MOVIE LISTS: 7 Directors Who Deserve Better Material

Brad Anderson, The CallSomething that becomes rather clear after accessing the bountiful options of films produced independently is how unfortunately choking the Hollywood studio system is, and not only for us viewers. Obviously it’s an ordeal for anyone who has to endure the unintelligible onslaught of A Good Day to Die Hard or the unmotivated masturbatory comedics of Stand Up Guys, but the blame isn’t always on the head man behind the camera. As much as critics love the idea of auteurist structure, studio productions are largely a collaboration towards making a consumable product. The ideal view of cinema is as art, but reality necessitates its use as part of an industry.

With that said, there’s a clear distinction between those directors working towards a paycheck and those with passionate skill being put to the aid of something rather disposable. It’s hard to imagine a more apt atmosphere for this discussion than the early months of the year, often seen as the dumping ground for fare not suited to the competitive sphere of Summer or prestige circuit of Fall. This weekend itself has a handful of films that could be seen as a waste of talent. The buzz surrounding Matteo Garrone’s Reality was somewhat cool at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, implying possibly less hard-hitting subject matter for his Gomorrah followup. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone director Don Scardino may not have more to show than in that film’s broad comedic strokes, but actors like Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, and the particularly struggling Jim Carrey make the case for a separate (but obviously more bloated) list of actors who deserve better.

Another actor who’s been searching in vain for something brighter on the horizon is Halle Berry, admittedly one of the more charismatic elements of hyperlink fantasy Cloud Atlas. This weekend has her headlining The Call, a thriller about a 9/11 operator who takes it upon herself to catch a serial killer. It doesn’t appear to be a particularly intense ride or a rousing return to form, but they could do a lot worst than director Brad Anderson. Mostly known for his work as a television director, but that didn’t keep him from packing the panache into some of the finer episodes of cult sci-fi series Fringe. In the more public vein is his work on thrillers like The Machinist and Transsiberian, both of which speak for a devoted level of craft.

This caused me to consider what other directors have shown their talents on films that could be deemed far less than spectacular, so here are a handful of those who I feel have brighter futures ahead of them.

Rising Directors Who Deserve Better Material

David AyersDavid Ayer

What Has He Done?
He emerged as a writer on crime thrillers such as Training Day, The Fast and the Furious, and S.W.A.T. before making his directorial debut on films like Harsh Times, Street Kings, and most recently End of Watch.
Why Does He Deserve Better?
Feel free to call on Justin or G Clark if you want to rag on Ayer, but I can’t express nearly as much malice towards End of Watch as they did. While occasionally flailing in terms of dramatic consistency, Ayer brought a visceral, adrenaline-blistered set of goggles to view these violent stories through. He also pulled some intensely empathetic performances from his two leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, so it’s conceivable to think these skills can be put to use on a more dramatic landscape. That’s not likely to happen with his next film, Ten, a police thriller starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terrence Howard, Sam Worthington, and Joe Manganiello, but his time may still come for something fresh.

Samuel BayerSamuel Bayer

What Has He Done?
The music video/commercial director made his debut in 2010 with the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Why Does He Deserve Better?
Horror retreads these days are a dime a dozen, and you know we’re bracing for impact with the torture-porn remake of Sam Raimi’s supernatural staple Evil Dead, but the Nightmare on Elm Street remake wasn’t all that dreadful visually. Its narrative may be little more than a mash-up of the iconic kills of the franchise, but handled in an alternating cool and searing hallucinatory style, almost entirely attributable to Bayer’s dedication behind the camera. As an added bonus, it also introduced Rooney Mara to the world in distinct fashion. The man’s next film is Amongst Mortals, which sounds like he’s treading similarly supernatural waters, but let’s hope he brings a vibrant creative individuality to this project.

Joseph KosinskiJoseph Kosinski

What Has He Done?
Kosinski made his feature debut in 2010 on the long anticipated sequel TRON: Legacy. His next film is Oblivion with Tom Cruise.
Why Does He Deserve Better?
TRON: Legacy may not have been revolutionary to the CG-action medium, saddled with a plot very similar to its predecessor, and mostly acting as a backdoor remake of the original TRON. Doing double duty with such a non-charismatic script didn’t work magic with audiences or critics, but man does Kosinski’s visual cred shine here. Formerly an architecture major and it shows, he builds layers of distinct virtual backdrops while inflecting an attention to somber mood aesthetics that goes wisely down to choice of musicians. While Daft Punk missed the Oscar cut for TRON: Legacy, M83’s score for Kosinski’s upcoming feature Oblivion is amongst the most anticipated of the year. It may even be inaccurate to list him here, as Oblivion could very easily bring him into revolutionary graces when it debuts this time next month. Always hope the best, even if it doesn’t work out so immediately.

Jonathan LiebesmanJonathan Liebesman

What Has He Done?
The South African director worked on horror fare like Darkness Falls, Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginner, and The Killing Room before heading into the action climates of Battle: Los Angeles and Wrath of the Titans. His next production is the Michael Bay produced reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Why Does He Deserve Better?
I may well be the site’s only polite defender of Michael Bay, but even I won’t deny his films have sawdust for brains. Jonathan Liebesman is well on his way to similar stature, with the key exception being his prior two films were genuinely enjoyable. Battle: Los Angeles may have been so by accident, with my happy memory of seeing it involving the mocking of unintelligent tropes of the city-invasion subgenre (But, I thought they were meteors! How can they be aliens? That makes no sense!). Wrath of the Titans, though, came on the heels of a painfully incoherent remake and actually provided some genuine action thrills. Now Ninja Turtles may end up a “butchering of the lore” as the loyal geek armada most fears, and the addition of Megan Fox isn’t particularly encouraging, but don’t be surprised if it’s not as painful as the pre-production period may lead us to believe.

John Requa and Glenn FicarraJohn Requa and Glenn Ficarra

What Have They Done?
Writers of the Cats and Dogs films as well as Bad Santa and Richard Linklater’s remake of The Bad News Bears, they’ve been in the director chair twice for I Love You Phillip Morris and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Why Do They Deserve Better?
You’ll hear scattered opinions about whether or not their prior two directorial efforts are any good, but from my perspective I Love You Phillip Morris squandered its potential as a dramatic comeback for both Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. These writers simply focused too keenly on the superficial comedy of that gay prison romance. When directing someone else’s screenplay in Crazy, Stupid, Love., they managed to build a chamber piece atmosphere where their superb cast could jibe with their charismatic personas and build genuine chemistry. Unfortunately that script also came undone in its conclusion. Between these two projects, though, we’ve seen amazing dramatic growth in the collaboration between these two, so I’m always open to a chamber rom-com from the duo.

Lone ScherfigLone Scherfig

What Has She Done?
The Danish director has been behind the camera recently on 2009’s Oscar nominated An Education, followed by 2011’s One Day. Her next film is an adaptation of a stage play titled Posh.
So… what’s she doing on this list? She’s done nothing wrong!
This is breaking the rules big time, since she’s not only been in the directing sphere since 1985, but also because she’s made some truly outstanding work. An Education was one of the most pleasingly fashionable British coming-of-age tales in it’s year of release, particularly with such a distinct competitor as Fish Tank to go up against. Her next film thus came across as something of a sophomore slump attitude, even if it wasn’t in genuine fact. The deeper one gets into this description, the less she seems to be truly flailing. It’s worth including, however, not only to keep one from drawing conclusions on a director they’ve not properly done their research on, but also as a statement that all directors have their down days. Scherfig, however, will have no problem getting back up, particularly since One Day wasn’t even all that bad. I guess audience’s were able to forgive Hathaway faux-British accent as long as she was singing underneath it.

Ariel Schulman and Henry JoostAriel Schulman and Henry Joost

What Have They Done?
This directorial burst onto the scene with believe-it-or-not documentary hit Catfish before going on to direct Paranormal Activity 3 and Paranormal Activity 4.
Why Do They Deserve Better?
Oh, how unfortunately the tides can turn. Right after being the hot new directors on the scene, regardless of Catfish‘s genuine accuracy, they took up the job of working on the third installment of the Paranormal Activity series. It might have ended there, having plumbed the use of old-fashioned videotape creepiness already, but studios persisted them into another installment, even more drastically uninspired than the already manipulative sequels. Of all directors listed, these two are most in need of proving they belong in this business, so they could do well to drop the found-footage/documentary conceit to try on a more overt narrative. I say “more”, but hopefully they don’t lose their previously shown ingenuity in the process.

Rob ReinerRob Reiner

What Has He Done?
This beloved man has done some brilliant work, crafting some well-aging classics as This Is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery, and A Few Good Men. He also did Ghosts of Mississippi, The Story of Us, Rumor Has It, The Bucket List, Flipped, and most recently The Magic of Belle Isle.
Why Does He Deserve Better?
If ever there’s a legendary director whose gone into disuse, it’s Rob Reiner. Many of his films warrant consideration, if not for a top 10 of all time list, certainly a top 100 list. He’s had such a fond method of translating witty scripts to the screen in honest, often storybook manner. The past two decades, though, have not been especially kind to him, working with increasingly stale and inscrutable material, climaxing… er, bottoming out with The Magic of Belle Isle, a Morgan Freeman film which instantly burst into insignificance upon arrival. He could actually benefit from a major cast and a studio budget, even on a lesser script. Anything to bring the man significantly back into our lives, right?

Your turn! What directors do you feel are still awaiting their prime after lesser studio efforts?

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • hmmmm i like Ayer. didn’t know he had a bad rap

  • Two picks for you:

    Frak Darabont and Jake Kasdan

    Frank Darabont has done some great stuff recently (The Mist, The Walking Dead), and while I don’t think he’s a “great director,” I think The Shawshank Redeption shows so much promise that has never been fulfilled. I have to admit I thought The Majestic was pretty wonderfull when I first saw it though….

    As for Jake Kasdan, his Zero Effect is a personal favorite. Not only is it one of (if not THE) best Sherlock Holmes adaptation, but it stars Bill Pullman, one of my favorite character actors. It’s smart, funny, and manages to pull off the kind of twits (plural) that I never see coming even though I’ve seen the film multiple times. Since Zero Effect in ’98, from what I’ve seen he’s directed a few Freaks and Geeks episodes, some underrated comedies (Orange County & Walk Hard) and the underwhelming Bad Teacher. He’s also produced New Girl, which from what I’ve seen is quite good. Still, there’s something there that could make another great film like Zero Effect. Not sure it could be as good f Bill Pullman wasn’t in it though. He should make his own sequel, it couldn’t be much worse than A Game of Shadows… right?

Privacy Polcy | Contact Us