Saturday, August 07, 2010

Director vs. Director, Round 1

My Facebook friend and fellow movie buff Justin Wasson has come up with a fun game on Facebook wherein he pits various directors against each other, and then his Facebook friends choose one over the other and the directors narrow down through the rounds. Kinda like NCAA brackets for movie geeks.

I had fun casting my votes in the game, so I thought I would list the various "fights" and rationalize my choices.  I don't think there's any real rhyme or reason to pit a particular director over another, although I'm convinced that one particular fight HAS to be for comic effect.

Wes Craven vs. Richard Donner: Both quality directors in the horror and action genres, respectively.  I tapped Donner, because Donner has never made a movie as allegedly bad as Shocker or Vampire in Brooklyn.

Quentin Tarantino vs. John Carpenter: QT certainly has more buzz lately, while Carpenter  has been inactive for awhile. Carpenter hasn't made a truly decent movie in decades, but he gets the nod on the strength of classics like Assault on Precinct 13 and Halloween. Tarantino, while indisputably one of the most important directors to gain prominence in the 90s, has gown increasingly adolescent and self-indulgent. And yes, that includes the overrated Inglourious Basterds, which is a "handful of scenes in search of a real movie," as Leonard Maltin aptly put it.

John Landis vs. Robert Rodriguez: This one was a bit tough for me. Landis' career is much longer in the tooth, but Rodriguez has been in a bit of a slump lately. Still, I went for Rodriguez for his visual and low-budget ingenuity.

Tony Scott vs. Terry Gilliam: This one, on the other hand, was easy. Even on an off day, Gilliam is more interesting than Tony Scott on an on day.

Tim Burton vs. Bryan Singer: I went with Burton, who has more of a personality (in several senses of the word) - even though the disappointment of Alice in Wonderland is still fresh.

Martin Scorsese vs. James Cameron: Marty trumps EVERYBODY. Simple as that.

Brian De Palma, vs. Michael Mann: Mann, for the very simple reason that he has never made a movie as wretched as The Bonfire of the Vanities.

Oliver Stone vs. George Lucas: I have a feeling people may stone me for this (rim shot), but I pick Lucas. Stone may be more visually bold (and reckless),  but Lucas made Star Wars, and that fact remains, despite the existence of Jar Jar Binks.

The Coen Brothers vs. David Fincher: Both great, but I went with the Coens for their versatility. Fincher's style is easily imitated. The Coens' is not, because they keep switching up their game.

Gus Van Sant vs. Steven Spielberg: Van Sant may be hipper, but few people are as visually intuitive as Steven.

Ridley Scott vs. Christopher Nolan: Nolan is the best director of the last 10 years, hands down. Scott has been maddeningly inconsistent, especially in the last 10 years.

Robert Zemeckis vs. Spike Lee: A bit of a tough call. Both, at their best, are stellar. So that's why if either one misses, it tends to stand out. I go with Zemeckis, who has missed less often, and who I really wish would go back to making live action movies and drop this motion capture obsession.

Francis Ford Coppola vs. Sam Raimi: I have to say I was dismayed when Justin told me Raimi won this round. Nothing against Raimi, and I suppose you could use my De Palma logic and claim that Raimi has never made a movie as bad as Jack. The other side of that coin, however, is that Raimi has never made a movie as good as The Godfather. Come ON, people! Have a sense of history!

Robert Altman vs. Michael Bay: If you pick Bay over Altman, you should never be allowed to watch a movie again. Ever.

The Wachowksis vs. Kevin Smith: Smith is better storyteller, because he's a better writer. However, since this contest judges directing, I have to go with the Wachowskis. Even when their movies are messes, they're ambitious messes.

Ron Howard vs. Guy Ritchie: When you make a movie as allegedly bad as Swept Away, you're automatically disqualified.

Justin has already posted Round Two (did so as I was typing this), so I will post on that later. For now, I feel inspired to go watch Zemeckis' Used Cars, which I have not seen in awhile, and the one film of Chris Nolan's I've not seen: Following.


Zack said...

My picks:

Craven over Donner -- Even with the dreck, Craven has been consistently thoughtful and innovative throughout his career in spite of being typecast. Donner is a self-important hack who's made some good movies, but lacks a point-of-view.

Tarantino over Carpenter -- Assault is a masterpiece, for sure, but as far as I'm concerned the quality of Tarantino's output is pretty much unsurpassed.

Landvis vs. Rodriguez is the toughest one for me -- I respect both, but am not bowled over by either. My gut says to give the nod to Landis.

Gilliam over Scott, hands down. Tony vs. Ridley might have been a more interesting match-up, however.

Tim Burton vs. Bryan Singer -- I agree with you (Burton has the edge here). Singer has the talent, but hasn't reached his potential.

Scorsese over Cameron. Duh.

This is an appropriate head-to-head, since they have style and ambition, and fail frequently. Mann's Manhunter, Heat and Miami Vice are phenomenal movies, and each of them trump De Palma's filmography. BUT De Palma is more interesting (and fun) to me -- he has a long, rich history of creative failures -- stylish, ambitious, distinctive. Given the choice to sit down and watch a De Palma I haven't seen or one of my three favorites from Mann, I'd pick the De Palma, so he gets it.

I am so over Oliver Stone. Lucas. I wrote this sentence before I read yours, and was surprised to see it amounted to the same thing: "They're both terrible, but Lucas did make Star Wars, and not even the prequels can quash that."

Coens vs. Fincher. MAN, that's a tough one. The Coens are brilliant -- that goes without saying, right? -- but I have to give it to Fincher, because as far as I'm concerned the man has shown his genius since even the bothced Alien 3. Se7en, The Game and Fight Club are three of my all-time favorites. I saw Panic Room six times theatrically. Zodiac is a remarkable and engaging throwback. Benjamin Button was a blow (so bad!), so I hold out hope that he can redeem himself with The Social Network. I might change my vote on October 1, but for now, I have to go with the man.

Van Sant vs. Spielberg is an interesting match-up. I go with Van Sant, because My Own Private Idaho, Gerry and Elephant are really formative movies for me -- transformative, arty, brilliant. But of course Spielberg is great, too -- he just hasn't made a movie as great as Gerry.

(to be continued)

Zack said...


Nolan over Ridley Scott. No question. Ridley Scott has been spinning his wheels, while Nolan is making blockbusters (and audiences) smarter than ever (not to mention insisting on form and quality at a technical level as well as a narrative one). Despite my minor qualms with some of his films, anyone who loves movies is in debt to Nolan.

Spike Lee over Zemeckis. Do the Right Thing. 25th Hour. Inside Man. The docs. Come on. Even Spike's failures are more interesting to watch than Zemeckis' ultra-generic successes.

Coppola over Raimi. I love Raimi (he makes movies fun -- you can feel the enthusiasm, whether it's Evil Dead, Spider-Man or Drag Me to Hell), but Coppola made the Godfather pictures, Apocalypse Now, the allegedly great Conversation (I, um, haven't seen it), and my recent favorite, Tetro. Oh, and Captain EO. Let's not forget that one.

Altman over Bay. Obviously. Altman reinvented the language of cinema. Not all of his movies were great, but he's a thoughtful artist. Bay is a crude businessman.

I go with Kevin Smith over the Wachowskis, but if the Wachowskis made more movies, they might earn the nod from me. Nonsensical match-up though.

I go with Ron Howard over Guy Ritchie, but same deal with Smith vs. Wachowskis -- it makes no sense to pair them. It should've been Wachowskis vs. Ritchie and Howard vs. Smith. But I go with Howard, mostly because Ritchie's more or less spent his career remaking the same movie over and over. Howard is inconsistent and lacks a point-of-view, but he has made some very good films -- Apollo 13, Ransom (taut and suspenseful in spite of a lazy script), Frost/Nixon, and a personal favorite of mine, 1994's The Paper. He's also somewhat responsible for "Arrested Development," and that's certainly enough to get him a free pass against Ritchie in my book.

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Justin said...

Eric, I've been debating on playing this, but since I figured it was ok, since it was off Facebook.

If you're ever curious, I'll give you my reasons why I love Jar Jar. I love reading your comments, and having a film critic play this makes me feel like there's a celebrity in the game. I was going to watch the Following yesterday, but it won't play in my computer, and my DVD player gets all skippy with any movies I put in.

Zack, I wrote down 32 directors, called up my girlfriend, and had her list 1-32 in a random order. I then took each set of two against each other. That's how you end up with Altman vs Bay and whatnot. If I listed the directors and then figured out who would go against who...well, I'm not sure if I would have set up Round One yet.

My picks.

Donner: Superman, Lethal Weapons, Omen, and Goonies. Which is tough since Nightmare on Elm Street is in my top five movies.

Carpenter: I dig QT, but he didn't do the Thing or They Live. When it comes to They Live, my Mom and I used to hum the theme music all the time.

Rodriguez. As much as I love American Werewolf in London, that's about it. I know he's done other great stuff, but I've enjoyed more of Robert's work...and the guy teaches me how to cook.

Gilliam=12 Monkeys

Burton: I didn't care too much for Alice, but I think that was due to the theater, but when it comes to his other films, I've seen them many times.

Scorsese: just a better run of movies, and the Departed blew me away.

De Palma: As much as I liked Mann's movies, I just feel De Palma tells a story better. I haven't seen Bonfire yet.

Lucas: I'm a big Stone fan. I like watching his movies, listening to his commentaries, and all the behind the scenes stuff. Lucas gave me Star Wars, and American Graffiti. He even directed a small scene in the Godfather.

Fincher: I like the Coens, but I enjoy Fincher's movies more.

Spielberg: To keep myself away on my long drive back from San Diego, I listed all of Steven's theatrical movies in order. I ended up forgetting one...1941.
I can't do that with Gus.

I guess this will be in two parts.

Justin said...

My Votes
Part Two: Electric Boogaloo

Nolan: As with Stone, I'm a big fan of R. Scott. the Prestige is in my Top Five favorite films, and I've seen that more times than Nolan's other works. I do have concern for a Nolan flop. Will people turn on him? Did Insomnia do great?

Zemeckis: He gave me Back to the Future, and Who Framed Roger Rabbit. I enjoy the Inside Man, but...

Coppola: I haven't seen Jack, but I pretty much enjoy any film this guy does.

Altman: I like Popeye

Wachowski: I dug Speed Racer, and all three Matrix films. I own Bound, but have yet to watch it.

Howard: As much as I like Ritchie's style, I dig Howard's traditional movie making.

Sir Critic said...

Zack: A far as Craven vs. Donner goes, it comes down to genre for me. I'm more of an action guy than a horror guy, so I lean towards Donner.

De Plama, I think is somewhat underrated, but he's had just too many misfires, and in my book, Mann hasn't had any,

As for Lee vs. Zemeckis, I see what you're saying, but I still go with Bob for the simple law of averages. There's not a single film of his I can't recommend. There are a few I'm kind of soft on, but he has more visual ingenuity than people give him credit for - although I will agree he hasn't made a movie that knocked me out as much as Do the Right Thing.

And I think Donner and Howard have more of a "point of view: than you say. Maybe neither has a particular visual style, but their films tend to share a vibe: Donner of jock-ish adrenaline, Howard of genial but confident storytelling.

Zack said...

Justin: Thanks for clarifying, and excuse my ignorance. If anything, I think I assumed they'd been paired non-randomly because some of the match-ups do indeed seem logical. How about that? :)

Eric: On Donner and Howard, you may be right that I don't give them enough credit. In fact, Donner's inclination toward "jock-ish adrenaline" may be what pushes me away. ;)