Top 10… Active Directors

I recently appeared on episode #164 of the Lambcast, along with Nick from the Cinematic Katzenjammer, Pat from 100 Years of Movies and Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film. Our chosen topic of discussion was our top five active directors, and provoked some interesting thoughts including why none of us like Terrence Malick. I recommend listening to the episode, if only to hear us ruthlessly mock Nick for his first-time presenting skills, but the show also inspired me to expand upon my list for this week’s Top 10.

So today, here is my list of Top 10 Active Directors. My choices are generally based on two things: the director’s recent body of work, and their upcoming work or last film(s). This prevented me from putting, say, Steven Spielberg as no. 1 purely on the basis of Jurassic Park and Saving Private Ryan, because technically he is still working today, but in my opinion he peaked a good few years ago

Honourable mentions:

Fincher

This is a list for which there could potentially be dozens of honourable mentions, but I’ve managed to narrow it down to just a few. First up is David Fincher, who has yet to make a film I haven’t at least liked, if not really loved. The reason he hasn’t placed higher is that although I’m always eager to see his films, I’ve never actually made it into the cinemas to see them, and I’ve had the DVD of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo sat on my bookshelf for almost 6 months and still haven’t watched it. There’s no real reason for this other than finding the time to watch it with my girlfriend not around – there could be more rape scenes than she’d enjoy – but I feel my lack of excitement excludes him from the list. Next is Joss Whedon, whose Avengers Assemble was every bit as awesomely exhilarating as I’d hoped, and the trailer for Much Ado About Nothing looks decent too. Plus, the dude made Serenity, and has Avengers 2 on his slate. Other names I’d considered include Zack Snyder (who alas has had two unappealing flops for his most recent films, but Man of Steel looks promising), Martin Scorsese (I don’t deny he makes incredible films, but I don’t actually out-and-out love any of them as much as others seem to) and Sam Mendes (I loved Skyfall, Away We Go, American Beauty and Road to Perdition, but I don’t think he has any films in the works). The likes of Andrew Stanton, Danny Boyle, Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron, Adam McKay, James Gunn and Gore Verbinski can be considered as honourable mentions for the honourable mentions list. Continue reading

Looper

Regular readers will know I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with Looper, the third film from writer/director Rian Johnson. I loved Brick, and even wrote a post expressing my excitement and fears for the upcoming film, but alas when I went to see the film the first time around I passed out half an hour in, for reasons as yet undetermined. There’s an entire team of doctors and medical students currently scratching each others heads just trying to work out what – or rather, how many things – are wrong with me. But failing to fully see the film first time around gave me an opportunity to see The Brothers Bloom, Johnson’s second film, before watching the rest of his third. I have now managed to successfully see the entire film, in one sitting, having paid for a total of four cinema tickets (me + girlfriend first time around, me + friend second time around, Aisha didn’t want to see it again). And, personally, I think it was worth it.
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The Brothers Bloom

There is one benefit to my passing out during Looper last weekend, I’ve now managed to see director Rian Johnson’s second feature before seeing all of his third. It’s streaming on LoveFilm at the moment, so if you’re a member, go forth and watch it now, post haste. All being well, I’ll be seeing Looper before this time next week, and next Sunday should see my review.

The Brothers Bloom seems on the surface to be far more straightforward than the high-school-noir Brick and time-travel-brain-twister Looper, but in reality its just as subversive as those two. Mark Ruffalo and Adrien Brody are brothers Stephen and Bloom, two con men who have been running scams since their early teens. Stephen (Ruffalo) is the brains of the outfit, and Bloom (Brody) always takes the leading role in the con. Roughly twenty five years after their first con, Bloom wants to quit, but Stephen ropes him in to one last job, conning Rachel Weisz’s ludicrously wealthy yet decidedly eccentric heiress Penelope from some money she’d probably never miss. Along with their near-mute accomplice Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi), the brothers set out to dupe Penelope from her riches, but who exactly is the victim in this game?
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Brick

Recent years have seen seemingly exhausted classic genres being reinvigorated by big name directors and classy films, just look at the recent slew of westerns, or the amount of pictures throwing back not just their topics, but how the films have been made to more classic times. Hell, this year’s Oscars were dominated by a silent film and a film about the birth of cinema. Yet one classic genre remains relatively untouched, possibly because in 2005 first time feature director Rian Johnson updated the film noir template so pitch perfectly that no other films have been needed.

With closed eyes, Brick could quite easily take place amongst a myriad of smoke-filled bars, pool halls and rain-lashed phone booths, yet the action here has been transposed to a modern day high school, and in place of a perma-smoking Humphrey Bogart we’ve Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Brendan, finding his ex-girlfriend (Lost’s Emilie de Raven) face down in the mouth of a tunnel, and he is eager to find out why, regardless of how beaten up by jocks, thugs and car doors he becomes. Granted, there’s not really enough rain for it to be a traditional noir, but there’s plenty of secrecy, rich beautiful dames with brandy decanters in ostentatious mansions, moody shadows and an easily dismissed average Joe acting as gum shoe, sticking his nose in where most feel it has no business.
It’s not short on laughs – JG-L flounders like the best of them and his conversation with the principal is comedy gold, played spot-on like a detective berating his chief of police, and the final act wrap-up is gratefully received, for much of the highly quotable dialogue is sometimes too dense to catch.
Choose film 8/10