In response to the tepid list over at Entertainment Weekly (Zack Snyder better than Paul Thomas Anderson!!!), The MDL breaks down a worthy Top 15. To be specific, the “living” list is judged on a combination of two factors:
1) Great resume (accomplishment) and 2) Excitement for work yet to come (expectations). Here we go:
15. Richard Linklater
The oft-forgotten Texan has proven surprisingly versatile over an 18-year career of the commercial (School of Rock) and the experimental (Waking Life) . But he does need to get his act together quickly (I’m looking at you Fast Food Nation!).
Best Work: Before Sunrise/Sunset
14. Danny Boyle
Pure adrenaline. Without him, Slumdog doesn’t make it out of the film festival circuit.
Best Work: Slumdog Millionaire
13. Alexander Payne
The most consistently intelligent comedic director around.
Best Work: About Schmidt
12. Darren Aronofsky
The Wrestler could have been made by Hal Ashby (think Last Detail, Coming Home) and Requiem for a Dream could have been made by David Fincher (think Fight Club). That puts him in great company.
Best Work: The Wrestler
11. Alfonso Cuaron
Might have the most potential of anyone on this list. A master with the camera.
Best Work: Children of Men
10. Judd Apatow
Perhaps nothing could justify the amount of hype the Apatow factory has gotten over the last few years, but he certainly makes a great case (and don’t forget Freaks and Geeks).
Best Work: 40-Year Old Virgin
9. Steven Spielberg
A man who should be in the top 5 slips because of the dross/dreck/abomination that was Indiana Jones and The I Want My Money Back. No more sequels please.
Best Work: Schindler’s List
8. Christopher Nolan
Made the best comic book movie ever and still finds the time for intriguing work outside the Bat franchise (see Memento, Insomnia, Prestige).
Best Work: Memento
7. Steven Soderbergh
Yes, he will fail (Full Frontal), sometimes epically (The Good German) and twice in a way that hurts your soul (Oceans 12, 13). BUT I’d take adventurous over boring any day and Soderbergh hasn’t got any quit in him. You don’t make a film like Che if you’re out of gas.
Best Work: The Limey
6. Quentin Tarantino
Invigorating. No one’s better at the “inside baseball” side of movies. Even if it’s Death Proof.
Best Work: Pulp Fiction
5. David Fincher
He’s a technical wizard who can pack a punch (unless his main character is aging backwards). It looked like he would do a certain type of movie well forever until he took the proverbial next step with Zodiac.
Best Work: Zodiac
And when it comes to CGI, he’s about the only one who demands subtlety:
4. Michael Mann
The guy is just a pro. Not many movies are as well-paced as The Insider, look as good as Heat and thrill as much as Last of the Mohicans.
Best Work: The Insider
And what more do you want out of a movie than this:
3. Martin Scorsese
As The Departed showed, he’s still got it. Unlike his contemporaries (Coppola, Lucas, De Palma), he has remained relevant after almost 40 years of work. Here’s hoping he’s one of those guys who just can’t retire.
Best Work: Raging Bull
As relayed before, the man knows his way around a tune:
2. The Coen Brothers
You never know what they’re going to do next. Everything they’ve done is worth watching, even if it misses the mark (okay, maybe not Intolerable Cruelty – but everything else).
Best Work: Fargo
Somehow, this sums up the movie (NSFW):
1. Paul Thomas Anderson
The most ambitious, vibrant and just plain talented filmmaker working today. Where others fail to take chances, Anderson presses on — frogs will fall from the sky, one way or another. But his movies aren’t simply an exercise in technique (though there’s plenty of that). Anderson never forgets the beating-heart humanity of his characters. Here is a director who feels on film. From the desperation of Dirk Diggler to the seekers of Magnolia to the stifled Barry Egan to the misanthropic Daniel Plainview, Anderson lets you in. It’s a world of “big, bright shining stars.”
As if all that wasn’t enough, the man’s achieved one of the best opening scenes in movie history (Boogie Nights) and one of the best final scenes in movie history (“I’m finished.”):
THE BEST (AND WORST) OF THE REST:
Falling (for Various Reasons): Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Tim Burton, Cameron Crowe, David O. Russell
Work More!: James L. Brooks
You Too!: Peter Weir
Most Overrated: Peter Jackson
Most Underrated: Mike Judge
Somehow Became Boring: Oliver Stone
Meh: Ron Howard
Most Inventive: Michel Gondry
No More: Kevin Smith
Please Stop: Zack Snyder
Deserves Second Chance: Martin Brest
Still Interested Every Year: Woody Allen
Up & Comer: Martin McDonagh
In Own Universe: David Lynch
Everyone Stop Foaming at the Mouth Already: Clint Eastwood
Best Dead Director: Stanley Kubrick