Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Ten: Best Directors of All Time Relay Race

Nostra at My Film Views, not content to send out a Best Actor and Best Actress meme, has also started a Ten Best Directors meme. I'm quite a bit earlier in the countdown this time, which makes compiling the list as it stands quite a bit easier for me. As with the other two lists, the idea is that from a starting list of 10, each new person removes one director and adds one before passing the list on to someone else.

This time, Ruth at ...let's be splendid about this tagged me, making me the eighth person (seventh after Nostra's original 10) to bump one and add one. The thinking behind it is this:

"So what’s the idea behind the relay? I’ve created a list of what I think are the ten best directors. At the end of the post I, just like in a real relay race, hand over the baton to another blogger who will write his own post. This blogger will have to remove one director (that is an obligation) and add his own choice and describe why he/she did this. At the end the blogger chooses another blogger to do the same. We will end up with a list (not ranked in order) which represents a common agreement of the best directors. If you are following the relay race it is also a great way to be introduced to new blogs!"

Here's how it's gone so far:
My Film Views (Created the original list of 10: Alfred Hitchcock, Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, Steven Spielberg, Hayao Miyazaki, Darren Aronofsky, Martin Scorsese, Joel and Ethan Coen, Akira Kurosawa, Christopher Nolan)
My Southern Vision (Removed Nolan, added Krzysztof Kieslowski)
And So it Begins (Removed Aronofsky, added Ingmar Bergman)
Surrender to the Void (Removed Spielberg, added Lars von Trier)
Cinematic Paradox (Removed von Trier, added Paul Thomas Anderson)
Defiant Success (Removed Kieslowski, added Sidney Lumet)
...let's be splendid about this (Removed Tarantino, added Abbas Kiarostami)

Here's the list as it stands before I play with it:

Paul Thomas Anderson

Ingmar Bergman

Joel and Ethan Coen

Alfred Hitchcock

Abbas Kiarostami

Akira Kurosawa

Stanley Kubrick

Sidney Lumet

Hayao Miyazaki

Martin Scorsese

What this means is that Ruth already removed my pick--had Tarantino still been on the list, I'd have bumped him. I admit that I'm not a huge Tarantino fan, but that's not why. The reason is that he just hasn't done enough. He's only done seven feature-length films, and that includes giving him full credit for Death Proof. Seven films, no matter how good, just aren't enough. I'd have bumped Nolan for the same reason had he still been here. I love his work, but his track record just isn't long enough yet.

So it is for the same reason I bid adieu to Paul Thomas Anderson.

I like Anderson's work a lot. He's only done five feature-length films, though, and that's not enough of a career to run with the big dogs. In 10 or 20 years, with another dozen films under his belt, it would not surprise me if I do talk about him in the same breath with some of these other directors, but not until his filmography is long enough to support that kind of statement. And really, some of the directors here I consider pretty much untouchable. In any list, I'd argue Hitchcock, the Coens, Scorsese, Kurosawa, and Kubrick, and I'd push pretty hard for Bergman. That didn't leave me with a lot of choices.

Who to add is a different problem. Based on my reasoning for removing Anderson, I can't in good conscience add Guillermo del Toro or Jean-Pierre Jeunet, both of whom I love unabashedly. A lot of directors did get some consideration from me--John Huston, John Ford, Michael Curtiz, Robert Bresson, Fritz Lang, Francois Truffaut, Howard Hawks, and I strongly considered putting Kieslowski back on the list because his work is just so damn good. Ultimately, though, there was really only one choice.

Say hello to Billy Wilder.

Let's talk about versatility. Many directors are known for a particular style of film. You say "Hitchcock film," and that brings up a particular sort of thing--suspense, thriller, murder, mistaken identity. You say "Bergman," and you get a different set of images, but something distinctly Bergmanesque. With Wilder, you never quite know what you get until you get it, but you can be sure it'll be memorable. You want war pictures? Wilder did both Five Graves to Cairo and the classic Stalag 17, one of the best war prison pictures ever made. Comedy? The Seven Year Itch and Some Like it Hot, still considered one of the greatest comedies in Hollywood history. Hard-hitting drama? The Lost Weekend and Ace in the Hole. Romance? The Apartment. Film noir? Wilder did two of the best with Double Indemnity and Sunset Blvd., both of which are on top-10 noir lists all over. Wilder could do it all and he did it all, which is why he belongs here.

And now, this list passes on to James Blake Ewing at Cinema Sights. Good luck, James.


  1. Oooh. Had it been done for anyone other than Billy Wilder, film nerds would have gone nuts :P

    Incredible pick obviously. Wilder is just amazing.

    1. Be that as it may, I think my reasons for removing Anderson were pretty solid. I like his work, but talk to me when his filmography hits double digits. I've seen 60% of his feature-length films and really like all three. But three movies doesn't mean "best ever."

      Wilder, though...he's hard to argue against.

  2. I agree completely with your reasoning. PTA is one of my favorite modern directors along with Nolan and I loved everything I have seen. But, if I have any beef against him , it will be 'He Hasn't done enough yet'.

    And with Billy Wilder - I am almost sure there is not a person here who will argue against it. Great Pick !!

  3. Well, I really can't argue with your choice, he's an excellent director!

    1. I really wanted to pick someone who wasn't just a personal favorite but was also someone who could stand up to arguments for why I picked him.

  4. Like I said on my post, I was going to add Wilder but I wanted to change things up and opted for Lumet instead. Nice to see him on the list now.

  5. Nice choice! I feel like a need to go on a Wilder marathon now!

    1. When I first saw this meme going around, Wilder was my first thought. He made so many good films in so many genres, I couldn't leave him off.

      I'll be curious to see how long he stays on.

  6. I love love love PTA, but yeah, Wilder deserves to be here, no question. The Lost Weekend is one of the best films ever made. One of the many classics Wilder dished out. Great choice!

    1. When I think of Wilder, my thoughts immediately go to Sunset Blvd. and Double Indemnity. I didn't know he directed The Lost Weekend until after I watched it.

      If you are a Wilder fan, I can't recommend Ace in the Hole strongly enough. It's one of the first really cynical looks at the media, and it's pretty brutal.

    2. Oh yeah, I absolutely love Ace in the Hole. Great great film.

  7. I wholeheartedly approve of this switch!

  8. As I was scrolling down the post and thinking about who I would add, given who was already on it, I seriously went "Jean-Luc Godard? Nah, he's a personal favorite but not on this list. Charlie Chaplin? Maybe, but I feel like he's equally an actor and director. WAIT, I KNOW! It's obvious! Billy Wilder!" And then I scrolled down and saw who you'd added. :) Sorry his tenure was so short. Hopefully he'll be back at some point in the relay's lifespan.

    Hawks would've also been a great choice.

    1. In the last three years, Wilder has gone from someone whose films I know and like to one of my top-5 directors.

  9. I just posted a new poll on my Katharine Hepburn blog - Which is your favorite director of Katharine Hepburn movies? You can vote here: