I feel like I haven’t done anything where I just got to ramble about things I liked, so here we go. I’m also nervous that this list will be obvious, and I’ll look like some smarmy fucking cocksucker, but I really don’t care. I just feel that it’s easier, when people ask me, to tell them some of my favorite filmmakers, rather than pointing out specific films. Rather than one list that compiles all genres together, I decided to go with three from the horror genre, and three non-horror.
Reasons Why: Halloween, The Fog, The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Prince of Darkness, They Live
You can see the diversity in the subject matter of his films, but they all have that Carpenter feel. Whether it be a slashing stalker, zombie ghosts, aliens, or action, Carpenter is always able to pace his movies in a way most other people couldn’t get away with. It seems as though he is always telling people to “slow down”, which really allows the audience to soak in every atmospheric moment of his films. I don’t feel as any of his work would be as accomplished without the soundtrack, which he sometimes provides, that is as integral to his filmmaking as every scene he films.
Reasons Why: Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Creepshow, Day of the Dead, Tales From the Darkside (TV Series)
My opinion isn’t always the popular one, that his best film is Creepshow, rather than his involvement with his zombie franchise. Night of the Living Dead was a film that inspired generation upon generation of filmmakers, and even if you don’t like it personally, it needs to be respected for what it did for the Horror genre. Dawn of the Dead is my favorite, showing that Horror doesn’t always have to be a short term fear of a creature attacking you, but can be drawn from the overwhelming sense of dread of knowing that this creature will never be defeated…ever. He certainly isn’t perfect, looking at his track record, but my love for what he was able to accomplish with Creepshow and the Tales From the Darkside series, I have to give him a pass on things I didn’t enjoy.
Reasons Why: Suspiria, Opera
I might look like a “new jack” for only listing two films, but those two films are fucking awesome. Granted, I haven’t watched EVERY film in his catalogue, but he was able to accomplish with these two films what some directors wish to accomplish in an entire career. I’ve mentioned in a different post how the first five minutes of Suspiria is more unsettling and strange than most other films. It’s the surreality in his films that secures him a spot on this list. Another example being the fact that in Suspiria, originally being written about much younger girls, he made all of the doorknobs unrealistically high, causing all of the adult females to have to reach up higher. This is something that generally goes unnoticed, or is excused by saying, “Whatever, it’s Italy”, but it’s those details for the absurd and strange that makes his films so enjoyable.
Reasons Why: Se7en, The Game, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network
If I had to narrow it down to one director, it would be this guy. He seems like such a humble, mild-mannered individual who really doesn’t understand typical filmmaking conventions. It’s either that, or he knows what standard filmmaking is extremely well, and knows how to do everything the opposite of that. Se7en really seemed to reinvent the horror/thriller genre, and showed a different side of New York City that you hoped and prayed didn’t exist. Fight Club took a novel about schizophrenia, philosophy, nihilism, and violence, and was able to convey those ideas to a wide audience. After those two movies I knew I would see every movie Fincher would ever do, even if it meant watching a movie about Facebook. I think what sells it for me is his attention to detail. No one detail is more important than any other, whether it be wardrobe, set pieces, or an actor’s portrayal of a character. Every single element gets as much devotion paid to it as any other, even if this means shooting the same scene over 100 times….literally. Also, every single one of his shots in every single movie has the coolest lighting. I just like looking at them.
Reasons Why: Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine
Just looking at his films, you get an idea of his diversity. He can entertain you with a murder mystery, make you disgusted with humanity, have a romantic comedy with musical numbers, break a stereotypical teen heartthrob into a selfish yuppie seeking adventure, terrify you with zombies, and use science fiction to make people realize “we’re all stardust”. Not only does he make movies from all different genres, but no two films are alike. Sure, you could definitely use the word “gritty” when it comes to his style, but comparing A Life Less Ordinary to Trainspotting, the two are drastically different. He can even take that gritty style into outer space to give people what I think is one of the best science fiction films of the past ten years.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Reasons Why: Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood
Similar to David Fincher, P.T.A. never does anything arbitrarily. He seems to completely immerse himself in every single project he gets involved in, but possibly the biggest credit is due to his casting. It seems as though he is able to take a perfect combination of script, set, and actors, which combine to pull off some wonderful films. And from listening to the commentary tracks on his movies, he also always makes it seem so effortless, and he seems quite humble. Specifically the documentary for Magnolia, you can see the trials and tribulations of the film, and it appears that it could fail, and you really get a sense of him having to prove he can make more than one great movie, no matter how hard it may be to top Boogie Nights. When you see him collecting awards for Magnolia, you take that much more away from it seeing that even he didn’t know he could succeed so well again.
Looking at this list, it looks trendy as fuck. Maybe that’s just me, and I’m sensitive to publicly admit some of my favorite things. Hopefully you take the time to read how I feel about each filmmaker, and hopefully my reasons for why they’re on my list is different than what you had expected. Sadly, I just didn’t have room for Michael Bay.
Wait….while trying to find an image for David Fincher, I accidentally stumbled across a picture of Spike Jonze. In retrospect, I wish I had somehow found a way to include him, because although his feature film list is short, it’s awesome, as are all of his music videos.
Your list is solid and you have nothing to be ashamed of. However, you seem to have left some things out. Specifically, lesser works by your directors and a couple of decent ones too. JC has had some pretty egregious misses. Ghosts of Mars and Vampires come immediately to mind. Argento has just a TON of shitty films to his credit. And he should also be blamed for all of his daughter’s assaults on film audiences. Romero has also directed some real turds but he is forgiven because his good stuff is awesome. Martin wasn’t on your “why” list but should be. If you haven’t seen it, do so forthwith. Also, Day of the Dead is better than Dawn. It’s a scientific fact. Boyle also directed a great family film called Millions. And the Beach? Seriously? I guess I’ve never seen the finished film but it looked pretty bad.
I don’t mean to give you a hard time. I would just like to read what you have to say about the above.
I can’t remember who it was, I think Romero, that I pointed out the fact that he has done some HORRIBLE shit, Diary/Survival of the Dead quickly jump to mind, but with him, and everyone else on the list, their good stuff outweighs the bad. Can you name one horror director who has a flawless roster? That wasn’t intended to be overly sarcastic, I just can’t think of any horror director who hasn’t made a few mistakes. So yes, John Carpenter has his flaws, along with Argento. I almost included Argento’s entries into the Masters of Horror series because out of all those putrid piles of shit, his stood out as quite entertaining, for me at least. I think the non-horror directors are the ones who I can say I have thoroughly enjoyed every film of theirs that I’ve seen. I’m not going to go ahead and say that The Beach is some perfect movie or anything, I also thought it would suck, but was pleasantly surprised by how it turned out. I haven’t read the book, which I assume is better, so I guess he can’t receive full credit for the concepts brought up in it. It looks interesting enough visually, and is entertaining, and would probably only get a 3/4 moon were I to review it.
And to finish our earlier conversation, Rampaige swears by ordering the veggie bowl, guacamole on the side, and the bag of chips. She said it’s also easier that way to “get to the good stuff”, but I’m not really sure what that means. Figured it was vegetarian code.
Hipster. Where is Bay? And Shadyac?
Frankenstein: The College Years isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And yes, I DID have to look on IMDb to see who the hell you were talking about.
Great post. Coming from someone who loves lists, I’d like to see more of these, if possible. I mean, you can’t list your favorite directors again but maybe some other things you like? Just a thought. I hope you reflect upon it.
I knew you were wondering what I had to say about this post. By suggesting the value of my opinion is worth only two cents, I hope to lessen the impact of a possibly contentious statement, showing politeness and humility.
Firstly, no film in John Carpenter’s career can overshadow or tarnish They Live. That movie is one of the few films that comes closest to achieving flawless status. Highly underrated and overlooked most of the time, I think it succeeds because it crosses a few genres even though from my experience, most people don’t take it seriously. One last thing about Carpenter: love the music he chooses, especially if he’s composing it himself.
Secondly, and this is nitpicking, though I completely agree that Se7en seemed to reinvent the horror/thriller genre, I wouldn’t go so far to say that it showed a sign of New York City; the movie was intentionally vague about its location, implying that these types of crimes can happen anywhere. On top of that, other than Philadelphia, the movie filmed entirely in California. But due to the subjectivity of film, we can allow you to believe it took place in New York, as I felt it was an eerie representation of Seattle (because of the rain). Who’s to say either of us are wrong? (Also, you’re wrong.)
Thirdly, Danny Boyle’s head looks like an upside-down pear. The picture you chose of him made me feel weird. I guess you deserve credit for that. Good job?
Lastly, I was sort of surprised and relieved you listed Paul Thomas Anderson. Being a big fan of him myself, I always felt you thought he was overrated, especially after lobbying his movies around you. Either way, I would have thought it was weird if you didn’t include him here, considering how important of a role you played in Boogie Nights as Scotty J.
No Chris Nolan? Each film in his filmography is above average. Or Jared Hess? He’s a genius. Guess what, you just learned two of mine. So there.
FRIEND, WHEN ARE WE GOING TO RECORD OUR NEXT INTERVIEW PODCAST OVER SKYPE???
I guess that’s a good point about Se7en, which can also be applied to Fight Club. Both of these films clearly took place in large cities, yet neither city is directly mentioned by name. I guess I should have chosen my words more carefully, and rather than specifically pointed out New York, could have compared it to the circumstances in the film Maniac, where it doesn’t matter which large city it is, as long as you know it could happen there. And considering the ending of Se7en, I suppose that could even completely discredit the fact that it might take place in New York, based on their travel time to the secluded area that the ending took place in.
This is some sweet discourse! I’d like to mention that I do not think crappy movies should exclude a director from a list. In fact, Romero would be on my list too. I just think the praise should be tempered with a little “of course he did make some shit piles like…” Since that other guy was brave enough to elude to who would be on his list, I would like to throw my hat onto the ring too. (I can’t explain the drive to categorize things in lists, but it’s a strong one.)
In discussing directors, you wouldn’t be the first to bring up Coen brothers. I LOVE Lebowski and Fargo, and enjoy their other films, but certainly not favorites. And I think I disliked Darjeeing Limited enough to have not considered Anderson, but I think his best film might have been Fantastic Mr. Fox. Every one of his films seems to take place in a fictional place with fictional people living their lives in a world that doesn’t really exist. What better way to convey his style than by using maquettes, real puppets, to tell a fictional story. I think it’s great. Someone also brought up Chris Nolan who, despite never really having done a bad movie, hasn’t done a movie that I would consider a “favorite”. Memento might come close, but Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Inception didn’t really reinvent the wheel. They’re entertaining movies and certainly accomplished pieces of work, but none of those films really blew me away like some of the other directors have.
Was with you until you mentioned Nolan films not reinventing the wheel. Going to respectfully (not really, nerd rage is sure to follow) disagree with you. As far as reinventing the wheel goes, we can find some precursors to Nolan’s narrative strategies in earlier movies, like Roshomon, I think Nolan brings it to contemporary mainstream cinema pretty flawlessly. We don’t often see changes in perspective in film based on the narrator, but The Prestige employed this very well. His use of different story arches running concurrently and weaving together hasn’t been used with the same sophistication in any other film, as far as I’m concerned. As far as storytelling goes, that seems to be unique to his writing and directing. Inception, The Prestige, and Memento all told a story using this technique. Pretty groundbreaking, if you ask me.
I’m kind of a dork for the Prestige, though. That flick is as dense as a novel. I pick up on new themes every time I watch it.
To be completely honest, I’m not sure how well Memento would have worked had it had a more linear storyline. Granted, it’s a moot point, because it was depicted the way it was depicted and there’s no point in playing “what if?”, but I think you get my point. Or at least the point that it might have only been successful because it was gimmicky. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy The Prestige and think it’s underrated, but I think I take it for what it is. I would consider Memento and Inception to be a little thicker, but other than that, we’re looking at Insomnia, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight, none of those are really too complex.
Also kind of a bigger note to everyone, that I think with at least the “non-horror” directors, I thoroughly enjoy every single shot, and think every shot in the films of theirs I enjoy can thoroughly convey all sorts of different meanings. With Nolan, despite enjoying his films and storytelling, the look of each film doesn’t really do that much for me. I also hate superhero movies, that shit’s for kids!
Oops, I accidentally hit the publish button prematurely. Anyway, continuing…
What about Tommy Wisseau? Kind of serious about this. He did create something genuinely unique and amazing and WHHYYY, DENNY? WHHYYYY?
Also: Edgar Wright!
I think I would categorize both Tommy and James Nguyen as favorite director personalities, rather than their films. I mean, I’d probably rather hang out with them than Fincher, but I like his movies more. Good call on Edgar Wright though, he has yet to make a bad movie. Same with Eli Roth, they’ve both only made films I enjoy. But I guess only having made 3 or 4 movies didn’t really make them pop (a boner) into my mind.
Wright! Good one. I wish I could put Neil Marshall up there too but I fear his good to bad scale has tipped well over to the crap side. What about Jeunet? Does he count as s horror director? If not, I’d like to include him in my non-horror list. Kurosawa is a bit too “gimme”. I mean, I might as well have put Hitchcock or Kubrick. So, Jeunet can replace him. Damn I’m over-thinking this.
Is it too late to change my list? I’m Going with Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Stephen Speilbergo. No just kidding, I meant James Cameron. No wait, I meant M. night Shyamalan!
Best post yet.
I actually thought for a second, “Do I include a picture of Kurt Russell, or NOT include a picture of Kurt Russell?”. I’m stupid sometimes.
Make a list of the lists I should list
just finished re-watching Dawn. still think it’s overrated.
the score borders on ridiculous at points. the logic is flawed the characters are flawed. the action is muddled. the runtime is at least 30 minutes long. a fucking pie fight? ugh. i’m not saying it sucks. i’m just saying that Night and Day are better.
GOBLIN IS AWESOME.
“This asparagus and rosemary peanut butter cookie tastes like shit.”
“FOOD IS AWESOME.”
CHOKE ON IT.
John Carpenter and George Romero are obvious choices, but if you hadn’t included them it would be like insulting the horror genre!