Our (Belated) List of Favorite Movie Directors

1. Martin Scorsese- It may seem unimaginable that nearly three years ago director Martin Scorsese had yet to hold an Academy Award in his hands, but it is the disappointing truth. The once would-be Catholic priest entered the film making world with hits like Boxcar Bertha and Mean Streets which put him at the forefront of New Hollywood with his violent, audience-specific films. Though Francis Ford Coppola felt he was unfit to helm The Godfather: Part III, Scorsese quickly overshadowed Coppola to become an icon of his own, creating films filled with themes related to violence, machismo, Italian-American identity, immigration, Catholicism and New York City. Five decades of classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and The Departed, Scorsese set a style of quick editing, rock and roll soundtrack and frequent collaboration with actors and editors who claim Scorsese to be a living encyclopedia of film history. The film that did it for us: Though he’s created modern epics including a personal favorite, Gangs of New York, Scorsese’s talents are most apparent in Taxi Driver, a film with some of the most carefully constructed technical detail and powerful themes of isolation, violence, sex and how they are related and lead to destruction.

2. Stanley Kubrick– One of the unprecedented visual artists in all of cinema, it’s hard to not love movies when Stanley Kubrick makes them.  His gift for telling a compelling story is aided by those infamous distant shots, able to encompass the idiocy in The War Room (Dr. Strangelove) or gravity-defying in the great beyond (2001: A Space Odyssey).  He never told the same story twice, but each film carries with it his distinct visual flair,  helping him to create some of the most fully realized worlds the movies have ever seen.  Kubrick is one of the biggest influences on American cinema not only because of his artistic genius, though.  His ruthless dedication to his vision of the material led to feuds with his actors and the writers of the source material (both on The Shining.)  Perfectionism is costly, but with it he created many things that are, in fact, perfect.  The film that did it for us: There’s never been a more beautifully filmed comedy than Dr. Strangelove, and there are few as horrific.

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Five movies to watch alone

To coincide with our “Five movies to watch with a group,” post from the summer, it’s time for the foil.  Here are movies that we think you’ll get a deeper understanding from if you kick out the guests and block out the rest of the world.  While the group movies offer visceral thrills and outlandish humor, these movies use a sometimes understated, subtle way of telling the story that can’t be appreciated with a loud group of people.

There Will Be Blood- We both named Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic the best movie of the 2000s, but we’ve never watched it together.  Something primal about Anderson’s direction and Daniel Day-Lewis’ performance (also topping our best male performances list) leaps off the screen and speaks right to you.  If you’re in a crowded room, you won’t hear it as well.

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If they were in television… Lars von Trier

Notable films: Europa, Dancer in the Dark, Antichrist, Dogville, Breaking the Waves, and The Idiots.

Famous for: Shocking his audience, controversy, female lead performances, depressing idealism, anti-religious undercurrents, beautifully unique visuals, low budget hand-held camera angles, talking about his fears and emotions, and refusing to watch his own movies.

Hypothetical title: Heaven’s Highway

Hypothetical premise: After being set up for a misdemeanor and kicked out by her polygamist family, lonely widow Gretchen kills her abusive father and flees her small west-coast mountain town.  Emerging from the mountains a completely new person, she begins rebuilding her life for herself, learning her sense of individuality and coming into her own.  However, the past catches back up to her, and she is soon on the run from the law as well as her haunting, abusive past.  She begins seeing delusional crimes committed in everyday life, mimicking both the ones her father did and the way she killed him. When the police catch her, there is no proof that her father was the patriarch of a repressive polygamist regime because nobody in it will talk but her.  She is sentenced to life in prison, but commits suicide after reflecting on how good her life was for those few months.

Cross between: Thelma and Louise, Dancer in the Dark, Big Love, and Dogville.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Dancer in the Dark

Dancer in the Dark
Directed by: Lars von Trier
Written by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Björk, Catherine Deneuve, David Morse, Peter Stormare

Brilliant auteur and unapologetic cinematic sadist Lars von Trier is one of the movies’ most polarizing figures among critics.  He has a cult following of fans, some of which are the most respected film scholars working today.  Almost all of his movies follow an artistic pattern of well thought out shots that often contain disturbing images.  This is where Dancer in the Dark is unique.

Von Trier’s emotionally wrenching film has a visual style that many will recognize from Cloverfield or NBC’s The Office.  It may throw fans off, and that’s probably his intention.  As a member of the Dogma style of film making, it is this director’s goal to throw you for a loop by defying everything held sacred in the movies.  He deconstructs typical methods and injects heavy amounts of emotion and tragedy in order to confound the viewer and leave them uncertain about what they’ve witnessed.  Dancer is no different in this regard.

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