Saturday, April 10, 2010

Director Oeuvre Rankings

I decided to rank some directors' films in order of preference. Read on, and let me know if there's any big names that I may have missed and should rank, or any major works I haven't seen yet.

Paul Thomas Anderson
2.Boogie Nights
3.Punch Drunk Love
4.There Will Be Blood
5.Hard Eight

Stanely Kubrick
1.2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Eyes Wide Shut
3. Barry Lyndon
4. The Shining
5. Dr. Strangelove
6. A Clockwork Orange
7. Lolita
8. Full Metal Jacket
9. Paths of Glory
10. The Killing

Tim Burton
1.Batman Returns
3.Edward Scissorhands
4.Ed Wood
6.Mars Attacks!
7.Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
8.Sweeney Todd
9.Sleepy Hollow
10.Big Fish
11.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
12.Corpse Bride
13.Alice in Wonderland
14.Planet of the Apes

Quentin Tarantino
1.Kill Bill Vol. 1
2.Inglorious Basterds
3.Jackie Brown
4.Kill Bill Vol. 2
5.Pulp Fiction
6.Death Proof
7.Reservoir Dogs

David Lynch
1.Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
2.Mulholland Drive
3.Lost Highway
4.Inland Empire
5.Blue Velvet
6.Wild at Heart
9.The Straight Story
10.The Elephant Man

Steven Spielberg
1.Raiders of the Lost Ark
2.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3.Close Encounters of the Third Kind
4.A.I. Artificial Intelligence
5.Jurassic Park
7.Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
9.Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
10.Saving Private Ryan
11.Catch Me if You Can
12.Schindler's List
14.War of the Worlds
15.Minority Report
18.The Terminal
19.The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Richard Linklater
1.Before Sunset
2.Waking Life
3.Dazed and Confused
4.Before Sunrise
5.School of Rock
7.A Scanner Darkly
9.Fast Food Nation
11.Bad News Bears
12.The Newton Boys

Kevin Smith
1.Chasing Amy
4.Clerks II
6.Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
7.Zack and Miri Make a Porno
8.Jersey Girl

Michael Mann
1.Miami Vice
2.The Insider
5.Public Enemies
9.The Last of the Mohicans

Wong Kar-Wai
1.Fallen Angels
3.Chungking Express
4.In the Mood for Love
5.Happy Together
6.Days of Being Wild
7.Ashes of Time
8.My Blueberry Nights
9.As Tears Go By

Stephen Soderbergh
3.Full Frontal
4.Sex, Lies and Videotape
5.Out of Sight
7.The Informant!
8.The Limey
9.Ocean's Twelve
10.The Girlfriend Experience
11.Ocean's Eleven

Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1.The Marriage of Maria Braun
2.Berlin Alexanderplatz
3.Veronika Voss
4.Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
5.The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
7.The Merchant of Four Seasons
8.Love is Colder than Death

1.The Big Lebowski
2.O Brother Where Are Thou?
3.Barton Fink
4.Blood Simple
6.No Country for Old Men
7.The Man Who Wasn't There
8.Burn After Reading
9.Intolerable Cruelty
10.Raising Arizona
11.Miller's Crossing
12.The Ladykillers

Todd Haynes
1.Velvet Goldmine
2.I'm Not There
4.Far From Heaven

James Cameron
2.Terminator 2: Judgment Day
3.The Abyss
5.The Terminator
7.True Lies

Martin Scorsese
2.Bringing Out the Dead
3.Taxi Driver
4.The Departed
5.The King of Comedy
6.After Hours
7.Raging Bull
8.Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
9.Mean Streets
10.The Aviator
11.Cape Fear
12.The Last Temptation of Christ
14.Shutter Island
15.New York, New York
16.The Age of Innocence
17.Gangs of New York
18.The Color of Money
19.Boxcar Bertha

Woody Allen
2.Annie Hall
4.Vicky Christina Barcelona
5.Everyone Says I Love You
6.Deconstructing Harry
7.Stardust Memories
8.Match Point
11.Love and Death
12.Small Time Crooks
13.Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex
14.The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Alfred Hitchock
2.North by Northwest
3.The Birds
5.Rear Window
6.Strangers on a Train
7.To Catch a Thief
8.The Man Who Knew Too Much

Wes Anderson
1.The Royal Tenenbaums
2.Fantastic Mr. Fox
4.The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
5.Bottle Rocket
6.The Darjeeling Limited

Sofia Coppola
1. Lost in Translation
2. The Virgin Suicides
3. Marie Antoinette

Spike Jonze
1. Being John Malkovich
2. Adaptation
3. Where the Wild Things Are

Kim Ki-Duk
2.Samaritan Girl
3.Spring, Summer, Fall Winter...and Spring
4.Bad Guy
5.The Isle
7.The Bow

Park Chan-wook
2.Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
3.I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
4.Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance


Peter Arcus Farago said...

Patrick, I've read your blog for many years and have always admired your taste - when you've been excited about an artist (like Grant Morrison and Chris Claremont) I've wanted to learn more about him, and I've always enjoyed watching you comment on something that I've enjoyed and thought about in the past (like Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop). That said, your periodic obsession with ranking things strikes me as, frankly, a bit pointless.

I put the whole exercise in the same category as assigning letter grades on film reviews. In practical terms, how can you even compare two films like "Punch Drunk Love" and "There Will Be Blood"? A good film is, usually, trying to be at least three things: entertaining, artistic, and thought provoking. Film can be great in so many ways that direct comparisons without elaboration or commentary are not just futile, but not very interesting.

Let's take Kubrick, for instance. I am one of the few holdouts against Kubrick in my circle of film snobs, but I have always believed that a movie lives or dies on good pacing, and that Kubrick has absolutely no skill at pacing a movie effectively. In fact, in his most "Kubricky" movies, his pacing frequently seems deliberately abusive to his audiences. These also happen to be the films you rated highest. Perhaps you see it as his visual trademark, and feel that in his best movies, it is most fully realized - but for me, bad pacing is such an assault on the social contract between filmmaker and audience that I simply cannot abide it as an artistic choice. If you turned your ranking of Kubrick's films upside-down, it would look similar to mine.

Similarly, when you ranked Spielberg's movies, you placed all of his "serious" films in the bottom half. I agree that Spielberg is the consummate director of the exciting action-adventure that makes you feel twelve while tugging on your heart strings, but do you really believe that this is true to such an extent that even an utter failure in his best genre (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) deserves a higher ranking than his best films in his weakest genre? To me, this seems sort of like Pitchfork slapping a 4.2 on a perfectly good album when a band has the temerity to change its artistic direction. Would you feel the same way if he had directed "Schindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan" pseudonymously?

So I perceive your tendency, overall, as one which ranks films highly in a director's ouvre when they embody that director's ticks, obsessions, techniques and motifs most stereotypically, whether their gestalt result in a good or bad film from an audience perspective. I don't blame you for buying into the auteur theory - you are, after all, a filmmaker yourself - but I would urge you to consider those directors who have run aground on the shoals of unchecked creative freedom - George Lucas, Kevin Smith, M. Night Shyamalan, Terry Gilliam, and to remember that nobody is a genius at every aspect of filmmaking. It is a collaborative medium for a reason - you can't make a good product unless you surround yourself with other talented people who cancel out your own negative tendencies.

Mercer Finn said...

If I may jump to Patrick's defence here. I like lists like this exactly because they reveal these 'tendencies'. I think it is interesting to see what bits of a creator's work resonate with different people.

Commentary and elaboration is of course even more useful, but Patrick has provided reams of it elsewhere. This is more of a mind-ordering exercise -- quickly setting out what you like and dislike about each director.

On another subject. Patrick, have you watched Woody Allen's 'Radio Days'? I think it is one of his best films, and its omission here was the only thing that jumped out at me.

Patrick said...

Peter, I'd definitely agree that filmmaking is a collaborative medium, and to some extent, the whole auteur theory is flawed in the sense that it ignores the contributions of screenwriters, actors, etc. Take Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call: New Orleans, a film I watched earlier this week. Even though it's by a very strong director with a lot of signature tics, it feels like the 'author' of the film is Nic Cage, whose performance is so bizarre and all encompassing, even Herzog taking time out to follow an alligator on a DV cam can't compete.

And, I kind of agree that it's hard to objectively evaluate or make lists about what film is 'best.' That's why those AFI lists, or even the Oscars, are misguided in certain respects, since there's no way you can definitively say that Citizen Kane is the best film of all time or The Hurt Locker is this year's best film. But, I think they're interesting in the context of getting people to look at films they otherwise wouldn't. Without the Oscars, a lot of great movies would probably not exist, since studios wouldn't have the financial incentive to invest in them.

But, in the case of this list, what I'm ranking is not so much the objective quality of a film, what I'm looking at is my response to it, both emotionally and intellectually. I know that Schindler's List is an objectively better film than Crystal Skull, but what resonates with me from Crystal Skull is the way that Spielberg/Lucas position the pop culture mythology they're so responsible for creating and popularizing into a modern day religion, the equivalent of the myths surrounding the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail in the first three films.

So, even though there's some terrible stuff in the film, there's a lot of entertaining bits as well, and that ending is a fascinating piece of meta examination of their respective legacies that is more fascinating to me than any ideas presented in Schindler's List. With Saving Private Ryan, I just generally don't like war movies, so yes, it's a genre bias, but I don't respond to stuff in that genre.

I don't think I'm necessarily drawn to things that are more stereotypical of a given director, but I think those kind of works are often more personal and emotional than more 'work for hire' projects. Some people, like Grant Morrison, are able to successfully incorporate personal emotional stuff into work for hire blockbuster projects, but Richard Linklater, or even David Lynch, are examples of people where the closer something is to what makes them unique and special, generally the better the film.

And Mercer, no I haven't seen Radio Days yet. I've got to check it out. I'm slowly working my way through all of Allen's films, but I'm only about halfway there as of now. Any other particular ones you'd recommend that I haven't seen?

Mercer Finn said...

Maybe 'Hannah and her Sisters', although I don't think it is as good as 'Annie Hall' or 'Manhattan'. Has a great performance by Michael Caine, though.

Do I need to watch 'Twin Peaks' in order to understand 'Fire Walk With Me'? I couldn't really get into the TV series, but I've heard the film is really good.

Patrick said...

The film is really good, but I'd strongly recommend against watching it if you haven't seen the series. Technically it is a prequel, so you could watch it alone, but it riffs on a lot of stuff from even the comparably weaker back half of the second season, so you'd miss a lot of the mythos and meaning of what's going on.

That said, if you're planning on never, ever watching the series, give the film a go since it is tonally different, and more in line with Lynch's film work, like Blue Velvet or Inland Empire.

Robert Ring said...

You gotta check out Hitchcock's Rebecca. I personally love Rope and The Trouble with Harry, too, but Rebecca is really a great, great film.

Also, check out some Akira Kurosawa.

Patrick said...

Nice, Rebecca's going in the Netflix queue. And, I've seen some Kurosawa, specifically Seven Samuari, The Hidden Fortress, Rashomon and Ran. I love Seven Samurai, much more than I expected considering it was an over 200 minute long foreign film from the 50s, so that was a great surprise. I didn't enjoy Ran that much though, maybe it caught me on a bad day. What else of his is worth a look?

Jeff said...

Glad to see your love for "Bringing Out The Dead." That is one of the most underrated movies of all time, in my opinion. The editing, cinematography and soundtrack are some of the best committed to film. I never understood how it go so overlooked.

Robert Ring said...


In response to your question about other Kurosawa to watch, first off, I didn't care for Ran, either. I can see why it's so appreciated, but I'm with you: I think you kinda have to be in the right mood.

Nothing tops Seven Samurai, and Hidden Fortress, as you mentioned, is another good one, but my other favorites of his are, in order of my personal opinion of quality:

Ikiru (non-samurai)
Sanjuro (sequel to the below Yojimbo, but more fun in my opinion)
Yojimbo (later remade by Leone into A Fistful of Dollars)
Stray Dog

There are plenty others of his that are worth seeing, but these, I would say, are the must-sees aside from the ones you listed.

Quinn Hopkins said...

Love the blog, love the post, but disagree with:

- "Pulp Fiction" should be #3 and "Reservoir Dogs" should be #6, all others adjusted accordingly.

The Coens
- "A Serious Man" is noticeably absent. And itt should be at least #7.

- "The Departed" is just about a perfect movie. I LOVE "Goodfellas" and all, but I feel like "The Departed" is Scorsese at his absolute best. it should be #1. Oh, and "Gangs of New York" should be #14, all others adjusted accordingly.

Otherwise, just about a perfect list.

Patrick said...

I haven't seen A Serious Man yet, that's the only reason it's been absent. It's been at the top of the Netflix queue for a while, but hasn't shipped.