Bigelow’s big night

Director Kathryn Bigelow not only proved she can compete with the big boys and win the Directors Guild of America award, but she did so in a genre that has long been considered a mens only club: the action war film.

Bigelow became the first woman to win the DGA award over the weekend, beating two of the most recognizable directors working —- Quentin Tarantino, and Bigelow’s ex-husband, James Cameron.

Her film, the tense Iraq war movie “The Hurt Locker,” is now considered a top contender for a best picture Oscar — and Bigelow the odds-on favorite to be the first woman to win the Academy Award for directing a major motion picture. The DGA and the Oscar have parted company on the winner only six times since 1948.

The Oscar nominations will be announced Tuesday — and if Bigelow’s name is not on the best director’s list, expect all of Hollywood to get their collective panties in a bunch.

That’s not going to happen. But it has in the past: Ron Howard won the DGA award in 1995 for “Apollo 13″ but failed to get an Oscar nomination. Ten years earlier, Steven Spielberg won the DGA award for “The Color Purple” but didn’t make the final cut when Oscar nominations were announced for best director.

“The Hurt Locker” is the critics’ darling this awards season, winning a slew of best picture and director honors from dozens of scribes from coast to coast and all points inbetween. But the film, about a bomb-defusing squad in Iraq, was also a bomb at the box office, taking in only $12 million. Whether it hurts its chances at the Oscars —- which awardscommerce as much as it does art — remains to be seen. Still, the movie should find more of an audience now that it’s been released on DVD and Blu-Ray.

Cameron’s “Avatar” is smashing box office records, but its momentum since winning the Golden Globe has certainly been slowed down, losing both the producer and director guild awards. Still, expect the blockbuster to garner the most Oscar nominations tomorrow with 10 or more. “The Hurt Locker” will probably land 7 nominations. This year the Oscars will field 10 movies in the best picture category instead of the traditional five. As it appears now, the top two contenders for the top prize will be fought by ex-spouses Bigelow and Cameron.

Bigelow’s filmography doesn’t boast blockbusters as much as it does cult favorites in the action genre. Does anybody remember “Point Break” or “Strange Days”? But her work is respected by her fellow filmmakers —- hence the DGA award — where, as the title confirms, only directors in the industry vote.

She may have played down her gender, but Bigelow’s win is a major accomplishment for women behind the camera. It was also good to see Bigelow become the first woman to win a DGA Award and not Barbra Streisand —who, whenever she directed a movie, thought that the DGA and Oscar were owed to her.

Cameron probably doesn’t feel like less of a man because his ex beat him —- he’s got such an ego he probably believes if she was never married to him she never would’ve been able to land a job directing movies.

Of the other four nominees, Tarantino was probably the most stunned that he didn’t win. The movie maniac motor mouth has been on a non-stop vigil to win a DGA Award and Oscar for directing ever since “Pulp Fiction.” His “Inglorious Basterds” was certainly an unconventional war film — primo Tarantino-esque, but Bigelow’s movie was more authentic and contemporary and, consequently, taken more seriously.

It looks like Bigelow’s year to be the first woman to win a best director Oscar. The category will no longer be gender-specific. Hopefully it won’t get to the point where the Academy Awards will separate the sexes like they do in acting categories and change the category to best male director and best female director. (One of the most annoying awards shows —- and there are many —- is the Screen Acotrs Guild, where the acting categories are labeled best male actor and best female actor. Apparently the word actress isn’t ballsy enough anymore.)

Bigelow seems to be unassuming (as opposed to her ex-husband’s enormous narcissism) and a master (not mistress) of her craft. She’s a first-rate filmmaker in the action-movie category.

One can only hope that her next directing gig won’t be helming a PG-13 rated hokey romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.

Considering the choice of films she’s made so far, one might suspect Bigelow avoids chick flicks.

Another reason to welcome her as one of the guys in the good ole boys’ club.

‘Hurt’ so good

1. Should Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker” win the Oscar for best picture, it will be the first movie to do so with the theme of the Iraq war, and while the conflict is still being fought.

2. The movie will join the ranks of Academy Award winners with war themes like “Casablanca,” “The Best Years of Our Lives,” “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” “Patton,” and “Schindler’s List.”

3. During World War II, two movies about the war won best picture Oscars — “Mrs. Miniver” and the aforementioned “Casablanca.”

4. Two movies dealing with the Vietnam War won best picture Oscars: “The Deer Hunter” and “Platoon.” Both won Oscars years after the conflict ended. No movies made about Vietnam were even nominated during the height of the conflict.

War, what is it good for? hah! absolutely for moviemaking. hah! say it again…….

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