November 19, 2017

WoW! Forum: Who Are Your Favorite Film Makers? Why?

Every week on Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the WoW! Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s question: Who Are Your Favorite Film Makers? Why?

Fausta Rodriquez Wertz: Joel & Ethan Coen.

My first Cohen Bros. movie was Fargo, followed by The Big Lebowski, and I’ve been a big fan since.

I haven’t watched all their films, but I greatly enjoyed, in addition to the above,
– their musical version of The Odyssey (O Brother, Where Art Thou?)
Miller’s Crossing‘s gloominess
No Country For Old Men, with Bardem as the scariest villain this side of the Rio Grande
Burn After Reading, which made me laugh out loud
Bridge of Spies on the Cold War
– and Hail Caesar! on the Hollywood communists.

Bookworm Room : I don’t have a favorite director, but I do have a favorite producer: I love musicals made under Arthur Freed’s aegis. Here are just a few of the dazzling movies he produced during Hollywood’s golden years:

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Strike Up the Band (1940)
Cabin in the Sky (1943)
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Yolanda and the Thief (1945)
Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)
Good News (1947)
The Pirate (1948)
Easter Parade (1948)
Words and Music (1948)
On the Town (1949)
Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Royal Wedding (1951)
Show Boat (1951)
An American in Paris (1951)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
The Band Wagon (1953)
Silk Stockings (1957)
Gigi (1958)
Bells Are Ringing (1960)

While I don’t have a favorite director, I definitely have a least favorite director. I hate Steven Spielberg movies, which I find clunky, predictable, and subordinate to special effects and fancy camera work. I also invariably dislike his characters and their thought processes. I’ve been watching at HBO production about Spielberg and it’s given me an insight into why I dislike his characters: I don’t like him.

The one good thing about Spielberg is that his Holocaust work has been exemplary. I don’t like how he directed Schindler’s List, but it educated a generation about the Holocaust. His Shoah project is also something very important and I admire his complete commitment to that work.

But . . . and this is a big but, Spielberg directed Munich, which aims for moral relativism between Israel and the PLO. The difference between a properly created democracy in a land that has been home to Jews for thousands of years and a terrorist group that openly espouses murdering all Jews precludes any moral relativism . . . but Spielberg still tried.

Spielberg has also supported Obama wholeheartedly. Those who love Israel know that Obama has been hostile to Israel from his first to his last days in office. Support for Obama meant that a person was willing to see Israel badly damaged.

Yeah, so I’m really not a Spielberg fan.

JoshuaPundit: My  top favorites are Kurosawa, Fellini,Kubrick and a gentleman named Charles Chaplin. I still think City Lights is one of the best films every made. The great thing about Chaplin is his universal appeal. You can play his movies in front of people anywhere in the world and they’ll still enjoy them a century after they were made. My kids used to love to watch films featuring what my daughter called ‘the funny little man.’

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I got into Kurosawa at a long gone theater named the Toho La Brea in Los Angles’s Wilshire District. They played first run movies as well as older ones there put out by the Toho company in Japan, and there was a wonderful Japanese bar where you could get sake and delicious soba noodles just next door to the theater both before or after the movie. The first Kurosawa movie I saw there was Yojimbo, something so akin to an American western that Clint Eastwood later remade it with himself in the Toshiro Mifune part.

I’ve seen most of his films since. Rashomon and The Seven Samurai are the ones everyone knows, and they’re masterpieces but a lot of his films in contemporary settings like Stray Dog, One Wonderful Sunday and The Bad Sleep Well are still compelling watching.

What I like about Fellini s his ability to get inside his characters, and his sense of both story and camera angles. Favorites? La Strada (featuring Tony Quinn in a great performance) Satyricon, which actually gives us a sense of what a different place ancient Rome was and La Dolce Vita, which is hilariously funny.

I also like Stanley Kubrick, Australian Peter Weir (Gallipoli,The Last Wave, The Year Of Living Dangerously) and John Ford among others. And I have to give a shout out to Peter Jackson. I never thought anyone could successfully bring Lord of the Rings to the screen and keep the essence of the story and its message as well as he did. Which of course is why audiences loved it and Hollywood hated it.

The Glittering Eye :It’s easier to name my favorite film makers than it is to explain why they’re my favorites and it’s even harder to explain why they’re my favorites without writing at book length. I’ll give it a try. My favorites are Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, and Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger.

There’s something they all have in common. When you see a Hitchcock picture, a Ford picture, or a Powell/Pressburger picture, you”ll be seeing the finished work of a team of creative professionals including director, editor, set decorator, actors, and musicians who’ve worked together through a number of pictures, producing synergy.

With Hitchcock that included his wife, Alma Reville, one of the best film editors of all time, actor, writer, and director Hume Cronyn, composer and director Bernard Hermann, and onscreen performers who appear repeatedly in his movies—Edmund Gwenn, Hume Cronyn, Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly just to name a few. With John Ford it included Merian Cooper, John Wayne, Ward Bond, Robert Montgomery, Victor McLaughlin and his son, Andrew. Powell/Pressburger had their own teams.

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Hitchcock’s movies are works of extraordinary beauty and perfection. Each frame is lovingly composed and edited. Ford’s pictures aren’t nearly as beautifully made as Hitchcock’s but they deal with enduring, significant themes: family, heroism, love of country. Powell/Pressburger’s pictures have a unique sometimes surreal vividness to them.

If you’re unfamiliar with the works of any of these seminal filmmakers, you have a treat in store. Here are some of my favorites by each of them to get you started.

Hitchcock:

The 39 Steps (my favorite movie)
Shadow of a Doubt
Rear Window

Ford:

Stagecoach (the move that made John Wayne a star)
They Were Expendable (one of WWII’s best movies)
The Searchers (probably the best Western ever made)

Powell/Pressburger:

49th Parallel (contrasting Nazi supermen with the heroism of ordinary Canadians)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
The Red Shoes

Laura Rambeau Lee : My favorite movie director would have to be Ridley Scott. His first movie to achieve international success was the 1979 science fiction/horror thriller Alien, which starred Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, one of the first female action heroes in the history of film. Scott followed up the success of Alien with his adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, released as Blade Runner in 1982. Both are recognized as perhaps the best films ever produced in the science fiction/horror genre. Although the original release of Blade Runner was not widely recognized, it achieved cult status following a director’s cut release in 1991and is now considered one of the most important science fiction films of the twentieth century, and possibly my all time favorite.

Following Blade Runner, Scott directed several successful films, including Thelma and Louise (1991), Gladiator (2000), Hannibal (2001) Black Hawk Down (2001) and American Gangster (2007).

Perhaps one of my attractions to his films are his strong female lead characters, such as Ellen Ripley in the Alien series or the fated titled women in Thelma and Louise.

A Ridley Scott film can best be described as a cinematic experience for all of the senses. His meticulous attention to detail is always evident in every aspect of his filmmaking. He uses light, sound, and visual effects superbly to convey and move the story along. His characters are fully developed and human relationships are explored in minute, often excruciating, detail. A Ridley Scott film always delivers a memorable experience.

Well, there it is!

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