As mentioned last week Alex at And So It Begins recently made a Top 10 list of his favourite directors, it must have been tough. I tried to create my own, it was tough.
My attempts continue today, as hinted at last week part two is a list of directors who have in the past featured in the main list but for one reason or another are looked upon with disfavour at the present time. I wouldn't have hesitated to praise these directors to anyone who would listen, I would have happily talked for hours about any of them, I've written essays on a lot of them but now? I can't get too enthused on the subject.
Of all three parts this is the one that will give you the greater insight in to the workings of my mind. There's some hesitation in sharing this, some of my choices will be controversial and some of my reasoning is at least partly absurd but I stand by these decisions and the reasons behind them.
In the order that the polaroids fell to the floor 20 former favourite directors of mine:
Fincher burst in to my consciousness back when I was a fledgling cinephile, realising the same person had made Fight Club, Seven and The Game was one of the first times I'd "discovered" a director whose work might be considered close to marking him an auteur. Later upon buying the Alien Quadrilogy boxset I rated an unfinished "Director's Cut" of Alien 3 as the most enjoyable of the four films. He's made several great films with an exciting visual style and has an approach towards quality that few working in Hollywood even consider attempting to match. Recent years have brought about a change of opinion of him though, Benjamin Button left me icey cold and ridiculing a Fincher film for the first time whilst Social Network did nothing for me; I can't see what all the fuss is about in terms of direction or story, the only interesting aspect was that it was a part of history so recent and "important" that I can remember what the world was like before Facebook.
Two Thumbs Up: Fight Club, Seven
Two Thumbs Down: The Social Network, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Two Thumbs Up: Inception, Insomnia
Two Thumbs Down: The Dark Knight Rises
Two Thumbs Up: Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai, Dead Man
Two Thumbs Down: Permanent Vacation (at a push because it's just so odd)
He made the fine Alien Resurrection and then split from Caro, since then he's given us the unmemorable Very Long Engagement and the so much fun (can you name a person who didn;t like it?) Micmacs. I wouldn't say he's gone downhill, he's just more mainstream in his approach towards content these days. I can't get excited by his films like I did after City of Lost Children.
Two Thumbs Up: Delicatessen, City of Lost Children
Two Thumbs Down: A Very Long Engagement
He went on to bore me to tears with Elizabethtown and I can't raise any enthusiasm for that Matt Damon movie, not to forget the merely OK Vanilla Sky. I think he's got his sights set firmly on Rob Reiners position within American cinema, a bit safe and occasionally interesting.
Two Thumbs Up: Almost Famous, Say Anything
Two Thumbs Down: Elizabethtown
Much like my feelings towards Godard the approach towards and passion for cinema of von Trier had a way of capturing my imagination as a younger man. His arrogant behaviour in announcing the Dogme95 manifesto alone would have been enough to achieve this but he has also crafted some brilliant movies. Films like The Element of Crime and Breaking The Waves plus The Kingdom mini-series that influenced Stephen King all came prior to Dogme but it is The Idiots that not only shocks but challenges the viewer that helped him to make a mark on me. Recently I found myself bored by Dogville, as shocking as you may find that, and the entire idea of Antichrist made me doubt him. I'm yet to see Melancholia and that may boost him in my esteem once more but the fact that I didn't rush out and see it says it all really.
Two Thumbs Up: The Idiots, Breaking The Waves
Two Thumbs Down: Antichrist (on principle,) Dogville
Two Thumbs Up: Requiem For A Dream
Two Thumbs Down: Black Swan
Two Thumbs Up: El Mariachi, Sin City
Two Thumbs Down: Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl, Spy Kids 4
Two Thumbs Up: Kids, Bully
Two Thumbs Down: Wassup Rockers, Teenage Caveman
Two Thumbs Up: Before Sunrise, A Scanner Darkly
Two Thumbs Down: The Newton Boys, Me and Orson Welles
Two Thumbs Up: Safe, Velvet Goldmine
Two Thumbs Down: I'm Not There
Two Thumbs Up: I Heart Huckabees, Spanking The Monkey
Two Thumbs Down: Flirting With Disaster
Two Thumbs Up: Oldboy, Lady Vengeance
Two Thumbs Down:
Two Thumbs Up: Sonatine, Hana-Bi
Two Thumbs Down: Takeshi's Castle
Two Thumbs Up: The Long Goodbye, MacCabe & Mrs Miller
Two Thumbs Down: O.C. & Stiggs, The Gingerbread Man
Two Thumbs Up: Welcome To The Dollhouse, Happiness,
Two Thumbs Down: Storytelling is probably the weakest but is still great
"merchandise" page at his official website (spoiler, it may make you vomit) but then it could all be some elaborate attempt to blur the lines of reality and celebrity and allow him some level of personal freedom away from the press. Buffalo '66 and Brown Bunny are mesmerising pieces of cinema, there are so few film makers who can achieve this and Gallo deserves more praise than he gets. Missing from the Top 10 simply because he has made only two films that are widely available and I couldn't justify his inclusion with more prolific film makers.
Two Thumbs Up: Buffalo '66, The Brown Bunny
Two Thumbs Down: His penis in Brown Bunny
Two Thumbs Up: Jackie Brown, Reservoir Dogs
Two Thumbs Down: Inglourious Basterds
Two Thumbs Up: Swingers, Go
Two Thumbs Down: Mr and Mrs Smith, Fair Game
Two Thumbs Up: Annie Hall, Bananas
Two Thumbs Down: Vicky Christina Barcelona, Hollywood Ending
So that's 20, some are more of a surprise for the fact that I once considered them great, some for the fact that I no longer do. Between them they have 18 Best Director Oscar niminations but only Woody Allen won for Annie Hall. Sixteen of these filmmakers work in Hollywood to a greater or lesser extent, as one of the few people I know who champion world cinema I am horrified to realise just how few directors from outside of America I praise or have managed to make a long term impact on me. I intend to try harder in future, I will repeat the mantra "do not watch trashy Hollywood, try that film that is on World Movies instead" and it might just work. To mis-quote Jack Black in High Fidelity, is is better to burn your star out or to fade away in to mediocrity? Part 3 reveals who is left, and who I left out completely. The final 10 coming soon.
Go ahead and criticise or discuss in the blahs, but tell me, who did you once laud as a great director and have since turned your back on?