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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If they were in television… The Coen Brothers

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Notable Films: Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Miller’s Crossing, The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, O Brother! Where Art Thou?, and A Serious Man

Famous For: Dark humor with a lot of irony, incorporating elements of film noir into everything, and messing with people’s expectations of certain genres.

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Image courtesy of Time Out New York

A Serious Man
Directed by: Joel & Ethan Coen
Written by: Joel & Ethan Coen (screenplay)
Starring: Michael Stuhlbarg, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, and Sari Lennick

The Brothers Coen set the last three years of the 2000’s on fire.  First No Country For Old Men, their new-age western masterpiece adapted from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, wins Best Picture of 2007 at the Academy Awards.  Then the next year, fearful of being taken too seriously by the Hollywood elite, they unleash Burn After Reading, a hilarious farce of mass proportions.  Now with 2009’s A Serious Man, they put forth comedy so staunchly pitch-black a viewer not accustomed to the Coens may think they have no idea how to tell a joke.

In that assumption, they couldn’t be more wrong.  In their screenplay, the Coens have managed to not only write one of the funniest scripts of 2009, but also layered it with philosophical musings and darker thematic elements.  All of this is set against the the late 60’s Midwestern Jewish background the Coen brothers grew up in, which many critics think makes the film autobiographical.  What I think they are trying to do is just show what it was like, not tell their life story.

Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is the vessel with which the Coens convey that environment.  He is an academic coming up for tenure with a wife  (Sari Lennick) who wants to leave him for the more sensitive and passive-aggressive Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed), children who only want him to fix the TV, and a social outcast brother (a hilarious Richard Kind) who sleeps on the couch and comes up with formulas to win at gambling.  All of these forces crush Larry simultaneously, as well as a blonde-haired, blue-eyed neighbor who is invading the property line in order to build a garage and the other neighbor who teases him by sun-bathing nude.  Surrounded on all sides both physically and mentally and desperate for answers, he reaches out to three rabbis.

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