10 MORE Directors of the NOW
When gfunk started his 10 most interesting directors or directors of the now or whatever you call it, I immediately thought “I hope he uses this guy and I hope he talks about this director.” He did end up using some of them. Duncan Jones and Nicholas Winding Refn to be specific. But as a fellow geeky cinephile, I feel that it is almost my duty to keep spotlighting interesting and exciting directors. So I decided to make my own list of directors of the NOW. The following list is not ranked.
He may share his name with one of the manliest men to ever grace the screen, but British-born director, Steve McQueen, is his own force to be reckoned with among the new cinema elite. His feature film debut, Hunger, won him the Camera d’Or (Best New Filmmaker) at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. It was the beginning of a career characterized by stark, honest realism and an appreciation for the more quiet, pensive moments of humanity. His second feature, Shame, included one of the absolute great performances of the last few decades from lead actor and Hunger collaborator, Michael Fassbender. The two will reteam for an adaptation of Twelve Years a Slave, where Chiwetal Ejiofor will star as Solomon Northrup, a free African-American of mixed ethnicity who was kidnapped in Washington, D.C. and forced into slavery.
Nichols has a lot in common with McQueen. They both have made 2 movies with the same lead actor (Michael Shannon for Nichols), and they both directed those actors to the best performances of 2011 (Take Shelter for Nichols). Nichols movies Shotgun Stories and Take Shelter view like Southern versions of Scorsese’s Mean Streets and Taxi Driver. The first follows the trials and tribulations of a close knit redneck family who cannot escape violence and ill-will, while Take Shelter is the slow descent into madness of a man who wishes only to be an average joe. He is currently working on Mud, where Matthew McConaughey as the titular fugitive gets help from a young boy in escaping an island in Mississippi.
After some brief success, Ben Affleck became cinephiles’ go to punching bag for everything wrong in Hollywood. He was a pretty boy devoid of charisma chosen by studios for name value and to trick ladies into seeing some bottom-line action flicks. It got even worse when his buddy Matt Damon reinvigorated his career with The Bourne Identity. Luckily for Affleck, he focused his efforts behind the camera delivering the one-two punch that is Gone Baby Gone and The Town. Adapted from novels written by fellow Bostonians, Affleck brought a romanticized post-modern noir atmosphere to his beloved hometown, playing a big part in Boston’s new found popularity with Hollywood. His newest film is taking him out of his hometown comfort zone and dropping him in the Middle East, where he acts in and directs Argo, about a CIA operation posing as a film crew to rescue hostages. Affleck is building so much credit for his work as a director, he is know being sought after to direct Stephen King’s apocalypse fantasy, The Stand.
McDonagh is pretty new to the cinema world, but he is apparently very well known playwright with a few accolades up his sleeves. His first foray into filmmaking came with the short Six Shooter which won him an Oscar in 2006. It starred Brendan Gleeson who joined him for his first feature film, In Bruges. In Bruges was a hysterical and surprisingly heartfelt look at the moral ambiguity of a couple of mob henchmen lying low. It marked the beginning of Colin Farrell’s career resurgence after falling short on the early hype surrounding his stardom. Colin Farrell will reteam with McDonagh in Seven Psychopaths playing a screenwriter who finds himself waist deep in trouble. The film co-stars the awesome Sam Rockwell, the even more awesome Christopher Walken, and the king of awesome Tom Waits. How could it be bad?
Hillcoat may be one of the most exciting directors out there. He is capturing a level of empathy from violence that hasn’t been seen since the seedier days of cinema (late 60s to early 70s). With The Proposition, he superimposes the American Western on to Australia’s uncivilized beginnings. It has outlaws and lawmen and even natives (Aborigines replacing Native Americans). His follow up was the bleak apocalypse drama, The Road. It mixes some of the most terrifying end of the world visuals with a small but undying light of hope and humanity. His understanding of the human spirit in the face of danger and violence far exceeds that of any of his peers. So much so I cannot wait to see what he’ll be able to do with Prohibition Virginia in Wettest County starring Tom Hardy and Jessica Chastain and written by Proposition collaborator and indie rock icon, Nick Cave.
Rian Johnson is another in a long line of new filmmakers trying to embrace post-modern noir. His first feature, Brick, turned a basic highschool setting into the backalleys and bars of a detective novel. His ability to mix highschool cliches and noir archetypes is pretty impressive. A lesser filmmaker would have easily dropped the ball making it seem like a clever twist on the teen romcom. His follow up, Brothers Bloom, is a much more straight forward noir story. It is made with the passion of a fan who has the technical expertise to not make it so esoteric. His upcoming film, Looper, will put Joseph Gordon Levitt up against Bruce Willis, both playing the same character but at different ages in a time travelling action-thriller.
Jason is the son of famed director, Ivan Reitman, but he has easily surpassed his father. Ivan is well-known for his broad comedies from Stripes to No Strings Attached, he was only ever good at making marketable comedies, his most memorable efforts being as memorable as they are due to Bill Murray. Jason, on the other hand, has walked the fine line between comedy and drama with much confidence. He has the ability to look at the more wretched aspects of American society with a nonjudgmental eye giving us a brand new outlook. He made a tobacco lobbyist likable in Thank You For Smoking. He used teen pregnancy as a way to learn responsibility instead of a way to get on a reality show with Juno. He showed us the trials and tribulations of people whose job it is to fire people in Up in the Air and made it seem like a bigger parable for our individual lives. Jason will tug at every heart string you have with the ultimate goal to make you laugh and cry at the same time and hopefully learn something about yourself.
Being a fountain of charisma and likability as a leading man, it is hard to forget that Clooney is having an excellent career as a director as well. His directorial debut, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, was one of the films I consider to be the reason why I am such a die-hard film fan. Besides Sam Rockwell being absolutely brilliant in it, Clooney shows use that you do not need to sacrifice humanity and emotional resonance for uber-cool style and vigor of the indie crime thriller. Clooney expertly chooses stories that speak to his strengths. The reasons why his roles in Up in the Air and The Descendants are so lauded is Clooney’s ability to engage people in conversation is undeniably strong. Good Night and Good Luck and The Ides of March are essentially just people talking, but when you watch them, they are not as boring as that premise might imply.
Joel and Ethan Coen
If I was to show someone Fargo, No Country for Old Men, A Serious Man, and Miller’s Crossing, I don’t think they would come to the conclusion that they were all made by the same people. But once I told them, they would probably see the through-lines. That is one of the best things about the Coen brothers. They constantly reinvent themselves, yet they still have this watermark that makes it theirs. They have a poetic sense for dialog that makes their characters really pop. They both respect and lampoon regional subcultures aspiring to paint colorful paintings of eccentricities, the kind most people are ashamed of, but the Coens add a sense of ironic pride. The ultimate postmodern filmmakers, the Coens demand you compare their technique to the historic techniques they subvert. They ping pong back in forth from surreal comedy to gritty thriller with ease.
When Cronenberg first came on the scene, he quickly gained notoriety with both fans of science fiction as well as horror. He made a name for himself demonstrating psychological and sociological pain and suffering through anecdotal physical turmoil. The gore and body modicfication present in his films take on a surreal appearance cementing Cronenberg’s fame within the cult sects of film-fandom. The best examples of this is his remake of The Fly and his tech-age horror story Videodrome. In the more recent years, he has turned his eyes to a new kind of thriller. One marked by less surreal and more intelligent plotting and nuanced performances, especially by his most frequent collaborator, Viggo Mortenson. There is no denying the gravitas he displays in A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, and A Dangerous Method. In the later, he is accompanied by Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley both of whom give stellar performances. The only problem was the chemistry was ultimately lacking and A Dangerous Method was not the new form Cronenberg that we were seeing with Violence and Promises. Nevertheless, his keen eye and heady story preferences make any number of film fans excited to see his name in the movie blog headlines. Although, his newest film will probably be met with a certain level of bias due to casting Twilight-alum Robert Pattinson, its’ premise is one full of possibilities especially by a filmmaker who is dared dig deep into the darkness of the human condition.