Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Listology: 50 Greatest Active Directors pt. II, 40-31

It's here, Part II of my response to Entertainment Weekly's 50 Greatest Active Directors list.

Hit the jump.

40. SPIKE LEE - Spike Lee makes movies that tackle social issues head on with Brooklyn attitude. He's carved out his place in history with movies like Do the Right Thing and She's Gotta Have It while also producing standout award winning documentaries such as When the Levees Broke. Like Woody Allen, Lee has formed the way we envision New York City.

39.[TIE] FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA / GEORGE LUCAS - They're alive and active, it's true. And while their projects in the last decade or so have been disappointments, it would be foolish to exclude either one of these directors from the list as their trilogies (Godfather and Star Wars IV-VI, respectively) are the textbook examples of filmmaking in their genres and almost always fall near the top of every greatest films list. Don't count them out yet.

38. NOAH BAUMBACH - There was a long while between Kicking & Screaming and Squid & the Whale, but the latter established Baumbach firmly as a writer/director to watch. Baumbach tackles East Coast America with a distinct voice and finds focus in the little day to day eccentricities and actions that create fully-formed, unique characters.

37. JEAN-PIERRE JEUNET - French director Jeunet delivers darkly whimsical visions and fantastic cinematic confections that hold their own in any film student's collection. Amelie, Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement? Beautiful, each in their own right.

36. BAZ LUHRMANN - If Luhrmann had been making pictures 50 years ago, he would have been the king of Technicolor. Each of his four films is a sweeping romantic epic, boldly filmed with a frenetic energy and a madcap, over-the-top risk taking style belonging distinctly to him. Luhrmann is a DJ, taking your expectations and mixing them up with elements that span centuries. Consequently, you either love him or hate him. Moulin Rouge! though contested at its release, has settled into its place amongst the contemporary masterpieces.

35. JIM JARMUSCH - Another love/hate director? Jim Jarmusch, one of the high priests of independent cinema whose landmark works include Stranger Than Paradise and Dead Man. Jarmusch frequently makes philosophical road movies, stories driven by offbeat meandering characters who lead you wherever they're going without compromise, never the other way around. Also, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai was pretty bad ass.

34. GUILLERMO DEL TORO - Del Toro makes artsy creature features with bite. He has an eye for surreal fantasy, a knack for horror, and (most importantly) he isn't afraid to kill the kid. I'd vote he avoids future Hellboy follow-ups, however, and sticks to fare along the lines of Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone. Del Toro's next project is one of the ultimate fantasy projects: The Hobbit. Which leads us to...

33. PETER JACKSON - Peter Jackson successfully helmed Lord of the Rings. No, really. Think about that. That shit is huge. And he directed and wrote the adapted screenplays for all three films WITHOUT angering millions of fans. Add to that the fact that everything Jackson did up to that point was gleefully deranged (Dead Alive, Meet the Feebles, even Heavenly Creatures) and you will learn not to write off Jackson as just another blockbuster director.

32. ANG LEE - Lee is recognized for making strong, literate period dramas. He's pretty good at it, though in my opinion Brokeback Mountain is his weakest work. The Ice Storm. That one was good. So was Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

31. LARS VON TRIER - Lars von Trier is an asshole. No, really. I'm pretty sure he's a gigantic douchebag who makes some of the most ridiculously pretentious films you could imagine. That said, however, he's also a serious auteur who makes movies like people write literature. These are the films you analyze and write papers on. Dogville, Dancer in the Dark, a thesis on those would write itself. Monochrome, heavy, depressingly austere, and hypnotically slow i respect Lars von Trier though i do not love him.

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