Sunday, April 18, 2010

Entertainment Weekly's Top 50 Working Directors, part 2

Yeah, I'm really bad at posting to this thing. But since the last post was a commentary on the first half of EW's list of top directors, which at the time stopped at #26, I thought I would at least finish what I started. Plus, I need some distance away from the current completed (at least the first draft) short story, so what better way to technically write and waste time? So, here is the top 25, according to Entertainment Weekly.

#25 Lee Daniels

Really? Sure, Precious was well done, but it wasn't so great that it would push Daniels onto this list, let alone positioning him so high. Terrible choice.

#24 Michael Mann

Now this is more like it. Hidden at the center of every one of his films is the question of what it is to be a man. Most of his characters are men of action who struggle with that central question, and Mann communicates that with some of the most complex (and contradictory, considering how explosive his films are) subtleties on film. You can see these characters thinking. Plus, Mann is a master of mixing images and music.

#23 Ang Lee

Is it possible to be an underrated Oscar winner? If so, then that's what Lee is. Even though he won a well deserved statue for Brokeback Mountain (a tragic Oscar loser, considering how beautiful, haunting and simply fantastic it was), I don't think he receives enough praise. The Ice Storm is one of the best movies out of the 1990s and his version of a comic book movie, Hulk, was a marvelous art house experiment targeted at the wrong audience.

#22 Wes Anderson

A true auteur in an age of Brett Ratner and McG, Anderson should not exist as a filmmaker, but thank Christ he does. His movies are like the best idea of a New Yorker story come to life - but more entertaining. His slyly humorous movies rewards the intelligent moviegoer rather than bashing him or her over the head with a lot of bullshit. Even his mildly disappointing The Darjeeling Limited was still pretty good.

#21 Brad Bird

I have no argument against Bird being this far up on the list. All three of his films are terrific. His ranking is probably the biggest "Oh, yeah" here.

#20 Ridley Scott

Scott's work can be hit or miss, but at least it is always worth seeing. When he's good, he is very very good, but when he misses the mark, he can be so disappointingly ordinary. Alien and Blade Runner = amazing; G.I. Jane and White Squall= meh. Too bad his brother Tony doesn't get the same accolades.

#19 Danny Boyle

He's here because of Slumdog Millionaire. Don't get me wrong, Trainspotting and Shallow Grave are evidence enough of Boyle's talents to justify his ranking, but writers of such lists have such short memory spans that you wonder about their sincerity. Look at Lee Daniels above.

#18 Spike Jonze

Jonze's movies require a certain amount of juvenile attitude and intelligence from its audiences in order to work. If you are too uptight, don't bother; if your level of sophistication stops at fart jokes and Ernest films, same thing, don't bother. Where the Wilds Things Are is probably the most genuine and truthful film about being an eleven-year-old boy ever seen. That movie could have been a disaster with someone who doesn't have Jonze's sensibilities.

#17 Jason Reitman

Three pretty good movies is not three great movies. Reitman is entertaining, and touches on human emotions seldom seen in movies today, but he can slide toward the cliched too often. He's Alexander Payne lite. Payne, now there's someone who belongs here.

#16 Steven Soderbergh

Here is someone who understands film. Not so pretentious as to take himself too seriously, but also able to make some gut wrenching pictures. Soderbergh is a man born three decades too late (you want 1970s filmmaking today, here you go), but there is a modern sensibility to everything he does. Capable of high concept movies (Oceans 11, and so on and so on...), but also some interesting experimental films (Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience), Soderbergh is probably the most versatile filmmaker here.

#15 Guillermo del Toro

Ah, some geek love. Sure, Pan's Labyrinth was a critic's darling, as it should have been, but del Toro has done some absolutely great work with genre films as to force some people to realize that these movies can offer fantastic work. Concerned that the upcoming film of The Hobbit won't be any good without Peter Jackson? Don't worry, if there was one person who possess the same capacity for filming epic fantasy, it is del Toro.

#14 Paul Thomas Anderson

Yes! Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia,Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood. Yes!

#13 David Fincher

After Alien 3, most people would think you were mental if you said Fincher would become one of the best directors of the last 15 years. But once people saw Seven, they forgot all about his past transgression. Fincher's career is just solid, plus he made one of the greatest films ever: Fight Club.

#12 Tim Burton

Overrated alert! Yes, Burton makes interesting films, but memorable? Not really. Everything he does is just a derivative of Beetlejuice. Tim Burton is to great filmmaking as the mall store Hot Topic is to edgy.

#11 Clint Eastwood

He doesn't even crack the top ten? Who's the fucking moron who wrote this? The man just delivers time and time again. Sure he has had some lesser films, but consider the last twenty years: 17 films, at least ten of them could be considered masterpieces; not just good or great, fucking masterpieces. This man has a legitimate claim to be at the top of this list and unlike some of his fellow contenders, he just gets better and better.

#10 Hayao Miyazaki

If you have never seen a Miyazaki movie, and chances are you haven't, then go out and see Spirited Away, which captures everything this animator does well. He is called the Japanese Walt Disney? Please, don't insult the man. His work is much more complicated than anything Disney would have conceived.

#9 Pedro Almodovar

To tell you the truth, I'm not so familiar with Almodovar's work as to have a legitimate opinion here. What I've seen has been terrific, but out of the director's over 20 films, I've only seen three. Bad, cinephile, bad! OK, a visit to Netflix after this.

#8 Joel and Ethan Coen

A Coen brother's movie is always something to celebrate, even their sort of Coen Brother-Lite A Serious Man. If you love film, but can't appreciate Joel and Ethan Coen, then there is something wrong with you. You never know what movie to expect from the brothers, but you can always count on it being mischievous and darkly humorous.

#7 Peter Jackson

Yes, he pulled off a miracle in bringing The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the screen, well, not just bringing it to the screen, but actually making the series awesome and obtaining some serious Oscar gold. But people tend to forget that his Heavenly Creatures was sublime and that his fun movies like Dead Alive and Meet the Feebles were such campy pleasures. And he didn't get enough respect for his remake of King King.

#6 Quentin Tarantino

You have to think that Tarantino is 1950's Cahier du Cinema writing staff's wet dream. An American filmmaker with a European sensibility, but also mix in a healthy appreciation of exploitation and pulp. Inglourious Basterds is arguably Tarantino's masterpiece.

#5 Steven Spielberg

Is Spielberg a great director? Yes. Is his career losing steam? Unfortunately. Watching the last Indiana Jones movie was like watching one of the last movies of the studio era. The storytelling was stiff, the action was never exciting and, worst of all, the directing was stale. It was a movie made by someone who was bored with the entire process. Is Spielberg past his prime? I hope not.

#4 Kathryn Bigelow

Another case of list writers' short term memory. The last one to win an Oscar must be in the top five, right? Whatever. Yes, Bigelow is great, but she has gone from depressingly underrated to instantly the fourth greatest director alive today? I'm not so sure about that. I'd put her in the top 20, and not just for The Hurt Locker. See Strange Days if you haven't already.

#3 James Cameron

He makes great movies. He makes a shitload of money, but is that enough for the number 3 spot? I'll grant you the top 15, maybe even top 10, but not 3.

#2 Martin Scorsese

Probably Eastwood's only competition for the legitimate title of greatest living director. A true master of the art.

#1 Christopher Nolan

Huh? OK, he has made some terrific movies, including the near perfect The Dark Knight, but number 1? I think Nolan is talented and may very well be on his way to the top of his profession, but he has a lot more to prove before some idiot writers crown him the best of the best.

Uh, excuse me, EW, but where the fuck is Gus Van Sant or Zhang Yimou? Who the fuck put this thing together anyway?

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