Thursday, July 26, 2012

My 10 Favourite Directors of 2011.

2011, you say? That thing that happened over seven months ago? Sorry, guys in the future, but my mind has just clicked out of 2011 mode. I've seen all of the '2011' films that I'd wanted to see (apart from Carnage, which doesn't hit for another month, unfortunately), so I figured it was time to give my full, official 2011 retrospective. Why didn't I just do that at the start of the year and leave all of the 2011 films released in 2012 to be 2012 films? Because that's dumb. I didn't really want to be talking about films like War Horse, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Artist etc etc etc when it came time to make my 2012 list. And it's better late than never, am I right?

Tonight, I'll be looking at my favourite directors of the year. Tomorrow will be reserved for actresses, Saturday for actors, and Sunday for my favourite films of 2011. So set those clocks back and bear with me: I know I'm behind, but you try live in New Zealand!

Honourable mentions for my favourite directors of the year: Michel Hazanavicius - The Artist, Pedro Almodovar - The Skin I Live In, Martin Scorsese - Hugo, Jeff Nichols - Take Shelter, Sean Durkin - Martha Marcy May Marlene, George Clooney - The Ides of March, Bennett Miller - Moneyball, Mike Mills - Beginners, Cary Joji Fukunaga - Jane Eyre, Asghar Farhadi - A Separation, Neil Burger - Limitless.

10. Brad Bird - Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol



This may strike some as an odd choice for a list that is filled with a whole lot of independent/arthouse films, but hear me out. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was definitely one of the best blockbusters to come out last year (and to think I nearly missed out on it because I couldn't be bothered watching the first three...and I didn't even need to), mainly because it has some kick-ass action set-pieces. I mean, come on, that scene way up on the Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai? That had me scared like I've never been scared before. There's also an extremely well choreographed scene which involves a lot of cars. And not to mention, an action sequence taking place during a sandstorm. It is a heavy load to carry in order to ensure that these insane sequences look slick, but Brad Bird - in his live-action directorial debut - manages to take it all in his stride and make a rousing blockbuster.
Key scene: The Burj Khalifa Tower scene was definitely one of the most memorable of the year, but the scene involving all of the cars was pretty darn well choreographed.

9. Joe Wright - Hanna



I admit that I wasn't the biggest fan of Hanna. Part of that was to do with the fact that when I first watched it I had only had two hours of sleep the night before, there were annoying teenage boys behind me and the cinema I watched it in has very uncomfortable seats without cup holders (first world problems, I know). But there are three things which I absolutely loved: Saoirse Ronan's performance, the Chemical Brothers' awesome score (still on replay on my iPod after all this time) and Joe Wright's direction. Wright is a guy who made his name with period dramas, and if you look at his filmography, Hanna sticks out like a sore thumb. He had next to no experience with filming action sequences, but he does them so well - in fact, he has a better eye for them than most people who stick with 'action' films. He gives the film an arthouse flair, bleeding this pop-art kinda style into it but also bringing this sweet fairytale edge to it. Basically, I can't really explain his work very well, but it was fantastic.
Key scene: Hanna escapes from the C.I.A complex.

8. Paddy Considine - Tyrannosaur



A lot of actors make really good directors. Paddy Considine just happens to be one of them. Adapting his short film Dog Altogether into a feature length film, Tyrannosaur is one relentlessly dark look at violence. I guess I can just sum up his work in this film by this quote here from my review: "Considine directs his film with blood-curdling simplicity, never looking at the 'big picture', but focussing on the anger inside his characters. It is here that you see the cracks and the flaws. It may be a dark film, but the product isn't all black-and-white. This film is rich with the colours that make a human being unleash violence upon another human being. Colours that we wish we couldn't see, but are there as cruel reminders of how low people can really go." Really, his work is terrific.
Key scene: The scene where Joseph (Peter Mullan) tells Hannah (Olivia Colman) that she can't stay. Such a bitter scene.

7. Terrence Malick - The Tree of Life



A little side-bit here: today, I was giving my friend a lesson in 'Movie Reviewing 101', and was thinking of all the lame puns I could. I came up with "The Tree of Life is a forest of confusion." I'm so clever. Alas, even though this film isn't entirely coherent and is a little too indulgent, there's no denying that Malick knows how to make a film look absolutely stunning. His work with The Tree of Life is unlike anything I've ever seen before - this isn't the kind of film that came straight out of the 'simple movies textbook'. He sets up these exquisite shots, never looking at the actors in the same old way. Plus, he has dinosaurs. The Tree of Life is an exercise in beauty, which is something that we don't often see in the cinema of today.
Key scene: Do I really need to say it? The 'creation' sequence.

6. Steven Soderbergh - Contagion



I can't say that I'm the biggest Soderbergh fan (mind you, I haven't seen all that much of his work), but his work with grimy medical thriller Contagion had me revelling in its style, yet scared with how sick it looked. Seriously, the film did look sick. I literally felt like the cinema screen was going to cough out at me. Sure, Soderbergh doesn't do anything 'groundbreaking', but he paints a picture of the world (realistically) in ruins with such gravitas that I couldn't help but go out and find any hand sanitiser that I could get so none of this happened to me. Soderbergh put it all together with such stylistic fluidity that I have to wonder how this film got so overlooked. It was awesome.
Key scene: When we see just how sick Beth (Gwyneth Paltrow) is. That shot is just...awesome. Plus, the scene where Erin (Kate Winslet) runs towards the camera with a face-mask.

5. David Fincher - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo



Fincher is a guy who knows what he's doing, and he does it extremely well. When people were doubting his American adaptation of the very popular Stieg Larsson novel, I was like "F*** YEAH FINCHER!" When I came out of the cinema, I was like "F*** YEAH FINCHER!" It is hard to explain exactly what is so special about what he does with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but he gives it this edge that allows it to be gritty and smooth at the exact same time. And that's all I have to say about that.
Key scene: That Enya scene.

4. Lynne Ramsay - We Need to Talk About Kevin



It makes me a little sad that there's only one lady in the list, but Ramsay does a great job of representing just how awesome lady directors are. We Need to Talk About Kevin is truly a work of art, with Ramsay using a lot of red tones in it to show just how painful life is for Eva (Tilda Swinton). And through that, the film is extremely painful to watch - but in a good way. I guess her film deserves props for being the only film capable of making earthquakes happen. Seriously, when I first watched this film three weeks back, there was an earthquake. I'm watching it again tonight (for an English assessment - I have such a great angle on it now), and surprisingly, an earthquake happens. So thanks, Lynne Ramsay, for scaring the crap out of me in more ways than one.
Key scene: When we find out what Kevin has done.

3. Steve McQueen - Shame



He may have only made two films, yet I freaking love Steve McQueen. Hunger was a great film, but Shame is just that one step ahead. The way McQueen sets up shots with some simplicity was amazing to watch, and was definitely the difference between this film about a sex addict's life being a powerful look at the human spirit or just being a reason to have a lot of sex happen on screen. Considering the amount of sex in the film, none of it is at all sexy, fitting with the sadness that surrounds Brandon's (Michael Fassbender) life. It is a jaw-droppingly beautiful film, yet a very heart-wrenching watch. One day, I hope that they show this in film classes, because this is exactly how a film should be made.
Key scene: The long tracking shot of Brandon going for a run.

2. Tomas Alfredson - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy



I was a huge fan of Alfredson's Swedish vampire film Let the Right One In, so I was pretty interested to see what he did with his first English language film. Now, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a curious beast - one that requires a lot of attention to detail. And who better to oversee all of that detail than Tomas Alfredson? When I watched the film, I was in the midst of a film study at school on The Shawshank Redemption. Here, we learned all about the very basic standards of film-making. When I flicked on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I saw absolutely none of that. Alfredson takes the 'basics' of film-making and flips them on their side, creating this complex puzzle that is so rewarding to solve. There's so much style in this film that it's hard to put this on the same table as other spy-thrillers - and that's what makes it so special.
Key scene: Basically all of the scenes with the 'Circus'.

1. Nicolas Winding Refn - Drive



Ah, those Scandinavians sure know what they're doing. Nicolas Winding Refn's cult hit Drive was different to many of the other road rage films out there: it wasn't in a hurry to have explosions, it had Ryan Gosling being awesome, and it was made with this old-school style that was just...freaking awesome. Drive looks glossy, but doesn't become some sort of Hollywood action film. It is the perfect blend of arthouse and action, mixed in with a quiet romance. Sometimes, it could work as a silent film, which makes the outbursts of violence come thick and fast. Plus, the soundtrack that Refn selected was pretty darn awesome, too. Just everything about this film is awesome, and it is a damn shame that it didn't get any love from the Academy.
Key scene: That damn elevator scene.

What do you think of my choices? Who were your favourite directors of 2011?

33 comments:

  1. Interesting list Stevee, I can't say I agree with all of them as I haven't seen them all and plain disliked the direction of at least one. But I think you're certainly correct with your number one pick.

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    1. Which one do you dislike? I know that a whole lot of people didn't really like what Joe Wright did with Hanna.

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    2. Ha! Got it in one!

      Just checked my capsule review of it: "Joe Wrights direction was directionless, like he had watched too many Bourne clones and quite a few scenes were actually laughable, to quote the multiplex slut "he unashamedly throws the kitchen sink at it." I must pose a question on behalf of Leah "why do people think that having a bunch of guys attacking the hero one at a time is acceptable in movies? how can anyone make that scene work in a post matrix world?" and i agree with her wholeheartedly."

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    3. Aha, I can see where you're coming from!

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  2. Can't argue with that list Stevee. Bang on the money. Terence Malick sure takes purdy pictures but not so keen on his editing.

    Question for you - are there (ever) any comedy directors who can/could compete with these dramatic heavy hitters? Just wondering cos I'm too lazy to think for myself if directors with great vision can show their stuff in a comedic film or if the genre either doesn't lend itself to grand visions or is generally overlooked in this field.

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    Replies
    1. No, Malick isn't that keen on editing. Or writing, it would seem. But oh well, The Tree of Life is still pretty cool.

      Yeah, I can't really think of any. I mean, Paul Feig's work with Bridesmaids wasn't all that fantastic. I think they just care about making people laugh instead of wowing people with their technical skills.

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    2. Woody Allen isn't overtly showy in his direction but he makes comedies and is in a league of his own as a film maker.

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  3. Great list... A perfect mix of the films too from art housy to blockbusters. I think this list just shows the amount of diversity there is in Hollywood.

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    1. There is a lot of diversity - too few people remember that!

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  4. Like people said before me and like they will say after my, this list is awesome. Not that I agree 100% but that's the thing.. in so many ways, you make me believe. It's the selection of words and phrases you use to describe difficult and complex movies that make me think: "Huh, it does sound better than I thought, I should watch it again."

    I enjoy reading your blog very very much! (:

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the lovely comment - very nice of you to say!

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  5. hey nice list. come check mine at holidayhobby.tumblr.com

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  6. Man, you had to choose one key scene for Shame? Sounds hard.

    And, let's be honest, your top 3 should have earned Oscar nods for their films last year.

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    Replies
    1. Twas hard. There are many great scenes in that.

      And yes, they should have. The Best Director nominees are really boring compared to those ones.

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    2. No, I liked Woody Allen and Martin Scorsese's nominations. The other ones, not so sure.

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  7. I still haven't seen Ghost Protocol. Brad Bird always associates with animation, so I'm really curious about his live-action film debut.
    Really cool list, so non-Oscar-ish. I'm glad to see Ramsay here. And eartchquakes both times, creepy.

    My top favorite director of 2011 must be McQueen, but I'm not sure.

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    1. Ghost Protocol is really cool, definitely check it out!

      Yes, the earthquake thing is quite creepy. I don't think I'll be watching that movie again any time soon.

      McQueen is awesome!

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  8. Great list there Stevee. It's definitely between Refn and McQueen for the top spot for me. I would also have included Richard Ayeoade for the wonderful little welsh indie film Submarine. If you haven't seen that you should have a look. The excellent Paddy Considine is in it also.

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    1. I loved Submarine, and Richard Ayoade did a great job with that!

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  9. Great list. Refn tops mine too, followed by Scorsese, Fincher and Malick. Refn's work in Drive has made me hungry for all his future endeavors. That elevator scene man!

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    1. I can't wait to see more Refn! I mean, I've seen Bronson, but I didn't really like that one. Only God Forgives will be awesome!

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  10. Rupert Wyatt, Lars Von Trier and Derek Cianfrance deserve a mention too

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    1. Cianfrance is a 2010 director for me, but I did like Wyatt's work. Von Trier did well enough with Melancholia, but I can't get over his hand-held camera.

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  11. Solid list. Refn's my runner-up, so I can't complain. Also, I love that you included Soderbergh (my #5).

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    1. Who's your first choice? And yay for Soderbergh love!

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  12. *gaaaaaaspp* Alfredson made the list! I was hoping he would! Man, I need to see TTSS again! I still haven't seen Drive (gah!!) but I have seen Refn's BRONSON with Tom Hardy. Wow, what a film. Jus wow.
    Malick, yes yes, very good very good. McQueen, yes yes, all good choices. Haven't seen Ghost Protocol (or any other MI films for that matter. Guess I was like you and didn't feel the need). We Need To Talk About Kevin was so intense!!

    The biggest change I would make would be to substitute Farhadi in instead (though I'm not sure who I would take out. Don't want to take out the directors I haven't seen). A Separation was fantastic.

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    1. Alfredson did such marvellous work with TTSS!

      Definitely check out Ghost Protocol, even if you haven't seen the rest. You don't really need to see the rest.

      Farhadi did brilliant work, but he only *just* missed out. Can't wait to see A Separation again!

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  13. Great to see some recognition for Hanna. Such a great film, and it seems like everyone forgot it as soon as they saw it. Really great list, overall.

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    1. Even though I didn't love it, I did think that it passed by without much recognition. Which is a shame.

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  14. No idea how you can put Tinker Tailor and Drive ahead of Kevin and Shame.

    LOL just kidding, inspired choices! Here are a few of mine not mentioned on this list:

    Andrew Haigh for WEEKEND
    Aki Kaurismaki for LE HAVRE
    Bela Tarr for THE TURIN HORSE
    Woody Allen for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
    Kelly Reichardt for MEEK'S CUTOFF

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    1. Haha, those four were practically all on even ground!

      Ah, I forgot Kelly Reichardt. She did really great stuff with Meek's Cutoff.

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You mustn't be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

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