Director # George Clooney and # Alexander Payne on the set of The Descendants.

Director #57 George Clooney and #56 Alexander Payne on the set of The Descendants.

And now we move on to part 7, all of whom, in theory will be in the 3.0 Top 100 Directors of All-Time List.  Whether that happens in practice, or whether some alterations will happen to how I compose the next version of the list is not yet decided.

So, again, we have the ranked list of every director who has ever been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director.  If you somehow missed the first several parts of the list, you can find them at various points here, with an introduction here that explains the project and the scoring system.  After only getting through three of these in all of 2012, this is the third one to appear in 2013 because I want to finish the list before another Oscar season arrives and the list changes again.

As with several previous posts, there is a theme here.  But this theme is produced by where we are on the list, rather than any coincidences.  These are the directors who haven’t made as many films.  There are 25 directors on this list.  Of those 25, four of them (Michael Curtiz, George Cukor, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, George Stevens) are old pros, coming out of the Studio Era.  They directed a combined 194 films, of which I have seen 161 (so, I am missing 33).  Those four directed an average of 48.5 films (though Curtiz, with 100, has the bulk of that).  Of the other 21 directors on this list, they have combined to direct 163 films, of which I have seen 161.  So, the other 21 directors have averaged directing 7.76 films.  And if we take out a few more (Alan Parker, Milos Forman, Alan J. Pakula, Jonathan Demme, Bernardo Bertolucci), we are left with 16 directors who have only directed a combined 90 films (or 5.63 films per director).  They are here because, for the most part, they haven’t made any bad films yet (or just one) and they don’t have the weight bringing down their handful of good or great films.  There are only 7 directors, however, who have managed to get into the Top 50 while not yet having directed 10 films, so most of the remaining newer directors are gathered here in this post.

A reminder about the quotes: The Sarris quotes (and categories) come from The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968, which was published in 1968, so it has no directors after that.  The Thomson quotes come from the 2002 edition of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, unless I specifically cite the 5th edition, which came out in 2010.

Because at this point we have reached the cut-off to the Top 100, most of these directors have already had specific individual posts.  Rather than re-iterate much of what I have already written, there are links to those posts and many of the summaries here are considerably shorter.  If a director doesn’t have a link, it either means that they didn’t make the cut-off when I did the 2.0 list in October of 2011 or that they hadn’t yet directed four films by then (or, in Spike Jonze’s case, still hasn’t directed 4 films and still isn’t eligible).

  • #75  -  Bernardo Bertolucci
  • #74  -  Spike Jonze
  • #73  -  Paul Greengrass
  • #72  -  George Stevens
  • #71  -  Darren Aronofsky
  • #70  -  Jason Reitman
  • #69  -  David O. Russell
  • #68  -  Jonathan Demme
  • #67  -  Warren Beatty
  • #66  -  Jim Sheridan
  • #65  -  Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • #64  -  Alejandro González Iñárritu
  • #63  -  Stephen Daldry
  • #62  -  Tom Hooper
  • #61  -  Danny Boyle
  • #60  -  David Fincher
  • #59  -  Anthony Minghella
  • #58  -  Krysztof Kieslowski
  • #57  -  George Clooney
  • #56  -  Alexander Payne
  • #55  -  Michael Curtiz
  • #54  -  George Cukor
  • #53  -  Alan J. Pakula
  • #52  -  Milos Forman
  • #51  -  Alan Parker

Bernardo Bertolucci

  • Born:  1940
  • Rank:  #75
  • Score:  505.97
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, Globe, NSFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, BAFTA, 3 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Last Tango in Paris (1973), The Last Emperor (1987)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:
  • Feature Films:  16
  • Film I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  Last Tango in Paris
  • Worst Film:  Besieged
  • Films:
    • ****:  Last Tango in Paris, The Last Emperor
    • ***:  The Sheltering Sky, The Conformist, The Grim Reaper, Tragedy of a Ridiculous Man, Spider’s Stratagem, La Luna, Stealing Beauty
    • **.5:  The Dreamers, Before the Revolution, The Partner, 1900
    • **:  Little Buddha
    • *.5:  Besieged

Career:  “Bertolucci has made a substantial journey , from the romantic disenchantment of Before the Revolution, through the canceling of feelings in The Conformist, to the misanthropic howl of Last Tango in Paris, to the internationalism of The Last Emperor.”  (Thomson, p 81)  Bernardo Bertolucci shares a problem with Tim Burton – that his direction is inevitably stronger than the scripts that he has worked with.  But with Burton, it’s usually others who have done the writing.  Bertolucci has, for the most part, written his own scripts.  And so, the powerful visual images of a film like The Dreamers or Stealing Beauty are undercut by the triteness of the story.  And the scope of something like The Last Emperor can’t quite step to the next level when held back by the script.  So, there has always been a visual glamour to Bertolucci’s films.  Perhaps he should have been a silent director – imagine what he could do in front of ours eyes, and only let the actors tell the story with their eyes.  Perhaps that’s why Last Tango in Paris works so well.  Because the story becomes so irrelevant when confronted with these images and the monumental performance of Marlon Brando.

Oscar Nominations:  Bertolucci’s first Oscar nomination was perfectly deserved for a film where his direction made a massive difference - Last Tango in Paris.  His decision to get Brando for the role (he said he wanted to work with Brando because he wanted to hear what he sounded like, since American films are always dubbed in Italy).  The film is a great example of some of the best directorial work of the seventies and the performance from Brando was one of the best of a phenomenal career.  It would be another 14 years before Bertolucci would be back in the Oscar race, but this time he would sweep, his The Last Emperor winning all 9 of the Oscars it was nominated for.  This time, there were better films that the Academy could have gone for, but, again, Bertolucci’s directing is the best part of the film.

Spike Jonze

  • Born:  1969
  • Rank:  #74
  • Score:  505.97
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Being John Malkovich (1999)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Feature Films:  3
  • Film I’ve Seen:  3
  • Best Film:  Adaptation
  • Worst Film:  Where the Wild Things Are
  • Films:
    • ****:  Adaptation, Being John Malkovich
    • ***:  Where the Wild Things Are

Career:  Spike Jonze broke out of the world of commercials and broke into the Oscar nominations with his first film, Being John Malkovich.  But the star of that film was really the amazing and bizarre screenplay by Charlie Kauffman.  And so, we move on the next film, but that film belongs even more to Kauffman, as he placed himself right in the middle of it.  And then there would be a long gap before Jonze returned.  But Jonze himself (especially when teamed with Eggers) is no match for Charlie and Where the Wild Things Are sinks somewhat under its own pretensions.  It tries to do too much and it never feels quite right.  And then came another gap, filled with shorts, but not another feature film until later this year.

Oscar Nominations:  This nomination was really a surprise.  If anything, I thought the film might get into the Oscar race, but I never thought Jonze would get it and the film would be out.  This was a film that was so predicated on the screenplay that it’s odd that they decided to also nominate the director.  It is a very good film, but just like with Adaptation, it’s really the script that is the star and there are better choices they could have made in 99 (like, perhaps, Kubrick).

Paul Greengrass

  • Born:  1955
  • Rank:  #73
  • Score:  513.73
  • Awards:  BAFTA, LAFC, NSFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 2 BAFTA, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  United 93 (2006)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:
  • Feature Films:  7
  • Film I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  United 93
  • Worst Film:  The Theory of Flight
  • Films:
    • ****:  United 93, The Bourne Ultimatum
    • ***.5:  Green Zone, Bloody Sunday
    • ***:  The Bourne Supremacy, The Theory of Flight
    • not seen:  Resurrected

Career:  Greengrass, after one early feature film that is difficult to find, went to work in television for a decade before re-emerging with a documentary style that suited his films quite well.  So films like Bloody Sunday and United 93, though feature films, have the narrative feel and look of a documentary.  Green Zone turned out to be a very good, but almost completely ignored film.  When I first wrote the piece on Greengrass, almost four years ago now, he was slated for a Vietnam film (still in planning) and the fourth Bourne film (which he walked away from).  He now has Captain Phillips due in the fall, about the cargo ship hijacked by the Somalis.  We’ll see if the style he honed on United 93 can serve him well again.

Oscar Nominations:  This time the Academy did the right thing.  I can’t imagine that United 93 could ever appeal to enough people to make it into the Top 5, and indeed, it’s my #6 film of the year.  But the direction is fantastic and deserved to be in the race.

George Stevens

  • Born:  1904
  • Died:  1975
  • Rank:  #72
  • Score:  516.98
  • Awards:  2 Oscars
  • Nominations:  5 Oscars
  • Oscar Nominations:  The More the Merrier (1943), A Place in the Sun (1951), Shane (1953), Giant (1956), The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  A Place in the Sun (1951)
  • Feature Films:  25
  • Film I’ve Seen:  22
  • Best Film:  A Place in the Sun
  • Worst Film:  The Only Game in Town
  • Films:
    • ****:  A Place in the Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank, The More the Merrier
    • ***.5:  Gunga Din, Woman of the Year
    • ***:  A Damsel in Distress, Swing Time, Vivacious Lady, The Talk of the Town, Alice Adams, Giant, Penny Serenade, Quality Street, I Remember Mama
    • **.5:  The Nitwits, Vigil in the Night, Shane, Kentucky Kernels
    • **:  The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble, Annie Oakley, The Only Game in Town
    • not seen:  Bachelor Bait, Laddie, Something to Live For
  • Sarris Category:  Far Side of Paradise

Career:  “George Stevens was a minor director with major virtues before A Place in the Sun, and a major director with minor virtues after.  His instinctive sentimentality has always been intelligently restrained and carefully graded.”  (Sarris, p 110)  “He was never a great director.  But in the thirties he had a feeling for fun, grace and story.  Thereafter, he was always somber – and sometimes heavier than that.”  (Thomson, p 834)  Is that Stevens never had a distinctive style that he never caught on with the proponents of the Auteur Theory?  Is it because he earned critical success and commercial success that he is downgraded today?  He wasn’t a workhorse like those in the Studio Era because he came to directing too late and then left for the war.  But in the 1950′s he directed four films.  In all of them, the directing assured and moving.  In the films that had severe problems (Shane and Giant), those problems didn’t come from Stevens, but from the writing.  His films earned a combined 18 Oscar nominations for acting – some of that has to come from the directing.

Oscar Nominations:  Back in the early days of Oscar (the first 20 years), the directors branch were much more welcoming to comedic directors.  So, in 1943, rather than nominating David Lean and Noel Coward for In Which We Serve or William Wellmann for The Ox-Bow Incident or Sam Wood for For Whom the Bell Tolls (all nominated films), we saw a nomination for George Stevens for The More the Merrier.  Now, that doesn’t include actual winner Michael Curtiz for Casablanca or non-BP nominee Alfred Hitchcock for Shadow of a Doubt.  The More the Merrier is a great romantic comedy and it gets better on re-watching it, but its direction doesn’t really belong on the list.  After that, Stevens took a much more solemn approach and his four nominations (and two Oscars) in the fifties were of a different variety.  So, in 1951, we have him winning for A Place in the Sun while An American in Paris won Best Picture (with A Streetcar Named Desire deserving both, but perhaps kept out of the win by its subject matter and Kazan’s win four years earlier).  Stevens is a good choice in 1951.  I have him 5th because it’s such a great year.  Shane, on the other hand, I have always felt is one of the most over-rated films of all-time and it doesn’t even reach *** from me.  Then comes Giant.  As King Vidor said at the time “I wish Stevens would hold Giant back a year so I can have a crack at an Oscar.”  (A telling statement, as Vidor would be nominated for War and Peace and lose to Stevens).  While Giant has some strong direction (and some good cinematography), even in a year of bloated epics (the five BP nominees averaged 174 minutes) it looks weaker and weaker as time goes by.  It also made him only the second (of now three) directors to win two Best Director awards and not win Best Picture either time (John Ford would do it as well, but then won Best Picture with his third award).  Then came the final film of a very big decade for Stevens (Stevens four nominations and two wins earns him 270 points for the decade – the third highest ever in a decade, behind Capra in the 30′s and Wyler in the 40′s).  The Diary of Anne Frank, as I have discussed before, I can not be objective about.  But even so, I have it outside the top 5.  It is well-directed and a great film, but 1959 is another very good year for direction and he just doesn’t quite make my list.

Darren Aronofsky

  • Born:  1969
  • Rank:  #71
  • Score:  519.20
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Black Swan (2010)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Fountain (2006)
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Film I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  The Fountain
  • Worst Film:  Requiem for a Dream
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Fountain, Black Swan
    • ***.5:  The Wrestler
    • ***:  Pi
    • **:  Requiem for a Dream

Career:  Darren Aronofsky rose into prominence as a feature-length director with one film that I thought showed great promise and talent but was a bit muddled (Pi) and one film that many revere but that I found to be an incomprehensible disaster (Requiem).  But both films showed that he could direct.  And he finally broke through for me in a film that many wrote off – The Fountain, which showed amazing scope and vision.  After that, he backtracked a little with The Wrestler, a film that was far too conventional for someone like Aronofsky before he did Black Swan, and made it into the Oscar race.  But he works slowly and it won’t be until at least next year before we get a sixth film and see where he goes next.

Oscar Nominations:  Unlike David O. Russell, who broke through into the Oscar race the same year as Aronofsky, Aronofsky didn’t leave his roots to get an Oscar nomination.  He continued to make powerful films, one that many either fiercely love or fiercely hate.  And Black Swan was some of his best work (and the direction is one of the best aspects of the film – it rightly missed out on a Screenplay nomination), though it finishes in #6 for the year on my list.

Jason Reitman

  • Born:  1977
  • Rank:  #70
  • Score:  520.00
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, Globe, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Juno (2007), Up in the Air (2009)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Up in the Air
  • Worst Film:  Young Adult
  • Films:
    • ****:  Up in the Air, Juno
    • ***.5:  Thank You for Smoking, Young Adult

Career:  Reitman’s placement this high on the list might show a shortcoming of my point system.  He has only made four films, all of them great or very good.  And that gives him a high point total when it’s mostly been the writing on each of these films that is stronger than the directing.  He debuted with Thank You for Smoking, a wonderful, witty black comedy.  Then came the two Oscar nominations, in quick succession.  And he followed that up with Young Adult, a witty film that’s probably even darker than his first.  But because he works quickly (he will have a fifth film out later this year, matching Aronofsky, though Reitman’s debut was in 2006 and Aronofsky’s was in 1998) we’ll soon get more chances to see if he deserves to be this high.

Oscar Nominations:  Jason Reitman’s nomination for Juno was really out of left field.  He hadn’t been nominated for the DGA, BAFTA or Globe.  That’s the kind of thing that usually happens to foreign directors (only once in the previous 11 years had an American film done this and that was The Cider House Rules, which had Harvey behind it).  And it was a comedy.  How many directors has travelled this path to an Oscar nomination while directing a comedy?  Precisely four – Woody Allen in 1984 (after he already won an Oscar), Norman Jewison in 1987 (after he had two previous nominations), Robert Altman in 1993 (after he had three previous nominations, including the year before) and Woody Allen again in 1994.  Yet, there was Reitman among the nominees instead of Sean Penn for Into the Wild (DGA nominee) or Joe Wright for Atonement (BAFTA, Globe, BFCA nominee and the 5th Best Picture slot).  And Reitman really doesn’t belong there – it’s a great film, but the script is what makes it so great.  Up in the Air is a better choice, but still doesn’t quite make it into my top 5 for the year for Director.

David O. Russell

  • Born:  1958
  • Rank:  #69
  • Score:  521.33
  • Awards:  BSFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, Globe, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Fighter (2010), Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Three Kings (1999)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Film I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  Three Kings
  • Worst Film:  Spanking the Monkey
  • Films:
    • ****:  Three Kings, Silver Linings Playbook
    • ***.5:  I ♥ Huckabees, The Fighter, Flirting with Disaster
    • ***:  Spanking the Monkey

Career:  If you looked at David O. Russell in 2009, you would wonder if he even had a career left.  He had hit 50.  He had a reputation of being extremely difficult to work with and his rows with George Clooney over his (Russell’s) treatment of the crew on Three Kings had been a key part of the book Rebels on the Backlot.  He had only seen one film completed in the last decade.  His most recent film, Nailed, had been shut down because of the shady financing (and the crew not getting paid) and, though only two days short of completion, would likely never be finished or released.  And yet, here we are, four years later.  He has been Oscar nominated now, not once and now has Oscar rumors flying about his next film which he is just now in the middle of shooting (that the four stars of it have all received Oscar nominations acting in Russell’s last two films doesn’t hurt the rumors).  The man who used to make really bizarre personal films, the very definition of independent films, had finally made it.  If he made a film like Three Kings now, it wouldn’t end up on my list of the 100 Greatest Films Not Nominated for Any Oscars.  It looks, instead, like he might be headed for the Top 100 Directors 3.0 List.

Oscar Nominations:  What irony that as Russell would finally stop making those quirky independent films and move into more mainstream filmmaking that the Academy would finally notice him, not once, but twice.  And neither time did he really deserve it.  The Fighter is a fairly standard Hollywood biopic and while the direction is good enough, there is no way he deserved to be in the race over Christopher Nolan.  And in 2012, he somehow managed to make it into the race when both Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow didn’t, which is even more ridiculous.

Jonathan Demme

  • Born:  1944
  • Rank:  #68
  • Score:  521.87
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, 2 NYFC, BSFC, CFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, Globe, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Rachel Getting Married (2008)
  • Feature Films:  15
  • Film I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  The Silence of the Lambs
  • Worst Film:  Crazy Mama
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Silence of the Lambs, Rachel Getting Married
    • ***.5:  Something Wild, Married to the Mob, Philadelphia, Melvin and Howard, The Manchurian Candidate
    • ***:  Beloved, The Truth About Charlie, Last Embrace, Handle with Care, Fighting Mad, Swing Shift
    • **.5:  Caged Heat
    • **:  Crazy Mama

Career:  “He was a natural in an age when so many people made moviemaking feel like a duty or a scam.”  (Thomson p 219 – talking about Demme’s career in 1990)  “Let’s hope he doesn’t make us wait too long for his next feature film.”  That’s what I wrote about Demme four years ago.  We’re still waiting.  Most of his career you can read about in the post.  The main problem is that since his Oscar, he has moved so much into other things (television, music) that he just hasn’t done much.  We’re 22 years on since the release of Silence.  In the 22 years prior to Silence he began his career and directed 9 films.  In the 22 years since he has directed 5 feature films, two of which were remakes.  I just wish there had been more to come.

Oscar Nominations:  This one the Academy got right.  And they hope they never have to do it again.  It brought about the most painful, awkward acceptance speech in Oscar history – three minutes and thirty-five seconds long with 94 “uh’s” in it.

Warren Beatty

  • Born:  1937
  • Rank:  #67
  • Score:  523.00
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, Globe, LAFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Heaven Can Wait (1978), Reds (1981)
  • Oscar note:  14 total Oscar nominations  -  4 as Producer, 2 as Director, 4 as Actor, 4 as Writer
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Reds (1981)
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Reds
  • Worst Film:  Dick Tracy
  • Films:
    • ****:  Reds, Heaven Can Wait
    • ***.5:  Bulworth
    • ***:  Dick Tracy

Career:  For the first version of my Top 100 Directors list, I installed what could be called the Warren Beatty rule – you have to have directed four films.  That’s because Beatty is a very talented director and I wanted him on the list.  But now he might be out of the next one as I just don’t think four films is enough.  Yes, Beatty has been great in his short directing career.  But to really rise above and be one of the top directors of all-time, it seems like you should have been a bit more prolific as a director.

Oscar Nominations:  In 1978, Beatty became the first person to be nominated for Picture, Director, Actor and Writer for the same film since Orson Welles.  It was a great film and great Hollywood, though not quite deserving of either Picture or Director (I have in 6th in the former, 8th in the latter).  But it was a magnificent triumph that showed off all of Beatty’s skills.  And then in 1981, he did it again.  And this time his epic scope won Best Director – which at least was a much better choice than Best Picture (Chariots of Fire), though Spielberg was the one who really deserved it for Raiders.

Jim Sheridan

  • Born:  1949
  • Rank:  #66
  • Score:  524.60
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, Globe, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  My Left Foot (1989), In the Name of the Father (1993)
  • Oscar note:  6 total Oscar nominations
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  In the Name of the Father (1993), In America (2003)
  • Feature Films:  8
  • Film I’ve Seen:  8
  • Best Film:  In America
  • Worst Film:  Dream House
  • Films:
    • ****:  In America, In the Name of the Father, My Left Foot
    • ***.5:  The Boxer
    • ***:  Brothers, The Field
    • **.5:  Get Rich or Die Tryin
    • **:  Dream House

Career:  “His characters inhabit an Anglo-Irish antagonism that transcends immediate problems or disadvantages.  So Sheridan is a kind of poet of grievance.”  (Thomson, p 806)  Where would Sheridan be if we could leave him back in 2003?  He has just directed his best film, a magnificent under-rated film that still makes me cry even talking about it.  Since then he has directed three more films and they are three of his four weakest films.  He seems to have gone completely away from those Irish stories that Thomson mentioned that seemed to make him a poet.  Indeed, what could Brothers or Dream House have done if they had been made in Ireland and had an Irish feel to them?  It seems the problem is that Sheridan is no longer writing – the same problem that has happened to other directors and that hasn’t gotten him away from what made his films so good.  And now it looks like Black Mass will be a Levinson film instead.  So he has a lot in pre-production but nothing coming yet and we’ll have to just hope that whatever it is rights the ship.

Oscar Nominations:  Jim Sheridan’s first Oscar nomination was completely unexpected.  Instead of Phil Alden Robinson for Best Picture nominee Field of Dreams (who earned a DGA nomination) or Rob Reiner for When Harry Met Sally (DGA nom), Ed Zwick for Glory (Globe nom) or Spike Lee for Do the Right Thing (Globe nom), Sheridan was in the Director race and his film was in the Best Picture race.  It was great direction in a great film but in a truly, truly great year for films, not really deserving of its nominations.  But when Sheridan did it again in 1993, again over a DGA nominee who had a Best Picture nomination (Andrew Davis for The Fugitive) and a DGA nominee whose film also ended up outside the race (Martin Scorsese for The Age of Innocence), at least he belonged in both races.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz

  • Born:  1909
  • Died:  1993
  • Rank:  #65
  • Score:  526.52
  • Awards:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, NYFC
  • Nominations:  4 Oscars, 4 DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), 5 Fingers (1952), Sleuth (1972)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  A Letter to Three Wives (1949), All About Eve (1950), Sleuth (1972)
  • Oscar note:  10 total Oscar nominations, 4 total Oscars
  • Feature Films:  21
  • Film I’ve Seen:  19
  • Best Film:  All About Eve
  • Worst Film:  Cleopatra
  • Films:
    • ****:  All About Eve, Sleuth, A Letter to Three Wives
    • ***.5:  No Way Out
    • ***:  House of Strangers, Dragonwyck, Five Fingers, Julius Caesar, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Late George Apley, Somewhere in the Night, People Will Talk, Guys and Dolls, The Honey Pot, There Was a Crooked Man, The Barefoot Contessa
    • **.5:  Suddenly Last Summer, The Quiet American
    • *.5:  Cleopatra
    • not seen:  Backfire, Escape
  • Sarris Category:  Less Than Meets the Eye

Career:  “The cinema of Joseph L. Mankiewicz is a cinema of intelligence without inspiration.”  (Sarris, p 161)  “Above all, he created the atmosphere of a proscenium arch, a little Shavian in the way he arranged action for an audience.  It was often enough that pungent situations, witty dialogue, and smart playing concealed his indifference to what a film looked like or his inability to reveal the emotional depths beneath dialogue.”  (Thomson, p 557)  There is kind of a cold detachment to Mankiewicz’s films.  He could find the wit in All About Eve, but couldn’t breath much life into Suddenly Last Summer or The Quiet American.  And then the disaster of Cleopatra took up so much time and energy that there wasn’t anything left afterwards except the happy accident of Sleuth, bringing him one final (deserved) nomination.

Oscar Nominations:  Mankiewicz’s first Oscar is a total oddity.  He won Best Director and Screenplay for a melodrama (although a great melodrama, though it only earns a nomination from me because 1949 is such a weak year) but lost Best Picture to All the King’s Men.  Only two other times has this happened, where a film won Director and Screenplay but lost Picture to a film it beat in the other two categories – in 1935 and 2002.  The next year, it made more sense – All About Eve won 6 Oscars, including the big three and earned a still-record 14 nominations. In 1952, Mankiewicz was back in the Best Director race for a good film, but not one that deserved to get him into the race.  And then, after 20 years out, he was back for Sleuth, a fantastic film, with great direction, and a nomination he absolutely deserved.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

  • Born:  1963
  • Rank:  #64
  • Score:  529.00
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, Globe, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Babel  (2006)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Amores Perros
  • Worst Film:  21 Grams
  • Films:
    • ****:  Amores Perros, Biutiful
    • ***.5:  Babel, 21 Grams

Career:  He works slowly and the works shows.  He carefully crafts his films.  The scripts (the first three of which he didn’t write) only form a blueprint which he uses to craft his films.  But, as a result, after over a decade, we still only have four films to see what he is capable of.

Oscar Nominations:  Babel is a very good film, but it tries to do much and it takes too long to do it.  It didn’t quite have the inspiration that González Iñárritu would have before in Amores Perros or again in Biutiful.

Stephen Daldry

  • Born:  1961
  • Rank:  #63
  • Score:  533.75
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, DGA, 3 BAFTA, 2 Globes, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Billy Elliot (2000), The Hours (2002), The Reader (2008)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Hours (2002)
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  The Hours
  • Worst Film:  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Hours
    • ***.5:  Billy Elliot, The Reader
    • **:  Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Career:  Like Sam Mendes the year before, Daldry moved out of the British theatre and into the Oscar nominations.  His first film, Billy Elliot, was witty and imaginative and managed to make it into the Director and Screenplay races while being overlooked for Best Picture in favor of several over-rated films.  But with his next film, Daldry moved into the big time – The Hours was a magnificent accomplishment, perfectly balancing all the stories.  After that, Daldry’s name became attached to every big name book and he was set to do The Corrections, or maybe it was Kavalier and Clay.  No one was quite certain.  But he finally emerged in 2008 with The Reader – a book several steps down from the rumored ones.  But he made a very good film that got battered by critics who didn’t go for it and fanboys who were livid that it ended up in the spots they thought were reserved for The Dark Knight in the Picture, Director and Adapted Screenplay races (not helped by the fact that The Dark Knight had been among the guild nominees rather than The Reader in all three categories).  So, after earning Oscar nominations for his first three films as a director (which had never been done before), this time Daldry did tackle a critically acclaimed book.  But he tackled a vastly over-rated book and the film turned out to be a disaster and he took a critical drubbing.  In spite of that, he still managed to get a Best Picture nomination.  So, next up may be Wicked, and we may finally get to see Daldry combine his film talent with his theatrical talent.

Oscar Nominations:  Stephen Daldry is the only person to ever get Oscar nominated for his first three films.  The first time, it was a good choice in that it was a much better choice than the film that didn’t earn the Director nomination (Chocolat), but didn’t really belong in the race if Cameron Crowe wasn’t there for Almost Famous.  In 2002, in one of the best years in film history, he made a film that rightfully earned him a place in both the Picture and Director races, with everything in perfect balance.  But, his placement in the Best Picture and Best Director races in 2008 in place of The Dark Knight almost certainly lead to the Academy’s chance of the Best Picture rules.  Let’s just be glad the Academy didn’t nominate him in 2011.

Tom Hooper

  • Born:  1972
  • Rank:  #62
  • Score:  538.75
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA
  • Nominations:  Oscar, 2 DGA, BAFTA, Globe, 2 BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The King’s Speech  (2010)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The King’s Speech  (2010)
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  The King’s Speech
  • Worst Film:  The King’s Speech
  • Films:
    • ****:  The King’s Speech, Les Miserables
    • ***.5:  The Damned United
    • ***:  Red Dust

Career:  Tom Hooper came up through the ranks on British television before getting a chance for his first feature film, Red Dust.  Though a solid film, it didn’t get much of an audience.  But that might have been better for Hooper, who then went on to two acclaimed television projects: Elizabeth I with Helen Mirren and HBO’s John Adams.  After that, he returned to films with The Damned United, a very good film about Brian Clough’s 44 days with Leeds United.  Then came The King’s  Speech, and with it, an Oscar.  But instead of resting, Hooper immediately managed to do what had only been talked about for two decades -a film of the musical version of Les Miserables.  Though receiving mixed reviews, it also earned a Best Picture nomination (and a DGA nomination for Hooper) and was a worldwide hit.  Now we just have to see what he gives us next.

Oscar Nominations:  There are a lot of people out there who will never forgive Hooper for beating David Fincher in 2010, though he had also won the DGA.  But the direction, like the film, is great and there isn’t as much a difference between Hooper and Fincher, as say, in other years thought of in this same way (1941, 1980, 1990, 1994).

Danny Boyle

  • Born:  1956
  • Rank:  #61
  • Score:  539.31
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Globe, BFCA, LAFC, CFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, 2 BAFTA, Globe, 2 BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Trainspotting (1996), Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
  • Feature Films:  9
  • Film I’ve Seen:  9
  • Best Film:  Trainspotting
  • Worst Film:  The Beach
  • Films:
    • ****:  Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire
    • ***.5:  127 Hours, 28 Days Later
    • ***:  A Life Less Ordinary, Shallow Grave, Sunshine, Millions, The Beach

Career:  Like so many other directors, Danny Boyle just needed to be noticed by the Oscars once.  While Trainspotting had been brilliant, it didn’t get anything other than an Adapted Screenplay nomination and none of his other films had even gotten so much as a blip.  But then came Slumdog and the Oscars rained down.  And suddenly, lo and behold, he’s back in the Best Picture race with his next film.  Now that he’s more noticed it will be interesting what will happen with Trance (due out soon) or Porno (the sequel to Trainspotting).  Somehow I think those aren’t really going to be Oscar fare.

Oscar Nominations:  Boyle swept all the awards groups in 2008 and won two critics awards and wins the Nighthawk.  It’s pretty much a case of all of us agreeing – this was the best film of 2008 and Boyle’s was the best direction.

David Fincher

  • Born:  1962
  • Rank:  #60
  • Score:  539.44
  • Awards:  BAFTA, Globe, BFCA, NYFC, LAFC, NSFC, BSFC, CFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 3 DGA, 2 BAFTA, 2 Globes, 2 BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), The Social Network (2010)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Social Network (2010)
  • Feature Films:  9
  • Film I’ve Seen:  9
  • Best Film:  The Social Network
  • Worst Film:  Se7en
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Social Network
    • ***.5:  Zodiac, Fight Club, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Panic Room
    • ***:  The Game, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Alien3
    • **.5:  Se7en

Career:  “It’s to David Fincher’s credit that his films take place somewhere beyond our edge – yet in a recognizable extension of our nightmares.”   (Thomson, 5th Ed, p 327)  That might be the sentence that Thomson has written that I agree with the most.  In films like Zodiac, Fight Club and Dragon Tattoo (which hadn’t been made yet when Thomson wrote that), he does precisely that.  The question now is what he will do next – he was supposed to follow through with the other two Dragon Tattoo books but they don’t seem to be happening at the moment.  Frankly, I’m okay with that – he did an amazing job with subpar material with the film, but I’ve already been through the Swedish versions and I’m not anxious to repeat that experience again.

Oscar Nominations:  Fincher earned an Oscar nomination in 2008 for a film that is vastly over-rated and incredibly flawed.  But it was easily a consensus – he finished second in the Consensus awards to Danny Boyle.  In 2010, almost everyone was in agreement that Fincher was the Best Director, as he swept the critics groups and won every awards group except the two key ones – the DGA and the Oscars.  I’m inclined to agree with the others, though, as I said up above for Hooper, the difference isn’t as big as most people would claim.

Anthony Minghella

  • Born:  1954
  • Died:  2008
  • Rank:  #59
  • Score:  542.73
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, BFCA, NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, 3 BAFTA, 3 Globes, BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  The English Patient (1996)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The English Patient (1996)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Film I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  The English Patient
  • Worst Film:  Mr. Wonderful
  • Films:
    • ****:  The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Truly Madly Deeply
    • ***.5:  Cold Mountain
    • ***:  Breaking and Entering
    • **.5:  Mr. Wonderful

Career:  We never got that much from Minghella and then he was gone.  Six films in almost 20 years of directing, slowly, methodically.  But three of those films are great and that’s always an impressive achievement.

Oscar Nominations:  1996 was a truly great year – my top 5 films are as good as my top 5 in any other year.  Though I have The English Patient as my #3 film, its epic scope and fantastic visual imagery ends up winning Best Director from me over the two films above it – Lone Star and Trainspotting.

Krzysztof Kieslowski

  • Born:  1941
  • Died:  1996
  • Rank:  #58
  • Score:  543.10
  • Nominations:  Oscar, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Red (1994)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:
  • Feature Films:  8
  • Film I’ve Seen:  8
  • Best Film:  Red
  • Worst Film:  Blind Chance
  • Films:
    • ****:  Red, Blue, White
    • ***.5:  The Double Life of Veronique
    • ***:  Camera Buff, The Scar, No End, Blind Chance

Career:  “He has a masterly, but austere, manner.  There is no doubting his feeling for things seen and heard; there is no question but that he is a filmmaker, and one following the steps of Bresson.”  (Thomson, p 468)  Though Kieslowski, like Minghella, died relatively young, there wasn’t anything we missed.  He had actually announced his retirement from directing after completion of his Three Colours Trilogy.  It was a hell of a way to go out – on top with a magnifient magnum opus to finish off his career.  And while he may not have directed that many feature films, his work in the documentary field was impressive and his The Decalogue, a series of ten films for television dealing with the 10 Commandments is a magnificent work.

Oscar Nominations:  This was one of those years, like in 1985 with Kurosawa and in 2002 with Almodovar, where the directors said, okay, if the Foreign Film category is too stupid to be able to have the best film get nominated, then we’ll nominate the director.  Though Kieslowski doesn’t quite make my top 5 for 1994, that’s because of the quality of the year – he would be a nominee in most years and the film is fantastic.

George Clooney

  • Born:  1961
  • Rank:  #57
  • Score:  546.50
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, BFCA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
  • Oscar note:  Though only 1 of them is for directing, he now has 8 total Oscar nominations and 2 Oscars.  Twice now he has been nominated for writing and acting in the same year and both times they were for different films.
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Good Night and Good Luck (2005)
  • Feature Films:  4
  • Film I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Good Night and Good Luck
  • Worst Film:  Leatherheads
  • Films:
    • ****:  Good Night and Good Luck, The Ides of March
    • ***.5:  Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
    • ***:  Leatherheads

Career:  George Clooney, like other directors who began as actors (Warren Beatty, Robert Redford, Laurence Olivier), continues to act and only directs when he feels like it.  As a results, his films are all personal without seeming personal.  There is a considerable amount of the political to the films that he chosen to director and that, plus his sharp writing style, have given them a dark witty edge.  His one film outside of this realm, Leatherheads, was a screwball comedy which, along with his work for the Coen Brothers, shows his love for a genre that seemed to have disappeared from the screen decades ago.  Clooney is still young enough and his talent is so prodigious that hopefully we can look forward to more films from him than we ever got from Redford, Beatty or Olivier.

Oscar Nominations:  Upon re-watching Good Night and Good Luck for my Best Picture project, I ended up re-ranking it slightly higher and making it my #1 film of 2005.  But the direction still ends up fourth in a year with Munich, Brokeback Mountain and King Kong.  But that’s just the luck of the draw.

Alexander Payne

  • Born:  1961
  • Rank:  #56
  • Score:  549.60
  • Awards:  LAFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, BAFTA, 3 Globes, 2 BFCA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Sideways (2004), The Descendants (2011)
  • Oscar Note:  Has 2 Oscars for writing.
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Film I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  Sideways
  • Worst Film:  Citizen Ruth
  • Films:
    • ****:  Sideways, The Descendants
    • ***.5:  About Schmidt, Election, Citizen Ruth

Career:  Like so many others on this particular part of the list, Payne hasn’t made many films.  And like several of them, that’s because he slowly brings them forth.  It’s now been 17 years since Citizen Ruth and he still has only directed five films (with Nebraska coming later this year maybe).  His films are smart, witty, entertaining and always very good or great.  But what’s really amazing is how he can take a work that really can be flat on the page and make it come so alive on the screen, either through his script or his work with the right actors.

Oscar Nominations:  Perhaps Payne doesn’t end up making my list in either year because his direction is so solid and involves such great acting and writing that I don’t pay as much attention to it because it’s not flashy.  Both Sideways and The Descendants are great films with great direction and they both make my Best Picture lineups, but the direction gets knocked just off the list by directors like Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers) and Terrence Malick (Tree of Life).

Michael Curtiz

  • Born:  1886
  • Died:  1962
  • Rank:  #55
  • Score:  551.13
  • Awards:  Oscar
  • Nominations:  4 Oscars, DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Four Daughters (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1943)
  • Oscar note:  Not only was Curtiz the last director to get nominated twice in one year before 2000, but he finished in second place in 1935 for Captain Blood as a write-in.
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Casablanca (1943)
  • Feature Films:  100
  • Film I’ve Seen:  79
  • Best Film:  Casablanca
  • Worst Film:  The Egyptian
  • Films:
    • ****:  Casablanca, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Captain Blood, Angels with Dirty Faces
    • ***:  Black Fury, Force of Arms, The Sea Hawk, Young Men with a Horn, Passage to Marseille, Mildred Pierce, Unsuspected, Dodge City, Alias the Doctor, The Comancheros, Mission to Moscow, White Christmas, Flamingo Road, Captains of the Clouds, Janie, The Keyhole, The Mystery of the Wax Museum, Virginia City, Mandalay, Gold is Where You Find It, Proud Rebel, My Dream is Yours, The Walking Dead, Female, Cabin in the Cotton, The Kennel Murder Case, The Privates Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, Four’s a Crowd, Trouble Along the Way, Dive Bomber, The Story of Will Rogers, The Best Things in Life are Free, 20000 Years in Sing Sing, I’ll See You in My Dreams, Romance on the High Seas, King Creole, The Sea Wolf, We’re No Angels, The Helen Morgan Story, Four Daughters, The Jazz Singer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Kid Galahad, Santa Fe Trail, Go Into Your Dance, This is the Army, Life with Father, The Hangman, Noah’s Ark, The Matrimonial Bed, The Strange Love of Molly Louvain, Bright Leaf, God’s Gift to Women, Man in the Net, Daughters Courageous, The Case of the Curious Bride, Four Wives
    • **.5:  British Agent, Doctor X, Roughly Speaking, Jim Thorpe – All American, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Front Page Woman, The Key, River’s End, Night and Day, The Vagabond King, A Breath of Scandal, Mammy, Francis of Assisi
    • **:  The Woman from Monte Carlo, Little Big Shot, The Egyptian
    • not seen:  A Million Bid, The Desired Woman, Good Time Charley, Tenderloin, Glad Rag Doll, Madonna of Avenue A, The Gamblers, Hearts in Exile, Under a Texas Moon, A Soldier’s Plaything, Demon of the Sea, The Mad Genius, Private Detective 62, Goodbye Again, Jimmy the Gent, Stolen Holiday, Mountain Justice, The Perfect Specimen, The Lady Takes a Sailor, The Boy from Oklahoma, The Scarlet Hour
  • Sarris Category:  Lightly Likable

Career:  “Perhaps more than any other director, Curtiz reflected the strengths and weaknesses of the studio system in Hollywood . . . What the collapse of the studio discipline meant to Curtiz and to Hollywood was the bottom dropping out of routine filmmaking.  The director’s one enduring masterpiece is, of course, Casablanca, the happiest of happy accidents, and the most decisive exception to the auteur theory.”  (Sarris, p 175-76)  “Eventually, durability betrayed him, and by the 1950s his adventure films and biopics were uninspired throwbacks.  But until about 1945 he was an admirable exponent of American genres and an enthusiastic orchestrator of actors and technicians.”  (Thomson, p 198)  The Casablanca comment from Sarris seems odd – surely Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz are the most decisive exceptions to the auteur theory.

In January of 1935, Curtiz and his producer Harry Joe Brown were complaining that they didn’t want to use a young Australian actor that Warners had just imported from England in their new Perry Mason film, The Case of the Curious Bride.  Jack Warner was furious, writing to head of production Hal Wallis: “I hope that they did not change you because I want him use in this picture, first because I think it is a shame to let people like Curtiz and Harry Brown to even think of opposing an order coming from you or myself and, secondly, when we bring a man all the way from England he is at least entitled to a chance and somehow or other we haven’t given him one.  I want to make sure he is in the picture.”  (Inside Warner Bros. (1935-1951), p 19).  So, Curtiz had Errol Flynn play the man who has been murdered in the flashback scene that reveals his actual cause of death, though he got no dialogue.  Then, after Robert Donat didn’t work out and they were unable to get Leslie Howard, Frederich March, Clark Gable or Ronald Colman and George Brent and Brian Aherne had done screen tests for the role of Captain Blood, Flynn was given a screen test at the order of Wallis.  By late June, Flynn was cast and the rest was history.  Curtiz, so unwilling to use Flynn in what was a fairly mediocre film, had finally found the right person for the right kind of film.  Though Flynn was never a great actor, his films, directed by Curtiz, are great fun.  And only after their collaboration began did Curtiz really break through – not only making the Flynn films, but also great films like Casablanca and Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Curtiz worked on too many films and too many of them were duds for him to ever achieve the upper echelon of directors.  But there was great work to be found there as well, and it didn’t begin until Captain Blood.

Oscar Nominations:  In 1935, though not nominated, Curtiz finished in second place in the race in one of the few years in which results were actually revealed and one of the two years where write-in votes were allowed.  But it would take him three more years before he would actually receive a nomination.  That would come in 1938.  And it wouldn’t be for his masterful The Adventures of Robin Hood, but instead for Four Daughters, his other, more mediocre Best Picture nominee.  And then he was nominated a second time that same year for his great gangster film Angels with Dirty Faces, which didn’t receive a Best Picture nomination.  Four years later he returned to the race with Yankee Doodle Dandy, and of the five nominees, he definitely should have come out the winner (my own winner, Orson Welles, wasn’t nominated).  Then the next year Curtiz would make one of the greatest films of all-time and the Oscars would get it right by handing it Best Picture and giving Curtiz Best Director.

George Cukor

  • Born:  1899
  • Died:  1983
  • Rank:  #54
  • Score:  557.54
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, Globe
  • Nominations:  5 Oscars, 4 DGA, 3 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Little Women (1932-33), The Philadelphia Story (1940), A Double Life (1947), Born Yesterday (1950), My Fair Lady (1964)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Philadelphia Story (1940), Gaslight (1944), My Fair Lady (1964)
  • Feature Films:  48
  • Film I’ve Seen:  43
  • Best Film:  The Philadelphia Story
  • Worst Film:  The Blue Bird
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Philadelphia Story, Gaslight, A Star is Born, My Fair Lady
    • ***.5:  The Actress, What Price Hollywood, Travels with My Aunt, Dinner at Eight, Little Women
    • ***:  A Bill of Divorcement, David Copperfield, Adam’s Rib, It Should Happen to You, Wild is the Wild, Les Girls, Let’s Make Love, Holiday, A Double Life, Pat and Make, Keeper of the Flame, Camille, Romeo and Juliet, Bhowani Junction, Edward My Son, The Marrying Kind, A Life of Her Own, Born Yesterday, Sylvia Scarlett, Rich and Famous, The Royal Family of Broadway, Susan and God, Her Cardboard Lover, Girls About Town, Two-Faced Woman
    • **.5:  Zaza, Heller in Pink Tights, Woman’s Face, Rockabye
    • **:  The Chapman Report, Justine, Our Betters
    • *.5:  The Blue Bird
    • not seen:  Grumpy, Virtuous Sin, Tarnished Lady, Winged Victory, The Model and the Marriage Broker
  • Sarris Category:  The Far Side of Paradise

Career:  “George Cukor’s filmography is his most eloquent defense.  When a director has provided tasteful entertainments of a high order consistently over a period of more than thirty years, it is clear that said director is much more than a mere entertainer.  Mere entertainers seldom entertain for more than five years, and then only intermittently.”  (Sarris, p 89)  “It is only proper that Cukor should be admired for his work with actresses, but that its not his sole or most vital asset.  For what Cukor delights in with women, and especially groups of women, is the element of play or masquerade.  His abiding preoccupation is theatricality and the various human postures between acting and lying.”  (Thomson, p 195)  When I wrote my initial piece on George Cukor, I had never seen any of his really weak films.  That’s partially because they haven’t been particularly available.  But also, there’s just not that many.  Cukor directed a lot of films over the years and most of them were well worth watching.  In terms of acting points at the Oscars, he is #1 all-time for Actor (3 wins, 7 noms), #2 for Actress (2 wins, 9 noms) and #3 for total acting points.  And he directed more films that earned Academy Award nominations than any other director in film history to date (24).

Oscar Nominations:  Like Frank Capra, Cukor would lose his first nomination in 1933 to Frank Lloyd, but unlike Capra, he didn’t think he had won.  It would take seven years before Cukor would be back with his best film, The Philadelphia Story.  The Academy would skip him in 1944 for his brilliant Gaslight, but in 1947 he would earn a nomination without a Best Picture nomination for A Double Life, which is a solid film, but didn’t really belong in the race.  Then in 1950, he was nominated again, this time for Born Yesterday, an over-rated effort that didn’t belong anywhere near the nominee list.  In 1964, Cukor would finally take home the Oscar, as much a career Oscar as anything else  But it’s not like the Academy was really going to give Kubrick the Oscar.

Alan J. Pakula

  • Born:  1928
  • Died:  1998
  • Rank:  #53
  • Score:  559.23
  • Awards:  NYFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  All the President’s Men (1976)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  All the President’s Men (1976), Sophie’s Choice (1982), Presumed Innocent (1990)
  • Feature Films:  16
  • Film I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  All the President’s Men
  • Worst Film:  Rollover
  • Films:
    • ****:  All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice, Presumed Innocent, The Parallax View
    • ***.5:  Klute, Starting Over
    • ***:  Comes a Horseman, The Sterile Cuckoo, See You in the Morning
    • **.5:  The Devil’s Own, Orphans, The Pelican Brief
    • **:  Consenting Adults, Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing, Rollover
    • not seen:  Dream Lover

Career:  “Pakula and his colleague of the 1960s, Robert Mulligan, worked in the dilute vein of intelligent, cautiously bold entertainment still congratulating itself in American movies.”  (Thomson, p 663)  That much is true for Mulligan.  But once Pakula got around to directing his own films, he made much more of a mark with them.  Thomson speaks of the intelligence of Pakula’s films as if that is somehow a problem, as if intelligence is something we don’t want from our films.  But, in films like Klute, The Parallax View and All the President’s Men, we have the kind of film that is both well-made and thoughtful, suspenseful and entertaining.  They are both entertainment and art, the kind of good film for adults that everyone complains doesn’t seem to exist anymore.  While Pakula may have lost his way a bit after 1982, he still had the occasional breakthrough like Presumed Innocent, which provided that same sort of intelligent film for adults that Pakula had always specialized in.

Oscar Nominations:  Pakula only made it into the Oscar race once – in 1976, when he should have won.  But it was the year of Rocky, and somehow it took home not just Picture, but also Director.

Milos Forman

  • Born:  1932
  • Rank:  #52
  • Score:  562.95
  • Awards:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, BAFTA, 3 Globes, LAFC
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, 2 DGA, 2 BAFTAs, 4 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Amadeus (1984), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Amadeus (1984)
  • Feature Films:  13
  • Film I’ve Seen:  13
  • Best Film:  Amadeus
  • Worst Film:  Taking Off
  • Films:
    • ****:  Amadeus, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
    • ***.5:  Ragtime, Man on the Moon, The Fireman’s Ball, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Loves of a Blonde
    • ***:  Valmont, Hair, Goya’s Ghosts, Black Peter, Konkurs
    • **.5:  Taking Off

Career:  “He works too sparingly – and with too much smart, worldly distance, finally – to be a major artist.”  (Thomson, p 307)  Well, his work makes him a major artist, regardless of the infrequency of it.  But yes, it hurts that there has been so little.  He never worked fast – once he left Europe and came to America he never made a film more frequently than every few years.  But since winning that second Oscar there have only been four films in almost 30 years, and at this point I suspect we have seen all that we will from him.  Still, we have those two Oscar winners and several very good films to show us the scope of his work.

Oscar Nominations:  In 1975, Forman and his film would sweep the big 5 at the Oscars.  He wasn’t as deserving as Spielberg (who wasn’t nominated for Jaws) or Sidney Lumet (who was for Dog Day Afternoon and never ended up winning an Oscar).  But in 1984, when he returned to the Oscar race, in spite of going up against David Lean’s final epic, Forman and his film deserved every award they won.  He would pop again a decade later in place of Cameron Crowe, but he didn’t really belong in the race.

Alan Parker

  • Born:  1944
  • Rank:  #51
  • Score:  565.14
  • Awards:  2 BAFTAs, NBR
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, 4 BAFTA, 3 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Midnight Express (1978), Mississippi Burning (1988)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Midnight Express (1978), Mississippi Burning (1988)
  • Feature Films:  14
  • Film I’ve Seen:  14
  • Best Film:  Midnight Express
  • Worst Film:  The Road to Wellville
  • Films:
    • ****:  Midnight Express, The Commitments, Mississippi Burning, Evita
    • ***.5:  Pink Floyd: The Wall, Shoot the Moon
    • ***:  Birdy, Come See the Paradise, Fame
    • **.5:  Angela’s Ashes, Angel Heart, Bugsy Malone
    • *.5:  The Life of David Gale, The Road to Wellville

Career:  “Parker’s choice of material is invariably interesting and bold – yet very few of his pictures stand up to repeated viewing.  He grabs attention but he has no sustained grip.”  (Thomson, p 666)  Alan Parker has had a rather varied career.  Look at the distribution of his films among the point system.  He’s had more great films than anything else, but he has as many films below ** as the other 24 directors in this part of the list.  What Parker did, as well as anyone else, was direct musicals.  The only other director to direct three musicals that rank at ***.5 or better is Mark Sandrich, and Parker didn’t have the advantage of using Astaire and Rogers.  And his three best musicals are very different from each other – a rock and roll film that springs from an album, a film about an upstart rock and roll band, and an adaptation of an acclaimed stage musical.  Add in the originality of both Fame and Bugsy Malone, and you have an astounding vision.

Oscar Nominations:  Alan Parker is one of those rarities who deserved his two nominations.  Midnight Express is a great film, and competes with The Deer Hunter as the best of 1978.  Mississippi Burning wasn’t quite as good and it can’t manage to break into my top 5, but his direction makes my list, just bumping out Sidney Lumet for Running on Empty.

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