Wednesday, February 24, 2010

In which a list is is debated

This White Ribbon review continues to vex me. Hopefully inspiration will strike some time in the next 48 hours. In the mean time, normally I'd save this for Friday but it's such a strange list I just had to share my thoughts on it.

Entertainment Weekly online put up a list of their 50 greatest living directors (though they've only posted 25 so far) and you can check it out here. My thoughts are below. Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

Nancy Meyers-Hahahahaha no. There are great female directors (Kathryn Bigelow, Agnes Varda, Nicole Holofcener and Andrea Arnold) but there could always be more. However, a scarcity is no reason to give a spot on this list to an overrated lifestyle pornographer. She's as beige as beige can be.
Belongs on the list?: No

Michael Moore-Moore should be applauded for bringing documentaries into the mainstream. He makes galvanizing films and that is largely the point. That being said, I think he's limited audience knowledge of freeing the documentary form can be. I hope he's not the only documentary filmmaker on here.
Belongs on the list?: No

David Lynch-NOW we're talking. David Lynch is incapable of making a dull, impersonal film. Sure they may vex some audiences but he creates unforgettable film images and constantly pushes boundaries. The man lives, breathes and is constantly finding dynamic ways to push cinema forward.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Andrew Stanton-Hmm, interesting. Stanton has an innate sense of storytelling, invaluable for a director. Just check out the recording of his pitch and story boarding meetings on Nemo and Wall-E. I am extremely eager to see what he does in live action.
Belongs on the list?: Wait and see. Hopefully.

Wong Kar Wai: Wai paints in powerful sensual emotion and creates memorable images. He has a wonderful group of collaborators and his films get stuck in your draw. I've only see In the Mood for Love once, but my memory of it only becomes clearer over time.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Mira Nair: I've only seen two of her films (Monsoon Wedding and The Namesake) but I think she has an innate sense of how to capture family stories in film without having them descend into melodrama. That being said I've never revisited either film and don't give her much thought in terms of directors.
Belongs on the list?: Maybe eventually.

Mel Gibson: He makes big films that attract audiences but there is nothing special about them. I have no desire to revisit anything he's directed.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Spike Lee: Here's a very complex choice. I think for a long time Lee was on lists like this as a matter of tokenism. As his CV has filled out though I think he's proven to be powerful but completely inconsistent. For every Do the Right Thing there's a She Hate Me, for every 25th Hour there's a Miracle at St. Anna. In the end though I think the wins in his win column have a little more oomph than his failures.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Richard Linklater: Another largely inconsistent director. When he's on he can make incredibly moving, humanistic films. When he's off though it comes off as dishwater dull. The Before
movies are beautiful, Slacker and Waking Life have wonderful dreamlike qualities. But Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation? Yeesh. In the end though, he remains one of those 90's guys who when he's on makes loving, personal films.
Belongs on the list?: Yes

Roman Polanski: Personal life aside (rough I know) new Polanski films are an event. He knows how to generate unforgettable images and nightmare material. You can definitely ignore his fallow period from the mid 80's to mid 90's as his 70's and 00's work more than makes up for it.
Belongs on the list?: Easy yes.

Oliver Stone: Man, talk about polarizing. Griffith's Birth of a Nation talks about writing history with lightning and I think Stone was doing that for a while. I think the sheen has worn off a bit. Actually, it's worn off a late. The fact that he's revisiting a past glory doesn't bode well.
Belongs on the list?: At one time yes, not anymore.

Judd Apatow: On a list of most influential directors absolutely. Same goes for writers and producers. What Apatow lacks as a technician he makes up for with an innate sense of character and dialogue. What I appreciate about him is that he's trying to grow and he's on the path. Funny People was a go for broke mess but he was clearly trying to push himself out of his comfort zone in terms of atmosphere and theme and largely succeeded.
Belongs on the list?: Not yet, but getting closer.

Jon Favreau: He's solid, but I think his success is more dictated by his material than the other way around. There are lots of things he does very well but if this is a list of the "greatest" I don't think he makes the cut. That being said, I certainly wouldn't mind him directing anything I wanted to see made.
Belongs on the list?: No, but still worthwhile.

Mike Leigh: He's not my favorite but lots of critics dig him. I for one have not yet found a film of his that connects with me or my experiences. He is a wonderful director of actors.
Belongs on the list?: No, not a list I'd make anyway.

Bryan Singer: Man, what happened? He got shoved into the super-hero ghetto os what happened. I'm not suggesting one can't only make super-hero movies and not be "serious" but I think what happened was that in an attempt to be so big and so portentous he actually dragged himself down. He does such marvelous action and can juggle multiple characters well but I haven't seen that Usual Suspects, X2 energy in a while.
Belongs on the list?: No.

David Cronenberg: Now we're talking again. His slide into the mainstream has not dulled his instincts or impact. Cronenberge remains a cunning stylist who manages to make personal films about prescient topics. He's also hugely underrated as a director of actors.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

JJ Abrams: Wonderful producer but it's way too soon to call if he's a great film director. I think that MI:3 was about as good as a good episode of Alias. But Star Trek succeeds because of its casting and its direction. What Abrams does in the film is damn near alchemy. But one film does not a great director make.
Belongs on the list?: No. But time will tell.

Ron Howard: Nice guy and solid producer, but just entirely mediocre as a director. He gets the job d0ne and he's reliable but he rarely does more than is asked of him.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Sam Raimi: Long after he's gone Raimi is going to be influencing generations of new directors. The more you limit him the more he finds ways to innovate and push boundaries. He's changed independent films and he's changed blockbusters. I'm eager to see what he changes next.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Sam Mendes: Works well with actors but I've found the bulk of his output fairly disposable. He has a concrete vision but his material doesn't really connect with me.
Belongs on the list?: No.

Sofia Coppola: Off of three movies? She is a wonderful visual stylist but I need more to say for sure.
Belongs on the list?: Not yet. Could be.

Woody Allen: I think his track record ultimately has him winning the marathon. Individual sprints... not so much. He has his own voice, style and manner and it works, not for everyone, but it does for me.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Paul Greengrass: Like Coppola I think its' too soon. He's been very influential on the blockbuster landscape but I'm curious to see what he does when not doing straight historical re-enactment or a Bourne movie. I've certainly enjoyed or been effected by all his films.
Belongs on the list?: Wait and see.

Alfonso Cuaron: The man is incapable of making a dull, uninteresting movie in any genre. Good sign. He finds wonderful collaborators and makes memorable, dynamic choices. It's been too long since Children of Men. Allons-y Alfonso!
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

Darren Aronofsky:I've criticized earlier directors on this list with short filmographies and taken a wait and see approach with them. Aronosfsky though pushes every one of my buttons and moves me to every extreme. I've come out of his films frightened, moved, crying my eyes out and filled with hope and love. True artists make us feel and that's what Aronofsky does for me.
Belongs on the list?: Yes.

10 out of 25 (with a few a maybes), not bad EW. This was fun, I'll do more when they do more.


Rex Arrow said...

did they put nolan on that list???

El Gigante said...

They've only put out 25, still waiting on the next 25. I wouldn't be surprised.