Thursday, May 05, 2016

The Hateful Eighty

Proving they don't know their own business, the Directors Guild of America has voted for a list of the 80 best-directed films of the last 80 years (the DGA was founded 80 years ago).

Here it is.

1.The GodfatherFrancis Ford Coppola1972
2.Citizen KaneOrson Welles1941
3.Lawrence of ArabiaDavid Lean1962
4.2001: A Space OdysseyStanley Kubrick1968
5.CasablancaMichael Curtiz1942
6.The Godfather: Part IIFrancis Ford Coppola1974
7.Apocalypse NowFrancis Ford Coppola1979
8.Schindler’s ListSteven Spielberg1993
9.Gone With the WindVictor Fleming1939
10.GoodfellasMartin Scorsese1990
11.ChinatownRoman Polanski1974
12.The Wizard of OzVictor Fleming1939
13.Raging BullMartin Scorsese1980
14.JawsSteven Spielberg1975
15.It’s a Wonderful LifeFrank Capra1946
16.Dr. Strangelove or: How I 
Learned to Stop Worrying 
and Love the Bomb
Stanley Kubrick1964
17.The Shawshank RedemptionFrank Darabont1994
18.The GraduateMike Nichols1967
19.Star Wars: Episode IV — 
A New Hope
George Lucas1977
20.Blade RunnerRidley Scott1982

21.On the WaterfrontElia Kazan1954
22.Pulp FictionQuentin Tarantino1994
23.E.T. The Extra-TerrestrialSteven Spielberg1982
24.Annie HallWoody Allen1977
25.Saving Private RyanSteven Spielberg1998
26.Seven SamuraiAkira Kurosawa1954
27.A Clockwork OrangeStanley Kubrick1971
28.Raiders of the Lost ArkSteven Spielberg1981
29.VertigoAlfred Hitchcock1958
30.Sunset BoulevardBilly Wilder1950

31.To Kill A MockingbirdRobert Mulligan1962
32.PsychoAlfred Hitchcock1960
33.The SearchersJohn Ford1956
34.Forrest GumpRobert Zemeckis1994
35.Singin’ in the RainStanley Donen,
Gene Kelly
36.8 ½Federico Fellini1963
37.The Third ManCarol Reed1949
38.The Best Years of Our LivesWilliam Wyler1946
39.Rear WindowAlfred Hitchcock1954
40.The Bridge on the River KwaiDavid Lean1957

41.North by NorthwestAlfred Hitchcock1959
42.One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s NestMiloš Forman1975
43.The Sound of MusicRobert Wise1965
44.Taxi DriverMartin Scorsese1976
45.TitanicJames Cameron1997
46.The ShiningStanley Kubrick1980
47.AmadeusMiloš Forman1984
48.Doctor ZhivagoDavid Lean1965
49.West Side StoryJerome Robbins, 
Robert Wise
50.Some Like it HotBilly Wilder1959

51.Ben-HurWilliam Wyler1959
52.FargoEthan Coen, 
Joel Coen
53.The Silence of the LambsJonathan Demme1991
54.The ApartmentBilly Wilder1960
55.AvatarJames Cameron2009
56.The Hurt LockerKathryn Bigelow2008
57.The Treasure of the Sierra MadreJohn Huston1948
58.Birdman or 
(The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu2014
59.All About EveJoseph L. Mankiewicz1950
60.The Deer HunterMichael Cimino1978

61.There Will Be BloodPaul Thomas Anderson2007
62.The StingGeorge Roy Hill1973
63.The Wild BunchSam Peckinpah1969
64.AlienRidley Scott1979
65.RockyJohn G. Avildsen1976
66.The ConformistBernardo Bertolucci1970
67.GandhiRichard Attenborough1982
68.The Bicycle ThiefVittorio De Sica1948
69.Cinema ParadisoGiuseppe Tornatore1988
70.BrazilTerry Gilliam1985

71.The Grapes of WrathJohn Ford1940
72.All the President’s MenAlan J. Pakula1976
73.Barry LyndonStanley Kubrick1975
74.Touch of EvilOrson Welles1958
75.Once Upon a Time in AmericaSergio Leone1984
76.UnforgivenClint Eastwood1992
77.The Usual SuspectsBryan Singer1995
78.NetworkSidney Lumet1976
79.RashomonAkira Kurosawa1950
80.Once Upon a Time in the WestSergio Leone1968

Plenty of classics, but way too many big-name films that don't live up to their reputation, while many great directors get nothing.  Let's look at a few highlights.

Already by #3 and #4, we're getting "director's films" that have long been overrated--Lawrence Of Arabia and 2001.  Kubrick is the most overrepresented on the list--I can see Strangelove, but The Shining or Barry Lyndon? Even Clockwork Orange shouldn't be here.

Chronologically, the list is also screwed up--there isn't a single title before 1939, and precious few from major directors working in the mid-30s to mid-40s.  There were plenty of greats from that era who didn't make it--Chaplin, Hawks, Lubitsch, McCarey, Cukor, Preston Sturges and so on.  Why?  To make room for Barry Lyndon?

There are some foreign films, but too few to justify their inclusion--either the list should be a third or more foreign titles, or they should have been kept out of the voting.  There are a few Japanese and Italian films, but that's it.  No Renoir or Truffaut, no Bergman, no Bunuel, no Ozu, no Antonioni.

When it comes to more modern Hollywood names, the lacunae are shocking.  Where's Robert Altman?  Terrence Malick?  David Lynch?  Fine, have some Spielberg and Scorsese, but leave room for their contemporaries.

So many of these titles have been coasting on unearned prominence for years that I thought maybe the DGA would see through them, but no.  In fact, I'd toss more than half the list.  Which ones?  In addition to those already mentioned, here are some I'd cut before even worrying about what should make it. (I should actually make two lists--good films but not good enough for this list, and films that are just bad--so I apologize in advance for mixing them up):

Raging Bull, The Shawshank Redemption, Blade Runner, Vertigo (I don't care if some think it's the greatest film of all time), To Kill A Mockingbird, The Searchers, Forrest Gump, 8 1/2, The Third Man, Bridge On The River Kwai (Alec Guinness isn't in most of it), One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Next, The Sound Of Music, Titanic, Amadeus, Doctor Zhivago, West Side Story (how is this a director's film?--they fired the first director and let Robert Wise finish it with pedestrian polish), Ben-Hur (I've never been able to make it all the way through), Fargo, The Silence Of The Lambs, Avatar, The Hurt Locker, The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre, Birdman, All About Eve, The Deer Hunter, There Will Be Blood, The Wild Bunch, Alien, The Conformist, Gandhi, Cinema Paradiso, Brazil (sorry, Terry), The Grapes Of Wrath, All The President's Men, Once Upon A Time In America, Unforgiven, The Usual Suspect, Network.

How about a do-over?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a difference between "best films" and "best directed films"

Is the 2d list just for the "ooh... look at the camera angles" crowd.

If I am aware of the director while watching, then, while it still might be good , the film has dug itself a hole that it has to dig out of

6:46 AM, May 05, 2016  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would assume a well-directed film better be a good film, or what's the point. That said, you can have good films where you feel the director didn't add much--but then, that's the proper way to direct such a film.

12:56 PM, May 05, 2016  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

No Christopher Nolan? I'm no expert, but for intricacy and complexity in story telling, he has some of the greatest accomplishments on film. I do see Inarritu in there for Birdman, but I wonder if they will remember this film in 10 years on the list of the top 90 director-films?

No Peter Jackson? Regardless of whether you think fantasy/adventure films are worthy endeavors, in that genre I don't think any director has worked harder and presented a more coherent series of films than Jackson. Certainly better than Star Wars as a series. I would say that perhaps Empire Strikes Back reaches the level of accomplishment of any of the Lord of the Rings films.

Are Cameron's Titanic and Avatar in there for any reason other than how much money they made? Does the Director get credit for fabulous special effects?

I think it's hard to compare directors known for different genre's of film. How do you compare Woody Allen to Sam Peckinpah, other than to say each had great accomplishments in their particular genre.

3:13 PM, May 05, 2016  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Nolan has done some good work, but I don't think anything good enough to make the top 80 of the last 80 years.

I liked some of Peter Jackson's films, but then he made those awful Lord Of The Ring films and I haven't liked anything he's done since. I'd rather see any of the Star Wars films.

Cameron is one of the best action directors around, and perhaps one of his films should have made it--just not the stuff that did.

What may be harder than comparing different genre directors is knowing how much the director contributed to any particular film, compared to others, like the writer, producer or DP.

5:26 PM, May 05, 2016  

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