• Innovating the frame: Kathryn Bigelow in close-up

      Pheasant-Kelly, Frances (Routledge, 2021-09-02)
    • Kathryn Bigelow: new action realist

      Gaine, Vincent M. (Routledge, 2021-09-02)
      This article argues that Kathryn Bigelow is an auteur of new action realism, a distinct sub-genre within contemporary action cinema. As a new action realist, Bigelow and her collaborators create films that feature unresolved narratives and an aesthetic characterised by claustrophobic immediacy and obscuration. Through discussion of theory, genre, narrative and style in The Hurt Locker (2008) and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), I argue that, as a new action realist, Bigelow problematises notions of film realism. Bigelow’s work brings the viewer into intimate and sometimes uncomfortable proximity with the violent action depicted onscreen, this proximity being a key feature of new action realism. The presentation is explicit and sudden, the graphic presentation creating a discomforting nearness which is partially created through immediacy. Such imagery, particularly evident in The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, echoes footage captured by military personnel, news reporters and civilians on portable cameras and smart phones, recalling news reports of 9/11 and similar reports of crisis. With this aesthetic of intimacy and immediacy, Bigelow’s new action realism hints at as much as it explicitly presents. This incomplete visual display imbues her films with a sense of confusion and hopelessness and consequently presents a world of fear and paranoia that is simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, captured by and yet obscured by its medium.
    • Sway of the sea: Kathryn Bigelow's imperial eco-eschatology

      Halligan, Benjamin (Taylor & Francis, 2021-09-02)
      In a 2013 public letter to Bigelow, which concerned Zero Dark Thirty, Naomi Wolf wrote: ‘Like Riefenstahl, you are a great artist. But now you will be remembered forever as torture’s handmaiden’. This essay will expand on this condemnatory Riefenstahl/Bigelow association - but not through a straight likening of Riefenstahl’s exaltation of the Nazi Party in Triumph of the Will to Bigelow’s apologetics for torture in the ‘War on Terror’. Rather, the concern will be that of aesthetics in relation to landscapes and ecology, that is, the parallel is to Riefenstahl of her earlier ‘Mountain Films’ period. Bigelow, at times, reaches for a feminised, New Age mysticism through which her characters are momentarily lifted out of their mundane earthly concerns to commune with the wider universe. And it is this wider universe which seems the ultimate arbitrator of their actions, rather than any (Geneva-based) concerns around human rights. Thus different paths to psychic fulfilment seem to determine Point Break, or the idea of the restless spirit against the failings of the Repressive State Apparatus in Zero Dark Thirty, or soul against the system in Detroit. And thus, and most tellingly, in Last Days of Ivory, Bigelow advocates for military action against African tribal people in the name of conservation, on the grounds (soon revealed to be highly questionable) that the illegal ivory trade funds the terrorist group, Al-Shabaab. The crudity of Bigelow’s propaganda in Last Days of Ivory, which chimed with Hillary Clinton's position on the same (a greenwashed liberal interventionism) is lent the approval of elephants, and of the wider ecology, in Bigelow's film. In the same way that Riefenstahl once repurposed German Romanticism for a sequence of Hitler descending from the clouds as the saviour of Germany from its enemies, Bigelow reworks such Romanticism in the name of the ‘white woman’s burden’: the Western imperial feminist speaks out on the part of the oppressed, and summons the ecosphere as her witness.
    • ‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose’: thinking through post-structuralism and cognitivism

      Geal, Robert (Taylor & Francis, 2015-06-19)
      This essay explores the historical socio-cultural contexts that determine the contending epistemologies of post-structuralism and cognitivism. Debates between these paradigms have focused on a-priori philosophical premises. Synthesis between these premises has not materialised because each paradigm valorises a form of knowledge which its rival cannot match. This essay attempts to position these contested premises within a diachronic background in which theoretical claims can be tested, not merely against fixed deductive positions, but against specific socio-cultural contexts that manifest themselves in epistemology. Post-structuralism and cognitivism can then be thought of as aggregates of thought reflecting broad political, social, philosophical and cultural contexts.