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February 20, 2009

Who are the greatest active directors?

If you're not sure, Entertainment Weekly has a handy list, counting down the top 25 active filmmakers in the world. Lists like this one are generally fraught with annoying/inexplicable/totally lame surprises-- not unlike, say, the Oscar nominations-- but the biggest surprise about this list is how relevant it actually is. Art-house snobs and mainstream multiplex-goers alike can find plenty to like here. For the former, you've got your Paul Thomas Anderson, your Darren Aronofsky, and, of course, the Coen Brothers-- who, if I had made the list, would have been #1, but #10 is okay, I guess. On the other hand, you've also got Sam Raimi (Spider-man), Judd Apatow, and golden boy Ron Howard. Jon Favreau makes the cut, which would probably not have happened were it not for Iron Man, and Christopher Nolan makes the list for that other comic book movie from last summer. You can pretty much guess who takes the #1 spot.

One major surprise: Woody Allen is nowhere to be found. Yes, the man has had some clunkers, but he's probably still made more truly great films than most of the people on this list-- certainly more than Apatow, who probably wouldn't have a career if not for Allen's trailblazing work, and certainly more than Zack Snyder, whose biggest claim to fame, 300, is little more than a technically impressive but soulless exercise in violence pornography.

Someone whose absence is not surprising, but who I would have liked to see on the list anyway: Wes Anderson, who, apart from Tim Burton, just might be cinema's greatest stylist-- and, with at least some of his movies, a tremendous storyteller.

Are there any other directors who you think should have made the cut? Any who made the cut and perhaps shouldn't have?

Related Tags: Directors, Entertainment Weekly, lists


The problem with Woody Alan is that all his good movies are his older ones. None of his more recent movies were any good. That might have kept him off the list.

Why exactly is Ron Howard on the list? I can't think of a single movie of his that was well done enough to put him on the list. His movies are always hyped, and often controversial, but they are almost never very good.

I would disagree with you somewhat with regard to Woody-- yes, he has become less and less consistent in his greatness, but Match Point is one recent film that stands alongside his best work, in my opinion; I've also heard very good things about Vicky Christina Barcelona, though I haven't seen it for myself, and Jeffrey Overstreet's review here at CT Movies is certainly a negative one.

I do not, however, disagree with you about Howard. The only Ron Howard movies I've ever liked are Splash, which is just frivolous, and Apollo 13, which is a good but fairly workmanlike movie.

For what it's worth, I was a major Woody Allen fan for years -- The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) is still my second-favorite film of all time -- but I haven't really cared all that much for anything he has done since Antz (1998), and he didn't even direct that one. In my review of Match Point for CT Movies, I said it "comes across as little more than a retread of familiar themes and narrative devices. Worse, the urgency that marked some of his earlier dramas has been replaced by a sort of complacency." And I think that criticism could be pointed at Vicky Cristina Barcelona as well.

Hmm. Howabout: Terence Malick, Sophia Copolla,Gus Van Sant, Jim Jarmusch, Michel Gondry, Hsiao-hsien Hou, The Dardennes, and any number of amazing European filmmkakers?

I appreciate that they attempted to include some arthouse directors, but in reality each of the ones they chose have done something that, to some extent or another, appealed and sold widely.