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?