Thursday, December 17, 2009

Desert Island Director?

How about something a little (or a lot) less theological this week? As you'll no doubt already have noted, I love movies. In my perfect world, every day would end with a movie after dinner. One of the things that has always fascinated me is the stamp (or lack thereof) a director puts on a movie. Sometimes, you can just tell. For instance, I bet you could pick out a Darren Aronofsky movie if I showed you one. When I'm thinking about this "directorial stamp," I always think of the Alien Quadrilogy. In no other case that I can think of have four different directors taken on the task of bringing a very similar story to the screen. Sure, there are many Robin Hood movies, but rarely are they made very close to one another, leading to generational differences in filmmaking. The Alien movies star many of the same actors!

Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down) directed the first, while James Cameron (Titanic, Terminator 2) took on the second. David Fincher (Fight Club, Seven) took the reigns for the third, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) helmed the final installment. Crazy, right? What disparate visions! What could the directors of Terminator 2 and Amelie possibly have in common? What shared vision might they bring to the story of a woman standing between a race of ravenous poison-blooded aliens and the extinction of the human race?

But this post isn't going to deconstruct the "directorial stamp" as it's seen in the Alien interesting an undertaking as that would be. Rather, I bring it up to ask a question: Who's your desert-island director? In other words, if you could only watch the movies of one filmmaker for the rest of your life, who would it be?

Some folks in the running for me:

Scott (The Duelists, Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, American Gangster, Body of Lies)

Steven Spielberg (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET, the Indiana Jones movies, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Munich)

Tony Scott, yes, Ridley's brother, (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, The Last Boy Scout, True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game, Man on Fire, Domino, Deja Vu)

Paul Thomas Anderson (Hard Eight, Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood)

The Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) (Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading)

Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill vols. 1&2, Death Proof, Inglorious Basterds)

Of course, all of these directors have made more films (except for Anderson), but I've listed the one's I've seen and liked. I'm leaning toward either Spielberg for sheer volume (with the exception of A.I. he's basically never made a bad movie...) and toward the Coens and Tarantino for consistency (I like everything they've ever done). Anderson's movies are brilliant and moving, but he hasn't done enough yet to tide me over for the rest of my life.

What do you think?


  1. Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I saw 'City of Lost Children' in High School and it enchanted me like nothing I've seen since. Delicatessen is a little known gem, and Amelie is obviously amazing. I like his movies because, to me at least, they don't feel like he's serving up something to consume--he creates a world that engages your imagination.

    I was going to say Lars Von Trier, but even though he's one of my favorites I wouldn't say he's my "Desert Island Director". I've never seen one of his movies twice--they're too emotionally exhausting. But you don't really need to as they stick with you forever.

  2. A good question and I think Spielberg, Tarantino, and the Coen brothers would all be top picks for me as well. My ultimate choice though might be Hitchcock. While going old school may be a cop-out, it is hard to get past the quality of Rear Window, Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, Dial M for Murder, Rope, Notorious, the Man Who Knew Too Much, Strangers on a Train, Shadow of a Doubt, The Trouble with Harry, and The Birds.

    Also, Stanley Kubrick's oeuvre ain't half bad though I think I would want a bit more levity on a desert island.

  3. OMG i can't. although i will say one of the best directed films ever was bladerunner, and the director's cut was even better than the theatrical version.
    maybe taking what stevie said and if i were to think about the movies that i cannot click past- and end up watching over & over & over- Terminator 2, Field of Dreams, wait...Caddyshack & Groundhog Day & Ghostbusters, maybe at heart i am a light optimist and i would pick Harold Ramis (ok ivan reitman directed ghostbusters, but harold ramis wrote & was the heart of it).

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Hello Nick,
    I saw a link to your church's website and I plan on attending this coming Sunday. I just graduated from a Media Arts program so this is an awesome blog that cheered me up!

    My desert island Director would be Ridley Scott just for the first Alien and Blade Runner alone. Blade Runner is my favorite film of all time and probably the only film I have and could watch a million times.

    What makes him so great to me is
    he always has a complete vision- he is THE DIRECTOR AMONG DIRECTORS to me because he is in the tradition of the epic filmmakers like John Huston- who was someone that could command a huge production and do smaller, low budget films as well if he wanted to. His film "Legend" is still underrated IMHO. I can't geek out enough about him.

    I also agree with the previous blogger that Hitchcock's films have more than stood the test of time and are SO CONSISTENT! He was ahead of his time and basically invented the slasher film with Psycho (another favorite of mine).

    Also would like to add David Cronenberg- who I truly admire for... just being Cronenberg. A History of Violence is a truly amazing film. That, Dead Ringers, Dead Zone and the Fly would all be watched on the island religiously!

    Look forward to attending the service and Happy New Year to all!

  6. Hey Sherry -Thanks for your sure to introduce yourself in church! I started in Media Arts myself...ended up going a different direction, though...welcome to the blog!

  7. I agree with Stevie about von Trier, great movies but not something to watch over and over.

    I decided not to trust my memory on this question so I checked my ratings on Netflix.

    These are the folks who have put out the most 4 and 5 star movies for me:
    Coen Brothers
    Hayao Miyazaki
    Chan-wook Park
    Wes Anderson
    Christopher Guest
    and Paul Thomas Anderson

    I strongly considered Miyazaki because his movies just make me feel good; beautiful imagery and incredible imagination. I can watch them over and over. But the Coen brothers have such versatility humor and horror in the same scene. I'm sticking with the brothers.

    (I also considered Rob Reiner) :)

  8. A beast of a question, I guess in keeping with the Desert Island genre of questions. So difficult.

    Overall, I go with Hitchcock -- his portfolio is so dense with good movies, and (reiterating a previous point) he is consistently good.

    If the Desert Island only honors directors who are alive, I go with Ridley Scott (I'd love it if Tony could be thrown in as well -- like a Scott Free special). I enjoy everyone of his movies.

    Oddly enough, the movie I probably have seen the most number of times (leaving aside Star Wars and Indiana Jones) is by neither of those directors. For various reasons, not all aesthetic, that movie is Michael Mann's "The Insider." But Mann is not nearly as consistent at Hitchcock and Scott, and his portfolio isn't as large, so I'd leave him on the mainland.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...