from George Lucas, who collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola, who helped Martin Scorcese get rolling, … etc. Eastwood was just up there glowingly dropping all these exclusively white male names talking about artists helping artists like this was supposed to warm every cockle in the room. I wish I could find it on YouTube.

  23. snobographer
    January 22, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    If Avatar wins it will be for the same reason Titanic won. It’s a POS stupid trite movie, but it’s big and loud and pushy and sucks all the air out of the room.

  24. January 23, 2010 at 9:41 am

    I just watched Humpday at your recommendation, Sady, and you’re right, it’s amazing! And I have spent all of four days in Seattle, so I wouldn’t worry that it’s too localized.

    I really love the part where Ben is talking to Anna about how he let the married part crush all the other sides of him, and she’s like “Um hello, I have an interior life too, it’s not like I stop existing outside this marriage.” And he straight up says he didn’t believe her! So, so good.

  25. January 23, 2010 at 11:16 am

    I never thought Bigelow would lose because she’s a woman. Her exceptional film is against one of the most exceptional films in history. I just don’t think along gender lines, although I am not so naive to think that politics within the industry – or the box office – has nothing to do with awards.

  26. January 23, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Incidentally, a lot of my guy friends, coworkers, and acquaintances were all weirdly proud of the fact that even though Titanic was big….they never saw it. I would say things like, “Oh, well, I thought it was worth seeing on a technical level, because if the story wasn’t so great, watching the ship sink and integrating the historical moments was really well done. It’s a fabulous technical achievement.” And they would laugh me off.

    And now Avatar is here, and I was reluctant to watch it because of the racial/colonization issues, and all the guy friends are like, “So, the story is kinda meh, but you should watch it, because it’s a great technical achievement. ”

    You can read that little anecdote at least two ways. One is that technical achievement may not be a reason to see a movie. (Unless you are an artist in an art-driven industry like film or games, which I am. But that shouldn’t over-ride other concerns perhaps.) The other is that the stench of girl cooties over-rides everything. Because I might give Avatar a chance, but I still can’t convince many of the guys to give Titanic the same chance. Because all they can see is sappy love story, and that’s not a guy thing, doncha know.

    (S’one of the reasons I lurve my boy so much. He’s not afraid of girl cooties. He let me read L. M. Montgomery’s Blue Castle aloud to him. Granted, it was while he was painting Warhammer figurines, but he engaged with the story.)

  27. Salome
    January 23, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    I’m a composer, and I think this solidifies me on my decision that I will not marry someone involved in the music business. I don’t want to be in Bigelow’s position.

    This is not something I should have to do.

  28. Courtney Barret
    January 24, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    so, I went to Tiger Beatdown today. There were no posts I hadn’t read yet, so I started looking around at other lady blogs. I was lamenting to myself that I really like Sady’s writing, and why can’t all these other writers write like her?, being a total brat, basically because I hadn’t been able to get my Sady fix. Anyway, I started reading this article and decided that I liked this author quite bit, and she writes very much like Sady. And then, I realized it was you. So, to sum up: I was sad, and then I was excited because I found a new fem-author to read, and then I was really excited becuase I had found another SADY piece.

  29. January 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Pixelfish…I saw Titanic because I felt like if I appreciate film on a technical level, I had to. And there were a couple moments that were gut wrenching (they just did not involve the characters in the film). To laugh off the technical aspects of Titanic is totally absurd. You should have smacked them in the head (with something soft and non-destructive, of course). :)

  30. Jason Chen
    January 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Good read!

    “Avatar has to be a dumb movie. Because, if it were smarter, fewer people would see it, and some of them might not get it.”

    Don’t agree with that logic. Just because a lot of people were about to “get it” does not make it a dumb movie. Some people view intellect as being able to express deep/complex ideas in a way that everybody can understand. A lot of people understood Hurt Locker’s wires and bombs just like how they understood cool looking dinosaurs.

    “Here’s the thing, though: Kathryn Bigelow got me to feel a much greater amount of tension and involvement with scenes of a guy moving some wires around in a box. And I saw it in two dimensions.”

    Just because Hurt Locker was more intense to you, does not make it a better movie. That movie whole movie was based on intense emotion while Avatar was based on fantasy, action, and great visuals. Some people appreciate one more than the other.

    I enjoyed Avatar, but I do agree it was overrated due to the hype, press coverage, and big name director. But I also felt Hurt Locker, though a good flim, was also overhyped being that it was about men in war…with just about to no social commentary on the war itself. This film took a neutral position on the issue so more people could enjoy/relate to the film…sounds kind of “dumb” to me.

  31. Jason Chen
    January 25, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Still enjoyed the post though, I will be tuning in to your other ones. :)

  32. Cristy
    January 26, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    I totally agree with you. Avatar was very pretty to look at, but the story has been told some many times before. YEAH YEAH, CUTTING EDGE TECHNOLOGY………..BLAH BLAH BLAH. I too saw The Hurt Locker and loved it! I was pretty upset that AVATAR won both Best Director AND Best Picture! and it pisses me off that it will most likely win the Oscar for both those categories!! Not only does does Kathryn get robbed, but so does Terentino! BOO!!

  33. January 26, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    I am a big Cameron fan, but Avatar was very weak except for the effects. It does manage to create an interesting world, but the direction and screenplay were nothing special. But it made lots of money, and they’ll spend lots of money promoting it, so it’s the best picture.

  34. February 5, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I love Avatar! I found the goddess-worshipping culture very refreshing and I don’t think it was a hollow film with only style and flashy effects to show for itself. It made my top ten for the year, with and without women’s issues in mind.

    Kathryn Bigelow won the Director’s Guild award and will probably win the Oscar. My concern about that is not that she isn’t a good filmmaker, because she is IMO, but because she’s not advancing the feminist cause with her film. It’s easy to dismiss The Hurt Locker as a guy’s movie…and oh look, it’s made by a woman. Wow! But a win for someone like Jane Campion, who makes films about women, could not be dismissed as conformity to the Hollywood agenda. I caution against championing that first for women directors at the Oscars without evaluating what the win will mean. In Bigelow’s case, it might mean that more female directors will be asked or expected to produce works about men and for men. It is possible that her win will be more of a setback than an advancement for women in this industry. “Make movies with teeth,” was Bigelow’s advice to aspiring director Sarah Polley.

    And Bigelow isn’t the only female director working out of the RomCom genre: I mentioned Campion, but also consider the work of Antonia Bird (Priest, Ravenous), Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) and Karen Moncrieff (Blue Car, The Dead Girl), to name a few. Julie & Julia by Nora Ephron is an example of feminism working in a traditional women’s genre. Any of these directors winning would advance our right to make important movies for and about men AND women.

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