Robert Altman on the set of Prairie Home Companion with his "standby director", Paul Thomas Anderson, who agreed to that role for insurance reasons.  In between is some actress.

Robert Altman (#33) on the set of Prairie Home Companion with his “standby director”, Paul Thomas Anderson (#28), who agreed to that role for insurance reasons. In between is some actress.

This is the penultimate ranked list of those directors who have been nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  This is part 8 of the series, with one part still left to go.  As always, you can find the previous seven posts in this series by going here.  There is also an introduction here, which explains the scope of the project as well as my scoring system.  I have been focusing on finishing this series this year, both so that I go do the bi-annual update of the Top 100 Directors of All-Time and because I want to do it before another Oscar season and some more directors potentially end up needing to be ranked.

In a reversal of the last group, these are the more experienced directors.  With the exception of four Studio Era workhorses, the 25 directors in the last post had only averaged 7.76 films.  This time, we have seven directors (Lucas, Olivier, Coppola, Fosse, Malick, Mendes, Anderson) who have only directed a combined 39 films – an average of 5.57 (I’ve seen all but two of those – the two now out or about to be in theaters).  The other 18 directors have averaged 19.83 films – or if you cut out Lynch, Branagh and Leigh, you have 15 directors who have made 325 films (21.67 each), of which I have seen 308.  I have also seen 95.2% of these films – only missing more than one film by Renoir (4) and Capra (9).  And the only film I’m missing from both Truffaut and Malle are on TCM in the next month.  And this just about caps it for the less experienced directors.  The only director in the last post with fewer than 10 films to his credit is Tarantino.

The other demarcation point between this group and the final group is the number of great (****) films they have directed.  Of the final 25, only one has directed fewer than 5 great films – Francis Ford Coppola, at #25, and he’s got four.  Only four others have directed just five – Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles (both of whom have smaller amounts of total films), Clint Eastwood and Elia Kazan.  But how many directors have directed more than five great films and aren’t in the top 25?  Just five – all of whom are here: Stephen Frears (which is how he ranks this high), Steven Soderbergh, Pedro Almodóvar, Frank Capra and Francois Truffaut.  They all have six great films.  All sixteen directors who directed more than six great films are in the final group.

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 every director here appeared on the Top 100 list, my summaries are short and succinct, though I will mention films released since I did the posts.  There are links to all the original Top 100 posts with each director.  But, there is no guarantee about making the 3.0 list – I am doing some tinkering and at least four of these directors (I’m not saying who), because of those tinkerings, are likely to be bumped from the next version of the list.  But I’m not done with that yet, so we’ll see sometime in October probably.

  • #50  –  George Lucas
  • #49  –  Laurence Olivier
  • #48  –  Mike Nichols
  • #47  –  Louis Malle
  • #46  –  Sofia Coppola
  • #45  –  Neil Jordan
  • #44  –  Mike Leigh
  • #43  –  John Boorman
  • #42  –  Fred Zinnemann
  • #41  –  Stephen Frears
  • #40  –  Steven Soderbergh
  • #39  –  Bob Fosse
  • #38  –  Oliver Stone
  • #37  –  Pedro Almodóvar
  • #36  –  Kenneth Branagh
  • #35  –  Terrence Malick
  • #34  –  Frank Capra
  • #33  –  Robert Altman
  • #32  –  Sam Mendes
  • #31  –  Ridley Scott
  • #30  –  Jean Renoir
  • #29  –  David Lynch
  • #28  –  Paul Thomas Anderson
  • #27  –  Federico Fellini
  • #26  –  Francois Truffaut

George Lucas

  • Born:  1944
  • Rank:  #50
  • Score:  565.47
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  American Graffiti (1973), Star Wars (1977)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Star Wars (1977)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Films I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  Star Wars
  • Worst Film:  THX-1138
  • Films:
    • ****:  Star Wars, American Graffiti, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
    • ***.5:  Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
    • **.5:  THX-1138

Career:  “Above all, Star Wars and the Lucas empire raise the worry that brilliant film students know too little about life, and are then protected from learning more by their outlandish success.”  (Thomson, p 538)  He’s now regularly ridiculed for his massive empire which he has now sold to Disney for a gajillion dollars.  Had he stayed retired after the first Star Wars would his reputation as a director have taken such a hit?  In the seventies, he was a visionary who first made a cult film, then a very personal film that was a massive success and then an empire.

Oscar Nominations:  That I don’t nominate George Lucas for Best Director for American Graffiti says more about the work of other directors in 1973 than it does about the direction from Lucas.  Because, let’s face it, when you end up in the #6 slot, one spot above the actual winner (George Roy Hill for The Sting) in a year where the five actual Nighthawk nominees include the other three Oscar nominees (Ingmar Bergman for Cries and Whispers, William Friedkin for The Exorcist, Bernardo Bertolucci for Last Tango in Paris) and two directors who rank so high all-time that they won’t appear until the final post (Martin Scorsese for Mean Streets, Sidney Lumet for Serpico) then you’re still in a pretty good spot.  Because a comedy like The Sting actually won Best Picture and light-weight fluff like A Touch of Class was nominated, people forget how good 1973 was for films.  American Graffiti makes my #4 spot in a year that includes not only the aforementioned films, but also Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and The Friends of Eddie Coyle.  As for Star Wars?  Well, I think the direction is absolutely first-rate and it barely eeks out a win over Annie Hall in what is essentially for me a tie.

Laurence Olivier

  • Born:  1907
  • Died:  1989
  • Rank:  #49
  • Score:  572.80
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  Hamlet  (1948)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Hamlet (1948), Richard III (1956)
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Films I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  Henry V
  • Worst Film:  The Prince and the Showgirl
  • Films:
    • ****:  Henry V, Hamlet, Richard III
    • ***:  Three Sisters, The Prince and the Showgirl

Career:  If only Olivier had directed more films.  In spite of his output, Sarris didn’t bother to categorize him and there wasn’t a worthwhile quote about his directing from Thomson.  But he was a first-rate director and if he had directed the 1965 Othello it probably would have been a better film.

Oscar Nominations:  Hamlet would be considered the first great Shakespeare on film if not for the masterpiece that was Olivier’s Henry V (which he wasn’t nominated for, though the film was).  But it rightfully lost Best Director to John Huston for Treasure of the Sierra Madre and is a strong #2 finisher in my own Nighthawk Awards.

Mike Nichols

  • Born:  1931
  • Rank:  #48
  • Score:  573.24
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, Globe, NYFC
  • Nominations:  4 Oscars, 3 DGA, BAFTA, 5 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf  (1966), The Graduate (1967), Silkwood (1983), Working Girl (1988)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966), The Graduate (1967)
  • Feature Films:  18
  • Films I’ve Seen:  18
  • Best Film:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  • Worst Film:  What Planet are You From
  • Films:
    • ****:  Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Graduate, Closer, Charlie Wilson’s War
    • ***.5:  Primary Colors, The Birdcage, Silkwood, Carnal Knowledge
    • ***:  Catch-22, Heartburn, Working Girl, The Fortune, Regarding Henry
    • **.5:  Biloxi Blues, Postcards from the Edge, Wolf, The Day of the Dolphin
    • .5:  What Planet Are You From
  • Sarris Category:  Oddities, One-Shots, and Newcomers

Career:  “Everything Mike Nichols has touched on stage and screen has turned to gold if not glory.  Why then do there remain little pockets of cultural resistance to his magical manipulation?”  (Sarris, p 217)  “Mike Nichols is an unquestioned figure in our culture, a smart man, a funny man, a proven success in cabaret, on records, as a stage director, and as a deliverer of talking-point movies – movies that are smart, funny, ‘adult,’ ‘on the pulse,’ and ‘of their moment.’  Yet I find it hard to grasp a him in there, a movie director: after a dozen or so films, is there anything there more substantial than a high reputation and a producer’s instinct for what smart people might want to see?”  (Thomson, p 633)  Nichols’ hasn’t made a film since his post went up, almost four years ago, but has been back on Broadway, proving his theatrical directing chops once again.  He is slated to directed One Last Thing Before I Go, but at 82, he may be actually done with film directing.  He has the distinction of both directing what I think is the best television mini-series ever made (Angels in America) and the worst film ever made by a Top 100 Director (What Planet Are You From).

Oscar Nominations:  Nichols took the film world by storm with his first film and it managed to lose out to the ultra example of high-class, A Man for All Seasons.  But I prefer Nichols’ film and his direction.  But, to be fair, I also think the next year he should lose out to the masterful direction of Arthur Penn in Bonnie and Clyde.  Then, in 1983, after not having made a film in 8 years, Nicholas returned with the smart and interesting Silkwood and the Academy decided to return him to the Oscar race, though not his film.  Though it is a very good film, the Academy would have been better served by nominating one of the two directors from the great films nominated for Best Picture – Lawrence Kasdan (The Big Chill) or Philip Kauffman (The Right Stuff).  And then five years later, Nichols’ over-rated Working Girl ended with him in the race for a fourth time, an oddity for a comedy without a nominated screenplay – in fact, unless you count Raiders, it was the first to do so since Fellini in 1970 with his Satyricon.

Louis Malle

  • Born:  1932
  • Died:  1995
  • Rank:  #47
  • Score:  578.08
  • Awards:  2 BAFTA, LAFC, NSFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, 3 BAFTA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Atlantic City  (1981)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Elevator to the Gallows (1961), Atlantic City (1981)
  • Feature Films:  19
  • Films I’ve Seen:  18
  • Best Film:  Au Revoir, Les Enfants
  • Worst Film:  Black Moon
  • Films:
    • ****:  Au Revoir Les Enfants, Atlantic City, Elevator to the Gallows, May Fools
    • ***.5:  Murmur of the Heart, Pretty Baby, Zazie in the Subway, Viva Maria
    • ***:  My Dinner with Andre, Vanya on 42nd Street, Lacombe Lucien, Damage, Alamo Bay, The Fire Within, A Very Private Affair, The Lovers
    • **.5:  Crackers
    • **:  Black Moon
    • not seen:  The Thief of Paris

Career:  “Malle seemed like a minor figure with pretensions to mastery.  His eminence spoke to grave shortages of competition.” (Thomson, p 554)  Like with a lot of his statements, I find Thomson here to be full of shit.  Of all the directors to come out of the New Wave, Malle’s was the talent that lasted the longest.  He may have died relatively young, but he was still making great films after Truffaut died and he spread great or very good films across the entire scope of his career.

Oscar Nominations:  Rather than nominate Malle in the sixties, when the trend was to nominate foreign directors, the Academy harkened back to the days of Jean Renoir and waited until he came to America and then nominated him for the masterpiece Atlantic City.  It is a great film, with great direction and the Academy nailed it dead-on, giving it Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor and Actress nominations.

Sofia Coppola

  • Born:  1971
  • Rank:  #46
  • Score:  580.00
  • Awards:  NYFC, BSFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, BFCA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Oscar Note:  Won an Oscar for Original Screenplay
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Lost in Translation (2003)
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Films I’ve Seen:  4
  • Best Film:  Lost in Translation
  • Worst Film:  Marie Antoinette
  • Films:
    • ****:  Lost in Translation, The Virgin Suicides
    • ***.5:  Somewhere
    • ***:  Marie Antoinette
    • not seen:  The Bling Ring

Career:  Her fourth film ended up with her on the 2.0 list.  Will her fifth film keep her on it?  If nothing else, she has shown a deft hand at directing former child stars as they reach their 20’s.

Oscar Nominations:  Sofia Coppola was already part of a historic family- though the Hustons had beaten the Coppolas in being the first two and three generation Oscar-winning family, the Coppolas had more Oscars, especially when you add in the Best Actor Oscar for Sofia’s cousin Nicholas Cage.  And by writing and directing her own film, Sofia established her own way to the Oscars, becoming not only the second third-generation person to win an Oscar, but the first American woman to ever be nominated for Best Director.  And she absolutely deserved it for one of the best films of the year and definitely deserved her win for Best Original Screenplay.

Neil Jordan

  • Born:  1950
  • Rank:  #45
  • Score:  584.07
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, 3 BAFTA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Crying Game  (1992)
  • Oscar Note:  Won an Oscar for Original Screenplay
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Mona Lisa (1986), The Crying Game (1992), The End of the Affair (1999)
  • Feature Films:  16
  • Films I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  The Crying Game
  • Worst Film:  In Dreams
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Crying Game, The End of the Affair, Mona Lisa
    • ***.5:  The Good Thief, The Butcher Boy, Michael Collins, Interview with the Vampire, Breakfast on Pluto
    • ***:  The Company of Wolves, The Brave One, Angel, We’re No Angels, The Miracle, Ondine
    • **:  In Dreams
    • not seen:  Byzantium

Career:  “It may be to the point to see Jordan as a kid raised in movies, music and Catholicism, struggling to apply the lessons to the woeful state of Anglo-Irish relations in our time.”  (Thomson, p 447)  It’s now been four years since my original Jordan post and he’s only had one film reach theaters (Byzantium will hit later this summer).  More troubling, it’s been even longer since he’s had a film that’s done him any good on the list.  I’m curious to see where Byzantium will lead us.

Oscar Nominations:  It’s easy to split the difference between The Crying Game and Unforgiven – giving Screenplay to the former and Director to the latter, like the Oscars did.  Then you have to decide on one or the other for Best Picture.  I go with Unforgiven, but this is another year where it’s essentially a tie.

Mike Leigh

  • Born:  1943
  • Rank:  #44
  • Score:  585.19
  • Awards:  BAFTA, 2 NYFC, LAFC, 2 NSFC, BSFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, 2 BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Secrets & Lies (1996), Vera Drake (2004)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  none
  • Feature Films:  11
  • Films I’ve Seen:  11
  • Best Film:  Secrets & Lies
  • Worst Film:  Career Girls
  • Films:
    • ****:  Secrets & Lies, Topsy-Turvy, Another Year, Vera Drake
    • ***.5:  Life if Sweet, Happy-Go-Lucky, All or Nothing, Naked
    • ***:  High Hopes, Bleak Moments, Career Girls

Career:  “Leigh has an obsessive ear for the rhythms of small talk, and he is very good at getting a certain kind of monotone English humor, of deprecation masked as irony.  But he loves the strange lilt of it so much, he is sometimes carried away, or carried beyond the strict realism of character.”  (Thomson, p 510)  On the 1.0 list, he was #86.  On the 2.0 list he had moved up to #75.  There are some directors above him on the all-time list who haven’t been Oscar-nominated (Nolan, Eisenstein, Lang, Murnau, Buñuel), but not enough to push him any lower than #55.  No director, in going back in watching his films, has moved up more in my estimation as a director.  His only film since the original post, the fantastic Another Year, is one reason he moved up.

Oscar Nominations:  The nomination for Mike Leigh in 1996 was an example of the independent films breaking through.  Four of the five nominated films were independents and the one that wasn’t (Jerry Maguire) was the one that didn’t get a Best Director nomination.  But, as great as the film is, and it gets better upon seeing it again, Leigh doesn’t really belong in the race when you have non-nominees like John Sayles (Lone Star), Danny Boyle (Trainspotting) and Kenneth Branagh (Hamlet).  The next time was something completely different though – one of the biggest surprises I have ever seen on Oscar nomination morning.  I expected one director would get bounced and I was right, though I predicted the wrong director.  I thought the director who would slide in to the final spot would be either Michael Mann (Collateral), Mike Nichols (Closer) or even Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers).  I didn’t expect it for Leigh’s smart, touching film about abortion in Britain in the fifties and I’ll bet he was as surprised as I was.

John Boorman

  • Born:  1933
  • Rank:  #43
  • Score:  586.33
  • Awards:  LAFC, NSFC, BSFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, BAFTA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Deliverance (1972), Hope and Glory (1987)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Deliverance (1972), Excalibur (1981), Hope and Glory (1987)
  • Feature Films:  15
  • Films I’ve Seen:  15
  • Best Film:  Hope and Glory
  • Worst Film:  The Exorcist II: The Heretic
  • Films:
    • ****:  Hope and Glory, Point Blank, Excalibur, Deliverance
    • ***.5:  The General, The Tailor of Panama, Hell in the Pacific
    • ***:  The Emerald Forest, Beyond Rangoon, In My Country, Having a Wild Weekend
    • **.5:  Where the Heart Is, Zardoz
    • **:  Leo the Last
    • *:  The Exorcist II: The Heretic

Career:  “He is as commercially unreliable as he is artistically unpredictable.”  (Thomson, p 94)  Boorman, like Nichols, has now hit 80.  He supposedly has another film in the works, but I wouldn’t necessarily count on ever seeing it – it has been almost a decade since his last one.

Oscar Nominations:  Twice now, Boorman has managed to break into the Oscar race, for films that are almost diametrically opposed.  The first was a commercial venture, with big-name stars, made in America, from a best-selling novel.  The second was a personal story about growing up in the blitz that he wrote about his own life, made in Britain that wasn’t a commercial success and would have been worse without the Oscar nominations.  And yet, he definitely deserved both nominations, for creating masterful suspense in one and heart-breaking comedy in the midst of devastation.

Fred Zinnemann

  • Born:  1907
  • Died:  1997
  • Rank:  #42
  • Score:  589.71
  • Awards:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, 2 Globes, 4 NYFC, 2 NBR
  • Nominations:  7 Oscars, 8 DGA, 2 BAFTA, 7 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Search (1948), High Noon (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), The Nun’s Story (1959), The Sundowners (1960), A Man for All Seasons (1966), Julia (1977)
  • Oscar Note:  4 total Oscars – 2 for Director, 1 for Picture, 1 for Documentary, Short Subject; 10 total Oscar nominations
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Act of Violence (1948), High Noon (1952), From Here to Eternity (1953), A Man for All Seasons (1966)
  • Feature Films:  21
  • Films I’ve Seen:  20
  • Best Film:  From Here to Eternity
  • Worst Film:  Little Mister Jim
  • Films:
    • ****:  From Here to Eternity, High Noon, A Man for All Seasons
    • ***.5:  The Day of the Jackal, Act of Violence, A Hatful of Rain, The Search
    • ***:  The Seventh Cross, The Sundowners, The Member of the Wedding, Oklahoma, Julia, Five Days One Summer, The Men, Eyes in the Night, My Brother Talks to Horses, Behold a Pale Horse, Kid Glove Killer
    • **.5:  The Nun’s Story
    • **:  Little Mister Jim
    • not seen:  Teresa
  • Sarris Category:  Less Than Meets the Eye

Career:  “His inclusion in any objective history of the American cinema is mandatory, but his true vocation remains the making of antimovies for antimoviegoers . . . Perhaps there is not in Zinnemann enough of the redeeming outrageousness of the compulsive entertainer.”  (Sarris, p 169)  “Zinnemann worked with the parsimony that he may have believed was appropriate to high principles and great talent.  With those other middlebrows, George Stevens and William Wyler, he was reckoned a paragon of safe seriousness as the guts ran out of Hollywood.”  (Thomson, p 961)  In a choice between the Academy’s view (tied with four other directors for third all-time for points) and the more negative views of Sarris and Thomson, I’m inclined more towards the Academy.  Even if some of his films didn’t deserve their heaps of nominations, he directed far more great films than mediocre ones and only one bad that qualifies as bad, and that was an early effort marred more by the lead performance than his directing.  But he was a consummate adapter – as a director and with his choice of projects, though without John Huston’s hand in the writing process.

Oscar Nominations:  Zinnemann earned his first Oscar nomination in 1948 for The Search, a very good film that made a star out of Montgomery Clift, though it was actually his other film from that year, Act of Violence, which belongs among the nominees in what is a fairly weak year (I have him also at #8 for The Search).  Then came 1952, where his film, High Noon, and its direction both were by far the best of the nominees (though in a year with Rashomon and Singin in the Rain, I can’t say best of the year), but he was shoved to the side for John Ford’s fourth Oscar and the abysmal choice of The Greatest Show on Earth.  But the next year, the Academy got it completely right for the first time in 8 years and gave From Here to Eternity Best Picture and Zinnemann Best Director.  Then, six years later, the Academy joined with all the other groups that fawned over his over-rated The Nun’s Story.  They followed that up the next year with another nomination, this time for The Sundowners, a good film, but not one deserving of an Oscar nomination.  Six years later Zinnemann would win his second Oscar, this time over Mike Nichols for Virginia Woolf.  A Man for All Seasons was less risky, more typical Oscar fare, but it is still not the right choice (even if it isn’t a bad choice).  Zinnemann would make one final appearance among the nominees 11 years later for a film that was total Oscar bait but that never really rises above the level of good.

Stephen Frears

  • Born:  1941
  • Rank:  #41
  • Score:  593.10
  • Awards:  BSFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, 2 BAFTA, BFCA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Grifters (1990), The Queen (2006)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Dangerous Liaisons (1988), The Grifters (1990)
  • Feature Films:  20
  • Films I’ve Seen:  20
  • Best Film:  The Queen
  • Worst Film:  Lay the Favorite
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Queen, Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters, High Fidelity, Dirty Pretty Things, My Beautiful Laundrette
    • ***.5:  The Snapper, Prick Up Your Ears, Liam, The Hit
    • ***:  The Van, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Sammy and Rosie Get Laid, Gumshoe, Cheri, Mary Reilly, The Hi-Lo Country, Tamara Drewe
    • **.5:  Hero
    • *.5:  Lay the Favorite

Career:  “By now, it is clear that Frears does need to understand the world of his stories, and the he is frankly dependent on writers.  Of course, his problem is that the British cinema does not often enough mount ventures worthy of him.”  (Frears, p 314)  Frears has not done well since his original post.  He’s made three films and they are all in the bottom 6 of his oeuvre, with his latest, Lay the Favorite, a piece of utter dreck.

Oscar Nominations:  Stephen Frears belongs to a bizarre group of directors – Michael Curtiz, Jean Renoir, David Lean, Steven Spielberg.  All five directors earned that ultimate disrespect from the Academy – earning a Best Picture nomination without a Best Director nomination (though, to be fair, Curtiz, Renoir and Lean did this in an era of 10 Best Picture nominees), those films being Dangerous Liaisons, Captain Blood, The Grand Illusion, In Which We Serve and Jaws.  But then, after earning that disrespect, they got the opposite – they all ended up earning their first actual Best Director nominations for films that weren’t nominated for Best Picture: The Grifters, Angels with Dirty Faces, The Southerner, Brief Encounter and Close Encounters.  So how much does the Academy really respect them?  Well, Frears should have been nominated in both 1988 and 1990 and there was a long stretch where I actually had Fears winning for Liaisons.  In 2006, though I have The Queen in the fifth slot of a very good year, I bump him from the Best Director race for Paul Greengrass for United 93.

Steven Soderbergh

  • Born:  1963
  • Rank:  #40
  • Score:  600.79
  • Awards:  Oscar, BFCA, NYFC, LAFC, 2 NSFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, 2 BAFTA, BFCA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Traffic (2000), Erin Brockovich (2000)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Out of Sight (1998), Traffic (2000)
  • Feature Films:  24
  • Films I’ve Seen:  22
  • Best Film:  Traffic
  • Worst Film:  Kafka
  • Films:
    • ****:  Traffic, Out of Sight, Solaris, The Informant, Sex Lies and Videotape, Contagion
    • ***.5:  The Good German, The Limey, Ocean’s Eleven, King of the Hill
    • ***:  Schizopolis, Ocean’s Twelve, Erin Brockovich, Ocean’s Thirteen, The Girlfriend Experience, Magic Mike, Che
    • **.5:  Full Frontal, Haywire, Bubble, The Underneath
    • **:  Kafka
    • not seen:  Side Effects, Behind the Candelabra

Career:  “He may believe he is a central figure in the new, enlightened Hollywood, trying anything he can think of, while darting home for another Ocean’s payday.”  (Thomson, 5th Ed, p 914)  He’s retiring.  No, wait, he’s not.  No, he is.  No, and he’s now making two films every year.  What the fucking hell, Soderbergh?  He’s made four films since the original post – five if I count Behind the Candelabra (which I am, since it was made to be a feature film not for television).  He’s prolific, if nothing else.  If we count Candelabra, that means this is the sixth year (and second in a row) where Soderbergh has directed two films, in an era when almost no one other than Spielberg when he’s making the awards / box office double whammy does that ever.  And he does it routinely.

Soderbergh directed his first film in 1989, the same year as Kenneth Branagh and Jim Sheridan (all three of them earned Oscar nominations, though Soderbergh’s was for his screenplay).  Of all the Oscar-nominated directors (all 213), 69 of them were directing then and are still directing now (or at least are still alive now).  Only four of them in that time have directed more than one film in a year more than once – Woody Allen (3), Clint Eastwood (4) and Spielberg and Soderbergh (6 each).  Soderbergh has done five films since the last post – or as many or more than 16 of those 69 directors have made since 1989.  Soderbergh has now directed 24 films – in the same period only Woody Allen has directed more (25) and only three others have done more than 15 – Eastwood (19), Spielberg (18) and Ron Howard (16) – hell, Soderbergh has directed 19 films just since 1998.  And even when I don’t like the results (Haywire, Bubble, Full Frontal), I at least am interested in what he has done.

Oscar Nominations:  In 2000, the awards groups all suddenly decided that Soderbergh was the it boy.  Most of them nominated him not once, but twice, for both Traffic (which deserved the recognition) and Erin Brockovich (which did not).  The Academy joined in the fun, nominating him twice (which shouldn’t have been possible, but no one seems to know the precise rules) and actually giving him the Oscar – something the DGA, BAFTA, BFCA and Globes didn’t.  In the end, I agree with the DGA and Globes and give my award to Ang Lee, but Soderbergh is a good choice.

Bob Fosse

  • Born:  1927
  • Died:  1987
  • Rank:  #39
  • Score:  603.40
  • Awards:  Oscar, BAFTA, NBR
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, 2 DGA, BAFTA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Cabaret (1972), Lenny (1974), All That Jazz (1979)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Cabaret (1972), All That Jazz (1979)
  • Feature Films:  5
  • Films I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  All That Jazz
  • Worst Film:  Sweet Charity
  • Films:
    • ****:  All That Jazz, Cabaret, Lenny
    • ***:  Star 80, Sweet Charity

Career:  “He works too sparingly – and with too much smart, worldly distance, finally – to be a major artist.”  (Thomson, 5th Ed, p 346)  Actually, Thomson does sum that up pretty well.  If he had only made more films we would have a better measure on him and his career.

Oscar Nominations:  Three times in the 1970’s, Francis Ford Coppola and Bob Fosse faced off against each other in the Best Director category.  Coppola would eventually get a fourth nomination, years later, but this was it for Fosse, who was dead by then.  Fosse won the first (though Coppola should have), Coppola won the second (though Polanski should have and Fosse didn’t quite deserve a nomination in a year that good) and they both lost the third time to Robert Benton (of the nominees, it should have gone to Coppola), though at least the Academy got it right that time, nominating Fosse for All That Jazz, which was basically ignored by other awards groups.

Oliver Stone

  • Born:  1946
  • Rank:  #38
  • Score:  607.28
  • Awards:  2 Oscars, 2 DGA, BAFTA, 3 Globes, BSFC, CFC
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, 3 DGA, BAFTA, 4 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991)
  • Oscar Note:  11 total Oscar nominations – 3 for Director, 2 for Picture, 6 for Writing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Platoon (1986), Born on the Fourth of July (1989), JFK (1991)
  • Feature Films:  19
  • Films I’ve Seen:  19
  • Best Film:  Platoon
  • Worst Film:  U-Turn
  • Films:
    • ****:  Platoon, JFK, Born on the Fourth of July
    • ***.5:  Salvador, Nixon, Wall Street, W, The Doors
    • ***:  Natural Born Killers, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Heaven and Earth, World Trade Center, Talk Radio
    • **.5:  Any Given Sunday, The Hand
    • **:  Alexander, Savages, Seizure
    • *.5:  U-Turn

Career:  “It is easy to scorn him, for he can be very bad and very foolish.  Still, he is an example of the confidence that believes it can turn complex ideas and problems into crowd-pleasing movies.”  (Thomson, p 838)  Since the original post, Stone has made Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, which was much better than it should have been, and Savages, which was just another piece of dreck in the long slow haul downwards.

Oscar Nominations:  For a long time, I had Stone winning my award in 1986, though I finally went over to Woody Allen.  Stone has never been my winner in either 1989 or 1991, but he has always been my close second place, and in 1989 that was to Ed Zwick, who wasn’t nominated, so I’m okay with his Oscar win.

Pedro Almodóvar

  • Born:  1949
  • Rank:  #37
  • Score:  607.81
  • Awards:  BAFTA, LAFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Talk to Her (2002)
  • Oscar Note:  Won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Talk to Her (2002), Broken Embraces (2009)
  • Feature Films:  18
  • Films I’ve Seen:  18
  • Best Film:  Talk to Her
  • Worst Film:  Dark Habits
  • Films:
    • ****:  Talk to Her, All About My Mother, Broken Embraces, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Volver, Bad Education
    • ***.5:  Live Flesh, The Skin I Live In, The Matador
    • ***:  Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down, Law of Desire, Pepe Luci Bom and the Other Girls, Labyrinth of Passion, The Flower of My Secret, What Have I Done to Deserve This, High Heels, Kika
    • **.5:  Dark Habits

Career:  “Indeed, there is a cartoonlike abandon and delirium in his best films and a complete faith in the torrential subconscious.  But his generous, affectionate nature is all his own.”  (Thomson, p 12)  Since the original post, Pedro has made The Skin I Live In, one of the best foreign films of last year, and more importantly, Broken Embraces, one of the best films of 2009, period (it was my under-appreciated film of the year).

Oscar Nominations:  In 2002, which is one of the best years in film history, kudos to the Academy for nominating Almodóvar for his incredible film and for giving him the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in a year that was surprisingly weak in that category.

Kenneth Branagh

  • Born:  1960
  • Rank:  #36
  • Score:  608.25
  • Awards:  BAFTA, NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Henry V  (1989)
  • Oscar Note:  5 total Oscar nominations – Director, Actor, Supporting Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Short Film Live Action
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996)
  • Feature Films:  11
  • Films I’ve Seen:  11
  • Best Film:  Henry V
  • Worst Film:  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
  • Films:
    • ****:  Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, In the Bleak Midwinter, Dead Again
    • ***.5:  As You Like It, Peter’s Friends, Sleuth
    • ***:  Thor, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Career:  Branagh’s directing has been static for a long time now.  Thor did nothing much to move it any direction – that could have been any director.  And now he’s directing Jack Ryan?  I don’t know what the hell is going on.  Please let him direct another Shakespeare film soon.

Oscar Nominations:  In 1989, Kenneth Branagh managed Best Actor and Best Director nominations for Henry V – sparking comparisons to Olivier, who had also been nominated for Best Actor for his version (though not Director).  But Branagh was nearly a decade younger than Olivier had been and this was just the start of a much bigger directing career than Olivier ever had.  The Academy has never nominated him again, but they definitely got it right in nominating him the first time.

Terrence Malick

  • Born:  1943
  • Rank:  #35
  • Score:  624.80
  • Awards:  2 NYFC, LAFC, 2 NSFC, CFC
  • Nominations:  2 Oscars, DGA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Thin Red Line  (1998), The Tree of Life (2011)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Badlands (1974), The Tree of Life (2011)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Films I’ve Seen:  5
  • Best Film:  Badlands
  • Worst Film:  A New World
  • Films:
    • ****:  Badlands, The Tree of Life
    • ***.5:  The Thin Red Line
    • ***:  Days of Heaven, A New World
    • not seen:  To the Wonder

Career:  “Whether we see Malick as leisurely or elitist in his approach, two such mannered films in twenty years bespeak an exquisite and uncompeting talent.”  (Thomson, p 552)  When I did the initial version of this list, I hadn’t seen Tree of Life.  Now I haven’t seen To the Wonder.  This will be more complete when the list is done and I have seen it and re-evaluate.  Unless he somehow does it again.  How could someone so unprolific screw me up like this twice?

Oscar Nominations:  The expectations for Malick to get nominated for Best Director in 1998 were so high it’s strange to think that at the time he had only directed two films, the first of which had received no Oscar nominations and the second of which had only received 4 (with 1 win), none of which were for Malick.  But, Malick’s first-rate direction of his flawed film were nominated (he can’t quite make my list).  And then, 13 years later, with a more coherent film that was even more of a critics darling, he managed to make it again, one of only three nominations for the film, and this time he deserved to be in there.

Frank Capra

  • Born:  1897
  • Died:  1991
  • Rank:  #34
  • Score:  635.66
  • Awards:  3 Oscars, Globe
  • Nominations:  6 Oscars, 2 DGA, Globe
  • Oscar Nominations:  Lady for a Day (1932-33), It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  It Happened One Night (1934), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), You Can’t Take It With You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  • Feature Films:  37
  • Films I’ve Seen:  29
  • Best Film:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
  • Worst Film:  Rain or Shine
  • Films:
    • ****:  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It’s a Wonderful Life, It Happened One Night, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can’t Take It With You, Arsenic and Old Lace
    • ***.5:  Lady for a Day, State of the Union, Pocketful of Miracles
    • ***:  Meet John Doe, Forbidden, Lost Horizon, The Strong Man, Long Pants, The Power of the Press, The Matinee Idol, The Miracle Woman, American Madness, Ladies of Leisure, Platinum Blonde, That Certain Thing, A Hole in the Head, Flight, The Bitter Tea of General Yen, Riding High, Here Comes the Groom
    • **.5:  Dirigible, Broadway Bill, Rain or Shine
    • not seen:  For the Love of Mike, So This is Love, The Way of the Strong, Say It With Sables, Submarine, The Burglar, The Younger Generation, The Donovan Affair
  • Sarris Category: The Far Side of Paradise

Career:  “Capra’s boisterous humor seemed in tuen with the mood of Depression audiences, but there runs through most of his films a somber Christian parable of idealism betrayed and innocence humiliated.  The obligatory scene in most Capra films is the confession of folly in the most public manner possible.”  (Sarris, p 88)  “And the films, it seems to me, are a kind of fascistic inspirationalism in which the true daily, tedious difficulty of being American is exploded in the proposed rediscovery of simple goodness.”  (Thomson, p 133)  If any director belong in Sarris’ Pantheon, it is Capra, namely for no other reason than that he is the auteur theory – his stamp is all over his films.

Oscar Nominations:  This says much about how the Academy rated Capra.  I don’t give him any of the Oscars that they gave him – I bump him for Woody Van Dyke (The Thin Man) in 1934, for Charlie Chaplin (Modern Times) in 1936, though I have him first among the actual nominees, and for Jean Renoir (Grand Illusion) in 1938.  But he did deserve all those nominations, as well as for Mr. Smith (I have him second, and first among the nominees – above Victor Fleming for Gone with the Wind) and It’s a Wonderful Life (in an incredibly strong year he still makes it).  His Lady for a Day doesn’t quite make my nominees, but Arsenic and Old Lace, with its deft sense of comic timing in the weak year of 1944 does in fact manage to make my list.

Robert Altman

  • Born:  1925
  • Died:  2006
  • Rank:  #33
  • Score:  636.27
  • Awards:  BAFTA, Globe, 3 NYFC, 2 NSFC, BSFC, NBR
  • Nominations:  5 Oscars, 3 DGA, 4 BAFTA, 4 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  M*A*S*H (1970), Nashville (1975), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), Gosford Park (2001)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  M*A*S*H (1970)McCabe and Mrs Miller (1971), The Player (1992), Gosford Park (2001)
  • Feature Films:  34
  • Films I’ve Seen:  34
  • Best Film:  M*A*S*H
  • Worst Film:  Beyond Therapy
  • Films:
    • ****:  M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs Miller, Gosford Park, The Player
    • ***.5:  Short Cuts, Cookie’s Fortune, Thieves Like Us, A Prairie Home Companion, Three Women
    • ***:  Vincent & Theo, The Gingerbread Man, Images, Brewster McCloud, California Split, A Perfect Couple, Secret Honor, Kansas City, A Wedding, Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean, Countdown,  A Fool for Love, The Company, Nashville, Buffalo Bill and the Indians
    • **.5:  The Long Goodbye, Popeye, Dr. T & the Women, Streamers, The Delinquents
    • **:  O.C. and Stiggs, Health, That Cold Day in the Park, Quintet, Pret-a-Porter
    • *.5:  Beyond Therapy

Career:  “He died in 2006, and is now regularly regarded as an American classic.  The truth is far more complicated.  He was a difficult man, evasive, less than honest, very lonely.  His films are established – or the best of of them – but it is unlikely that we will adopt a settled, sedate view of them.”  (Thomson, 5th Ed, p 15)  Actually, I almost fully agree with Thomson there.  And he will be dinged quite a bit if I do institute my idea of taking points away for bad films – he made more than his share of them.

Oscar Nominations:  I’m already on the record with how much I love M*A*S*H and feel it should have won Best Picture and Director and how much I don’t like Nashville and don’t think it belonged anywhere near the nominations in either category.  Then there’s The Player, which somehow wasn’t nominated for Best Picture, but absolutely should have been (and Altman deserved his nomination).  Short Cuts is very good, but in a year with Schindler’s List, The Age of Innocence, In the Name of the Father, Much Ado About Nothing, A Perfect World, Blue and The Remains of the Day I can’t put it anywhere near the nominations.  But Gosford Park is a film that grows for me every time I see it and manages to make it into a very very good top 5.

Sam Mendes

  • Born:  1965
  • Rank:  #32
  • Score:  639.60
  • Awards:  Oscar, DGA, Globe, LAFC, CFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA, BFCA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  American Beauty (1999)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  American Beauty (1999), Revolutionary Road (2008)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Films I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  American Beauty
  • Worst Film:  Away we Go
  • Films:
    • ****:  American Beauty, Revolutionary Road, Skyfall, Road to Perdition
    • ***:  Jarhead, Away we Go

Career:  “I think Sam Mendes is going to do very well indeed in an age when so many talents raised in British theatre do seem able to grasp sufficient rudiments of American film in a quick, greedy look: I’m thinking of David Hare, Anthony Minghella, Stephen Daldry, Richard Eyre and Nicholas Hytner.”  (Thomson, p 591)  Well, he’s only directed one film since the first post.  But hey, it was only the best Bond film ever made.

Oscar Nominations:  Sam Mendes, like Orson Welles, came out of the theater and into the film world as an already accomplished director and hit the ball right out of the park with the first swing.  American Beauty won the Oscar and it deserved to win the Oscar.

Ridley Scott

  • Born:  1937
  • Rank:  #31
  • Score:  639.95
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, 3 DGA, 2 BAFTA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  Thelma & Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Black Hawk Down (2001)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Alien (1979)
  • Feature Films:  20
  • Films I’ve Seen:  20
  • Best Film:  Alien
  • Worst Film:  Hannibal
  • Films:
    • ****:  Alien, Kingdom of Heaven, Thelma & Louise, Prometheus, Black Hawk Down
    • ***.5:  Blade Runner, American Gangster, Matchstick Men
    • ***:  The Duellists, Body of Lies, Gladiator, Robin Hood, Someone to Watch Over Me, Black Rain, G.I. Jane, Legend, A Good Year
    • **.5:  1492: Conquest of Paradise, White Squall
    • **:  Hannibal

Career:  “But with six or seven pictures I’d happily see any night, Scott is that modern rarity – a natural crowd-pleaser.”  (Thomson, p 794)  You know, some director / actor collaborations aren’t so great.  Ridley Scott has made five films with Russell Crowe now, and in spite of the Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars, only one of them is better than okay (and it’s not that film).  But Prometheus was a very nice return to the greatness of earlier films.

Oscar Nominations:  What does the Academy really think of Scott’s direction?  He has earned three nominations – twice he was nominated when his film was not.  The other time his film won Best Picture and he didn’t win Best Director.  Maybe it says more about the ridiculous decision of the Academy to give Best Picture to Gladiator than anything else.  With both Thelma and Hawk, Scott comes very close but is kept out of my top 5 by a first-rate group of films.

Jean Renoir

  • Born:  1894
  • Died:  1979
  • Rank:  #30
  • Score:  645.21
  • Awards:  NBR
  • Nominations:  Oscar
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Southerner  (1945)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  La Marseillaise (1937), The Grand Illusion (1938)
  • Feature Films:  27
  • Films I’ve Seen:  23
  • Best Film:  The Grand Illusion
  • Worst Film:  Elena and Her Men
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Grand Illusion, The Rules of the Game
    • ***.5:  La Bete Humaine, Boudu Saved from Drowning, The Crime of Monsieur Lange, The Southerner, This Land is Mine, The Lower Depths, Picnic on the Grass
    • ***:  La Marseillaise, The River, Madame Bovary, French Cancan, The Elusive Corporal, Whirlpool of Fate, Nana, La Chienne, The Testament of Dr. Cordelier, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Golden Coach, Woman on the Beach, Toni, Elena and Her Men
    • not seen:  The Sad Sack, Night at the Crossroads, Chotard and Company, The Man Who Came Back
  • Sarris Category:  Pantheon Directors

Career:  “Renoir’s career is a river of personal expression.  The waters may vary here and there in turbulence and depth, but the flow of personality is consistently directed to its final outlet in the sea of life.  If the much-abused term ‘humanism,’ could be be applied to Renoir’s art and to no one else’s, it might still provide an accurate definition for his work as a whole.”  (Sarris, p 73)  “Renoir would be a trite director if the beauty of his films did not grow naturally out of sadness, anger, disappointment and failure.  Now that he is dead, it is increasingly necessary to describe his dark side, to remember his hesitations, and to be about the creative dangers in his way of making films.  For Renoir’s greatness lies in his repeated desire to take risks, to make new sorts of film, to be experimental.”  (Thomson, p 727)  There were only two truly great films, but the man never made a bad film.  And there’s a whole lot of very good films there.

Oscar Nominations:  I keep forgetting that Renoir is even on the list.  How odd that his time in Hollywood would produce a nomination when Fritz Lang’s two decades there did not.  Renoir’s nomination was for The Southerner, a very good film in a very weak year, but one, that even with the weak year, ends up in sixth on my list, behind winner Billy Wilder (The Lost Weekend), nominee Alfred Hitchcock (Spellbound) and non-nominees Howard Hawks (To Have and Have Not), Michael Powell (The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp) and William Wellman (The Story of G.I. Joe).

David Lynch

  • Born:  1946
  • Rank:  #29
  • Score:  645.60
  • Awards:  2 LAFC, NSFC, 2 BSFC, CFC
  • Nominations:  3 Oscars, DGA, BAFTA, 2 Globes
  • Oscar Nominations:  The Elephant Man (1980), Blue Velvet (1986), Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The Elephant Man (1980), Blue Velvet (1986), Mulholland Dr. (2001)
  • Feature Films:  10
  • Films I’ve Seen:  10
  • Best Film:  The Elephant Man
  • Worst Film:  Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
  • Films:
    • ****:  The Elephant Man, Mulholland Dr., Blue Velvet
    • ***.5:  The Straight Story
    • ***:  Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Wild at Heart
    • **.5:  Dune, Inland Empire, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Career:  It has now been far too long since Lynch has made an interesting film; hell, he’s only made one film in the last decade and it was unbelievably boring.

Oscar Nominations:  Only 14 films have earned a Best Director nomination with no other Oscar nominations; only 8 have done it since 1930.  The only director to do it more than once is David Lynch.  As is true a lot of the time, the directors in these two cases know more than the rest of the Academy – both films deserved their nominations and a whole lot more.  Lynch also deserved his first nomination, when his film was nominated alongside him.

Paul Thomas Anderson

  • Born:  1970
  • Rank:  #28
  • Score:  655.80
  • Awards:  2 LAFC, NSFC
  • Nominations:  Oscar, DGA, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Oscar Note:  5 total Oscar nominations – Director, Picture, 3 for Writing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999), There Will Be Blood (2007)
  • Feature Films:  6
  • Films I’ve Seen:  6
  • Best Film:  Magnolia
  • Worst Film:  Hard Eight
  • Films:
    • ****:  Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights
    • ***.5:  The Master
    • ***:  Punch Drunk Love, Hard Eight

Career:  “I like nearly everything about Anderson except the stance he seems bound to take up as self-defense, and the willful arbitrariness of his work.”  (Thomson, 5th Ed, p 19)  It is worth noting, that while the 4th Edition of Thomson’s book used a still from To Have and Have Not, a film already over 50 years old by that time, his 5th Edition used a still from Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, a film then only three years old.  It’s interesting that his first few films were so well-written, but that his last two have been masterfully directed and looked amazing, but the writing hasn’t been nearly as strong.  Definitely an actor’s director – only one winner (though there should have been three), but seven nominations so far from his films.

Oscar Nominations:  Well, it took long enough for the Academy to finally recognize Anderson.  And they got it fully right – a masterful job of direction.

Federico Fellini

  • Born:  1920
  • Died:  1993
  • Rank:  #27
  • Score:  661.27
  • Awards:  NYFC
  • Nominations:  4 Oscars, DGA
  • Oscar Nominations:  La Dolce Vita (1961), 8 1/2 (1963), Fellini Satyricon (1970), Amarcord (1975)
  • Oscar Note:  holds record for most Best Director nominations without a Best Picture nomination; 12 total Oscar nominations – 4 for Director, 8 for Writing
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  Nights of Cabiria (1958), La Dolce Vita (1961)
  • Feature Films:  18
  • Films I’ve Seen:  18
  • Best Film:  Nights of Cabiria
  • Worst Film:  Fellini Satyricon
  • Films:
    • ****:  Nights of Cabiria, Amarcord, La Dolce Vita, La Strada, 8 1/2
    • ***.5:  I Vitelloni
    • ***:  Fellini’s Roma, And the Ship Sails On, Juliet of the Spirits, Ginger and Fred, Variety Lights, Orchestra Rehearsal, The Swindle, The White Sheik
    • **.5:  The Voice of the Moon
    • **:  City of Women, Fellini’s Casanova
    • *:  Fellini Satyricon

Career:  “No other director – apart from Orson Welles – so insisted on the personal derivation of all his work, nor managed to make even fragments of film or biographical incidents seem like parts of a total oeuvre.  Fellini often takes the pose of the innocent fascinated but bewildered by the picaresque variety of life.  Yet the question must be asked whether his films have made a sham of vitality in the process of smothering life with affectionate but self-indulgent egotism?”  (Thomson, p 280)  A better director than a writer, with visual feasts for the eyes that are weighed down by his, (yes, Woody, I’m saying this) self-indulgence.

Oscar Nominations:  The first time Fellini was nominated, he absolutely deserved it.  The last time, he sort-of deserved it – it was a great film and had great direction, but he shouldn’t have gotten in over Spielberg (who should have, in fact, won the Oscar) and he’s only #6 on my list.  The second time, well, it had great direction, but I have always found it to be over-rated – it only makes it to #9 on my list and while six of the films above it are foreign films, so is his.  But his nomination for Fellini Satyricon?  For that utter, incomprehensible self-indulgent over-rated piece of crap?  Nah, I’m not good with that one.

Francois Truffaut

  • Born:  1932
  • Died:  1984
  • Rank:  #26
  • Score:  667.12
  • Awards:  NYFC, 2 NSFC, NBR, BAFTA
  • Nominations:  Oscar, BAFTA
  • Oscar Nominations:  Day for Night  (1974)
  • Nighthawk Nominations:  The 400 Blows (1959), Mississippi Mermaid (1970), Day for Night (1974)
  • Feature Films:  22
  • Films I’ve Seen:  21
  • Best Film:  Day for Night
  • Worst Film:  The Man Who Loved Women
  • Films:
    • ****:  Day for Night, The 400 Blows, Jules and Jim, Shoot the Piano Player, Stolen Kisses, Love on the Run
    • ***.5:  Mississippi Mermaid, The Last Metro, The Story of Adele H
    • ***:  The Bride Wore Black, The Wild Child, Love at Twenty, The Soft Skin, Bed and Board, Two English Girls, Small Change, Confidentially Yours, Fahrenheit 451, The Green Room, The Woman Next Door
    • **.5:  The Man Who Loved Women
    • not seen:  A Gorgeous Bird Like Me
  • Sarris Category:  Fringe Benefits

Career:  “Truffaut made only a few films that are not flawed, several that have serious weaknesses in conception and realization, one or two content to treat the surface of a subject, but none without a youthful enthusiasm for movies.  He treated material speculatively, in the way of an idealized Hollywood director in the days of constant production, priding himself on an ability to make any assignment beautiful and entertaining.”  (Thomson, p 882)  In some ways, to love Truffaut and his films is to love film itself.  There are other directors who were derailed by other circumstances, but the only other director whose death I feel robbed me of films I wanted to see is Murnau.

Oscar Nominations:  Truffaut points out how simultaneously brilliant and stupid the Academy can be.  In 1959, his debut film, The 400 Blows, was nominated for Best Original Screenplay (brilliant) along with North by Northwest and Bergman’s Wild Strawberries (brilliant) and they all lost to Pillow Talk (fucking idiots).  His Stolen Kisses was nominated for Best Foreign Film in 1968 (brilliant).  And in 1974, Day for Night earned Truffaut two Oscar nominations – for Best Director (brilliant) and Original Screenplay (brilliant).  But the film itself wasn’t nominated, being passed over for The Towering Inferno (fucking idiots).

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