Tag Archive: best director


You won’t find many female directors among the big blockbuster films or many among mainstream films in general really. If you ask someone to name a female film director everybody could probably name one, some may even name two, but to name three or four would present a challenge to the majority of cinema audiences. I have put together this list of who I believe to be the best 5 female directors working today.

5. Andrea Arnold

Andrea Arnold made her debut with the twenty six minute long short film Wasp, which won her the Oscar for Best Short Film back in 2005. Her films have continued to create a great sense of poverty in Britain and she has gone on to direct Michael Fassbender in one of my favourite films of all time: Fish Tank.

Arnold’s previous 3 films: Red Road (2006); Fish Tank (2009); Wuthering Heights (2011)

4. Deepa Mehta

Mehta is an Indio-Canadian director who is most famous for her Elements trilogy which contained the films Fire, Earth and Water. These films tackled strong political issues in India and due to Mehta making Water from an outsiders point of view (looking back at India from her Canadian home) a lot of controversy was caused in the filming of the climax to her trilogy, involving riots and violence forcing the filming to move to Sri Lanka, rather than India.

Mehta’s previous 3 films: Water (2005); Heaven on Earth (2008); Midnight’s Children (2012)

3. Sofia Coppola

Daughter of Francis Ford Coppola, Sofia has carved out a very different path from the The Godfather director. She won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay after writing Lost in Translation, which was also nominated for Best Picture and Best Director. She continues to write and direct her own films with her latest, The Bling Ring, out this year.

Coppola’s previous 3 films: Marie Antoinette (2006); Somewhere (2010); The Bling Ring (2013)

2. Susanne Bier

Bier never seems to miss the mark with any of her pictures. Despite never being nominated for an Oscar in her career I can’t help but think that she should have been. Bier studied in Jerusalem and London before retuning to Denmark to attend film school. The majority of her films have been made in Scandinavia but she has dabbled in American cinema with Things We Lost in the Fire.

Bier’s previous 3 films: In A Better World (2010); Love Is All You Need (2012); Serena (2013)

1. Kathryn Bigelow

Could it be anyone else? Over the last couple of years Bigelow has become the major figurehead for female film makers. The Hurt Locker defied expectations to take home the Best Picture Oscar when up against Avatar and won Bigelow the Best Director Oscar over James Cameron. She was the first to take on the Osama Bin Laden manhunt with Zero Dark Thirty, which was also nominated for Best Picture. Her next project is unknown at the minute but the Bigelow name seems to be a sure signifier of quality in modern cinema.

Bigelow’s previous 3 films: K-19: The Widwomaker (2002); The Hurt Locker (2008); Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

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I’m pleased to see Affleck getting the recognition he deserves as a director.

The Golden Globes took place last night and Argo was the hit of the night winning Best Drama and won Ben Affleck Best Director. This would suggest that Argo is now the favourite to pick up the Best Picture Oscar (it was already many people’s favourites and this will just strengthen arguments) but will that be the case?

Argo will face tough competition at the 85th Academy Awards from Les Miserables in particular which picked up the Best Musical or Comedy Golden Globe last night. I’m not sure why the Golden Globes feels the need to separate films into drama and musical/comedy but that’s what they do and they infer that Argo will be going head to head with Les Miserables. The cynic in me still thinks that something like Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty will get the win thanks to their very strong pro-American vibes. Last year, The Descendants and The Artist were the winners of Best Motion Picture Golden Globes and The Artist went on to stuff its face with more and more awards in the following weeks, I can’t see the same happening for Argo to the same extent but I wouldn’t say an Oscar is beyond doubt.

However, Ben Affleck is not even nominated for Best Director at the Oscars! I think the Best Director Oscar is well up for grabs and any of the five nominees (Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee, Michael Haneke, David O. Russell, Benh Zeitlin) could easily win it. But surely it says something that the winner of the Golden Globe for direction is not even nominated for the Academy Award? Personally, I though Affleck’s direction was one of the best features of Argo!

Lawrence is one of the youngest actresses to be nominated for an Academy Award and the Golden Globes suggest this could be her year.

The Best Actor Oscar looks set to be between Hugh Jackman and Daniel Day-Lewis and these are the two people I would have been backing before last night. I do hope that Daniel Day-Lewis wins the Oscar as he is clearly one of the best actors that his generation has seen, and I would go so far as to say he will go down as one of the greatest of all time. Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain will compete for the Best Actress award and Lawrence is nailed on favourite so it’s hard to look past her for this one.

The rest of the Golden Globes correctly predict the winners for me: Christopher Waltz for Best Supporting Actor, Anne Hathaway for Best Supporting Actress, Adele to win for Best Original Song for Skyfall and Quentin Tarantino to win Best Screenplay.

In terms of the acting awards last year the Golden Globes were a certain prediction of the Oscar Awards but only time will tell if this year will follow suit.

January sees the big Oscar contenders come to the UK. Many of these films have already been released over in the states to critical acclaim as you might expect.

 

The Impossible – 1st January

Based solely on the trailer, The Impossible is THE film to see this January. It is the first film to be released that uses the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami at the heart of it’s story, telling the tale of one family caught up with thousands of strangers in a horrible natural disaster. Featuring the brilliant Ewan McGregor and the incredible Naomi Watts.

 

Gangster Squad – 10th January

Finally, the all-star long awaited gangster flick will be arriving on UK screens. Delayed after the tragic shootings in Aurora, Gangster Squad is a film that many people have been looking forward to seeing and now you get your chance. Featuring a cast of Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone among others.

 

Les Miserables – 11th January

A new interpretation of the hit musical comes to the screen this year and if you’ve managed to avoid the adverts featuring Anne Hathaway singing then well done. I think Les Mis is bound to do well thanks to all it’s Oscar buzz and having already been nominated for 4 Golden Globes but it’s not that high on my list thanks to all of it’s competition.

 

Django Unchained – 18th January

And if Les Miserables thinks having 4 Golden Globe nominations is something to shout about then step aside for Django Unchained‘s 5. This is Quentin Tarantino’s first attempt at a full on Western and it certainly will not disappoint! It has been nominated for Best Drama, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Leonardo DiCaprio and Christoph Waltz both have nominations for Best Supporting Actor; Oscars are sure to follow.

 

Lincoln – 25th January

Now cynics may think that Lincoln has been made with the intention of winning awards rather than pleasing audiences… that is what I believe as well. This looks like Oscar-baiting in all it’s glory: a film about one of America’s most celebrated Presidents telling the story of a pivotal time in America history. If this isn’t Steven Spielberg shouting “GIVE ME OSCARS” I don’t know what is. It seems to be working though.

 

Zero Dark Thirty – 25th January

Back in 2010, The Hurt Locker surprised everyone to become one of the lowest grossing winners of the Best Picture Oscar ever. Zero Dark Thirty is director Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up film and tackles the events of the manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and his following death. I don’t think this one will do as well as The Hurt Locker but it should make for some interesting viewing at least.

Stars: Kathryn Bigelow (director), Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Scott Adkins, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt, Harold Perrineau.

Plot: The Navy SEAL Team 6 tracks down wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden.

Two years after becoming the first woman in history to win the Oscar for Best Director ( for The Hurt Locker, which also won Best Film) Kathryn Bigelow teams up again with writer Mark Boal to bring this dramatisation about the monumental day in history when arguably one of the most infamous international criminals and terrorists was killed in what the trailer describes as ‘the greatest manhunt of all time’.

There are a few recognisable faces among the cast but not many names people will be familiar with; the most notable probably being Jessica Chastain (who will be appearing later this year in the highly anticipated western Lawless). Mark Strong seems to be Hollywood’s go to guy for a villain so it will be interesting to see who he plays. I was surprised to see Harold Perrineau among the cast as he is just one of the many men who has to live his life always being known as “that guy from LOST“. However, with The Hurt Locker relatively unknown actors were used and Jeremy Renner is now a wanted name in the movie industry so it will be good to see if there is a break out star from Zero Dark Thirty too.

The story is one that people want to know of course. The world rejoiced when Bin Laden was killed and no sooner had his death been reported had Hollywood began plans to turn it into a film, to direct I think Bigelow is a very good choice. However, I am very sceptical about how true to life the film will be as it is very unlikely that the general public will ever really know what happened and it seems very unlikely that they would show the American government in a bad light.

As for the trailer itself I think it is very promising; it is only a teaser but it has made me very interested. Not a lot of footage is shown but you can tell there will be a thriller element to it and I would expect it to be as good, if not better, than The Hurt Locker which I very much enjoyed!

For years and years Danny Boyle has been my favourite director. With so many great and bigger names in the directing world at the minute (Quentin Tarantino, Christopher Nolan, Zack Snyder, Martin Scorsese etc. etc…) Boyle does seem to fly under the radar because of his low profile and because of the fact that, despite being critically acclaimed and having won numerous awards, he continues to work and remain in his homeland of British film. For the past few months Boyle has been kept busy with his latest project; this time it is not a film though. In just under two weeks the whole world will be watching as the Olympic games kick off in London and the opening ceremony has been put together and directed by Danny Boyle himself, no pressure. It’s been a long but very worthwhile journey for the lad from Lancashire.

Before getting into the film world Boyle began directing theatre projects; he directed plays for both the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company so right from the very beginning he was clearly ready to take on big projects. After that Boyle got into television and directed a few episodes of various television series such as Inspector Morse and Mr. Wroe’s Virgins. Then he finally got his big break in the world of movies with Shallow Grave, a crime thriller starring Christopher Eccleston and Ewan McGregor.

In 1996 Danny Boyle was responsible for directing one of the greatest films ever without a shadow of a doubt; Trainspotting. Again he teamed up with Ewan McGregor who this time took on the lead role and helped to make Trainspotting what it is, often voted the best British film of all time. Trainspotting received one Oscar nomination for it’s scriptwriting and Boyle was unjustly left out of the Best Director nominations. It was always going to be difficult to carry on the wave of success that Trainspotting brought him and his next couple of films were pretty far from that standard; first was A Life Less Ordinary (again starring Ewan McGregor) and The Beach. Originally Ewan McGregor was cast in the lead role for The Beach but rumour has it that Hollywood executives wanted to push through Leonardo DiCaprio as he was the current Hollywood pretty boy and hot property so DiCaprio got the role and, to this day, Ewan McGregor still hasn’t worked with Boyle since that dispute.

Anyway, Boyle returned to his best with horror film 28 Days Later… and followed that up with Millions. Since these two projects Boyle has continued to direct to the very highest standard. It took three years after Millions for another Danny Boyle film to be released but it was well worth the wait. Sunshine is a sci-fi film about a team of astronauts who are trying to reignite a dying sun to save the planet and it is absolutely brilliant! It was also named as one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite films of recent years, pretty high praise indeed!

In 2009 Danny Boyle finally won an Oscar for his direction on Slumdog Millionaire which pretty much cleaned up at the 2009 Oscars; as well as Boyle’s directing Oscar it also won for it’s cinematography, film editing, original score, original song, sound mixing, adapted screenplay and it won the big one, Best Motion Picture of the Year. This time round as well, Boyle was able to follow the success of Slumdog Millionaire with another one of my favourite films, 127 Hours which got nominated for six Oscars (including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film).

After the Olympics Boyle will return to the big screen with Trance, a crime thriller starring James McAvoy and Rosario Dawson. He is also working on a follow up to 28 Weeks Later… which he has stated that it should be called 28 Months Later… in theory. Boyle has also expressed in interviews his desire to work with Ewan McGregor again on his next feature film. I hope that he does but I really hope that he continues to make prominent British films and remains to make them of the highest quality!

He is considered by many to be one of the greatest directors of the modern world and by the time he eventually retires his name will undoubtedly be up there with the all time true greats of film making. By comic book fans he is thought of as the man who saved Batman from it’s earlier embarrassments in the cinema and Warner Bros. now have him producing Man of Steel, the new Superman movie, in hope that he can bring another hero back from the cinema dead zone. However, Christopher Nolan does have his haters, but why? Is he really THAT good?

Without exception every single one of the feature length films directed by Christopher Nolan has been a critical success. Whether it be the small scale Memento or the huge big budget summer blockbuster that is Inception, Nolan never fails to impress the critics. Nolan has been nominated for three Oscars (one for directing, another two for writing) and despite not yet winning the award he is being recognised by his peers as one of the best directors around.

Nolan’s writing prides itself upon it’s mysteries. Memento was something new, something brilliant. And the mystery was kept going by the fact that the film played out backwards and nobody, not even the main character, knew what was going on. The Prestige had a fantastic shock ending that nobody had predicted upon first watch, yet when watching again it becomes clear that Nolan has left some clues along the way for any viewer intelligent enough to spot them. All the while, Nolan is teaching the arts of a magic trick whilst creating his own in The Prestige at the same time. The essence of mystery is something Nolan followed through with Inception and I think everyone who left the cinema after seeing Inception got confused at least once whilst watching and the ending still causes arguments a couple of years on (even though it is pretty clear what the ending actually is if you look for the clues).

However, one of Nolan’s biggest downfalls is his writing of female characters. This is a criticism that is levelled at the director again and again, upon the release of every one of his films and audiences have a point. The female characters in Nolan’s films have very little purpose but to act as plot devices and have an effect on the main character; in themselves they have little story and virtually no development. Scarlett Johansson in The Prestige is a good example of this and Ariadne in Inception too, along with the women in his Batman films. There really seems no need for them to be there and they add next to nothing to the story. With the inclusion of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises it seems maybe Nolan is trying to prove that he can write a captivating female character to compete with the men of his films.

It has been said that Nolan gets the best out of all the actors he works with, but look at the people he has worked with: Guy Pearce, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, the brilliant Hilary Swank, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine… the list goes on. Point is, every one of the aforementioned actors was already established and thought of as a very good, if not some of the best, performers at the time. Even I could have made a film with Michael Caine and Leonardo DiCaprio and got good performances from them because they are already brilliant actors! Nolan doesn’t seem to challenge himself, but then again, if you can work with the best around then you’re going to do that and who can really blame him.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Christopher Nolan has brought a new life and new energy to an otherwise dead and buried franchise in the form of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, the latter being described as one of the best films of all time. It may be a stretch but Nolan could be seen as the saviour of comic book films. Before him, of course, there was already Spider-Man and X-men that had been successful but Nolan showed what successes comic book movies have the potential to be.

Whether you like him or not nobody with a sensible view on movies can argue that Christopher Nolan is not a good director. His films are among the best of modern cinema and he is definitely one of my top three directors of all time. With The Dark Knight Rises coming out this year it seems certain that Nolan is set to rise yet again and receive even more praise as he brings the curtain down on one of the best trilogies of all time.

The hype surrounding this man is definitely justified.

Upon release in 2009, Up in the Air was subject to huge critical acclaim. It was named in many critics’ top 10 list of films for that year and nominated for 6 Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress (x2) and Best Adapted Screenplay. Unfortunately, it failed to win in any of those categories.

*** WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS ***

The film centres around Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), a corporate downsizer who flies around the United States firing people for a living. We travel with Ryan and learn of his isolated life and his philosophies until his company threatens to ruin the happy life he leads by putting him on the ground.

Firstly, George Clooney is incredible. He has won one Best Actor Oscar (Syriana) and been nominated for three more (including Up in the Air) but I think that Up in the Air is the best I have ever seen him; he brings the character to life and allows the audience to feel how he feels. The supporting cast is just as good; Vera Farmiga (pictured) is great as is Ryan Bingham’s protege, if you like, Anna Kendrick. Then there are smaller, but still brilliant, appearances from Jason Bateman, Zach Galifianakis, J.K. Simmons and Danny McBride to complete a superb acting cast.

Up in the Air is directed by Jason Reitman who is no stranger to critical acclaim with Thank You for Smoking and Juno both under his belt. I wasn’t a big fan of Juno but Reitman has won me round with this masterpiece.

The story is fantastic; it has a strong structure and a complete story arc. The characters really do develop and it is clear to see the three main characters changing over the course of the film. The character development of Ryan Bingham in particular is really good and he is up there with some of my favourite characters from movies ever. The writing of the character, the acting, the story just makes him seem ‘real’ and he’s a man you can sympathise with and empathise with. Although not really likeable at first, after being on the journey with him you come to know him and see sides of him that nobody else sees which is really well done by the film makers.

Although the film prioritises the drama aspect of the film and it is about Ryan’s job the comedy really shines in Up in the Air. Their are lots of funny moments, not necessarily jokes but things which can make the audience chuckle and laugh out loud. It really manages to mix the drama and comedy perfectly.

The ending was perfect and ambiguous which is really enjoyable. It can be read as a happy ending or a sad ending depending on your interpretation of the film and your feelings towards the characters but by this time Ryan’s development has become clear and you see what a nice guy he is. I’ve watched a few films recently where the ending has seemed like a bit of a cop out, but this was not one of them. Fantastic.

I fail to think of any negative point I saw in Up in the Air. Perhaps the only thing was that it didn’t last longer. I was more than satisfied with the running length, it didn’t drag, it didn’t rush but I could happily watch George Clooney as Ryan Bingham for hours. I’ll definitely be re-watching this a lot in future.

My Rating: 9/10