Last night, Kathryn Bigelow received honors from the Director's Guild of America, which singled out her "The Hurt Locker" for the best direction in a 2009 feature film. While many eyes were on the Grammys, Bigelow was quietly making history.
The shock of it was that the director was in fact the first woman in DGA history to pick up the best feature direction award. For an organization that's been in existence for 62 years, this is an impressive feat. And not an undeserved honor, given the praise that has been showered on "The Hurt Locker" since its limited U.S. release last summer. Perhaps even more importantly, Bigelow is now positioned to take home the Academy Award for Best Director in March.
In the past decade, eight out of 10 DGA winners later went on to win the Oscar for Best Director that year. Roman Polanski beat out DGA winner Rob Marshall in 2002 for "The Pianist" and Steven Soderbergh beat out DGA winner Ang Lee in 2000 for "Traffic." Will the odds continue to favor the DGA winner this year, or will the massive success of James Cameron's "Avatar" screw things up for Bigelow?
If I were a betting man -- and I am -- I'd put my money on Bigelow taking the Oscar. Many see "Avatar" as a shoe-in for Best Picture, and it may well be, but there are other factors to consider for the Best Director category. I hate to say it, but Bigelow's gender is likely a consideration for Academy voters. In the 82 year history of the Oscars, only three women have been nominated for a Best Director award -- Lina Wertmüller for "Seven Beauties" (1976), Jane Campion for "The Piano" (1993) and Sofia Coppola for "Lost in Translation" (2003) -- and not a one has been awarded the statue.
Bigelow is about as voter-friendly as you can get. Her film is equal parts impressive craft and blown-out spectacle. She's been around for a long time, putting out solid but decidedly Oscar-unfriendly efforts like "Point Break" and "Strange Days." And she's a woman, which is unfortunately an unusual sight in the Best Director category. As much as Cameron deserves a pat on the back for outdoing his "Titanic" box office with "Avatar," the Academy Awards should be about honoring craft, and few candidates are more deserving this year than Bigelow.
What do you think? Is Kathryn Bigelow a lock for the Best Director Oscar? Does she have a shot at Best Picture as well?