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The FilmDebate Contributors Collaborate – Our Top Three Directors…


Posted March 10, 2016 by

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Our Top Three Directors

Here we have the first of a new monthly article series, in which the FilmDebate Contributors collaborate on a chosen topic – This month, we have started with a broad topic – Top Three Directors!

Adam Snowden

1. Quentin Tarantino – Simple; I love dialogue, and no one writes it like Tarantino. There are few people that can build plot and generate suspense through spoken word like this man. Scenes of dialogue in a Tarantino film can stretch for twenty minuets to half an hour, yet subtly zip by – to the point where don’t even notice the length of time at all! His writing, coupled with his explosive style, generic choices, casting, musical influence and tremendously unpredictable narrative, make him my undisputed favourite director.

2. Joel & Ethan Coen – Another pair that are masters in the field of writing and dialogue – with films like ‘The Big Lebowski’, ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘Millers Crossing’ and ‘Fargo’ under their belt, I am hard pushed to think of a better pair of filmmakers and writers combined. Their use of dialogue, subtle comedy, narrative structure and story interchange is excellent, which when coupled with their tremendous casting, means I always rush to see a Coen Brothers film the minuet it is released…and they have never let me down!

3. Steven Spielberg – The master of the modern blockbuster, Spielberg has shaped and influenced the modern film industry in a very real way – the most influential director of modern cinema? You decide…but what more can be said about the man behind: ‘Saving Private Ryan’, Schindler’s List’, ‘Jurassic Park’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Catch Me If You Can’, ‘E.T’ etc etc…

Honourable Mentions: Alfred Hitchcock (The master of horror, enough said), Christopher Nolan (The man behind the best Comic Book film/trilogy ever made, amongst other excellently engaging films like – ‘Incepetion’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Memento’), Guy Richie (His narrative construction is genius – his films interweave and unfold so unpredictably – especially in ‘Snatch’, ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’, and ‘Rock N Rolla’), Martin Scorsese (Another legend of the screen, Scorsese has created some of the greatest and most entertaining films ever made – ‘Goodfellas’, ‘Gangs Of New York’, ‘The Departed’, ‘Taxi Driver’, ‘Raging Bull’, ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’, etc etc), Roman Polanski (Taking his personal life out the equation, his films do tend to be cinematic masterpieces…you can not argue with the genius behind ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘The Pianist’ and ‘Chinatown’).

Nick Price

1. Martin Scorsese – Simply Great! Every film is a masterpiece and he tends to work with two of my favourite all time actors! (DiCaprio and DeNiro)

2. Steven Spielberg – Defined my childhood and is still creating memorable greats!

3. Christopher Nolan – innovative director pioneering the dark side of comic books and creating in my opinion THE best Batman trilogy!

Louis Skye

1. Christopher Nolan – he is an amazing storyteller and knows how to keep the audience in suspense. Every frame matters in his films. His Inception was the first film, in a long time, that reminded me of the magic of movies.

2. Ang Lee – I can’t find fault in Lee’s work, not even in his Hulk, which I enjoyed. He has such an eye for misc-en-scene and gets character development spot on. Watching his films is like being on an emotional roller coaster that you want to keep going back to.

3. George Lucas – people are gonna hate me for choosing Lucas in my top three but his Star Wars fired my imagination as a child and continues to do so now. His vision and ideas are amazing and more than make up for his sometimes clunky dialogue and Jar Jar Binks. Who else could have dreamed up that stunning underwater Gungan City and the beautiful Cloud City?

Cookie N Screen

1. David Cronenberg – No film is the same and he explores the horrendous side of humanity which I adore

2. Danny Boyle – his style, the shots and the narrative poignancy of all his works

3. David Fincher – Everything he does is brilliant l, slick and stylish but with that grim edge

Larry Oliver

1. Akira Kurosawa – for The Seven Samurai

2. Steven Spielberg – for redefining event cinema (he gave birth to the modern blockbuster, the summer tent pole movie)

3. Jane Campion – because she made The Piano and noone else (I mean noone else) could have made that movie.

Jeff Payne

1. Billy Wilder – Possibly the best film auteur that ever lived. How many classics did he make? Double Indemnity. The Lost Weekend. Sunset Blvd. Stalag 17. The Seven Year Itch. Some Like it Hot. The Apartment. These are only a handful of his films. Coming out of the early 40s, he brought a new sensibility to cinema and made films with challenging subject matter and a wry sense of humor.

2. Joel & Ethan Coen – I almost listed the Coens as my #1, but they might not exist without Wilder. Nevertheless, they always make well-crafted films. Even when they miss, it’s marginal (some might say they never miss). On the shooting side they always have perfect shot selection and editing. On the writing side, their ear for dialects and natural rhythm is unsurpassed. Always at the top of their game.

3. Bennet Miller – Even with only three narrative films under his belt, he’s proven to be a master of the form. His ability to take a movie like Moneyball, and have it play like a thriller, while maintaining traditional drama conceits is amazing — not to mention making a movie about baseball statistics accessible and personal. This spot almost went to Alexander Payne, but Miller’s understated approach edged him out.

Drew Oliver

1. Charlie Chaplin – This man was an all around talent. He Directed, wrote, acted, produced, and composed. He took The Tramp directly into everyone’s heart and showed that the basic man can do great things. Modern Times, City Lights, The Kid, The Great Dictator – all still relevant today and no director today could tell a story in silence like Chaplin.

2. Tim Burton – When you think of Auteurs, there aren’t many of them around now. There is a definite signature on all of Tim Burton’s work. The music, the characters, and the visuals all come together in a very specific world. A world created by Tim and a world we get to play in when we see his movies. A world like none other.

3. David Fincher – Taking material from page to screen is a difficult task and a lot can be lost – it is the exact opposite with Fincher, more detail is added. Specific drops of sweat to strategically placed items in a frame, he is hands on in every aspect possible. His movies are cut to precision with him overseeing every cut and there is not a technical problem seen. His films are the closest to perfection I have seen.

Honorable Mention – Ben Affleck – The stories that he is able to tell with his gritty film making style are as real as they come these days. He only has a handful under his belt, but they made an immediate impact and clearly award worthy. Affleck took his knowledge and put it to use behind the camera. His story choice and attention to detail make him a filmmaker that everyone knows his work and looks forward to it.

Katie Young

1. Gregg Araki – From The Living End to Smiley Face, from the Teen Apocalypse Trilogy to his darkly beautiful adaptation of Scott Heim’s Mysterious Skin, Araki has never been one to shy away from diverse and difficult subject matter. The first ever winner of the Cannes Film Festival Queer Palm, he is the defiant voice of a doomed generation. Nihilism has never been so much fun.

2. Tim Burton – Burton’s world-building is second to none. His inimitable style, the weird and wonderful characters that populate his films, and his seemingly boundless imagination create deliciously dark fairy tales which combine horror, humour, tragedy, and beauty.

3. Quentin Tarantino – Love him or loathe him, there is no mistaking him. As a teenager, I cut my hair into a blunt bob and dyed it black. I begged my mum for a bottle of the must-have Rouge Noir for Christmas, but there was none to be found in the entire country. That’s Tarantino’s magic. He can create instant cult classics, and for this 90s gal, he remains the epitome of cool. Honourable mentions must also go to David Fincher and Guillermo del Toro. This was a tough choice!

Jonathan Eig

1. Orson Welles – more creative ideas in terms of image, sound, and story structure than any director I know of. Yasujiro Ozu’s body of work is more significant but Welles’ best beats anyone.

2. Errol Morris – the most eclectic of all documentarians, able to turn any subject into compelling cinema. Dziga Vertov is more historically important, but I’d rather watch Morris.

3. Hayao Miyazaki – the most artistically creative animator. I never thought I’d like an animator more than Chuck Jones but then I saw Spirited Away.

Tim Buckler

1. Sam Raimi – Ever since I was a nipper and I first watched Evil Dead II the p.o.v board cam has been one of my favourite theatrical devices. Raimi’s style is what got me genuinely interested into what goes on behind the camera and is the reason I want to make movies when I grow up.

2. Richard Donner – If this is to do with personal favourites then Donner has to be on my list. The man was behind my favourite Superhero movie (Superman: The Movie/Superman II), my favourite Christmas movie (Scrooged) and one of my favourite horror movies (The Omen). I also have a lot of love for the Lethal Weapon series.

3. Steven Spielberg – Because he is Steven Spielberg.

Daniel Smith-Rowsey

1. Stanley Kubrick – Spielberg once said about him (I’m paraphrasing) “every one of his films is entirely different, and yet within five minutes you know you’re watching a Kubrick film.” Not sure there’s any higher praise for any director; not sure any other one deserves it. I understand that he’s claustrophobic and male-centered, but his design involves deconstructing masculinity and pathologies of our modern era. Redefined “director” for the “Hollywood brats” (many of whom are mentioned upthread), and with “2001”, established the cinematic landscape of sci-fi driven as much by effects as by philosophy that our best current directors are still playing on.

2. Satyajit Ray – It’s close between Ray and his heroes, like Jean Renoir and Roberto Rossellini, but Ray gets credit for both degree of difficulty – achieving that passionate, humane realism in an Indian context – and for giving deep-throated voice to the world’s subalterns in a way that a white European simply couldn’t. Every frame of a Ray film, not unlike that of Ousmane Sembene (but Ray was there first), says We Are Here. We Count. Listen to Us, We Are Not So Unlike You. Fiction film doesn’t get more important than that.

3. Agneiszka Holland – Another passionate realist, she makes it hard for us to feel antipathy even toward her villains, remarkable considering that growing up in Cold War Poland, she had plenty of villains to consider. “Europa Europa,” “Olivier Olivier,” and “The Secret Garden” are flat-out masterpieces, but I’m almost more excited about her TV work on shows like The Wire, Treme, and House of Cards. Holland’s work feels as though it’s just happening, that the extraordinary is rising organically out of the mundane and quotidian.

Hannah Wales

1. Christopher Nolan – I don’t even know where to start. His films are some of my favourites. They make you think and just have the biggest impact on me. I am always excited for this next movie and he always goes places you would not expect. Memento is genius, I could watch Inception over and over and The Prestige blows my mind. The Dark Knight is the best Batman film ever.

2. Quentin Tarantino – he has such a distinctive style. You know you are watching a Tarantino from the dialogue, the violence and the story structure. Even the font used onscreen is Tarantino’s. Kill Bill Vol 1 and Pulp Fiction are incredible movies.

3. Steven Spielberg – this is more of a nostalgic one. He is behind so many films from my childhood and his credits are so varied. Personal favourites are the Indiana Jones franchise and Jurassic Park.

Ruben Diaz

1. Stanley Kubrick – Some of my favorite directors like Hitchcock or Kurosawa share a similar trait: unapologetic craftsmanship. You either love or hate their movies, but there is no denying the mastery of filmmaking, or that Kubrick might be the most brutally unforgiving of the bunch (topped only by the insane Jodorowsky maybe). Kubrick made moving paintings rich with texture in every frame that studied the darker parts of humanity, but are also quietly hopeful. If movies are modern cave paintings in motion, the best of them tell their story without sound or dialogue and Kubrick’s filmography is a study in show, don’t tell.

2. Danny Boyle – Cuarón and Inaurritu are absolutely fantastic “new” directors, but few today tackle genres and styles the way that Boyle does. Horror, comedy, suspense, drama, scifi, it doesn’t matter to Boyle who blends character and camera work into timeless pieces of cinema. In films like 28 DAYS LATER, SHALLOW GRAVE, SUNSHINE, or SLUM DOG he studies the journey of humanity from innocence to understanding and the degrees of hopeful and horrific.

3. Steven Spielberg – Scorsese is brilliant and Coppola has a diverse filmography, but Spielberg changed the game for all time in the 70s (for better and worse) and raised the bar for everyone else. Spielberg’s versatility and fearlessness in delving into wildly different kinds of films sets him apart and he’s an absolute master of energetic, visual storytelling, innovative techniques, and character moments.

Honorable Mentions – Hitchcock, Welles, Lynch, Cronenberg, and Tarantino.

Michael Keyes

1. Alfred Hitchcock – My brief stint in Film Studies introduced me to Hitchcock. I have eagerly sought his pictures since. Despite a conservative time and an even more conservative Hollywood, Hitchcock revelled in pushing boundaries and poking fun. The sarcastic wit of The 39 Steps, the morbid thrills of Rear Window, the addictive twisting of Vertigo, the action bonanza North by North-West (a proto-Bond movie, some film historians have dared say), the ear-shattering horror of Psycho and, my favourite of all, the untold, mysterious silent terror that is The Birds.

2. The Coen Brothers The Coen’s so perfectly capture life’s random absurdity, they twist it and sometimes they dispense it for comedy. The neo-screwball Hudsucker Proxy, the stoner opus Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou? where Ancient Greek poetry meets the Depressed Dustbowl. Sometimes the Coen’s dispense something more threatening. Blood Simple’s ending apartment scuffle is terrifically sustained, as is the hotel chase and shootout in No Country for Old Men. And then there is Barton Fink, an enigmatic, impenetrable yet fascinating ordeal. Every time I watch it, I see something different.

3. Steven Spielberg I was just a toddler when first wowed by Raiders of the Lost Ark. Despite being 25 now, Indiana Jones will always tap the childish excitement that lies dormant somewhere deep within. A Spielberg picture does not age. From viewing Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it is clear the young Spielberg was already a movie magician. His ability to immerse you in any genre he chooses is unlike any other. Whether it’s the blood soaked beaches of Normandy or blue-tinted streets 2050’s Washington DC, whether you’re looking at real presidents or real dinosaurs, Spielberg casts a spell that makes you sit down, shut up and stare. Before I realised I loved movies, I already loved Spielberg.

Honourable Mentions – Christopher Nolan (because, duh), Alfonso Cuarón (for Children of Men), George Miller (for Mad Max), Paul Verhoeven (for Robocop) John Mc Tiernan (for Predator and Die Hard), Ridley Scott (for too many films to name) David Lean (the master of the epic) and Carol Reed (for The Third Man, a very English noir and a film of which I never tire)


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