Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Film as Art? The Directors...

There's been an age old debate, beginning with the first movies ever shot, as to whether film is art, and I've often been asked what I think. Well, here's my take on it - some of it is and some of it isn't.

Let me explain. There are movies that I do not think are art - they are very simply the visual telling of a story. I think film can be elevated to another level, however, by a really great director, of which there are not many out there. While I've never thought of Armageddon or Pearl Harbor as artistic (Sorry  Michael Bay. Teenage boys still love you), the last scene of Dead Poets Society has always been to me an artistic masterpiece.

So, without further ado, a list of directors that I love and believe elevate the material they work with. (Note: I have not included the obvious such as Scorsese, Spielberg, etc.)

5) Peter Berg - If for nothing more than Friday Night Lights. The hand-held camera and his direction brings an immediacy and poignancy to small moments, and ultimately the movie (TV show) transcends the subject matter. His dramatization of small-town life becomes so real and engrossing that a high school football game becomes more important than saving the world.

4) Tarsem Singh - He lacks the storytelling instinct, but there is absolutely no doubt that this man is a visual master. Watch one of his movies and be blown away by the photography. I'm waiting for the film where he combines a great script with his unique and breathtaking visual style.

3) Cameron Crowe - Simply put, he is the best writer in Hollywood. I don't care what anyone says. Also, his encyclopedic knowledge of music combined with his amazing scripts elevates his movies above most all others.

2) Baz Luhrmann - Creates images as well as any director in the business, and has a gift for unique and engrossing storytelling. Every frame in one of his movies could be a piece of art (love Leo's entrance in Romeo + Juliet). He only makes a movie every four or five years, but he puts everything he has into his work and they are always special.

1) Joe Wright - He has only directed two movies, but I already think he's the best director in Hollywood. His visual storytelling and cutaways are so powerful and well-placed, I really think this Brit will have revolutionized the role of the film director before all is said and done. 

Obviously, even these guys make duds (ahem, Hancock). But in the end, I do believe they each have unique abilities that can elevate their films above just the telling of a story and make them truly artistic.


Peter Berg is going to direct a movie called "Hercules: The Thracian Wars," based off of a graphic novel. Something makes me think that they won't be casting Kevin Sorbo or Ryan Gosling, and that there will be some very purposeful glossing over to the story (I'm thinking Hylas).

Anyways, I'm excited about all the projects in the works about Ancient Greece, especially the immense potential for "War of the Gods" now that they have signed on the best visual director in Hollywood, Tarsem Singh.

However, I've been wondering, did Hollywood just discover graphic novels? It's ridiculous, everyday the trades are reporting a new graphic novel has just been optioned by so-and-so. It's good source material and all, but come one people, let's start buying some specs!

Anyways, I like the combination of Peter Berg and antiquity. It will be like Friday Night Lights at the Olympics. It fits perfectly.

Quote of the day...

A particularly relevant quote, I think, given the state of the country's affairs today and the gradual disappearance of the mythic "American Dream."

From the end of "The Great Gatsby:"

"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther... And then one fine morning -

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."
-Nick Carraway