When James Cameron and Kathryn Bigelow were married to one another, from 1989-1991, they would slay a boar and eat it for dinner every Thursday night, and then have very loud sex on a carpet shaped like a shooting-range target (Bigelow was always on top). Then they got divorced, but were reunited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who saw fit to nominate both for Best Director this year (Cameron for a virtual-reality movie not dissimilar, as both have acknowledged, to his ex-wife’s astounding millennial Rodney King -Tupac-Blade Runner-virtual reality mash-up Strange Days).
So naturally, this weekend, right before the Oscars, IFC Center kicks off an eight-week series of midnight movies, alternating Bigelow and Cameron movies, beginning tonight with Bigelow’s adrenal calling-card, Point Break.
While badass women proliferate in Cameron’s work—Sig Weaver in Aliens, fellow Cameron ex-wife Linda Hamilton in the Terminator movies—the only two women to have ever held Bigelow’s attention for a considerable amount of time are Jamie Lee Curtis (as a rogue cop in Blue Steel), and, in Strange Days, Angela Basset (pictured), who in her sleeveless tops looks like she could probably win an arm wrestling match against an orangutan. Cameron shoots rapturous sex scenes with heavy music and lots of dissolves (and this series won’t even screen Titanic, let alone “the ultimate intimacy“); Bigelow shoots brutal rape scenes (including one that demands we stare death in the face, a la Peeping Tom). Both take risks with a seriously passionate, operatic tone which permits a chortling sense of superiority; while both stage epic violence, it feels like fantasy with Cameron, while with Bigelow it feels more like a kinky exploration of the dynamics of power.
The two seem to get on quite well these days, though of course we all enjoy believing otherwise.