Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Listology: 50 Greatest Active Directors pt. IV, 20-11

The penultimate addition to my response to Entertainment Weekly's bogus list of the 50 Greatest Active Directors. We're getting close now.

20. SPIKE JONZE - Jonze has helped transform the music video into an art form and has worked magic on off-beat Charlie Kaufman scripts. He's a busy guy with too few film credits to his name and who's slowly establishing himself as a detail-oriented force to be wreckoned with. He's been working on his upcoming release, Where the Wild Things Are, since 2006.

19. STEVEN SODERBERGH - In 1989, Soderbergh became a major influence on the re-calibrated independent scene of the 90's with sex, lies, and videotape. Since, he's translated indie sensibilities to major movies with films like Traffic, Ocean's 11, Erin Brockovich, and the (currently) hard to track down Che.

18. RICHARD LINKLATER - He's had some mainstream based successes (School of Rock, oddly enough), but for the most part Linklater finds recognition for philosophy steeped, conversational narratives such as Before Sunset, Before Sunrise, Slacker, and Waking Life (yeah, he's also the guy that brought rotoscoping into the public eye). He can also lay claim to a little movie called Dazed & Confused.

17. DAVID FINCHER - Fincher's movies are so slick that 15 years later you can watch them as though they were brand new. His stylish approach to projects like Se7en, Fight Club, and The Game make him a darling of Hollywood and film geeks alike (though Benjamin Button has received a major backlash).

16. SOFIA COPPOLA - As an actress, she was something of a failure. As a director, she's proven a worthy match for the best of them (including her own father) with films like Lost in Translation and extravagant Marie Antoinette. This Coppola's films are tableaux vivants that simply improve & unfold with repeat viewings and are always beautiful to look at.

15. JOEL & ETHAN COEN - They've had their share of major critical successes, and tremendous failures (Ladykillers, anyone?). Even as the hype surrounding them has become heavily contested, the Coen brothers have left a sizable imprint on dark comedy and the modern crime film. There are few who will argue against works like Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and No Country For Old Men belonging in the film canon.

14. PEDRO ALMODOVAR - It's pretty safe to say, i think, that Almodovar makes vibrant films on three things: passion, women, and family. Often all together. Often involving folks in drag. Never in quite the format you'd expect. In signature bold colors, All About My Mother, Volver, Talk to Her, and all of Pedro's movies are a celebration of life & culture.

13. WONG KAR-WAI -Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai's offbeat culture-blending love stories and color saturated cinematographic style have allowed him to become internationally recognized as an auteur. With a penchant for meandering narratives and using American pop music standards as framing devices (i.e. California Dreamin' in Chungking Express, Nat King Cole in In the Mood for Love), it seems strange, but Wong Kar-Wai may be the most romantic filmmaker around (if you're so inclined).

12. DARREN ARONOFSKY -Aronofsky makes a movie and film students geek out. Each film has packed an emotional wallop, and he hasn't done the same thing twice. He's already made one of the best damn drug movies (and best drug deterrants) with Requiem for a Dream, veered into a dangerous metaphysical tearjerker terrain with the underrated The Fountain, and made strippers and body stapling poetic in The Wrestler. Soon, he'll supposedly be tackling Robocop.

11. DAVID CRONENBERG - In the early days, Cronenberg managed to interweave all sorts of psychological sci-fi and horror themes into surreal physical manifestations. This is fairly common in literature, but not on the screen, especially when not played solely for shock value. Not that his films aren't fairly shocking. With their fair share of oddly distinct visual effects, bodily focus, gore, nudity, and mindfuckery, Cronenberg never ceases to amaze. He does what he wants. Proof: he's shot from Videodrome to The Fly to Dead Ringers to Crash (the sex in cars one, not the racism business) to Eastern Promises. Range. He's got it. He's even been directing the opera version of The Fly, live on stage, ladies & gents.

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