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.