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Kathryn Bigalow and the rules of action movies

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    Ugetsu

    I’ve just been reading this interesting article by Jessica Winter in Slate about Kathryn Bigalows movies and how they ‘break the rules’ of action films.

    The reason I’m posting here is that as I was reading the article, it occurred to me that Kurosawa pretty much broke all those rules! Yojimbo and Sanjuro in particular seem to be Bigalow movies according to the criteria set by this writer (also his contemporary thrillers). I’ve always thought of Kurosawa as having pretty much written the script and established most of the key cliches of the modern action movie so its curious that the action film seem to have followed a loop whereby what was exciting and new back in the 1950’s is… exciting and new again.

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    Jeremy

    Linking Bigalow with Kurosawa will forever give me nightmares.

    Bigalow hasn’t broken the rules, but merely followed the long established rules of action films that others have ignored. It certainly could be said that Kurosawa helped pioneer these rules, if he didn’t do so solely in regards to action movies.

    There is simply the usual cycling of how action films are done, for many years, it was simply dumb them down, and offer lots of explosions, lately, and there has been an attempt to add some intelligence behind the action.

    Bigalow is currently the critics little pet and they are crediting her with a genius she has merely copied(I would say poorly).

    Following actions films of the 1970’s they are doing exactly was Bigalow is getting credit for, then in the 1980’s they started to stupider, the 1990’s a small reemergence of intelligence occurs, the 2000’s there is a dip down due to what I think is realization by movie studios, that high profits for movies are the result of marketing, not critic review, or value of the movie-to say the audiences are easily tricked.

    Now, the audience are much wiser, cleaver marketing and big name actors are not enough anymore, the audience wants a decent story line, so around 2008 you see this change begin, and surely as 2010 continues on, you’ll this “breaking of the rules”, which but of course the actual following of rules, and as with nearly all movie rules, long established in the 1940’s-1950’s.

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    Ugetsu

    I agree with you entirely Jeremy, its sad that the action movie with all the advances in technology and CGI hasn’t really advanced at all in the last few decades – in fact in many ways they’ve gone backward. In the last 10 years I think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the only action movie that really thrilled me and made me want to watch it over and over. As you say, the newer, better action films are really just going back to the narrative basics already established decades ago.

    I haven’t seen enough of her films to really comment in detail, but I do suspect that like her ex husbands films, there is more flash than substance to them.

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    Jeremy

    I’m not sure, you want the great leaps and bounds occurring in films, simply doing so, because we can. This to me is the very problem with modern films, they try to remove themselves from the past, and interject a vast amount of technology or newness that ultimately does nothing to the core of movie ideals. Nearly no one has master the fundamentals, but yet they all try to blaze new trails to nowhere as quickly as they can. Thus you get abominations like Avatar ­čś»

    To defend Bigalow a bit, she does make movies generally better then most out there, but the more you look into them, the more you notice she forces the subject matter into the same Hollywood mold as everyone else.

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    Vili Maunula

    I think that Jeremy’s assessment of the situation is quite spot on. It’s not so much that Bigelow’s films are breaking the rules, they just don’t follow the conventions set by your typical 80s action films. Then again, few action films do that these days. The Bourne films have I think been especially effective in bringing back the type of action films that were popular before the 80s. Less muscle, more brain.

    Then again, Hollywood has for quite a number of years now been on a nostalgia trip even outside of the action genre, falling back on old conventions and filming styles (but often with a modern take). This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Up in the Air and Shutter Island come to mind as good examples of such recent films.

    Anyway, I wonder how long it takes for the action wheel to turn again, and muscle men take over our action screens again. I have high hopes for The Expendables. I mean, just look at the cast list! Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger… What could go wrong? ­čśŤ

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    Ugetsu

    It’s not so much that Bigelow’s films are breaking the rules, they just don’t follow the conventions set by your typical 80s action films.

    Yes, I think you are right about that – I wonder why the article wasn’t written by Slates Dana Stephens (one of a tiny handful of current critics I like to read) – I’m sure she wouldn’t have been so ignorant of film history.

    What could go wrong?

    One look at who is credited as director will tell you what could go wrong!

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    Jeremy

    I wouldn’t worry about The Expendables being too action pack, I mean all these guys are so old, how exciting can they be in their Rascal scooter?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rascal_Scooters

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    Vili Maunula

    I actually have some level of respect for Stallone as a director. Not that I find his work exceptional, but he seems like quite a down to earth guy who knows his strengths and limits. And Staying Alive is always fun to watch!

    Rascal Shooters would make a good title, though.

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