Saturday, February 16, 2008

Daylight Award: Director

Who is the best film director of this generation? I know there are plenty of new directors who have taken over the industry in the last ten or twenty years, like Wes Anderson, PT Anderson, the Coen Brothers, Sofia Coppolla , Alexander Payne and the list goes on. Of course it is tough to nail down the best director because there are so many different kinds of movies being made, influencing one another and showing talents in different areas of filmmaking. It would be easy to compare the visual stylings of some directors as it would be the ability to draw out great acting performances for others.
For me when I think of a great director I think of someone who expresses their vision uniquely, taking a script and making it their own. The greatest do this: Welles, Hitchcock, Renoir, Fellini, Ford, Kurosawa, Lean. I love Woody Allen and he is certainly one of our greatest directors but I don't think of him on the level of these others. In terms of comic writing he may be the best ever, but in terms of directing he has played it pretty straightforward most of his career. Of course Annie Hall is a masterpiece and probably the greatest comedy ever made. But when we think of the images of Vertigo, or Citizen Kane, or Lawrence Of Arabia we are thinking of great directing.

The nominees for the greatest director of our generation would need to include Scorsese who is now a living, breathing icon of Americana. Francis Ford Coppolla has not made a great or even relevant film in many years but he can rest on the laurels of the first two Godfather films forever. Robert Altman has not given up directing either but most of his best stuff is behind him.

The best director is the most obvious. His films typically are the highest grossing which is why he wasn't taken seriously for so many years and still gets overlooked when his work is the most thought provoking and interesting. He has reached every age group and inspired audiences around the world. His visual styles have become his trademark and still stretch the imagination three decades after his first film.

The Daylight Award for "Best Director of this generation" goes to:

Steven Spielberg

Among his accomplishments:

-5 films in AFI's top 100, more than any other director, living or dead, including 2 in the top 25.

-Two time winner of the Academy Award for Best Director (Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan)

-Two of the highest grossing films of all time (and both number one after their original release) E.T. and Jurassic Park.

-One of the greatest thrillers in cinema history, Jaws. (2nd only to Hitchock's Psycho)

-The greatest action/adventure film of all time, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

-The greatest war film ever made, Saving Private Ryan.

-The greatest holocaust film ever made and one of the greatest films period, Schindler's List.

-Arguably the greatest children's fantasy of all time, E.T.

-The best black drama ever made, The Color Purple.

...and we still have Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Empire Of The Sun, Amistad, Minority Report, and War of the Worlds! The new Indiana Jones comes out this May and who knows what else in store?

What makes Spielberg the best is his unique vision borne from the influences of other great directors. I heard him say once that he watched certain films before making any of his own which included The Seven Samarai (Kurosawa), The Searchers (Ford) and Lawrence Of Arabia (Lean)
You can see touches of these artists in Spielberg's films but he has taken them beyond what any of them probably imagined.

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