Tuesday, September 27, 2005

My 101 Favorite Directors, 81-90

Here we are...The second edition of the My Favorite Directors series...Some good entries this time...I have a feeling this version is when some of the picks will start getting controversial - some guys too low for some of you and others too high. Anyway, it's evident that this is when my 80's favoritism is going to come into play. 6 of the following 10 directors had their prime creative periods during my formative youth.

What can I say? I might have only been 7 or 8, but I was already paying attention...

90. John Sayles

Michael Moore did not quite make the final cut, because out of all his various projects, there are only two great movies...Roger & Me and Bowling for Columbine. The others are interesting as political tracts, but not terribly interesting from a cinematic perspective. Nor are they terribly successful for winning new recruits to the causes of the American Left. John Sayles movies, on the other hand, present progressivism in a far more artistic, comprehensive and nuanced way. His movies are all about community, and how communities of people can either lift one another up or push one another down, and about how most do both of these things at the same time.

MY FAVORITES: Lone Star, Matewan, Eight Men Out, Brother From Another Planet

89. John Hughes

He only made 8 films, and they are just about the only comedies people remember from the 1980's. These movies are so memorable and iconic, people my age quote them sometimes without even realizing they're quoting a movie. It's easy to think of them as pure nostalgia cheese, but Hughes' teen movies and broad, slapstick farces hold up pretty well, particularly when he was given the chance to work with promising or underutilized comic actors.

MY FAVORITES: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club

88. Paul Thomas Anderson

So low? Unfortunately, yes...Anderson has made 4 films. Two are absolutely fucking outstanding, one is cool but somewhat slight, and one is an abysmal failure, an almost unwatchable, nearly 3 hour ordeal...Can you guess which is which? He gets big ups for ambition, natural ability and creativity, he steals from (um, I mean, references) all the right people, and he's got a wicked sense of humor...but he needs to make some more goddamn good movies. Like, now!

MY FAVORITES: Punch-Drunk Love, Boogie Nights

87. Abrahams, Zucker & Zucker

These three goofballs changed the face of movie comedies, though two and a half decades on, I'm not sure if it was for the best. When Airplane! hit in 1980, no one had ever seen anything quite like it before. An entire film that was just a direct parody of another film, and this one was filled with wacky sight gags and silly props and slapstick comedy in every scene. Nothing in the entire film could be taken seriously. Somehow, it worked, even though it really shouldn't if you think about it...I mean, a movie with no real story, with no relatable characters or dialogue that isn't one-liners or referential humor? After 1986, the trio all went their separate ways (Abrahams did Big Business and Hot Shots, Jerry Zucker did Ghost and Rat Race), and none has made a film as good ever since (though David Zucker came close with The Naked Gun in '88 based on their short-lived TV series "Police Squad.")

MY FAVORITES: Airplane!, Top Secret

86. Kinji Fukasaku

One of the so-called "Japanese Outlaw Masters," Fukasaku directed hard, tough, unforgiving and gritty crime films and social satires from the early 60's all the way to his death in 2003. His movies are among the most relentless, visceral and entertainingly spastic of all the Japanese films I have seen, and have had a profound impact on Japanese and American crime cinema ever since (including , yes, the work of Quentin Tarantino).

MY FAVORITES: Battle Royale, Graveyard of Honor, Blackmail is My Life

85. John Landis

I defy anyone my age nerdy enough to botheri makign a list of Favorite Directors to not include Landis. No one who worked with Eddie Murphy and John Belushi this much in the 80's failed to get some reflected glory. Plus, he made the Michael Jackson "Thriller" video. Nuff said.

MY FAVORITES: Animal House, American Werewolf in London, Three Amigos, Coming to America

84. Jim Jarmusch

You have to want to get into a Jim Jarmusch movie. He's not the kind of guy to meet you halfway. If you allow yourself to relax, stop worrying so much about figuring out what's going on, and just trust that he's showing you something for a reason, the movies can be a trippy and sometimes provocative delight. I haven't seen his 2005 Bill Murray film Broken Flowers yet because I am terribly, terribly lame.

MY FAVORITES: Ghost Dog, Dead Man, Down by Law

83. David Fincher

He is perhaps the single most definitive movie stylist of the moment. You can instantly recognize a shot from a David Fincher film. It's dark, it's sleek, it's gloomy, it's close-up from an askew angle, and maybe there's some Nine Inch Nails music in the background. But he's not just some empty-headed music video director designing odd framing and unusual shot compositions. He's a smart, subversive guy with a really wry, cynical and sometimes playful attitude who makes challenging, daring films.

MY FAVORITES: Fight Club, The Game, Seven

82. Rob Reiner

It has now been 15 years since Rob Reiner has directed an even passable movie. That's not easily forgivable. Seriously. That ought to get you flat-out banned from any list of Best Directors, making films for 15 years without any of them being good...And yet...Reiner's first films were so ridiculously warm and funny, so quotable, so lively. How could I not include him? He's friggin' Marty DiBergi!

MY FAVORITES: This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Misery

81. Wong Kar-Wai

Wong Kar-Wai made the transition from gritty, angst-fueled crime films to dreamy art-house romances so gradually, no one really even noticed. What hasn't changed about his movies is the tremendously lush atmosphere and an astute appreciation for small aesthetic detail. The curl of cigarette smoke hanging in the air, the way a tall woman in a blonde wig offsets a room's beet-red wallpaper, the shock of seeing a droplet of blood spray land on the camera lens and lingering there for a moment.

MY FAVORITES: Fallen Angels, Chungking Express, Happy Together

5 comments:

Cory said...

I love these lists, mainly for two reasons:

1)You're very informed, and...

2)I absolutely love lists.

Please make sure to archive the entire thing once it's completed.

gohlke said...

Digging those picks, man. Keep 'em coming.

Though, you've already listed some of my favorites...and I think I know who a few of your top directors are. Curious to see who fills the gaps.

Cory said...

Prediction: Spielberg is in the top 5, perhaps as high as #2, but definitely not #1.

I'm way too into this.

gohlke said...

I'll be a geeky Lons-fanboy too:

Definitely Gilliam, Welles, Kurosawa and Allen in top 10. Other than that, maybe Wilder? Linklater? I give up.

Cory said...

Lynch might be #1 for Lonnie now that I think about it...