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The Greatest American Director Working Today (1 Viewer)

Seth Paxton

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One thing to consider about film count is a guy like Kubrick. At what point did he become "great", and just how many top films had he done by that point. I mean was it 2001 that did it, or Clockwork Orange?

And while I like The Killing, to be fair its not truly a great film in that if all he made were films of that caliber we wouldn't even be discussing him in this light.

So you have Paths of Glory, Lolita, and Dr. Strangelove (Spartacus was basically proxy work and does not represent much of anything that we consider great about him). Basically 3 flicks.

I think Dogs and Pulp are easily on par with those films, so really QT isn't that far off of the mark at this point.

Heck, considering his last film, KB2, you could also start to make the comparison to Leone's career, also marked by very little output.


I understand the case being made and I even understand that not everyone rates his work high, but Pulp was one of the top 5 films of the 90's to me and while he has a bit further to go its not like he is behind the output level of other greats.

Not everyone is Hitch or Kurosawa after all.


My list would start with Spielberg and Scorsese without even thinking twice about it. Soderberg is making a strong case for the top 5. I disagree about Woody Allen now. A big part of the appeal of his films is the writing and performance rather than direction. Few of his films even reach the level of direction found in Annie Hall.

Coens have to be considered high on the list. Lynch I agree with as well. The case for Mann isn't that bad either.


There are a bunch of other guys who haven't done enough to be considered great, but who could reach that point. PTAnderson, WAnderson, Fincher, M. Night, and even George's Lassister (I agree totally with that).

I think Eastwood actually falls well down the list as his work has a great deal of variance in quality and he often plays it too dry IMO. To me he is more like a guy who generally just gets the scripts onto the screen effectively without really displaying anything other than a workman-like effort, ala Ron Howard. In fact I think that makes a very appropriate comparison. Howard has several top notch films under his belt, but most people agree that as a director he brings little to the work other than competitence. It's better than what many directors bring, but not good enough to make a "greats" list, again IMO.



Two things impress me about Speilberg. One, he shows some consistency of themes and tone across genres and stories, which tells me that this comes from him rather than the scripts. Two, he has worked with not just a variety of genres but also with a wide variety of visual styles. Catch Me If You Can is a chase film in many ways as is Minority Report (and A.I. for that matter) yet they take on very different visual styles with equal quality.

More than making a different genre I think a director is more challenged by trying to tell stories in a different manner. Honestly I think you see that when directors cross genres they normally still make the film look like their other films. Spielberg adjusts to fit the project in a way that only Soderberg has shown a similar capability of doing.
 

george kaplan

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First of all, what the hell does Jurassic Park 3 have to do with Speilberg as a director? He didn't direct it.

And as far as having some missteps early in his career, you are hardly being fair in your evaluation if you don't balance that with the masterful direction of:

Duel
The Sugarland Express
Jaws
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (nothing visually interesting about that film :rolleyes:)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
E.T.

etc., etc.

and if you want to include Jurassic Park 2 in your analysis (which came out in 1997, hardly early in his career), then you've got to include other films made by then such as Schindler's List.
 

JonZ

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"Jaws
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Raiders of the Lost Ark"

Other directors would be lucky to have made 3 such fantastic films. And SL and SPR to that list and its pretty impressive. Id place Spielberg next greats like Hitchcock, Kuroswawa, and Kubrick. Im also one of the people who think 1941 is one of the most underrated comedies ever.

If u want overrated Id have to go with M Night Shyamalan.

While I thought Unbreakable was great,The Sixth Sense was mediocre and Signs was a pretensious piece of garbage.

IMHO of course.

My favorite director is Kubrick followed by Kurosawa, but Speilberg has more films in my top100 than any other.(Coppola has 3 in my top10 - Apocalyse Now and the first 2 Godfather films,Kubrick has 2 - 2001 and a Clockwok Orange)

Id also add Michael Mann to the list of current greats. I love his films.
 

ZacharyTait

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First off, I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't seen any Eastwood directed movies before Unforgiven.

BOT, I consider Spielberg the greatest American director working today. I haven't been disapointed by a Spielberg since Hook. The Lost World is a guilty pleasure for me. IMHO, Spielberg has directed 7 masterpieces in his career:

Jaws
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Raiders of the Lost Ark
E.T.
Schindler's List (his crown jewel)
Saving Private Ryan
Minority Report

Scorsese would be #2, even though in my mind he hasn't produced a masterpiece since Goodfellas. GONY, Bringing out the Dead, and Casino are great, though.


Cameron Crowe is #3. I "discovered" him when I saw Jerry Maguire. After I saw that, I rented and bought Say Anything (one of the best romantic comedies ever) and Singles. Almost Famous was my favorite movie of 2000 and Vanilla Sky was in my top 10 of 2001. Elizabethtown is my most anticipated movie of 2005, yes, even more than a certain outer space picture and a certain remake of a big hairy beast.


EDIT: After reading page 3 of this thread, I realized that I had forgotten to include Steven Soderbergh! Doh! I love The Limey, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, and Solaris. His best film IMHO is Traffic. It should have won Best Picture over Gladiator. I'm looking forward to his Ocean's Twelve.

David Lynch redeemed himself with Straight Story and Mulholland Drive. Before those two, I would dread seeing anything with his name on it. I've never been able to "get" Blue Velvet. AFAIC, it's too weird for my tastes and I like weird!

Quentin Tarantino is the only director outside of Crowe who's entire filmography I own on DVD. Sure they may not have done a lot of films, but I'm sure most directors would be jealous of their output.

Most underated would be Robert Zemeckis. He's made several good to great films with the masterpieces Cast Away, Contact, and Back to the Future at the top of the list.

Top 10:

Spielberg
Scorsese
Crowe
Soderbergh
Tarantino
Zemeckis
Coen Brothers
Sofia Coppola
Paul Thomas Anderson
Lee

Francis Ford Coppola would be on here except he hasn't done anything worthwhile in 25 years. Same for Lucas.

If Kubrick was still alive, he would be in there.
 

BrettB

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Jaws (1975)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
1941 (1979)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
E.T. (1982)

Not too shabby. :D

That's a pretty impressive stretch if you ask me. I left 1941 in there because, well, because that's the movie he made in-between CE3K & Raiders. :) I think Spielberg learned a lot from 1941. I think Raiders might have been a lot different without 1941.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)
A.I. (2001)
Minority Report (2002)
Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Hey, that's a pretty good stretch as well. ;)
 

RyanAn

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There are tons and tons, and I have only seen a few out of the lot...

Here are my favorites:

M. Night
Kevin Smith
Wes Craven
John Woo
QUENTIN Tarintino
Ivan Reitman
Farrely Brothers
Robert Rodriguez
Steven Spielberg

Ryan
 

MarcusUdeh

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What's that? I love David Lynch, and that doesn't compute as a title of one of his movies. BTW Don't forget The Color Purple, when speaking of Spielberg Classics. He wow a DGA Award for that picture!
 

george kaplan

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I don't see a smiley, so I'll assume you don't know that AFAIC is As Far As I'm Concerned, and he's obviously talking about Blue Velvet.
 

teapot2001

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Thi
I'd probably say Woody Allen.



The performances are affected by the direction, and Allen has directed his actors to many award nominations and wins, probably more so than any other director mentioned thus far.

~T
 

Jefferson Morris

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Spielberg is an amazing visual storyteller, IMO. I can't think of any director alive (or dead, for that matter) who has a better intuitive grasp of how to compellingly tell a story through a series of images.

Is Raiders of the Lost Ark visually boring? Close Encounters of the Third Kind? I defy any first-time viewer to take their eyes off the screen once these films begin. Each and every shot may not draw attention to itself in a painterly, Ridley Scott-ish way, but each one is no less meticulously thought out and crafted.

Look at the controlled chaos of the battle scenes in Saving Private Ryan. That's the work of a man who knows precisely where the audience's eye is going at any given moment. A reviewer in The Washington Times used a phrase that captured Spielberg's achievement in those scenes pretty well, I thought - "unrivaled pictorial sophistication."

Spielberg is part of a great tradition in American filmmaking in which the mechanics of the storytelling (visual and otherwise) are kept invisible to the audience to the greatest degree possible, so that viewers are simply immersed in the story itself. It's only upon reflection and repeat viewings, I've found, that the true visual beauty of his films begins to become apparent.

Oh, and the best living American director? Scorsese, probably for the rest of his life, and even if he never again makes a film as good as Goodfellas.

--Jefferson Morris
 

Seth Paxton

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I understand your point Thi, and can agree fully that directors do affect this. However, actors also feed off of great dialog as well. With Woody it's hard for me to be sure that if he were directing someone else's script, especially a perhaps weaker one, that he could automatically get the same level of results (has he directed a film he didn't write? I don't know at this point).

I'm not saying he couldn't, just that I'm not 100% that he could.
 

BarryS

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Martin Scorsese.

Followed by Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, M. Night Shyamalan, Alexander Payne, David Lynch, and David Fincher. Just a quick list off the top of my head.
 

chris winters

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when I watch E.T. i am amazed by its quality of visual storytelling. Its pacing, and rythem, and just about everything is so pitch perfect it boggles my mind. Spielberg can seem overly choreographed on occasion, i.e. schmaltzy, as even some scenes in minority report and catch me if you can suffer from it, but E.T. is really spot on. A true masterwork in my oppinion. Raiders, jaws and close encounters are also great. Jurrasic Park 1 was a benchmark for film technology, and spielberg benifitted from that. Of course we make our own luck, and he knew when and where to be when that bell sounded. I'm referring of course to the CG dinos. They were the stars of that movie, truly amazing techinical achievments never before seen onscreen. It is not a masterwork, however, as it suffers from many an intolerable scene guilty of over choreography. The cheese factor is unfortunately high in many places. Its an insult to Jaws to put them in the same category. That being said I still saw it 3 times in the theater that year, and its a fun ride. The rainstorm T-rex attack is note perfect, and expertly directed. And considering the fact that he had jurrasic park and shindlers list in the same year truly shows his genius. Think about the idea that he made one of the most critically acclaimed, artistic dramas of all time, and, (at that point) the most money making, biggest event movie of all time, and had them come out in the same calender year. If we're talking stats, thats pretty damn impressive.
 

Nick Sievers

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I thought Gangs of New York was. But the man has made a lot of great films, i'm sure a lot of directors would like to have titles like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, Mean Streets on their resumè.
 

Steve Felix

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1. Lynch
2. Tarantino

Along with Dreyer and Kieslowski, I think these two have glimpsed the potential of cinema.

Lasseter, W. Anderson, and Aronofsky are good prospects but their filmographies are a bit too small for consideration, I think. They each have "only" one masterpiece in my view: Toy Story 2, Rushmore, and Requiem for a Dream, respectively. They have better averages than Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Scorcese but not as many great films so it's just a matter of how one wants to look at the statistics.

And although it's always difficult to peg whether he's "working," how about Malick?
 

Nathan V

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Terrence Malick is working right now, (the Pocahontas movie) so I guess he counts for the time being. One thing's for sure, he sure as hell belongs on this list if he qualifies.

For me, the top director is Martin Scorsese, hands down. No director of the older generation has a beter handle on getting performances, establishing mood and character, using found music, camerawork, and editing styles are unparalleled. His constantly probing, nervous camera is so much damn fun to watch. Rapid-fire pacing and always-riveting subject matter don't hurt, either. One thing I'm very surprised nobody has mentioned is Scorsese's editing, which I consider one of his strongest points. (some credit must also be given to his editor of nigh on 30 years, Thelma Schoonmaker.) The cutting in Raging Bull and Casino, in particular, are absolutely amazing to watch. I just hope he bounces back to his pre-1996 days with The Aviator (trailer's now online, btw).

Steve Spielberg would run a close second for me. His style is radically different from Marty's, he is certainly not as skilled technically, but Schindler's List and SPR give Marty a run for his money. Steve always has a supremely affecting story, I am not one to complain at his happy endings, actually I find them refreshing, as most other great directors avoid upbeat endings altogether (for good reason). His cinema is so accesible and yet so "not-dumbed-down." I love the way his characters interact. There's something about the way his characters are that I cannot describe, except to call 'Spielbergian,' that is really quite fascinating. A certain similar humanity in all his characters, which I am sure is a reflection of Steven's own attitudes. Hopefully somebody can step in and elaborate on what the heck I'm talking about. And personally, i think Spielberg's photography, particularly his lighting, is fantastic. The lighting in Minority Report literally blew me away.

3rd for me is Michael Mann. He is a badass. There is no other way to describe the guy. His films are very evocative of their time period in which they were made. (80s, 90s) Heat, The Insider, and much of Ali are bloody brilliant. He knows all about music placement, performances, writing, cinematography, and especially mood and atmosphere, but most of all, testosterone.

After that the order sort of falls apart for me. Steve Soderbergh is fantastic, Solaris was wildly underrated, and Traffic was great. Worthy of BP, in my opinion.

As far as the younger generation goes, it's already been said. Tarantino will become either the next Kubrick or the next Leone; Nolan is great, on the strength of just one film; Fincher is fookin' fantastic, and would be more so if he made another film; Wes Anderson is cool; Arronofsky is arguably the most creative of the bunch, and P.T. Anderson is simply a wonder. Magnolia was amazing. I still can't believe he was only 30 or so when he made that. No surprise at all that Spielberg calls him the best young director today.

One other guy I really love, and I know there are few here who agree, is Oliver Stone. Up until post-1995, he was a roman god. I have a strong feeling that Alexander will bring him back to the top. I would also love it if people talked about his direction for once, instead of whether or not Oswald acted alone. :D


Great discussion. One of the best in a while, IMO.

Regards,
Nathan
 

Nathan V

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Seth, I completely agree about Clint. He seems good at just 'shooting the script' and letting actors do their thing. Mystic River was perfect for this sort of approach. Many other stories, however, aren't. Scorsese picks material that suits his style; his high-energy, pulsating direction always grafts very well with the material (let's forget about Kundun for a minute).

I don't subscribe to the "if I didn't notice the direction, music, etc, that means it was perfect" theory. For 'normal people,' I suppose that makes sense. But for film fans like us (and photographers like me), our eyes are already paying extra attention to the separate elements of cinema, and if we don't notice their strengths, then, frankly, the are bland, IMHO. Restraint can be a very good thing (michael bay, where are you), but I do have difficulty calling Clint one of America's best directors.
 

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