Monday, October 03, 2005

My 101 Favorite Directors, 51-60

Here we go again. A word about omissions...A number of very notable filmmakers are not on the list at all. I don't want to give anything away, in case the suspense is killing any of you, but I'll provide a few examples. Particularly hard hit some of the great European filmmakers. The Germans, for example, have a pretty poor showing. Guys like Wenders, Fassbinder and Murnau are incredibly awesome directors who, for whatever reason, just didn't make it all the way to the Top 101. Also, France...I have a few on here, but no Chabrol, Tavernier, Laconte, Varda or Malle. And Italy! No Rossellini, no Pasolini, no Bertolucci! And this one's going to get me in some real trouble with cineastes...No Fellini. Yes, yes, I know, I'm not worthy of a film-related blog. Whatever.

I'm trying to spread it around a little, I guess. And be honest at the same time. I could put Chabrol on here. I've seen a few movies of his. Enough to write a paragraph on the subject. But I don't like him as much as John Boorman or whoever. What can I say?

Some have been tough choices. Bernardo Bertolucci hung on there until the bitter end. And Nicholas Ray got cut at the very last moment. Joseph Losey, director of Mr. Klein, the movie I'd most like to remake in the whole world, was in the 70's for a while initially. Not to mention Lubitsch, who failed to make the cut only because I haven't seen enough of his films. That same reasoning kept the brilliant Carol Reed off the final list, even though The Third Man is among my favorite films and his Fallen Idol, which isn't even available on DVD, is perhaps the most elegant, amazing film I have seen in 2005. And classic noir directors Siodmak and Dmytryk came within a few slots of inclusion.

But it's only a list of 101. I had to cut it off at some point.

Okay, enough yammering. On to the list!

60. John Woo

Before he came to America, before all of his cliches and trademarks and little asides (like the two gun thing or the slow motion dove thing) became the stuff of parody and cliche, John Woo movies kicked unholy amounts of ass. His Hong Kong action flicks are the essential ones from that entire movement in film, thoughtful and elegant creations of chaotic violence but also quiet beauty. What happened to this guy? Why are his best American films that one with Jean-Claude Van Damme being hunted for sport and that one where Nicholas Cage and John Travolta switch bodies despite their obvious height differential?

MY FAVORITES: The Killer, A Better Tomorrow, Bullet in the Head

59. Spike Lee

Lately, I've seen a lot of really stupid movies about race, which have only served to remind me that Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing is still the definitive American movie on the subject. Is there no one else making films today who can deal with racial issues with such eloquence, humor and relevance? Or is no one else who wants to tell those sorts of stories maturely permitted his level of access and financial backing? Additionally, it's hard to believe he's the only black filmmaker on this list...but there just aren't enough working black filmmakers. I hate John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers haven't made a good film since Menace II Society.

MY FAVORITES: Do the Right Thing, Clockers, The 25th Hour, Bamboozled

58. Sam Fuller

Fuller worked at a young age as a copy boy at a newspaper, and was always fascinated with journalism. As a result, his masterful, bold and purposeful films evidence a careful attention to detail. At once sharply realistic and hallucinatory, the best Fuller films are exciting, visceral experiences laced with the filmmaker's trademark enthusiasm, humor and verve.

MY FAVORITES: Pickup on South Street, The Big Red One, Shock Corridor, House of Bamboo

57. Michael Powell

During the 40's and 50's, Brit Michael Powell and Hungarian Emeric Pressburger made a series of phenomenal, grandiose and epic films of sweeping emotion and wry humor, shot in the most vibrant Technicolor imaginable. After their partnership dissolved, Powell went on to direct the ingenious, extremely creepy proto-slasher film Peeping Tom, which essentially got him drummed out of the British film industry. What a shame...

MY FAVORITES: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, Peeping Tom, The Red Shoes

56. Errol Morris

One of only 2 career documentarians to make the list, Morris is one of the great interviewers in the history of the form. His movies take you inside the perspective of some truly cockeyed individuals, and watching these people open up to the camera can be truly riveting. He begins with the same ingredients as most reality television shows, but, unlike most of those shows, he winds up with an artistic, provocative finished product with significant social relevance, and not just great footage of Ashlee Simpson acting like a snot.

MY FAVORITES: Gates of Heaven, Mr. Death, The Fog of War

55. William Friedkin

He's made way more bad movies than good ones. Even the best of his post-70's movies aren't so much "good" as "campy cheesy fun". Like the unbelievable 1980 film Cruising, about an undercover cop played by Al Pacino infiltrating New York City's gay S&M underworld as part of a search for a serial killer. Weird...that's just weird...But Billy's 2 70's highlights are among the best American films of that incredible decade, diverse masterpieces with more intelligence and intensity than anything being churned out by Hollywood today.

MY FAVORITES: The Exorcist, The French Connection, To Live and Die in LA

54. Terence Fisher


The greatest director from Hammer Studios, the British film company that produced some of the best horror films ever made during the 1950's and 60's. Fisher's take on the classic monsters (like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and The Mummy) are often the best filmed interpretations of these stories, and made international stars of legendary actors Peter "Grand Moff" Cushing and Christopher "Dooku" Lee. The Gothic, period costumes, sets and designs of Fisher's films are unrivaled in the genre.


MY FAVORITES: The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Mummy, The Horror of Dracula

53. Stephen Frears

Most people know many of Stephen Frears' films, even if they can't name the guy who actually made them. He started by making small intimate dramas, like Prick Up Your Ears or My Beautiful Laundrette, but eventually became something of a Hollywood journeyman, taking on a variety of genres with varying degrees of success. But there's a number of gems in his filmography, and even some significantly popular films, like his definitive version of the oft-adapted Dangerous Liasons.

MY FAVORITES: High Fidelity, The Grifters, Dirty Pretty Things

52. Walter Hill

In 6 years, from 1978 to 1984, Walter Hill had quite a run. He directed 6 pretty terrific films of his own, and produced another little movie in 1979 by the name of Alien. As well as turning out some of the most taut, gritty action films of his era, and producing the greatest sci-fi horror franchise of all time, he was additionally one of the chief creative minds behind HBO's long-running cult series "Tales from the Crypt."

MY FAVORITES: The Driver, Southern Comfort, 48 Hours, The Warriors

51. David Lean

As a child, I used to dread movies like David Lean's. Long historical epics, I imagined, were full of dull speeches made by guys with monotone British accents, political intrigue I would not fully understand, and, ugh, pointless romantic interludes. It's probably because I saw Ben-Hur at a young age and was bored to tears. (Still am...) Lean's epics are actually so lively and full of personality, I probably would have loved them as much at age 8 as I do now. And his more intimate films and literary adaptations are equally adept, full of subtle humor, beautifully restrained performances and graceful cinematography.

MY FAVORITES: Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge on the River Kwai, Brief Encounter

2 comments:

Random Aggression said...

I'm thrilled John Woo made the list. One of my personal faves!

Jiggavegas said...

it's a little late, but re: your #84, McSweeney's had a pretty great bit:

http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2005/9/28pendarvis.html