Screen Shot 2022-08-07 at 11.49.33 AMI have been promising this post for a long time.  The 2.0 version was posted in September of 2011, which really means it was my Century of Film post because I cut those posts off in 2011.  It got delayed for so long because I was so busy writing other posts and trying to come up with tweaks to my system.  The 1.0 and 2.0 versions had a couple of problems which I will describe below.

But a lot of films have been released since then as well.  Of those three brilliant directors pictured on the left, only one was on the first version and only two in the second.  What’s more, in September of 2011 those three men had never won an Oscar (out of one nomination for Director) while since then they have won a combined 5 Oscars just for Best Director (10 in total), almost as many as everyone else in the film industry combined in that time period.  This time, they’re all three in there and they have made some big leaps.

Now, down to business. (more…)

lean-o-tool-tour-lawrence--gRight from the start, the directors kind of ruled the world of film.  They were paid well and by the 1930s they were getting “film by” credit and before too long that credit was before the title (in fact, mandated that way by agreement with the DGA).  They formed one of the powerful early guilds and their guild was one of the first two to begin giving out their own awards.  Writer-directors started to rise in the 1940s (lead by Preston Sturges and John Huston) and that would become the standard for most of the great foreign directors.  In the 1960s the auteur theory would come along and propel a number of directors to the top of the film world when it came to critical appreciation of the medium.  Today we are still in an era of truly great film directors, from those who came up through the medium in the 70s (Spielberg, Scorsese) to those 70s type independent minded directors who missed that era and came right after (Coen Brothers, Almodovar) to the great directors who made their mark in the 90s and later (Tarantino, Nolan, P.T. Anderson).  Following not too long after this post will come finally my 3.0 version of the Top 100 Directors of All-Time.

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I though it would be nicer to just include the three Top 25 directors rather than explain that Lucas didn't get that high.  If you need these people identified you are at the wrong website.

I though it would be nicer to just include the version of the picture with three Top 25 directors rather than explain that Lucas didn’t get that high. If you need these people identified you are at the wrong website.

This is the final ranked list of those directors who have been nominated for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.  This is part 9 of the series.  As always, you can find the previous eight 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 made certain to finish this now for two reasons.  The first is that I wanted to get it done before another Oscar season begins and I had to add somebody (Alfonso Cuarón, perhaps?).  The second is because I intend to do a Top 100 Directors 3.0 list before too long and I wanted this out of the way; that list, originally intended for this month, will probably be pushed back into at least winter, if not early spring in order to get this year’s batch of late films from Top 100 directors watched (e.g. Inside Llewyn Davis, Wolf of Wall Street, The Hobbit, Captain Phillips, Gravity).

One thing to bear in mind about the top of the list.  On my point scale, there is only a 75 point difference between the #1 and #8 spots.  There is then a 58 point difference between #8 and #9, and an 83 point difference between #8 and #11.  So, if the director you really want to champion is among that top 7, that’s the elite of the elite. (more…)

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. (more…)

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. (more…)

What do these three directors have in common aside from those Oscars they're holding?  Well, in spite of the fact that they're all ranked at least 70 spots lower, all of those Oscars were won in direct competition with Martin Scorsese.

What do these three directors have in common aside from those Oscars they’re holding? Well, in spite of the fact that they’re all ranked at least 70 spots lower, all of those Oscars were won in direct competition with Martin Scorsese.

Here be group, I don’t know, 6 or something.  It’s the complete ranking of all the directors ever nominated for Best Director by the Academy Awards.  This group covers #100 – 76.  As always, there is an introduction and there is an explanation for the rankings, which are contained here.  I feel the need to point out that while this is a work in progress, I don’t re-rank anyone who has already been ranked.  That will all come when I redo the whole list at the end.

As with all the groups, there seem to be a few themes here.  One of them is the television creators – this list not only has James L. Brooks, famous for winning a gazillion Emmys for shows like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”, “Taxi” and “The Simpsons”, but it also has Michael Mann (who created “Miami Vice” long before his Oscar nomination) and Barry Levinson (who created “Homicide” after winning his Oscar).  There are also a fair number of directors on this part of the list who were nominated for their debut feature (Gilroy, Miller, Costner, James L. Brooks, Redford), three of whom won the Oscar.  And of course two of those are actors-turned-directors who won an Oscar over Marty Scorsese (the other one is Levinson).

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, (none of my quotes in this part of the list come from the 5th edition).

And one final word about my complete Top 100 list.  I will be doing a 3.0 version of that list upon completion of the Best Director project.  As it stands, this is the cutoff.  Everyone on this list, and the five that preceded it don’t make the Top 100 list.  Basically everyone above this point (the Top 75 Oscar nominated directors) join those great directors who haven’t earned an Oscar nomination – but that list, as always, is still in flux.  But, because several of these directors were on either the 1.0 or 2.0 versions of the list, there are links to the more detailed posts that I did for them down below. (more…)

James Cameron, landing higher on the list than his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow proclaims himself king of the world.  He hasn't seen the final revised version yet, though.

James Cameron, landing higher on the list than his ex-wife Kathryn Bigelow proclaims himself king of the world. He hasn’t seen the final revised version yet, though.

This is the fifth group of directors who have been nominated at some point for Best Director by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (you know, the Oscars).  They are all ranked and there is a points system that is explained here.

And here we are again with an extra director in the mix.  Why is that you ask?  Well, because on 10 January, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards and among the list of nominated directors were two who had never been nominated before: Michael Haneke and Benh Zeitlin.  So, then, you ask, why is there only one extra director thrown in here?  Well, for two reasons.  The first is that Benh Zeitlin, with a score of 295 ranks down around place #170, so he’s been well passed by already.  The second is that Zeitlin has only directed one feature film so far – Beasts of the Southern Wild – and it seems odd to throw him into the mix with only one film.  Every other director has done at least two films by now, even if their first film was what they earned their nomination for.  So, I will include Zeitlin in the overall ranked list when this process is done, but I’m not gonna bother to sum up his career which consist of only one film.

But that left me with Michael Haneke.  This was going to be easy, I thought; the only new director will be Ben Affleck, whose films I have all seen and who actually ranks pretty high because all three of his films have been great.  But then the Academy threw me the screwball and suddenly I had to go find the other 6 Haneke films I hadn’t yet seen and figure out precisely where he belongs.  Thankfully, he has earned enough points, even without Amour, to get bumped up into the next level and I don’t have to worry about seeing Amour (until tomorrow, when I’m planning on going to see it).

My plan to solve this problem, by the way, is to not wait another f****g year before I finish the last four parts of the list. (more…)

Steven Spielberg working with Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of Lincoln (2012)

Steven Spielberg working with Daniel Day-Lewis on the set of Lincoln (2012)

So, here we are with the Directors Guild nominations for 2012.

Here are the nominees for this year:

  • Steven Spielberg  (Lincoln)  –  11th nomination
  • Ang Lee  (Life of Pi)  –  4th nomination
  • Kathryn Bigelow  (Zero Dark Thirty)  –  2nd nomination
  • Tom Hooper  (Les Miserables)  –  2nd nomination
  • Ben Affleck  (Argo)  –  1st nomination

And I’m doing much better than last year in that I have already seen four of the nominees (I still need to see ZDT).

Here’s the trivia for this year: (more…)

Kathryn Bigelow was the first female director to win the Oscar, though she is not the highest ranked female director on the list. We’ll see what happens after Zero Dark Thirty.

Now here be the fourth group of those directors designated as “Academy Award nominees,” by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  These are the ones who rank between #150 and #126.  And again, the points system is all explained here.

We’re starting to pick up a group of directors that I would classify as “Studio Era Directors Who Were Over-rated by the Academy”.  We have your Clarence Brown (6 Oscar noms), your Gregory La Cava (2 Oscar noms), your Henry King (2 Oscar noms) and your Sam Wood (3 Oscar noms).  Those four directors combine for 13 Oscar nominations but they combine for only one Nighthawk nomination.

We also might have on this list the first example of “a director who is so low that people will claim this discredits my entire list because this particular director is revered by a certain portion of serious films fans.”  No, it’s not Godard (thank god), because he was never nominated for an Oscar.  But I’ll let you figure out who this one is (let the hyperbolic griping begin!).

Another reminder, like before.  The Sarris quotes (and categories) come from The American Cinema, 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 mention the 5th edition, which was published in 2010.

And again we have an example of the flexibility of these lists.  When I originally started this post, John Madden was at #143.  But, as I was about to publish it, I realized that I had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel from Netflix and hadn’t watched it yet.  And because Madden has 1 – not directed a lot of films, 2 – had several films that were complete duds, and 3 – made a very good film, he jumps up 9 spots with just one film.  That does indeed happen.  And for the picture on the right, I went with Kathryn Bigelow.  If I take out The Hurt Locker, she (well she wouldn’t make the list because she wouldn’t be an Oscar nominee) would rank down at #207.  But that one film, partially because it is great, partially because she won the Oscar, partially because she had only made 7 films before it, raised her 108 points to #135.  But here I am ranking her when Zero Dark Thirty is about to come out.  What could that do?  If Zero Dark Thirty is on a par with The Hurt Locker (but without the Oscar win), it could in theory raise her another 87 points and she would come in at #97.  But I can’t really wait until I get a chance to see it before I do this more detailed post.  But, that’s what the end list is for, to add in all of these changes when all is said and done.  And of course, as people continue to make films, they continue to fluctuate.  And I can keep writing these posts until I die.

One last little trivia question, prompted by a rhetorical question that I ask down below.  What do the following films have in common: Lost Horizon, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Foxes, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Double Indemnity, Henry V, Father of the Bride, The Russians are Coming The Russians are Coming, The Conversation, Tootsie, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Mystic River and The Aviator have in common?  And what do Mrs. Miniver and The Bridge in the River Kwai have in common along the same theme?  Answer at the end. (more…)

This kind of says it all.

Here is group #3 of my complete ranking of all the directors ever nominated for Best Director at the Academy Awards.  Apparently this is where you end up if you make one great film and a career of, shall we say, less then stellar films.  You have your John Singleton, your Anthony Harvey, your Roland Joffé, your Peter Cattaneo.  Not only are three of them right next to each other (appropriately), but all four directed one Oscar nominated film, it was their first film, and if not for that film, they would have appeared in the first post, down at the bottom of the list, just above Frank Perry and Roberto Benigni (except Joffé, who would have been between them), and below Adrian Lyne (except Singleton, who would have been just above Lyne).  They are not as low as Michael Cimino because the rest of their careers aren’t as bad as Cimino’s (without The Deer Hunter, Cimino drops 130 points – these four drop between 80 and 94 points).

Let me remind you that this is a work in progress.  When I first started typing this part of the list, Joffé was actually next to the others.  Now he’s dropped so low he deserves to have been in the previous post.  By the way, it’s an interesting bit that with each group, the percentage of films I have seen by the group goes up.  Of the first 10 directors (here), I had only seen 63% of their films.  With the second group (here), I had seen 70.5%.  With this group, I have seen 74.2%.  And it goes up with each group of 25.  Since I’ve tried to see every film by every director, and have availed myself of Netflix, ILL, YouTube and everything else I can find, it seems to me, the better directors have films that are easier to find because they are the better directors.

Another reminder, like before.  The Sarris quotes come from The American Cinema, 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 mention the 5th edition, which was published in 2010.  The points system is explained here.

Another short note here.  In the intervening time since I wrote the last piece, Andrew Sarris died.  Sarris is one of the best film critics this country has ever had.  If you have never read The American Cinema, one of the most important books in film history, you need to do so.  I may not agree with everything in it, but I would not do without it.