This post has been long in the making with a dear friend and colleague of mine, who runs a blog of his own here. We have been talking about making a co-blog-post on our top ten favorite movie directors, and well!–here we are! I made a rough list of my top five a couple of years ago, but I think it is high time to update the list. So without further adieu, here is the list! After I give my paragraph on the director (and I will be writing it in order from least greatest to greatest greatest), Ian will provide a friendly comment alongside and you can follow his full take on his own top ten in his blog.
Enjoy, and please comment below!
Morgan’s: One of the most well-known, box office successful, and critically acclaimed filmmakers of all time, Spielberg has never failed to submit a blockbuster to the cinemas since the mid 80s! The man is not on the list for all his endeavors, though. E.T. (1982) is the best example of this. Ian and I agree that Steven spends all his attention on one particular project, and afterwards says, “Hey! I’m Steven Spielberg! I can make anything now!”, and he goes on to make something nonsensical. He does not do this all the time, but there is most certainly a pattern. Anyways, the man does have talent, and I am not trying to downgrade him further. My personal favorites of his would be Always (1989), Schindler’s List (1993), Hook (1991), Catch Me If You Can (2002), and perhaps Lincoln (2012), but I need to see that one again…
Ian’s take: I agree with Morgan here (see my #8 for my take on Spielberg). Sometimes he’s a little too aware of himself as Spielberg, but with classics like Schnidler’s List and Lincoln, who can argue with this choice?
Morgan’s: I had to think this one through a few times, but I have to conclude that Mendes is one of the best directors on our current Hollywood marketplace! I read that he is excellent with actors (having such a heavy background in theater), and for that, my admiration for him goes up. Road To Perdition (2002) is one of my favorite movies, and he directs it so incredibly well! His style–perhaps not totally unique, but certainly tasteful enough not to distract from the story at hand–is impressive. But I also found myself spellbound in the most recent James Bond movie, Skyfall (2012), which…I don’t know where to begin! When you watch that, you see he observed the classic Bond movies, and did his best to be loyal to Ian Fleming’s hero. I will be watching his career with great interest.
Ian’s take: Mendes holds an honorable mention for me. Haven’t seen Skyfall yet so I can’t comment, but Road to Perdition and American Beauty were successes. There’s a little lacking in the audience-relating-to-characters department, but overall he has that artistic tone that I do enjoy.
Morgan’s: This is very much like Spielberg. Scorsese has directed a lot of films I am just too confused and puzzled by. Raging Bull (1980) being at the top of that list. He also has this thing with working with some not-so-talented actors constantly, but to each his own, I guess. But I know him to be a filmmaker with huge respect for the classics, and his style–although sometimes rippled with random acts of bloody violence and language–is effective. I enjoyed The Aviator (2004), was impressed with Hugo (2011), and absolutely love Gangs of New York (2002)! Oh, what a terrific movie! So, Martin Scorsese makes the top ten in the end for these three specifics.
Ian’s take: #4 on my list. Morgan makes a good point – every so often, Scorsese makes a film that is a pure head-scratcher. Not in the “that was an excellent mystery/suspense film” sense, but in a “why-in-the-world-did-he-spend-time-and-money-on-that” sense.
Morgan’s: A lot of people don’t know, but Sergio Leone was the original choice to head up The Godfather (1970), but was hesitant to the project. Once he saw it, he deeply regretted declining the experience, and worked on for the next fifteen years on his crime epic, Once Upon A Time in America (1984). I do not observe or watch many European (or strongly European influenced) filmmakers, finding their style too obvious. But I deeply respect Sergio’s love for westerns, and the time he took to make his spagetti westerns like The Good the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and Once Upon a Time in the West (1968). He is a classic director to me.
Ian’s take: Leone made my honorable mentions. I’m not a fan of spaghetti westerns and can’t really say that he’s an actor’s director – two things that ultimately kept this well-known director off my final list. That being said, he is sort of THE definitive spaghetti western director, and despite the genre’s criticism, it certainly changed the scope of films as we know them.
Morgan’s: This man has not been recognized enough, I believe. Mr. Malick was notoriously known for taking a twenty-year absence from filmmaking between two highly acclaimed movies: Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998), but what people did not know about that hiatus was the time he took to live in France, teach classes, and in his spare time, write screenplays. He has an incredibly visual style, influenced by feelings, art, and music. His films are a bit off-beat and casually paced, so one has to have patience when watching his films. The Thin Red Line was very well done, but I was most impressed with The New World (2005) most. It is a beautifully mastered film, and I highly recommend it!
Ian’s take: Interestingly enough, I’ve never seen a Malick film. I have no intelligent comment here.
Morgan’s: The reason I believe this man is such a terrific director is because he is an equally gifted actor. I have the greatest respect for theater actors/directors, which is where he comes from, and you can see the strong influence the stage has in his films. His love for Shakespeare is marvelous! Out of all the Avenger movies thus far, I pick Thor (2011) as my personal favorite. He directed it with such a classic, almost Shakespearean theme in mind. But also, there is the amazing, unabridged Hamlet (1996) with its huge ensemble cast, and Kenneth playing the tragic prince! Oh, what an epic! Also, Sleuth (2007) is very well constructed.
Ian’s take: Completely agree with Morgan’s paragraph on Branagh (my #2). Definitely draws his directing strength from his background as a stage actor. Love what he brings to Shakespeare.
Morgan’s: Another good example of an actor turned director, but this one far for the better. Clint is not much of an actor except in specific roles written for a man like him. When he transitioned to directing in the early 70s, it was perhaps one of the greatest decisions of his life! He works so well with actors, having great patience with them and directing them through a great performance! His style is simple and subtle. He has a great taste in music. And he is very popular at Warner Bros. for always finishing his movies on time, or early! I love The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Million Dollar Baby (2004), and Gran Torino (2008).
Ian’s take: Eastwood made my list as number 10. While I don’t agree with Mo’s love for Heartbreak Ridge, I agree that Eastwood has found a niche by being simple and subtle. In an age of advanced CGI technology and green screening, it’s refreshing for a director to stick with the basics and simply tell a story.
Morgan’s: I may be out of line when I say this, but I think Mr. Anderson and I have very similar taste in movies. He loves movies with a multi-numbered cast of characters, all suffering with their own problems and gifts. Also, he loves to write huge challenges for actors, and always casts them perfectly! I read actors love to work with him and find him one of the most diverse and kind directors of all time. His style is an obvious tip-of-the-hat to Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Robert Altman. It took me some time to mull over, but I enjoyed The Master (2012), further enjoyed Magnolia (1999), and then was blown away by There Will Be Blood (2007). It was also intriguing what he did with directing Adam Sandler in a dramatic performance in Punch Drunk Love (2002).
Ian’s take: PTA made my list as 7th in line. Morgan’s right about perfect casting. His actors fits their characters like a glove (perhaps vice-versa). I don’t immediately love his films – they’re very deep and usually require a bit of thought before they can be enjoyed.
Morgan’s: (I should just dedicate an entire post–nay; an entire blog to this man!) One of the most discussed and anaylized filmmakers of the last thirty years, Kubrick’s diverse and extensive thirteen movies delve into a wide array of genres and propel a mountain-load of filmmakers to be inspired! I read all I can on him, and learn that he was a very, very demanding director, always trying to reach perfection. I have never considered him mentally ill or completely mad–but every director has to face that at some time in their careers. But moving on, I specifically marvel the man due to one movie I fell in love with instantly, and still question myself to this day as to why. Barry Lyndon (1975) will remain a classic and influential film to me forevermore. He is a very, very, very visual filmmaker. And I love that.
Ian’s take: The only director on Morgan’s list that doesn’t even register as a blip on my radar. While I appreciate the [very] unique perspective Kubrick brought to films, and while I did not completely hate Barry Lyndon, 2001 is, quite possibly, one of the stupidest films I’ve ever had the displeasure of sitting through. After half an hour watching monkeys groom each other and occasionally get eaten by a jaguar or spooked out of their minds by a giant box, I was ready to move on. Sci-fi classic or not, give me something else. Pass Star Wars my way, even with Hayden Christensen. At least he set himself on fire.
Morgan’s: Yet another man I could write an entire blog about! Nolan is an amazingly gifted man in the medium of film. Incredibly original and unique in almost every way! I can find almost no flaws in his films, and I find myself desperate to see whatever he will come up with next! He claims to be a huge Hitchcock and Kubrick fan, and I do see some of that influence sprinkled throughout his movies, and love him even more! He made an original mystery told completely backwards, a murder set in Alaska all from the perspective of the cop who cannot sleep, then revived a superhero who had been panned, a story of two rival stage magicians in the late nineteenth century, and finally a heist film set within the imagination of dreams! Original. I love to see that in movies nowadays! So, so, so rare and precious to me!
Ian’s take: Yes, yes, yes; a thousand times, yes. Gifted doesn’t even begin to describe him, but it’s a good start. The ONLY qualm I have with him is the occasionally emotional detachment his films carry, and given their overall quality, this is a minuscule complaint. Unless something odd happens (a la Martin Brest), I will always go to the theater to see a Nolan film.