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1. Alfred Hitchcock

26 Oct

ALFRED HITCHCOCK
PSYCHO, VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW, NORTH BY NORTHWEST

What would Alfred Hitchcock have done had he been born in a time before cinema? He seems to have been so naturally and breathtakingly skilled at telling a story through film, it’s hard to imagine him ever doing anything else with his life. He often set challenges for himself, making a film with no score (The Birds) or setting an entire film inside one apartment (Rear Window) or killing off the main character halfway through (Psycho). Perhaps he did these things because making a good movie was just too easy for him. Or maybe he did it because when he really did let himself go all out, the results were so beautifully bizarre, so deeply and movingly weird, as to threaten the fabric of reality itself. Vertigo is a strong contender for the greatest film ever made but could our relatively primitive universe survive more films like it?

See the full list HERE.

2. Stanley Kubrick

26 Oct

STANLEY KUBRICK
DR. STRANGELOVE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, SPARTACUS

There has arguably never been a more methodical director than Stanley Kubrick.  His attention to detail and keen sense of what he wanted cemented his reputation as one of the most driven, and difficult, filmmakers in the game.  Beginning as a photographer for “Look” magazine, Kubrick honed his eye for film pictures which very quickly gave way to his self-started career in movies.  Making only 13 feature films in his nearly 50 year career, Kubrick’s output is among the most varied and studied of any director in the era.  His first major film (his third overall) came in 1956 with the Noir heist drama, The Killing, a film which played with narrative and time and was an influence on a number of later crime films, most notably Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.  Ever the innovator, Kubrick won His only Oscar for creating special effects for arguably his masterwork, 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  From a purely technical point of view, there was no one better than Kubrick.  Any one of them, especially between 1964 and 1987, could be singled out as an example of a “perfect” movie, meaning everything is meticulously placed to elicit the proper response. It has been argued, not unfoundedly, that his films are cold and distant, and this can certainly be said for his color films, but Kubrick very intentionally chose subject matter that he could best bring to the screen and so while A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket do come across as a bit separated, that’s merely because the stories lent themselves to it, and why so many Kubrick films require multiple viewings.  The magic is in there, and Kubrick knew you’d eventually find it.

See the full list HERE.

3. Martin Scorsese

26 Oct

MARTIN SCORSESE
GOODFELLAS, RAGING BULL, TAXI DRIVER, THE DEPARTED

In 1973, Martin Scorsese accidentally redefined the gangster genre with his third feature, Mean Streets. While it was that film that put his name on the map, it is the countless classics he later created that forever placed him as a master of cinema. Working with frequent collaborators, such as Robert De Niro, Paul Schrader and Thelma Schoonmaker, he has created many of cinemas most memorable characters and films. Even today, Scorsese always pushes himself and the medium forward while consistently paying tribute to those he learned from.

See the full list HERE.

4. Joel & Ethan Coen

26 Oct

JOEL & ETHAN COEN
FARGO, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, RAISING ARIZONA, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, BARTON FINK

I remember hearing once that the Coen brothers’ movies tend to be made on time and under budget. That’s not really surprising, given that their films often seem as though they were fully realized before even the first frame was photographed. Everything happens deliberately in the Coens’ movies, which is probably why they tend to come in at a reasonable running time. With their precise understanding of the mechanics of telling pictures through images and their filmic craftsmanship, they bring to mind Alfred Hitchcock but with a much crueler sense of humor and self-awareness. As in the best examples of post-modernism, their movies tend to be as much about their characters and themes as they are about the genres in which they take place.

See the full list HERE.

5. Steven Spielberg

26 Oct

STEVEN SPIELBERG
JAWS, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SCHINDLER’S LIST, E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, MUNICH

Without a doubt, one of the pre-eminent masters of the art of cinema. He is, on his own, what Pixar aspires to as a collective. In films like E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, and Jurassic Park he epitomizes American storytelling. He speaks the language of Movies. For someone as prolific as he is to direct at his level of quality so consistently is the mark of someone who has this artform in their blood. His blockbusters revolve around character and stakes; his movies are events. That someone of his clout and influence also challenges himself with difficult films is a testament to his desire to tell stories that matter, not simply an “entertainment.” Films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and Munich, that challenge and provoke and require the kind of effort we usually reserve for independent auteurs. Which, if you think about it, he kind of is.

See the full list HERE.

6. Akira Kurosawa

26 Oct

AKIRA KUROSAWA
SEVEN SAMURAI, RAN, YOJIMBO, HIDDEN FORTRESS

The 30 films Kurosawa made in just under 60 years have influenced everyone from Lucas and Spielberg to Tarantino and Lasseter. You know it’s a Kurosawa film if it’s a mix of bold action, traditional Japanese themes, and classic Hollywood style. With his themes involving a heroic champion, nature, and the cycle of violence, it’s no coincidence that a number of his films (Seven Samurai, Yojimbo) were remade as classic Hollywood westerns, or that Kurosawa’s hero was legendary American director John Ford. His style also included the axial cut, the wipe (used throughout the Star Wars films), and cutting on motion. Known for being a “hands-on” director, he was involved in every aspect of the filmmaking process, co-writing scripts, painting full storyboards, shooting, editing, and even getting involved with the score. To quote Kurosawa, “Unless you know every aspect and phase of the film-production process, you can’t be a movie director. A movie director is like a front-line commanding officer. He needs a thorough knowledge of every branch of the service, and if he doesn’t command each division, he cannot command the whole.” To aid this immersive filmmaking experience he created a stable  of technicians, crew and actors, also known as the “Kurosawa-gumi” or “Kurosawa Group.” One of the highest profile members of this group was actor Toshirō Mifune who made his debut in Kurosawa’s critically acclaimed 1948 film Drunken Angel. They would go on to collaborate on another 15 films including Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and Yojimbo.

See the full list HERE.

7. Orson Welles

26 Oct

ORSON WELLES
CITIZEN KANE, TOUCH OF EVIL, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, OTHELLO

A master of several mediums, Orson Welles saw film as the ultimate opportunity to put his talents into practice.  With each film, Welles attempted to fully utilize every aspect of filmmaking and twist it in a way we hadn’t seen before.  His use of sound and music as a way of fully creating another world- from the echo chambers of Xanadu to the hustle and bustle of a busy border town- while his off kilter cinematography- from angles that seemed at once impractical and inspired- kept us from getting too complacent in our viewing.  He explored characters not wholly unlike himself; men with tremendous abilities, but deep flaws.  There was a certain intangible quality to Welles’ films and characters, like we could never truly grasp exactly what was happening in front of us.  The mysteries at the center of his art were exciting; maybe even a little bit playful.  But even deeper was a sad, lonely, frustrated core that perfectly illustrated art’s ability to insulate itself while seeming to lay itself bare.

See the full list HERE.

8. Billy Wilder

26 Oct

BILLY WILDER
SUNSET BLVD., THE LOST WEEKEND, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, SOME LIKE IT HOT

For a man whose work is so largely cherished by the happy ending loving country in which he conducted his career, Billy Wilder sure had a dark streak. The murderously opportunistic characters in Double Indemnity, the frank sadness of a loser and a smart girl with no self-esteem in The Apartment, the pure, almost happy, cynicism of Sunset Boulevard. Wilder, an Austrian Jew who fled Hitler, may have found a happy home in America but he was always eager to point out its darker side. Even a comedic romp like Some Like It Hot begins with the two leads witnesses a brutal mob murder. What makes Wilder’s films so watchable, though, is his insight and compassion, even for his least likable characters. Sunset Boulevard’s Norma Desmond is a pitiable specimen to be sure but Wilder never mocks her, nor invites us to. He had respect for those who laid the path before him in his chosen field and he, in turn, deserves our respect today.

See the full list HERE.

9. Quentin Tarantino

26 Oct

QUENTIN TARANTINO
PULP FICTION, RESERVOIR DOGS, KILL BILL, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, JACKIE BROWN

There might not be a better case for director-as-pop-star than Quentin Tarantino. He’s kind of the Warhol of filmmakers, only I think he’s having more fun. He faster than Scorsese, (much) funnier than Kevin Smith, and his films are similarly some freak genetic fusion of fanboy and auteur. He might be criticized more for making movies about how he loves movies if he weren’t so consistently damn interesting. He takes storylines from throwaway B-, even C-grade genres and elevates their importance by taking them seriously and imbuing them with stronger characters, better dialogue, and more complex narratives. He uses dialogue to create and extend suspense, and while his imitators have stolen his pop-culture-fueled dialogue of digressions and asides, they forget (or maybe never realized) that Tarantino’s are both always about something and serve some purpose. And, come on, the music in his films could imbue iconography into slowly drying paint.

See the full list HERE.

10. Francis Ford Coppola

26 Oct

FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
THE GODFATHER, APOCALYPSE NOW, THE CONVERSATION

One doesn’t like to make bold statements, but then again, this is a list claiming to represent the 100 greatest directors of all time, so what the hell – Francis Ford Coppola is the most daring American filmmaker since Orson Welles, and might even do the old man one better. Seemingly incapable of not risking everything, Coppola has gone from being on top of the world to working off debts to finally making whatever film he damn well pleases, but in each of those stages he never removed himself from the equation entirely. It was he who knew The Godfather – as much a work-for-hire job as Jack would be over twenty years later – should be a period film about family, he who destroyed his sanity making Apocalypse Now (and his wealth a few years later with One From the Heart). In the 1980s and 90s, when he was making films that, according to him, he made solely to pay off debt, he still released totally singular works – nobody else would have ever made The Outsiders or Dracula the way he did. And now, two films into his “second career” (Youth Without Youth and Tetro), he’s making films nobody else could even conceive, let alone execute with his artistry and grace defined by his unfiltered emotional expression. He’s made, and continues to make, some messes along the way, but the results are so audacious, so perfect in their singularity, and so irreplaceable that his contributions to film art are not merely admirable, but vital to its livelihood.

See the full list HERE.