The Flix List: Seven Great Directors Working in Hollywood Today

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A while back I wrote about hack directors working in Hollywood. Well, to balance things out, now how about some of the great ones who are still churning out some great films. I’ll also list some of their upcoming projects that I’m looking forward to see on the big screen. (rtm’s note: also check out my 15 Directors meme, which share a few names in common).

In no particular order, here are the directors:

1. Steven Spielberg

Say what you want about Mr. Spielberg but in my opinion he’s one of the great filmmakers ever. Let’s face it, he practically owns Hollywood. Here’s a man who started the term blockbuster with his mega hit film Jaws back in 1975 and hasn’t slowed down since. He’s one of the few directors from 70s who still has that magic touch when it comes to delivering high quality films. You can’t really say that about some of his peers who started their careers around the same time as him. For example George Lucas seems to just want to stick with his Star Wars franchise; Francis Ford Coppola hasn’t done anything significant since Apocalypse Now; and William Friedkin sort of faded after hits like The French Connection and The Exorcist. Spielberg on the other hand, can make any kind of films, from light summer tent poles to darker-themed ones and still achieve relative success.

One complain I have about him is that he seems to like to please the audience way too much when it comes to his tent pole flicks. For example, in the original script of A.I. the film was supposed to be a hard R-rated story about robots living in our future society but he decided to turn it into sort a light adventure/drama flick. Of course Stanley Kubrick was going to direct it, but then he passed away so Spielberg took over the project in his honor. I wish he didn’t change the script, but I still enjoyed the movie nonetheless. I can only imagine what Kubrick could have done with that project since it would’ve been his true sci-fi project since 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Another film I thought he chickened out by given us a happy ending was Minority Report. I love everything about that movie except the last half hour. I still can’t get pass that clichéd happy ending. Now there are some out there who thinks that the last half hour of the film was actually Tom Cruise’s character dream. I don’t know about that, I’ve seen the films many times and still don’t buy that theory. The film would’ve been perfect had he followed the book’s ending, those who read the short story probably know what I’m talking about.

Here are a few projects he’s working on that I’m looking forward to see on the big screen:

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, I don’t know anything about the Tintin story but I’m looking forward to seeing it next Christmas. This was probably one of the few films that Spielberg has trouble green lighting from studio executives.

RobopocalypseBased on the upcoming novel by Daniel H. Wilson, the plot is about the near future, and all the dazzling technology that runs our world will unite and turn against us. “Taking on the persona of a shy human boy, a childlike but massively powerful artificial intelligence known as Archos comes online and assumes control over the global network of machines that regulate everything from transportation to utilities, defense and communication. In the months leading up to this, sporadic glitches are noticed by a handful of unconnected humans – a single mother disconcerted by her daughter’s menacing “smart” toys, a lonely Japanese bachelor who is victimized by his domestic robot companion, an isolated U.S. soldier who witnesses a ‘pacification unit’ go haywire – but most are unaware of the growing rebellion until it is too late.”

“When the Robot War ignites — at a moment known later as Zero Hour — humankind will be both decimated and, possibly, for the first time in history, united. Robopocalypse is a brilliantly-conceived action-filled epic, a terrifying story with heart-stopping implications for the real technology all around us…and an entertaining and engaging thriller unlike anything else written in years.”

I got the quotes from Amazon. Those sounds very cool to me and he’s going back to do another sci-fi flick and this could be an epic type of a picture. I love futuristic films so I can’t wait for this film and will pick up the book once it’s published this summer.

Oldboy: A remake of South Korean action/thriller masterpiece directed by Park Chan-Wook. The original film was based on a graphic novel published in Japan and at the moment the publisher is suing the film company because they sold the film rights to Spielberg without the publisher’s permission. When it was announced back in 2008 or 2009 that both Spielberg and Wil Smith were going to do a remake, the internet movie world went crazy because many thought Hollywood shouldn’t touch it. But I’m curious to see how Spielberg will translate the film’s dark and twisty theme for western audiences, for those who’ve seen the original film; you know what I’m talking about. The ending of that film still haunts me.

2. Martin Scorsese

Here’s another a guy who started his career in the 70s and is still going strong. No, his films doesn’t have the box office number like Spielberg’s but most of his films are first-rate stuff and you can tell that he didn’t make them just for the sake of getting big paychecks. He even tried making different type of films in the 80s, they weren’t successful but at least he step out of his comfort zone, can’t say that about some of the big name directors out there. (That’s right Michael Bay, I’m talking about you and the rest of the hacks in Hollywood.)

He doesn’t have a lot of projects lined up but I’m looking forward to see Hugo Cabret which at the moment doesn’t have a release date yet. I won’t be surprised if he teams up with Leonardo DiCaprio again soon. (rtm’s note: Sure enough just yesterday, it was announced that Scorsese will direct Leo again in their fifth collaborative effort in The Wolf of Wall Street, based on stockbroker Jordan Belfort’s memoir – per Vulture).

3. Christopher Nolan

I think most film lovers will agree with me on this one, in my opinion Nolan IS the next Steven Spielberg and he just turned 40 years old so he still has a long career in front of him. To me Nolan hasn’t done a bad film yet, knock on wood that The Dark Knight Rises won’t be cursed with the third film syndrome. He has that rare talent of telling a great story while at the same time can entertain us with spectacles we expect from big summer films. He’s one of the few directors in Hollywood that studio executives actually respect, well it helps that his last few films made hundred millions of dollars at the box office.

Of course The Dark Knight Rises is his future project I most looking forward to see but I also hope he goes back to develop The Prisoner for the big screen again. He left the project after the studio decided to make a TV mini-series version, I haven’t seen mini-series yet but I heard it wasn’t that good. I used to watch the old 60s TV show when I was little and always thought that it would have cool to see a movie version. Maybe Nolan will go back to it once he finishes with his Batman saga. At one point he had Russell Crowe signed on to play the lead role but the studio never gave him the green light, this was before Batman Begins came out.

rtm’s note: Since Ted wrote this article, there have been reports that Nolan is interested in directing another Howard Hughes biopic. According to Vulture, he apparently abandoned the long-shelved project when it became clear that Martin Scorsese would beat him to the screen with The Aviator in 2004. Here’s more details from the article: [While] Scorsese’s film is understood to have been heavily based on Charles Higham’s biography “Howard Hughes: The Secret Life” and centered largely on the early years of Hughes’ life up to 1947, we hear Nolan’s movie is based on Michael Drosnin’s “Citizen Hughes: The Power, the Money and the Madness”(first published in 1985), and would focus on the freakier decades of Hughes remarkably secretive and OCD-addled life.

The article suggests that Nolan is planning for a 2014 release for this film, which is a good 10 years after the Scorsese’s version is released.

4. David Fincher

I still have to thank the producers of Se7en for giving Fincher another chance after he got blacklisted by Hollywood for the failure of Alien 3. If they hadn’t done that, we might never have heard of him ever again. Hollywood is truly a rough place for young filmmakers. Anyhoo, for years now Fincher has been churning out great work, yes I even enjoyed The Game. I mean how can someone turned a script about Facebook into a great movie? I don’t know if any other director can do what he did with The Social Network’s script. I truly believe if another director made that film, it would’ve been a clichéd, boring movie, but in Fincher’s hands the film was exiting and beautiful to look at. I do hope he gets that Oscar statue he truly deserves.

A couple of his upcoming films I look forward to:

The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo I haven’t read the books yet but will do before the first film of a trilogy opens this Christmas.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea: Captain NemoThis will be his first mega budget adventure film and I’m pretty excited to see what he can do with it. Not sure if Disney will release it in the summer or holiday time but currently its schedule to come out in 2013. Apparently Disney already spent $10 million on pre-production, McG was first attached to direct with Wil Smith as the star but new Disney chief didn’t like the script so he shut down production. I’m sure he’ll keep close attention to see how The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo performs at the box office before he decides to green light this one.

Another project I hope he does is the un-produced Mission: Impossible 3 script, I would love it if he decides to turn that script into his first action/adventure flick.

5. Terrence Malick

He doesn’t make a lot of films but whatever kind of films he decides to make, I’ll go see it since I’m a huge fan of his. I won’t say much about him since he’s one of those directors that either you will enjoy his films or you’ll just hate them. I’m definitely looking forward to see his upcoming Tree of Life. A little behind the scenes tit bid about the film, before Brad Pitt and Sean Penn signed on to the project, Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger were going to star in the film. Of course Ledger passed away and Gibson just went a little nutty.

6. Quentin Tarantino

Some people will call Tarantino a hack and I don’t have problems with that because in a way he is a hack but a very talented hack. If you look at all of his films, they’re all remakes of crappy 60s or 70s films that he loved when he was young. He’s able to turn crappy and cheesy premise into great storytelling, look at Kill Bill for example. When you read the plot of that film, didn’t it sound silly to you? A beautiful blond who’s great in kung fu and samurai sword goes on a killing rampage after her old gang left her for dead. That sounds pretty silly to me, but the actual film turned out to be great and the fight scenes were even greater.

I thought Uma Thurman should at least have gotten nominated for an Oscar for her performance in that film. She got robbed in my opinion. I’m referring Kill Bill as one film because it was supposed to be released as a three hour epic but The Weinstein Bros. convinced Tarantino to cut the film in half and release it separately. Great marketing move because each film earned about $70mil at the box office, had they decided to release it as one film, they wouldn’t have gotten that other $70mil. Back in 2008, Tarantino planned to release Kill Bill 1 and 2 as one film on Blu-ray/DVD but The Weinstein Studios went bankrupt so not sure when it will come out now.

Of all of his films the two I like the least are Reservoir Dogs and Jackie Brown, don’t get me wrong those are very good films but compare to the others they’re pretty weak.

The only project I saw listed on IMDb for him was Kill Bill 3, not sure when the movie will come out and will it still be called Kill Bill since Bill is already dead in the second movie? I guess we’ll find out soon.

7. The Coen Brothers

These guys have been making great films after great films since the early 80s and don’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon. Most of their films have a simple premise but somehow they’re able to turn them into great storytelling and of course most of the actors who’ve worked with them always give great performances.

They don’t have any upcoming projects lined up yet but I assume they’re enjoying the big success of True Grit, it’s their most successful film when it comes to box office numbers. I do hope they decide to tackle another western, Blood Meridian, a novel by Cormac McCarthy. Currently James Franco is trying to convince the producers to hire him to direct the project. When I heard that it terrified me, Franco doesn’t have the experience or talent to tackle that kind of a project. Ridley Scott tried to bring it to the big screen but left so I hope the producers won’t let Franco take over the project.

(rtm’s note: Actually last week there were rumors circulating that the Coens might do a full-on horror film next. Here’s a quote from Empire: When asked if he’d consider ever doing a full-on horror, as opposed to merely dabbling in the likes of Blood Simple, E. Coen replied,“Funny you should ask, yes, we’re working on a couple of scripts now, one of which it would be fair to call a full-on horror movie. Frances McDormand is the monster.” Now, that last part is most likely a joke, but the first part could be true.)


Honorable mentions:

1. Michael Mann – after Collateral he seemed to be repeating himself with Miami Vice and Public Enemies. I’m talking about the way he shot the films, he seems to love to shoot them in that home video quality and I’m not digging it. He doesn’t have any future projects listed but hopefully he can make a big comeback with a new picture.

2. James Cameron – I’m not a big fan of either Titanic or Avatar but I thought they were quite entertaining to watch. But I’m a huge fan of his earlier work; T-2, Aliens and The Abyss were some of his best films. I can’t exclude a man who every time he decides to make a film; he sets the bar higher and higher for big budget tent pole films. Terminator 2 was the first film to actually cost $100mil to make, that was significant back at that time. Then Titanic was the first film to have cost $200mil in production back in 1997 and again it was something people in the industry never heard of before. Now $200mil is the average budget for tent pole films and many films have already surpassed Titanic’s budget. Pirates of the Caribbean 3 cost around $300mil, Spiderman 2 & 3 both cost well over $200mil and Superman Returns cost around $260mil to make. Of course we’ve all read about Avatar’s budget, anywhere from $300mil to $500mil. But it really doesn’t matter because it made tons of it back. Apparently he’s working on Avatar’s sequels and planning to shoot them back to back. But I’m more excited for his other project as a producer of At the Mountains of Madness to be directed by Guillermo del Torro.

3. Ridley Scott – his last couple of films were a disappointment to me. I do hope he can deliver the Alien prequel, Prometheus or whatever it’s called. I still think he should team up with DiCaprio again and make A Brave New World, a great novel by Aldous Huxley. If you read the book then you know it’s a great project for him. Apparently DiCaprio pitched it to him a couple years back when they were shooting Body of Lies together but Scott wanted to do Robin Hood instead.

4. Darren Aronofsky – he’s done mostly smaller art house type of films but you can’t deny how great of a talent this man is, I haven’t seen Black Swan yet but looking forward to it. Requiem for a Dream and Pi are still my favorite movies of his, I thought The Wrestler was a bit overrated and The Fountain was just too much mumble jumble and didn’t make a lot of sense. Of course he didn’t have the big budget to shoot The Fountain after Brad Pitt left the project; so he had to trim a bunch of stuff from his original script, which was pretty great. I’m looking forward to see what he can do with his first big budget superhero flick, The Wolverine. Maybe if the movie turns out to be great and makes tons of cash, we might actually see his version of Batman.


TedS_post


Well those are my list of great filmmakers, agree or disagree? Feel free to name your own list of great directors or let me know your thoughts about any of their upcoming projects.

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36 thoughts on “The Flix List: Seven Great Directors Working in Hollywood Today

  1. Ted S.

    Thanks for the information about Scorsese taking over The Wolf of Wall Street, Ruth. I didn’t even know he was interest in doing it. I thought Scott was going to direct it after he finished with the Alien prequel.

    1. Oh no thank YOU for your great contribution once again. I just saw that newsflash yesterday so I thought I’d include it.

      I forgot to include the horror project the Coens have been rumored to tackle next. I’ll add that in shortly.

  2. Great list. I think those would be my top 7, only with Mann subbing in for Malick. Not because of Malick’s quality as a director (undeniable) but simply because he never makes a blinking movie! Perhaps I should applaud him for that but I guess I’d rather have 1 film every 2 years that MIGHT be amazing over 1 film every 5 years that WILL be amazing.

    1. I know what you mean Brian, but maybe that’s the key for him in making such first-rate films… he probably enjoys the journey of making them than simply fulfilling a contractual obligation to the studios.

  3. Awesome list. I wouldn’t change a thing!!

    As I was reading I was hoping that you would have all my faves in there, and then they popped up!!

    All hail the Coen Brothers!!

    (wish I could write half this well)

  4. What a great article! The comment about Spielberg owning Hollywood is on the money (no pun intended..!)

    But I’d also say that Spielberg is my number one director working today. I always want to see his films and that’s a mark of a great director. I can say the same for most of the others listed above but few have the sheer body of work that Spielberg has.

    Yes, I think Nolan and Fincher have more to give – I’m sure they have some classics up their sleeves but while Spielberg maybe passed his prime he’s a wonderful storyteller and I always have to see his movies.

      1. …there’s no reason why Spielberg’s best stuff isn’t ahead of him. I doubt he’ll ever reach the heights of Jaws and Close Encounters again, but I’m predicting better efforts than that last Indiana Jones film.

  5. I would, personally, never compare Spielberg to Nolan. The first one makes usually very touching, often larger than life movies with positive messages and has a great sense of moral responsibility while the second one belongs to the group of dark, overly pessimistic and socially irresponsible directors who just serve to feed the appetites of fanboys who grew up in dark times, watching just dark movies and violence on TV and news so they acquired such tastes in movies too. Directors should always have moral and social responsibility when they do their movies. Spielberg has that, Nolan does not.

    1. Ted S.

      Dez,

      I compare Nolan to Spielberg for their box office numbers, not the type of films they make. I agree they make different style of films but I believe Nolan will probably match Spielberg’s box office numbers once he reach Spielberg’s age.

      Now I disagree that film makers should always have moral and social responsibilities with their films, I mean come on it’s Hollywood and they’re entertainers. Yes Nolan makes mostly dark films but he hasn’t done many films yet compare to Spielberg. Also, if you look at some of Spielberg’s films, they don’t really have any positive messages, Indiana Jones 4 comes to mind, that film was just plain dumb fun.

      1. I’m with you on that Ted. I don’t believe a film has to be dark to be good, but i feel filmmakers should be allowed to make films like that.

        As someone who wants to make films myself, i wouldn’t want to be limited in what topics can explore just because some of them may be dark.

  6. Nolan is solid gold in my eyes. But I totally agree with you about Mann. I hated the feel of Public Enemies. It was like some college kids too their dad’s HD home video camera and shot an amateur movie.

    Not to mention the fact the Bale took a totally self-less role and the movie itself just wasn’t very interesting.

    Ridley Scott may make movies that are hit and miss but I don’t think he’s ever made a bad movie…just ones that seemed lackluster. Still love his work though:P Great list Ruth!!

      1. Marc

        Arrg…when am I going to learn to read the very top where it say BY??

        Guess I’m still not used to you having contributing writers…
        ahem, Great list TED:)

        1. Ted S.

          Thanks Marc!

          I hope Mann changes his style of filming soon and yes I thought Bale’s role in Public Enemies was kind of lame and the film itself wasn’t that interesting.

      1. I agree Public Enemies disappoints. But I’d still consider him one of the best for Last of Mohicans, Heat, and The Insider, all solid films. Oh, not to mention the Miami Vice TV series.

    1. Ted S.

      I was hoping someone would bring up PT Anderson. 🙂

      I like him as a director but I only like two of his films, Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love. I thought Boogie Nights was way too long and wasn’t that interesting. And don’t kill me but I thought There Will Be Blood was a bit overrated. Daniel-Day Lewis was great in that film though.

      1. There Will Be Blood gets better each time you see it. Lots and lots to see. It was my least favorite PTA film the first time I saw it…but it’s quickly moving up the board.

        Also, you might dig Hard Eight, even though he’s basically disowned the thing.

        PTA would be my number one (if you haven’t guessed) I like your inclusion of Michael Mann. He gets forgotten when great directors come up, which is a shame. Thief is one of my favorite films.

        Anyway, cool list. Keep fightin’ the good fight!

        1. Ted S.

          I think I’ll watch There Will Be Blood again and see if I’ll change my mind about it.

          Good call on Hard Eight, totally forgot about that one. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

  7. I consider Fincher and Aronofsky still indie. Well moreso with Aronofsky since he had to borrow a camera from David Fincher to make Black Swan. Hollywood, to me, is like old school MGM productions and Aronofsky’s movies are more smaller than that. I can’t find a better word.

    And Spielberg to me is more of a producer. That said, Emily Watson better be more of a bit part in War Horse.

    Nonetheless, great list. I love the Coens shout out.

    1. Ted S.

      Hmm, interesting that you put Fincher in the indie crowd since none of his films were independently financed, they were all studio films and in fact Alien 3 was one of the biggest budgeted films of 1992. But I think I know what you meant.

      Can’t agree with you about Spielberg since in my opinion, he’s the definition of a Hollywood director.

      The Coens are awesome! 🙂

  8. Solid list, not a negative thing to say about any of these cats. Can’t wait to go on a Malick marathon in a couple months before The Tree of Life hits theaters. About time I got familiar with his works.

  9. Pingback: The Flix List: Seven Great Directors Working in Hollywood Today … | Latest movie Reviews

  10. MWilson

    I know he’s not on the list yet, nor does he deserve to be, but I think Joe Carnahan could very well be on a similair list in a few years.

    The man has incredible talent. I’m looking forward to The Grey. I’ve read Killing Pablo and White Jazz and was blown away. Hopefully he can make them.

    Narc packs a punch. Smokin’ Aces is so under-rated it’s sad, and the A-Team is what it is, and what it set out to be, a solid action flick.

  11. I’d definitely add Peter Weir if this were my list, Ted. Ironically I also didn’t include him in my 15 Directors meme, but I recently read an article on him and his films and I was amazed at how many great films of his I enjoyed and respect. He’s a bit like Malick too in that he takes his time between films but I don’t think he’s ever made a bad film. I’d probably swap the Coens with him as I’ve only seen two of their work.

    1. Ted S.

      I was thinking of including him in the honorable mentions but I totally forgot about him. Probably because as you said, he doesn’t make a lot of films. He’s definitely the type that likes to do different kind of movies and most of them are pretty great.

  12. Interesting list, Ted and a great article. I don’t agree with all of them, specifically Terence Malick and the woefully overrated Quentin Tarantino, but I’m right there with you on Spielberg, Nolan, The Coens and Fincher.

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