Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Top 5 Directors of English-Language films

Tim's Top 5:
Given the slowing of the posts on this blog, I'm going to resuscitate it with an overly accessible and simple topic. Enjoy. Moreover, I'll arbitrarily narrow this category in a manner that affects my top 5 list in no way, shape, or form, even with the recent passing of my man Ingmar. Incidentally, I think my next pet will need to be named Ingmar.

1) Alfred Hitchcock - Sorry, his worst movies (Frenzy and Family Plot come to mind) are still worth watching, even though the people in Frenzy are as ugly as they come on screen without the involvement of Tod Browning (Freaks). North by Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, I Confess, Rope, Strangers on a Train, Notorious, Psycho, Vertigo...hell, even Rebecca. No question here. I can't put anyone else on par with him. They're all eminently watchable, enjoyable, and he told better stories than anyone else has ever mustered.

2) Billy Wilder - Better than anyone on the list for covering all genres of film with his mastery. Nobody else was going to put together One, Two, Three and Double Indemnity, let alone be able to toss in Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, and yeah, Some Like It Hot. And, with all apologies to My Cousin Vinny, which is the most realistic litigation-based movie ever made (no, I'm not kidding), Witness for the Prosecution is probably still the best courtroom movie ever made.

3) Stanley Kubrick - Demoted to #3 because his missteps are so blatant -- the absurdly slow ending of Eyes Wide Shut, that ended about 40 minutes too late and ruined the quality of the film in the process; the second half of Full Metal Jacket, which is only passable; The Shining -- a film everyone else loves, but which effectively abandons the source material that has Jack as something other than a monster at the beginning of the film. But every film he's made is defensible, even Lolita, and he took chances where Hitchcock didn't feel a need to. There simply is no other director who could have made A Clockwork Orange, 2001, or Dr. Strangelove...and that alone makes for a fine career.

4) Woody Allen - This is a difficult choice, because if I had to take all the movies a director had directed and put them on my resume, it's much easier to include Scorsese, as he has never directed Celebrity, Anything Else, Interiors, September, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy, or Alice, for instance. That said, 1970s Woody Allen excluding Interiors may be one of the finest decades of any director's work -- Love and Death, Manhattan, Sleeper, Annie Hall... yeah, I'd be hard-pressed to turn that down so that I can say I directed Nic Cage in Bringing Out the Dead (albeit an underrated film). Also, Woody Allen won an Oscar for making a good movie, not a really mediocre one.

5) Errol Morris - It's hard not to push him up to #2, but his first two films, including the over-hyped Gates of Heaven just aren't up to par with his later work. And, quite frankly, he doesn't have that much of an ouevre, so it's hard to say that he's accomplished more than Woody Allen, because when Woody Allen had only made eight movies, his resume was better than it is now. He's simply the most impressive documentarian on this earth, and aside from Vernon, Florida, all his movies are intriguing on some level. My favorite is Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, though The Fog of War is worth the Oscar he took home for it. Bonus points for his series First Person, which was uneven, but was occasionally the most fascinating thing that's ever been on television. Negative points for directing too many Miller High Life commercials (e.g., more than zero).

Honorable mention: Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas alone is a magnificent career, throw in Raging Bull and I'm an ass for dumping him off the list -- but what has he done lately??? Not much that's more than ordinary.); Charles Laughton (he is batting 1.000 and now he's dead, well done for directing Night of the Hunter); Orson Welles (almost certainly would fall down this list if I ever managed to get Blockbuster online to send me his actual movies that aren't The Magnificent Ambersons, Citizen Kane, and Touch of Evil, but they wouldn't cooperate...so he stays).

Dan's Top 5:

1. Stanley Kubrick - I've not seen anything bad by this director, unless you count the second half of Full Metal Jacket.

2. Alfred Hitchcock - I've only seen North by Northwest, but that, coupled with tons of Tim-praise, is enough for me to feel confident with him at #2.

3. Wes Anderson - There hasn't been a bad Wes Anderson movie. I am guessing there never will be.

4. Terry Gilliam - Time Bandits, Brazil, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are many who hate them and many who think they're brilliant. I fall into the latter category.

5. Martin Scorcese - I actually liked The Departed, goddamn it. Of course, Raging Bull and Goodfellas were excellent, and I keep kicking myself for never having watched Taxi Driver.

Honorable Mention: Quentin Tarantino. Essentially, he does popular "cover versions" of older movies, only they're originals. To me, he's the "Go! Team" of movie directors.

Ryan's Top Five

I'll use the "I'm going with different people to change things up a bit" ruse to hide the fact that I'm, as Jack Black would say, a cinematic idiot who hasn't seen nearly enough to make this a viable list. Anyway...

1. Wes Anderson - His four movies are four of my favorite movies, and (I think, anyway) exceptionally crafted. He's hilarious and a great cinematographer, and the best soundtrack director ever.

2. Alexander Payne - The fact that I lived in Omaha and still visit often probably pushes him higher than he'd be on most lists. Anyway, I love Election and About Schmidt, and of course Sideways. He really, really gets Midwest life.

3. Edgar Wright - Because Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz rule.

4. Nick Park - OK, technically Curse of the Wererabbit was the only film he's directed, but you could include The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, and A Grand Day Out. Anyway, when I have kids, they will know and love Wallace and Gromit (and Arthur).

5. Christopher Guest - Though I haven't seen For Your Consideration... Everything else has been good: Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman.

Tory's Top Five

1. Stanley Kubrick - Besides Lolita, I enjoyed everything that he made (including Eyes Wide Shut, even if it's ending didn't justify it's incredible journey to it; also including the second half of Full Metal Jacket, which I found to be a good portion of a movie.)

2. Darren Aronofsky - Other than Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Darren is definitely my favorite director, and Jeunet is bumped for speaking "French." He has only made three films, but he started out with a cult bang in Pi, arguably the best movie ever made about math/science (10000000000000000x better than What the Bleep do we know, which had a production value that was on par of a educational film made for health class.) He then went on to direct Requiem for a Dream, which is one of the darkest and dreariest movies ever. His most recent is The Fountain, which I loved even if it got a lot of bad reviews.

3. Wes Anderson - The most formulaic director I can think of, but he makes it work. His style lends itself to making each movie have the same feel more so than any other director I can think of, and it's a feeling I will never get tired of and that I am looking forward to in the Darjeeling Limited.

4. PTA - No, guys, not the Parent-Teacher Association, Paul Thomas Anderson. He is bumped down to number four because his movies aren't as rewatchable as most movies I enjoy are. As good as boogie nights is, I can't think of the next time I will take 2 1/2 hours out of my life. However, the fact that he followed Magnolia up with Punch-Drunk Love and didn't get crucified by all of his fans speaks volumes for his potential. There Will Be Blood should be in the top 5 movies of the year.

5. David Lynch - This is obviously simply in terms of him as a director, and definitely not as a writer. I hate the story behind Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive, but the look (Mulholland Drive at least; Lost Highway looks like it has the quality of a home movie) he gives his movies is immeasurably dark. Eraserhead, despite it's awkward storyline, look incredible and for some reason I am drawn to his awkward surrealist-like direction. Even when he doesn't do his own films, he can succeed (at least with The Elephant Man; I haven't seen Dune or the Straight Story.) He also triumphed with Blue Velvet. I haven't seen Inland Empire yet, nor have I ever seen Twin Peaks.

Honorable Mentions: Quentin Tarantino - I will never forgive him for Death Proof, the most boring movie ever made.


Vulpes Ryanis said...

I guess the second half of Full Metal Jacket wasn't on par with the first half, but I wouldn't call it bad...still a lot better than say, The Thin Red Line (which was a shittier WW2 version of the second half of Full Metal Jacket devoid of humor, humanity, etc.).

IOnlyJoinedGoogleForThisBlog said...

Also, the guy who directed The Thin Red Line directed The New World.

Vulpes Ryanis said...

Jesus Christ, did that movie ever blow.