In the last week the screws have really been tightening in this bizarre world of Oscar campaigning, and Kathryn Bigelow and her film Zero Dark Thirty are the recipients of what is referred to a “whispering campaign.” To me there is nothing quiet about it. It is loud and clear and smells like shit.
First, the movie and the torture scenes were condemned by several US Senators including Dianne Feinstein and John McCain who took the unprecedented step of writing a letter to the distributor Sony saying that the film was “grossly inaccurate and misleading.” They of course have access to information I don’t have, but at the same time I also read that Michael Vickers a senior level official at the CIA was being investigated for giving them access to high level info. You can’t have it both ways. Lots of folks in DC and the media have gotten into the conversation about whether the movie shows that the torture led to actionable evidence towards the capture of Bin Laden. People are divided. But the good news is that people are talking about this topic which many folks in this country would like to deny ever happened.
Even though Zero Dark Thirty is based on real reporting let’s not forget that it is a drama. If it wasn’t a drama it would be called a documentary. Argo is also based on real events but took dramatic license and added scenes like the airport chase at the end. Mary Todd Lincoln is said never to have gone to Congress but there was Sally Field sitting in the gallery when the Congress was debating on the Emancipation Proclamation in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.
But that’s not even the stuff that’s bothering me. It’s this Hollywood Reporter piece entitled The Unorthodox Relationship Between Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal. The article written by Kim Masters (who is usually pretty good) says that Mark Boal was basically the co-director and that Kathryn Bigelow defered to him. It also talks about how she was model, and tells a story of date she rebuffed, and the fact perplexing fact that no one can figure out the relationship between Bigelow and Boal. Are they dating? Did they date? Like who the fuck cares? No one talks about male directors this way. No one talks about them being models and the fact that they are pretty. Because being a male director is not about how you look. It’s about your work, and that’s what it should be for Kathryn Bigelow.
I guess we should expect push back. When you threaten the status quo people get freaked out. But Kim Masters has a quote in her piece that made me want to hurl.
What struck some observers, however, was the degree to which the 61-year-old Bigelow, the only woman to win an Academy Award for best director, listened to her far younger and less experienced partner.
So he controlled her and she let him disrespect her. Whoa sister. At least Amy Pascal stood up for her the only woman in the story to do so. She said: that Boal and Bigelow have “‘a unique partnership, very unusual’ and calls Zero Dark Thirty ‘a staggering achievement.'”
The thing about this whole story and why it’s so important to watch is because one day there will be a critical mass of women directors and that no one will care who she was married to and who she may have dated and whether the screenwriter weighed too much power on a set. But now, it’s just her, and, oh yeah, she’s pretty and everyone has noticed including such irrelevant folks as Brett Easton Ellis. It goes back to how we treat our female political leaders. How many times did people comment on Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ hair and ignored the awesome stuff coming out of her mouth? How many people dismissed Gloria Steinem back in the day because she was pretty. They all rue that fucking day.
The issue is that Kathryn Bigelow is a girl in a world full of boys. She’s a round peg in a square hole. After a diverse and to be honest at times lackluster career, she hit one out of the park and now has another home run. That’s not supposed to happen. As Anne Thompson said on Oscar Talk today, “a woman director of power is threatening to the male power structure.”
And this woman is threatening to burn their fucking house down. And that’s why I love this story.
The Unorthodox Relationship Between Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal (Hollywood Reporter)