ENJOY THE MOVIES
When I first started to really get into film, all I cared about were the actors. Every movie I rented was first based on who was in it. After watching every Bruce Willis movie, I moved on to watching every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and so on. Sure I was aware of writers and directors, but didn't really understand how important they were. It wasn't until college that it hit me that the directors and writers mold the film into what it really is. After watching Fight Club, I knew I wanted to see everything that David Fincher had done. A whole new world of watching movies, based more on who directed it than who acted in it, opened up to me. It was around this time that I learned of the directing duo the Coen Brothers.
There's a moment in Bad Boys II that completely captures the essence of what makes a Michael Bay movie. For reasons that are too elaborate to explain, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are behind the wheel of a car and a bunch of dislodged automobiles are being hurled at them as they drive at a speed even Paris Hilton could appreciate. The golden moment is when we see a car fly past Lawrence, missing his head by mere inches and he gives out an enthusiastic "woo!" This unabashedly over-the-top, logic-free, stupid and utterly cool visual is pure Bay, in that it offers audiences a wild kick and demonstrates just how far Bay will go to give his audience a good time.
Like Richard Linklater, here is an American director who has pushed cinema past the realms of the normal. Both a celebrated art house director and a maker of commercial, crowd pleasing hits, Steven Soderbergh has gone back and forth into the mainstream, creating films that are stunning in their technical and intellectual brilliance. His love of varying directors, complex narratives and wildly versatile screenplays has lead to films that some have complained are pretentious and emotionally cold. Yet, nearly every one of his films are better, richer experiences upon second glance and his ability to extract great performances from his actors, create a specific visual style for each of his films and craft a style and tone that changes from each project, make him one of the most interesting and important directors working today.
If nothing else, Gore Verbinski was always going to be known as the guy who made those "Bud… Weis… Er" frog commercials. Truly some of the most popular of all Superbowl ads, this one-time music video director hit it big with his swamp-set spots for Budweiser beer. Whether he would make a good feature film director was another story - his wide range of very different films and astonishing successes set Verbinski apart immediately. Today, while (arguably) best known for his Captain Jack adventures, Verbinski continues to impress with an adaptable style that makes him a good fit for just about any film project that comes his way.
Funny how a filmmaker can have the Master of Horror label permanently stamped on them for just one movie. While a talented director with a considerable list of accomplishments, William Friedkin will be forever tied to The Exorcist. This is both a curse (everything he's made since has been compared unfavorably to it) and a blessing (the ongoing popularity of that one film has given him longevity, as he has found work even after making a string of box office flops). He is an American director who has made better films than The Exorcist more than once in his career, even though that split pea-gusher will forever be his most famous contribution to cinema.
Here's a filmmaker who made one of the essential 90's films, as well as one of the most celebrated zombie films of the past 20 years. Danny Boyle's work as a director is eclectic, adventurous and daring. This fearlessness has also lead to some uneven films as well. You can say this is a filmmaker whose best work is still ahead of him; yet his artistic output shows an inventiveness and versatility that matches even Sam Raimi.
Few directors have careers that cover as wide a spectrum as Peter Jackson, George Lucas and Sam Raimi; these three (to name just a few) began as low budget filmmakers whose early, visionary work behind the camera has proven influential, long lasting and wildly popular. They later conquered Hollywood with surprise blockbusters that re-wrote the rulebook, made overnight stars of everyone involved and gave them directorial clout and massive popularity worldwide. Raimi, who, prior to Spider-Man, was a cult favorite whose thrillingly energetic, genuinely sick and twistedly funny early works gave way to dramatically rich, underappreciated films. After he seemingly had nothing left to prove or lose, he made a comic book movie that made him Sony's Golden Boy. Here's how he got there.
The timid need not bother with any film directed by Paul Verhoeven, one of the most forceful, flamboyant and no-holds-barred filmmakers in the world. This Dutch bad boy has created excessive, vivid, and jaw dropping visions of human decay and obsession, with the majority of his films displaying no timidity in portraying graphic gore and sexuality. Truly, most filmmakers will break a few taboos now and then, but Verhoeven's brash, seemingly fearless approach to crafting films, both small and grandly lavish, has never wavered. His films are often opulent, yet also cold and metal-slick, reflecting the theme of man falling prey to the fascism around him or the poison that resides in his mind.
Since I began teaching film classes seven years ago, I've received the same two questions every semester from at least one student: "Have you seen Pulp Fiction?" and "What's in the suitcase?" To the first question, I say "Yes". To the second, I've responded (depending on the mood I was in) with: "Nothing", "A light bulb that turns on whenever you open the case", "Untold riches… compacted in a small space", "the soul of Marsellus Wallace - everybody knows that!", "a shiny interior" and "Who cares?! No one knows! It's up to you!". That last refrain is the one I've said most recently and it's the one I like myself the least for saying. EVERYONE WANTS TO KNOW. Because, love him or hate him, everyone knows Quentin Tarantino and, for crying out loud, they wanna know what's in the #@!&% suitcase!!!
The consensus seems to be that, in order for a comic book adaptation to work, you need a director with a stylish eye who has an understanding and respect for the source material. With the eagerly anticipated release of Frank Miller's 300 looming (and the career of Zack Snyder seemingly about to skyrocket), here's a look at five directors who brought a welcome, respectful and altogether ingenious touch to their adaptations of comic book material.
The dark prince of young, 90's-era directors with a strong ability for crafting grim morality tales, David Fincher, got his start by directing a handful of stunning, stand-out MTV music videos for Madonna and Paula Abdul. His skill at conveying beautiful landscapes and textured imagery got him the job of directing Alien 3 (1992), a position that had been rejected by many and passed around from Renny Harlin to Vincent Ward and into Fincher's lap.
Talking to film buffs about Joel Schumacher is kind of like talking to music fans about Michael Jackson - you want to gloss over the stigma attached to his name and focus on the substantial artistic achievements in his career. Inevitably, this is an uphill battle, as most film geeks still haven't forgiven Schumacher for a lousy movie he made ten years ago. You'd think they would've moved on by now, but this guy still gets a bad rap for one movie which, by the way, wasn't his worst. Here's a look at the highs and lows of an undeniably talented, even great, director.