Obession and Opinions: on Film

December 2, 2015

 

DISCLAIMER: I have to start with the disclaimer that: we exist in a male-dominant, heterosexist and racist world, and Cinema (like all Arts), is a reflection of said world, so the dominant voices in Film (Directors/Writers/Prodcuers), happen to be those of cucasian white men. Needless to say, there exists a vast gap in this medium for the voices of Women, and Filmmakers of Color.

 

Luckily we have arrived at a time in our evolution, where things are beginning to change. "Diversity" is being embraced, and though it is still a buzz word that implies "different" and "other" the recent inclusion of more diverse voices in the mediums of Film and Television, is certainly a step in the right direction. 

 

I say that, because I am embarrassed, and ashamed that my current lis of "Greatest Movies and Directors" (below),  is composed of primarily white male Filmmakers. However, two things are certain:

 

ONE: The lack of Female representation/Filmmakers of Color on my list does not imply that Women/ People of Color are not making great films; but rather that we (as a society) have not given these works their due spotlight, or accepted them as universal works of Cinema.  This needs to change. 

 

TWO: Just because the list is composed of primarily white men, doesn't mean the work represented (listed below), should not receive its due merit. Regardless of societal ignorance, these works of Cinema, created (primarily) by caucasian male artists, are Universal, beautiful, and worth experiencing. We want to exist in a world where ALL voices are equal and universal, but that doesn't make the (current) dominant voice any less valid. 

 

Please feel free to leave a comment/note/message with your thoughts/disagreements/ and/or recommendations. I am especially interested in broadening my knowledge on Women Artists and Filmmakers of color. I recently discovered what is possibly the BEST Documentary series about Film. It is on Netflix: The Story of Film: An Odyssey. This series does a fantastic job of incorporating the Story of (ALL) film, from ALL over the world. Honestly, I imagine watching this series should feel very much like taking a Graduate Course in Film History. It's inclusive, thorough, and executed exceptionally well. If you are a Cinephile and haven't already checked out this Series, you must!

 

With that said, here is my (PERSONAL) list of favorite Directors, and influential Films/Filmmakers.  Because my list is long; and I have so many opinions regarding the topic of Cinema; while I recommend ALL the works (below mentioned) I have also highlighted in YELLOW, the quintessential films that have had a profound influence in my life, and those that have played a significant role in my development/evolution as an artist. Also, please remember that this list is quite personal, so though you may not agree with my opinion, it is part of my journey as a Filmmaker/artist, and my right to feel strongly about these works of art.

 

DEAD DIRECTORS FROM AROUND THE WORLD THAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW:

 

Luis Buñuel - (Spain/France)

  • Belle de Jour 

  • Viridiana 

  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

  • Un Chien Andalou

  • The Exterminating Angel

Ingmar Bergman - (Sweden)

  • Persona

  • The Seventh Seal

  • Fanny and Alexander

Fritz Lang - (Austria)

  • Metropolis

  • M.

Federico Felinni - (Italy)

  • La Strada

  • I Vitelloni

  • La Dolce Vita

  • Amarcord

  • 8 ½

Michelangelo Antonioni - (Italy)

  •  Red Dessert

  • L’Aventura

  • Blowup

Akira Kurosawa - (Japan) 

  • Throne of Blood

  • Yojimbo

  • Seventh Samurai

  • Ran

  • Rashomon 

Vittorio de Sica - (Italy)

  • The Bicycle Thief

  • The earrings of Madamme de…

David Lean - (USA)  

  • Lawrence of Arabia

  • Dr Zhivago

Orson Welles- (USA)

  • Othello

  • Citizen Kane

  • Touch of Evil

Agnes Varda - (France)

  • Chloe from 5-7

  • Jacquot de Nantes

  • Vagabond

  • Le Bonheur

Francois Truffaut - (France)

  • Jules et Jim

  • 400 Blows

  • The Bride Wore Black

  • Shoot the Piano Player

  • The Last Metro

  • Day for Night

  • Stolen Kisses

Eric Rohmer - (France)

  • La Collectioneuse

  • Claire's Knee

  • My Night at Maud's

  • Chloe in the Afternoon (Love in the Afternoon)

  • Suzanne's Career

  • The Bakery Girl of Monceau

* Eric Rohmer is like a sophisticated and more complex Woody Allen. Rohmer's Six Moral Tales are among some of the most influential films. The subtlety in the dialogue, the build up in the aciton, and delivery of a profound epiphany about humankind's ideosincrecies is something I find fascinating in his work, and a subject matter I seck to explore in my own.

 

Robert Bresson - (France)

  • Au Hausard Balthazar

  • Mouchette

  • Pickpocket (France)

  • The Trial of Joan of Arc

  • L’Argent

  • A Man Escaped

Jacques Rivettes- (France) 

  • Celine et Julie vont en Bateau

  • Va Savoir

Andrei Tarkovski- (Russia) 

  • Solaris

  • Andrei Rublev 

  • Stalker

  • Nostalghia

 

Alfred Hitchcock -(England) 

  • Rear Window

  • Vertigo

  • Rebecca

  • North by Northwest

  • Psycho

  • Rope 

John Huston - (USA)

  • The Maltese Falcon

  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

  • The African Queen

Ernst Lubitsch - (Germany/USA)

  • Trouble in Paradise

  • Ninotschka 

*NOTE: Also known for: To be or not to be, and The Shop around the Corner.

 

Sidney Lumet - (USA)

  • 12 Angry Men

  • Dog Day Afternoon

  • Network

Elia Kazan - (USA)

  • A Streetcar Named Desire

  • East of Eden

  • Splendor in the Grass

Billy Wilder - (USA) 

  • Sunset Blvd

  • Double Indemnity 

  • Some Like it Hot

Jan Svankmajer - (Czech Republic)

  • Darkness Light Darkness

  • Jidlo

  • Byt

  • Do Pivnice

  • Meat Love

  • Flora

  • Alice

  • Faust

*NOTE: His feature films: Alice, and Faust, are definitely worth watching,  however, his short films have by far been some of the biggest inspiration/inlfuence to internationally acclaimed directors around the world. Svankmajer's work lit up my desire to explore stop motion animation (incorporated within live-action) His work is proof that animation is not just for children, it can be a dark, dark hole of horror and despair. 

 

Rainer Werner Fassbinder - (Germany)

  • The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant

  • The Marriage of Maria Braun

  • Veronika Voss

  • Lola

  • Fear of Fear

  • Satan’s Brew

  • Ali: Fear eats the Soul

Louis Malle - (USA)

  • Elevator to the Gallows

  • Aurevoir les Enfants

 

Stanley Kubrick - (USA)

  • Lolita

  • The Shining

  • Spartacus

  • 2001: Space Odyssey

  • A Clockwork Orange

  • Full Metal Jacket

  • Barry Lyndon

  • Dr. Strangelove

DEAD DIRECTORS YOU SHOULD KNOW (that I personally think are overrated, but still, you might want to form your own opinions).

 

Jean Luc Goddard- (France) 

  • Breathless

  • Vivre Sa Vie

  • Pierrot le Fou

  • Weekend

* NOTE: Weekend is my favorite and it’s the least in the style of Godard and more in the style of Buñuel, in fact, it feels like an homage to Buñuel.

 

John Cassavetes - (USA) 

  • Opening Night

  • Shadows 

*NOTE: Hipster Cinephiles LOVE Godard, and Cassavetes- and I do encourage people to watch  films by both of these filmmakers, because they are stylistically different that many films being made during their time, by their contemproaries. However, I don't feel this necessarily makes their work timeless or interesting. When comparing it to art, I equate these filmmakers to Warhol. Andy Warhol was influential and changed the world of Art, however, I don't love his work, nor do I feel it is timeless. It had a time and a place, and it was a stepping stone for many great works to come (by other artists), but as a stand alone, outside of space and time, I am uninspired, and honestly bored. 

 

DIRECTORS, I HAVE LOVE-HATE RELATIONSHIPS WITH:

 

Robert Altman - (USA) 

  • 3 Women

  • Gosford Park

  • The Player 

3 Women is an incredible film, and definitely in my top 20 list of favorite films, however, I don't always care for some of his other work. 

 

Terrence Mallick - (USA)  

  • Badlands

  • A Thin Red Line

  • Days of Heaven

* I hated Tree of Life (and my sources--who worked on that movie said that none of the actors even knew what the f*ck the film was about). I thought it was self-absorbed, purposely vague, in which the Director's Ego was ever present; however, Malick's film Badlands is on my top 20 list of favorite movies. It doesnt' try to be anything more than what it is, and thus it feels genuine, the characters real, and the visual storytelling breathtaking (with a strong narrative purpose).

 

Alejandro Jodorowski - (Chile)

  • El Topo

  • The Holy Mountain

  • Dune

Jodorowski is a filmmaker I appreciate, but sometimes I feel the presence of an egotistic artist in his work. While his images are visually morbid, grotesque, and unapologetic; in my opinion, he tends to relish in his own glory for too long. An example I can relate this to is that of an actor on stage, who is totally "in the moment" so much so, that he becomes conscious of his ego, and thinks, "Damn! I'm so good" but the very act of having this thought, takes the actor out of the moment of honest, true creation. Another example would be that of a painter who loves a certain color, so while he is in the zone, his desire to use that color, may override the honest direction the work of art wants to take. I feel these examples are representative of Jodorowski's work. While he does have moments of brilliance, of connectedness, and while his work is unlike any, that I have ever seen (especially during the time he was creating it), all of his films have a certain amount of Directors indulgment, taking it out of a place of honesty, and genuinity. A GREAT example of this (Jodorowski shooting himself in the foot), is his latest movie "The Dance of Reality" It's impossible to get into this movie, as it is mostly Ego-driven and hard for an audience to break in and embrace the characters or the story. The surrealism and grotesque visual elements that characterized his earlier works (very prevalent in El Topo and Holy Mountain), are indeed present in The Dance of Reality, but have been watered down, and almost turned into a gimmick, a trick rather than an honest need for the progression of the narrative.

 

Michael Haneke - (Germany)

  • The White Ribbon

  • Amour

*NOTE: Also famous for Cache and The Piano Teacher, neither of which I loved, but both of which had great Acting and calculated Directing. Michale Haneke is undeniably a fantastic Director. Do I think he gets it right every time? No. But do any of us? No. In my opinion there is a bit of the Bergman pacing, and tension in Haneke's films. 

 

 

LIVING FILMMAKERS (that Continue to create Inspiring Work):

 

Andrey Zviaginstev - (Russia)

  • The Banishment

  • Leviathan

  • The Return

  • Elena

*I LOVE  Andrey Zviaginstev's work. His pacing and use of natural elements to express an emotional landscape, are reminiscent of a modern day Tarkovski. His subject matters - current. Visually gorgous cinematorgaphy and strong tension between characters through use of negative space, natural elements, and lighting. Really, deliberate, solid work. 

 

Bela Tarr - (Hungary)

  • Werckmeister Harmonies

  • Satantango

  • The Turin Horse 

Hirokazu Koreeda - (Japan)

  • Like Father, Like Son

  • Nobody Knows

  • Still Walking

  • After Life

Wong Kar Wai - (Hong Kong/China)

  • In the Mood for Love

  • 2046

  • Chungking Express

  • Days of Being Wild 

  • Happy Together

  • Fallen Angels

Kim Ki-Duk - (Korea)

  • Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring

  • 3-Iron

  • Pieta

Ulrich Siedl (Austria)

  • Paradise Trilogy: Love

  • Paradise Trilogy: Faith

  • Paradise Trilogy: Hope

  • Dog Days

* Seidl reminds me of a modern day Werner Fassbinder. Dry humor, that is borderline offensive, but bold, brave, and through the use of beautiful cinematography. His use of non-actors draws attention to the very natural and almost documentary-style of the characters.

 

Roy Andersson (Sweden)

  • Songs from the Second Floor

  • You, The Living

  • A Pigeon Sat on a Branch reflecting on Existence

  • A Swedish Love Story

* Must, must, must watch his collection of shorts/commercials. Funny, to the point. His style is distinct. His casting, set design, and scene-choreographies, depth of field are all carefully planned. While the world moves around the camera, the camera stays still, capturing magically bizarre vignettes that woven together tell a story.

 

Hayao Miyazaki- (Japan)

  • Princess Mononoke

  • My Friend Totoro

  • Spirited Away

  • Howl's Moving Castle

  • Castle in the Sky

 

Roman Polanski - (USA/France) 

  • Repulsion

  • Rosemary’s Baby

  • Chinatown

  • Knife in the Water

  • The Tenant

  • Two Men and a Wardrobe

*Polanski is one of my favorite Directors. I am inspired by the mood he creates in his films. The suspense, the color palette, the way he captures human behavior with cynicism. The way he is able to guide his actresses to places of despain and terror, within a very contained and premeditated progression. Though he is also known for The Pianist, Ghost Writer, Cul-de-Sac, and the Ninth Gate, these are not among my favorites. However, I most definitely recommend watching his shorts: Two Men and a Wardrobe, The Lamp, Teeth Smile and The Fat and the Lean. 

 

Pedro Almodovar - (Spain)

  • All about my Mother

  • Talk to Her

  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown 

Pedro Almodovar - the European Woody Allen; with the grotesqueness of John Waters; but with an echoing residue of Francoist Spain. Something I really appreciate about Almodovar, is his ability to work with actors. He can make a bad actor into a great actor. For example, Penelope Cruz, a mediocre actress, delivers fantastic work under the Direction of Almodovar. I appreciate his focus on primarily women characters in most of his films, and his life-long muse Carmen Maura (one of my favorite Spanish actresses), often plays meaty, powerful roles, that present a hyperrealized experience of womanhood. Melodrama and hyperrealization are two elements that Almodovar plays with (exceptionally well) in his approach to storytelling and filmmaking.

 

Woody Allen - (USA)

  • Annie Hall

  • Deconstructing Harry

  • Vicky Cristina Barcelona

  • Blue Jasmine

  • Manhattan

* Most of the world loved Midnight in Paris, it honestly wasn't a favorite of mine. I love that Woody Allen often features strong female actresses (much like Almodovar), both directors seem to be inspired by the feminine psyche. I really appreciate Woody Allen's committment to creating work (ALL the time), every year he comes out with a new movie. Unlike some filmmakers (James Cameron) who may take up to10 years to develop an Idea and carry it out onto the big screen, Woody Allen works much like a machine that cranks out new work constantly. I find this approach admirable, and while his movies are certainly not ALL hits, his ability to be writing/directing and constantly creating is incredibly inspiring.

 

Charlie Kauffman (WRITER) - (USA) 

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

  • Being John Malkovich

  • Adaptation

  • Synecdoche NY (USA)

Paul Thomas Anderson - (USA) 

  • Boogie Nights

  • Magnolia

  • There will be blood 

  • Punch Drunk Love.

*NOTE: Should also watch The Master, and Hard Eight, though all represent examples of great Filmmaking, they work within the myriad of Anderson's work, however, as stand alone movies, none of them speak to me on an emotional level. As for Inherent Vice, don't even waste your time. Talk aout ego getting in the way of honest filmmaking.

 

Martin Scorcese - (USA) 

  • Taxi Driver

  • The Last Temptation of Christ

  • Raging Bull

  • Goodfellas

  • The Departed

*NOTE: Sorry but in my opinion, all of Marty’s new stuff is horrendous! Hugo was hard to sit through (long, boring, too much CGI, and not enough honesty in the characters- he was trying to imitate Jean Jeunet in style, and it didn’t work. Plus, his love of film led him to indulge too much in Georges Melies, but it just didn't work. Shutter Island was another flop. It was one note all the way through, and quickly became predictable: You never want your audience to figure out the plot before the characters in the scene, because then you bore your audiences. Shutter Island was just that: boring.  More recently Wolf of Wall Street, a commercial sensation, was in my opinion another example of indulgent Directing. It was repetitive, and could have been edited down by about hour. Once a GREAT Director, now Scorcese seems to be making mediocre films. 

 

Sofia Coppola - (USA) 

  • The Virgin Suicides

  • Lost in Translation 

  • Marie Antoinette

  • Somewhere

* Note: Skip The Bling Ring. It was a good attempt at something, and her style is definitely there, but the execution and the idea did not marry to solidify into a strong film. 

 

Lars Von Trier - (Denmark)

  • Melancholia

  • The Anti-Christ

  • Dancer in the Dark

  • Dogville

  • The Five Obstructions

  • Dear Wendy

  • Breaking the Waves

* Note: Skip Nymphomaniac (Vol. 1 and 2.)  and Manderlay (poor sequel to Dogville. Dogville was so strong it didn't need a sequel). 

 

Darren Aronovski - (USA) 

  • Pi

  • Requiem for a Dream

  • Black Swan 

  • The Wrestler

Spike Jonze - (USA)

  • Being John Malkovich

  • Adaptation

  • Where the Wild things are

  • Her

The Coen Brothers - (USA) 

  • The Big Lebowski

  • Fargo

  • No Country for Old Men

  • Barton Fink

  • Raising Arisona

  • Blood Simple

*NOTE: Coen Brothers are risk-takers which is AMAZING, but that also means their work is hit or miss, and oftentimes when it becomes self-indulgent for the actors it is most often a miss. For example “O Brother Where Art Thou, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis, The Hudsucker Proxy, Burn After Reading, and A Serious Man, are all 'misses' in my opinion, I understand that O Brother is considered a classic, and I get that Inside Llewyn Davis was considered a hit by critics, but I just didn't get it. I think we live in a culture where once you make a name for yourself, you can live off the hype of your earlier works, and bad work slides through, masked as works of genius. I think this is definitely the case with the Coen Brothers. While they have a very definitive style, and their work is solid, signed, delivered, I honestly think about 50% of the work they create actually blows it out of the ballpark. The other 50% is riding in their existing status, fame and their relationship with the A-list actors they use in their work (all of whom are strong solid actors). With that said, The Big Lebowski is in my top 10 list of best films. Their Directorial style is well defined, and their signature is so unique to them, that Coen Brothers film could only be- a Coen Brothers film. 

 

Jean Pierre- Jeunet - (France)

  • Delicatessen

  • Amelie

  • The City of Lost Children

* Micmacs wasn't life changing.

 

Alejandro Amenabar - (Spain)

  • Abre los Ojos

  • The Others

  • The Sea Inside 

  • Gravity

Cristian Mungiu - (Romania)

  • 4 Months 3 Weeks and 2 Days

  • Beyond the Hills 

David Lynch - (USA) 

  • The Elephant Man

  • Blue Velvet

  • Eraserhead 

  • Lost Highway

  • Mullholland Drive

  • Inland Empire

*I may be the only one, but I am not a fan of Twin Peaks (the movie).

 

Alejandro Gonzalez, Iñarritu - (Mexico)

  • Amores Perros

  • 21 Grams

  • Babel

  • Biutiful 

Tomas Gutierrez Alea - (Cuba)

  • Fresa y Chocolate

  • Memorias del Subdesarrollo

  • Guantanamera

  • Las 12 Sillas

  • Death of a Bureaucrat  

 

AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING FILMS (from Directors who I neither LOVE nor Hate):

  • Daisies -Vera Chytilova (Czech Republic)

  • Cria Cuervos - Carlos Saura (Spain)

  • Wild Tales - Damian Szifron (Argentina)

  • Dogtooth - Yorgos Lanthimos (Greece)

  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Michelle Gondry (France/USA)

  • Hiroshima, mon Amour - Alain Resnais (France)

  • The Lives of Others - Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Germany)

  • Cinema paradiso- Giuseppe Tornatore (Italy)

  • Singin’ in the Rain - Stanley Donen (USA)

  • Little Miss Sunshine - Jonathan Dayton/Valerie Faris (USA)

  • Paper Moon - Peter Bogdanavich (USA)

  • Reservoir Dogs - Quentin Tarantino (USA)

  • The Vanishing - George Sluizer (Italy)

  • Margot at the Wedding - Noah Baumbach (USA)

  • Persepolis - Vincent Paronnaud, Marjane Satrapi (France/Iran)

  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - Robert Aldrich (USA)

  • The Lion King - Roger Allers/Rob Minkoff (USA)

  • The Piano - Jane Campion (USA)

  • The Deer Hunter - Michael Cimino (USA)

  • Badlands- Terrence Mallick (USA)

  • Departures- Jojiro Takita (Japan)

  • Broadcast News - James. L. Brooks (USA)

  • 3 Women - Robert Altman (USA)

  • Weekend- Godard (France)

  • Gone With the Wind - Victor Fleming (USA)

  • Picnic at Hanging Rock - Peter Weir (Australia)

  • City of God - Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund (Brazil)

  • Donnie Darko - Richard Kelly (USA)

  • Wadja - Haifaa Al Mansour (Saudi Arabia)

  • Central Station - Walter Salles (Brazil)

  • Leon, the Professional - Luc Besson (France) 

  • Life is Beautiful - Roberto Benigni (Italy)

  • I am Cuba - Mijail Kalatosov (Russia/Cuba)

  • Midnight Cowboy - John Schlesinger (USA)

  • Nebraska - Alexander Payne (USA)

  • The Hours - Stephen Daldry (USA)

  • The Diary of a Teenage Girl - Marielle Heller (USA)

  • Children of Heaven- Majid Majidi (Iran)

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary (German Expressionism)- Robert Weine (Germany)

  • L’Atalante - Jean Vigo (France)

  • Pan’s Labrynth - Guillermo del Toro (Mexico)

  • Meshes of the Afternoon(Short) - Maya Deren, Alexander Hammid (Russia/Austria/USA)

  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi- David Gelb (Japan/USA)

  • Dark City - Alex Proyas (USA)

  • Water - Deepa Mehta (India)

  • American Movie - Chris Smith (USA)

  • Casablanca- Michael Curtiz (USA)

  • The Goonies - Richard Donner (USA)

  • Born into Brothels- Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman (India/UK)

  • Goodbye Lenin! - Wolfgang Becker (Germany)

  • A Dog's Life- Charles Chaplin (USA)

 

TOP 20 FAVORITE FILMS (CONSTANTLY CHANGING):

  1. Daisies

  2. Au Hazard Balthazar

  3. In the Mood for Love

  4. Jules et Jim

  5. Belle de Jour

  6. Repulsion

  7. 3 Women

  8. Lawrence of Arabia

  9. The Big Lebowski

  10. Singin’ in the Rain

  11. Badlands

  12. Rear Window

  13. Taxi Driver

  14. Princess Mononoke

  15. Songs from the Second Floor

  16. Cinema Paradiso

  17. Cria Cuervos

  18. Departures

  19. Wild Tales

  20. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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