And again! Only two more installments to go...
30. GUS VAN SANT - Mainstream audiences remember Van Sant for Oscar fare like 2008's Milk or Good Will Hunting. The indie crowd loves him for adding making quiet little movies with a sharp edge. From My Own Private Idaho to Elephant, Mala Noche to Gerry, Drugstore Cowboy to To Die For, Van Sant has turned in his fair share of interesting films.
29. ALFONSO CUARON - Needs to make more films. Cuaron has taken a strange route in establishing his name. With his palette of saturated colors (he seems to favor green)he made Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban a thing of real wonder, showed us a dystopian world in Children of Men, transformed Y Tu Mama Tambien's road movie format into an electrically charged spectacle, and attempted a bold reworking of Great Expectations.
28. TERRENCE MALICK - In a career spanning decades, Malick has only made a handful of films. Of those few pieces however, most are considered critical masterpieces (Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line). Malick is a meditator and his films unfold before the viewer.
27. CLINT EASTWOOD - As an actor, Clint's was already a legend and Hollywood royalty. As a director, he established himself as worth far more than any of those two bit stars. Eastwood, particularly within the last decade, has established himself as a perfectionist and a major threat with films like Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Letters from Iwo Jima. He directs, acts, and frequently composes music for his films...and whenever he makes one the Academy seems to take notice.
26. MIKE NICHOLS - Nichols started out on-stage, and that theatrical sensibility carries over to his films (not merely because plays seem to be his favorite items to adapt). Nichols is character and dialogue driven, he allows the actors to work without (for the most part) distraction or visual trickery. It's served him well since the 60's when he started with films like The Graduate & Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
25. SAM MENDES - He's not just Mr. Winslet, thank you very much. Mendes is good at breaking through the surface of things to reveal their disturbed underbelly in a way quite different from David Lynch. He doesn't shoot for surreal and strange, but goes for hyperreal neatly tied fables. He shattered suburbia in American Beauty, the Gulf War in Jarhead, and the pleasantville surface of the 50's in Revolutionary Road.
24. DANNY BOYLE - Boyle, now a household name for Slumdog Millionaire, has deserved recognition for a long while now. Even before his Oscar success he was doing just fine, with a steady stream of vastly different gently-bent, vividly shot, high energy films that (even when they aren't entirely successful) are consistently entertaining (28 Days Later, Millions, A Life Less Ordinary, Sunshine). Say what you will about Slumdog, but I'd argue Trainspotting is undoubtedly his best work.
23. RIDLEY SCOTT - Ridley is claustrophobic. Is it too much to guess that maybe that has something to do with why he frequently shoots for the epic? Probably. No matter, Ridley (just like his brother Tony) has got high style visuals and an eye for detail. He makes big pictures, popcorn flicks and such, but he makes them damn well. Alien and Blade Runner stand at the top of science fiction. No doubt.
22. MICHEL GONDRY - With Gondry, filmmaking is a form of play. He's got a creative flair and an unmistakable style that has served him well in music videos as well as cinema (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Science of Sleep). He also manages to frequently polarize audiences, who love or hate his games and on-camera experimentation.
21. CHRISTOPHER NOLAN - I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt in placing him this high. He's successfully lifted the comic book genre into the good graces of average American citizens and critics alike, with Dark Knight and Batman Begins. He's also made a standard film school classic with Memento. I generally trust Nolan's sensibility, despite some of the continuity errors and glitches i now see in the Dark Knight.