The big winner at the Oscars last night was a surprisingly hot 58-year-old director named Kathryn Bigelow. Bigelow won for directing a film named The Hurt Locker which is about the never ending war in Iraq.
Not many people have seen The Hurt Locker but it won six Oscars including best picture anyway. It is already out on DVD and it is controversial. For one thing, the film was made without the approval of the Department of Defense.
Time Magazine called it a “near perfect war film.” But Paul Rieckhoff, who founded a group called Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said on his Facebook page, “I don’t know why critics love this silly, inaccurate film so much.”
Rieckhoff also said in an interview that he objects to the film’s main character, a Sergeant E-7 named William James, who is so rowdy and reckless that the rest of his squad fears he will get them killed. “Films,” Rieckhoff explained, “almost more than anything, will be the way Americans understand our war. So we feel that there is a responsibility for filmmakers to portray our war accurately. We see ourselves as watchdogs. . . . When he (Sergeant James) puts a hood on like Eminem and starts roving outside the wire, it’s ridiculous.”
Meanwhile an Iraq War veteran named Jeffrey S. Sarver is suing the producers of the film because he thinks it stole his life for a story. Sarver’s lawyer has issued a statement that “virtually all of the situations portrayed in the film, were, in fact, occurrences involving Master Sergeant Sarver that were observed and documented.” Sarver also says that he coined the phrase, “the hurt locker.”
Whether she got it right or not, it is obvious that Bigelow has an itch for men of action. A film she made about surfers named Point Break got a lot wrong, too. But it still might be the best film drama made about the rough side of surfing. And at least it had some shots of a real bar on Pacific Coast Highway named Neptune’s Net where real bikers and real surfers stop to eat. If Point Break is a failure it is an interesting failure.
And, the same thing might be said about Bigelow’s very first film, The Loveless, which has been called a lot of things. One critic even called it “the thinking man’s biker movie.”
Bigelow produced and directed her biker film while she was a graduate student at Columbia University and the star is Willem Dafoe in his very first credited role. Dafoe leads a merry band of motorcycle outlaws who break down in a little redneck town on the way to Daytona. The film was shot on location on U.S. Highway 17 shortly after much of that road was abandoned to make way for I-95. It features slow motion menacing and a classic example of jail bait named Sportster Debbie. If you have ever seen a biker movie you will not be shocked to learn that Debbie has a psychotically evil father.
Bigelow and Dafoe would probably just as soon forget they ever made this thing. Bigelow once explained that she was younger then and what she was trying to do was make an homage to the Robert Corman biker films of the 60s.
When the film opened in New York in 1984, Janet Maslin, writing in the Times, called it, “a slavish homage to The Wild One…full of peach and aqua luncheonette scenes, which give it some minuscule visual edge over the original. But otherwise, it’s no improvement. Its evocation of tough-guy glamour is ridiculously stilted. (‘This endless blacktop is my sweet eternity,’ says the not-very-Brandoesque hero.) And it regards the past with absolutely no perspective or wit.”
That un-Brandoesque hero would have been Dafoe. And, Maslin was writing 25 years before the invention of Sons of Anarchy –which many viewers seem to think is at least cinema verite if not actual art. So, if you like that show it is hard to imagine what possible objection you might have to watching The Loveless, which was released last year on DVD.
“I’m a regular Joe,” Dafoe explains near the beginning of the film. “I’ve got an itch between my legs, and an afternoon for a heart.” When was the last time somebody said that to Katie Sagal?