Today: June 23, 2024

Directors Who Improve Films

Recently we’ve been looking at how we think Hollywood can increase the success rate of any film. Whether it’s adding a particular actor to the cast list, getting a specific writer to bring his touch of magic or maybe a director who has a knack for injecting something a little bit special into a story.

Recently we’ve
been looking at how we think Hollywood can increase the success rate of any
film. Whether it’s adding a particular actor to the cast list, getting a
specific writer to bring his touch of magic or maybe a director who has a knack
for injecting something a little bit special into a story.

It is not about
increasing box-office receipts, few names on this list are going to draw the
punters in. There is no questioning the pulling power of a Will Smith or a
Michael Bay, but these people bring something else, a certain je ne sais quoi.

This week we’re
looking at directors. Those people who can translate a script into a visual
delight, a well told story that hits all the right highs and lows in a manner
to keep you utterly invested in the plot. It would be too obvious to include
the old guard of Spielberg and Scorsese, this list looks at the contenders to
take over their thrones, now and in the future.

David Fincher

The Grandmaster. David Fincher is,
and has been for some time, one of Hollywood’s most inspiring directors. He is renowned for being meticulous
about detail, doing countless takes, not unlike a certain Stanley Kubrick,
until the shot is absolutely as he wants it. More than anything though his films seem to capture the
zeitgeist. Whether it is the
deconstruction of man in Fight Club (1999) or the emergence of a lonely
online life in The Social Network (2010), Fincher has an ability to tap into
society and hold a very real and terrifying mirror up to it.

Defining Moment: Any one of his films, and yes, that includes Alien 3
(1992), could make it, but the truth is that Se7en (1995) is as near to a
perfect film as you are ever likely to see.

Next Up: He’s putting the finishing touches to his
take on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. He’s then rumoured to be moving onto ‘20,000
Leagues Under The Sea’. Colour us over-excited.

Danny Boyle
Mr. Kinetic. Danny Boyle’s films are always fluid
insights into the human condition. At the centre of almost all his films is a psychological
question that has to be answered. What
if you had to dispose of a body for huge amounts of money, would you betray
your friends for cash, would you sacrifice yourself for the greater good and,
in his latest film 127 Hours (2010), would you cut off your arm if it meant
surviving? Boyle is able to get in
the head of his audience and then take them on a blistering thrill ride never
losing sight of the overall concept. His execution is often experimental but, unlike many MTV
directors, his style always serves the story. Sunshine (2007) is evidence that he can do tense slow-burn
just as well as he can do running through the streets of India in Slumdog
Millionaire (2008).

Defining Moment: Slumdog Millionaire is the obvious one
but Shallow Grave (1994), his first feature, is an often-overlooked
masterpiece. It’s darkly comedic and never lets you assume anything about what
will happen next.

Next Up: Taking on a heist thriller called Trance,
which stars a mouth-watering cast in the shape of James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel
and Rosario Dawson.

Christopher Nolan

The Magician. Nolan has taken
tried and tested formulas and put his own very unique and specific spin on
them. He has that Hitchcokian
ability to always keep you in suspended disbelief. Nothing is ever what is seems in a Nolan movie, making it all
the more engrossing. With his
Batman films he is the one person to try and break the superhero mould. Thanks to the success of The Dark
Knight (2008) Nolan was then able to make probably the most intelligent
blockbuster of all time in the shape of Inception (2010). Suffice to say that with The Dark
Knight Rises in the works, and busy producing The Man Of Steel, Nolan is
rightfully a Hollywood golden boy at the moment. Long may it continue.

Defining Moment: For sheer ingenuity and flawless
execution you have to go some way to beat the zero gravity fight sequence in Inception.

Next Up: Overseeing not one but two superheroes
in the shape of Batman, in The Dark Knight Rises, and Superman, in The Man
Of Steel.

Darren Aronofsky
The Obsessed. Aronofsky’s films are always dark,
brooding pieces of work that suck you into the psychology of his protagonists
where few others dare. His style
is always confined and personal, rarely do we get wide shots but rather tight
close-ups drawing us tantalizing close to the characters. No matter what the premise, be it drug
addiction (Requiem For A Dream – 2000), love (The Fountain – 2006), ballet
(Black Swan – 2010) or mathematical formulas (Pi – 1998), all Aronofsky films
look at the power of desire and single-minded obsession. As such Aronofsky doesn’t just open our
eyes to the human psyche but rather blows the lid off in such a way that Freud
would delight in his menace.

Defining Moment: It may have been too over the top for
some but Black Swan (2010) took Aronofsky’s manic ways to levels that are a
delight for anyone who has revelled in his work up to that point.

Next Up: He’s currently prepping a film about
Noah and his Ark. Now there’s a man who had a few obsession issues.

Paul Thomas Anderson

The Alienator. Anderson, although
often compared to other great directors, is a true original, a man for whom the
conventions of cinema do not apply. His style is graceful and his cameras glide around the worlds
he creates. Crucial to all
Anderson films are his protagonists’ inability to ever feel settled. They are always outsiders looking in on
others that somewhere down the line they will grow to resent. As such, while they feel alienated
Anderson instils a sense of unease in his audience. This is no more apparent in There Will Be Blood (2007), a
film so seeped in atmosphere it locks into a hypnotic nightmare where all the
bad things you expect to come materialise in ways you could never predict.

Defining Moment: Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia
(1999) showed that he could out-Altman Robert Altman for ensemble brilliance
but There Will Be Blood is so captivating and terrifying all at once it will
surely go down as one of cinemas greatest achievements.

Next Up: Currently editing The Master, about a
man who invents a religion in the 1950s and witnesses it grow and grow
throughout America. The
Scientologists are unlikely to be happy.

Guillermo del Toro

The Master Of Macabre. From the
minute del Toro burst onto the scene with Cronos (1993) it became clear that
here was a filmmaker with a very vivid ideology; to scare, unnerve and delight
all at once. In many ways del Toro
is the closest thing to a fantasy horror Alfred Hitchcock you’re ever likely to
encounter and clearly a man who worships at the altar of HP Lovecraft’s demonic
disposition. His endless insect
and symbolic imagery belies a sharp sense of wit that is always present. His characters are often sinister and
motivated by evil, but always loveable. Look at The Fawn in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), a character so
ambiguous yet oddly attractive and trustworthy. Or Hellboy (2004), a character born in the fires of Hell,
yet raised to fight evil. These
characters, while in conflict with themselves, are endearing to us. As a
filmmaker del Toro’s imagery is second to none, he is an artist first but one
who knows how to weave a ripping yarn.

Defining Moment: Pan’s Labyrinth is an example of meticulous
and perfectly executed style supporting a deeply personal and involving story. The sort of film that makes cinema

Next Up: Having had to walk away from directing The
Hobbit he is now working on giant monster movie Pacific Rim.

Jason Reitman
The Comedy Genius. It is rare that the child of a
successful filmmaker, in this case Ivan Reitman, is able to surpass the father,
but Jason has done so by defining this generation of cinemagoers. His films often address serious
subjects; teenager pregnancy, smoking advertising and the economic recession,
but does so with a dry sense of humour that draws the audience to even the most
unlikeable of characters. What is
more, these characters do not always go through an epiphany of ideology. Juno (2007) has her baby but is still
the fast-talking know-it-all she always was by the end of the film. A film like Up In The Air (2009) shows
that Reitman has that baby-boomer screw-ball comedy mentality. A film peppered with real and believable
characters, but interacting in a heightened manner that transcends the run of
the mill comedy or rom-com.
Defining Moment:
Juno announcing her pregnancy to her
parents is touching but it’s the three-way conversation between Clooney,
Farmiga and Kendrick in Up In The Air that is handled with the deftest of

Next Up: He’s currently putting the finishing
touches to Young Adult, starring Charlize Theron, before he moves onto Labor
Day starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. If his cast aren’t a testament to
his talents then nothing is.

Edgar Wright

The Quick Draw Comedian. Edgar,
the first of two British Wrights (no relation) on the list, defines that modern
movie geek mentality. Here is a
man who champions the little guy while never failing to poke fun at all around
them. His collaboration with Pegg
and Frost on Shaun Of The Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007) are
quintessential viewing in the way they take genre staples and turn them on
their head to comedic brilliance. Furthermore,
his take on Scott Pilgrim Vs The World (2010), although horribly overlooked
at the box-office, is a truly original film with the kind of editing that makes
the eyes spin and the brain dance, in the most dazzling way possible.

Defining Moment: Shaun and best friend Ed do some record
clear-out, while killing zombies. All
in a days work for Shaun Of The Dead.

Next Up: His long gestating super hero project Ant-Man.

Duncan Jones

The Theorist. Only two films in to
his directing career Duncan Jones has already proved to be a prestigious
talent. His films have an ability
to make you think and question our own reality in the best way sci-fi knows
how. Clearly influenced by 70s
sci-fi, like Alien (1979) and Silent Running (1972), Jones manages to
create stunning worlds and engrossing plots that always have a theory lurking
in the background; what if you could change time, what if you met your clone? As such, while it might be early doors
for him, he is a filmmaker who demands attention.

Defining Moment: Moon (2009) came out of nowhere with such subtle
force that it flattens you with how intricate and absorbing it is.

Next Up: There is no definite word yet but he is
rumoured to be working on a script he has had as a passion project for many

Joe Wright
The Epic Conductor. Not since David Lean has cinema found a
director to make huge sweeping epics seem so utterly personal. One minute his camera is gliding round a
scene, taking in crucial detail in fleeting glimpses, before resting on a
character, wringing their hands with unbridled tension. Wright has become known
for his period films Pride & Prejudice (2005) and Atonement (2007), but
proved with The Soloist (2009) and Hanna (2011) he is more than capable of
conjuring a modern fairy tale. This year’s Hanna plays wonderfully as a coming
of age thriller with a unique spattering of fable and fantasy thrown in. His
parents founded The Little Angel Theatre, a puppet theatre, and this director
certainly knows how to keep his audience dangling on a string.
Defining Moment:
James McAvoy walking around the Dunkirk
beach as the British soldiers try to find hope in their dire situation, from Atonement, is a defining moment of cinema in the last few years.

Next Up: Re-teaming with Atonement and Pride
& Prejudice star Keira Knightley for an adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email:

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