I thought, for the sake of something other to do than animatics and Dragon Age: Origins, I would list out my top ten favourite directors working today, and why.
So here we go:
(Spirited Away/Porco Rosso/Princess Mononoke)
A no-brainer. One of the top people working in animation currently, founder of Studio Ghibli (and director of some of its top films), there's something about his storytelling skills and his art style that evoke beauty which is so rarely seen in animated features these days. What Miyazaki did was show to mainstream Western audiences, whose grasp of anime was mostly Dragonball and Pokemon, what Japanese animation was all about.
9. 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano
My first of a few fairly unknown directors, here he is mostly known for the namesake (and star) of the 80s game show Takeshi's Castle and as the cold, heartless Kitano in Battle Royale. A comedian by nature, he started venturing into drama in his directing career and, a perfectionist, likes to write, direct, star in and edit all his films. Mixing in the ruthlessly violent, the shockingly funny and the straight-up dramatic, Takeshi Kitano knows how to properly tell a story.
8. Edgar Wright
(Shaun of the Dead/Hot Fuzz/Scott Pilgrim)
If any of you have seen Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead more than once, you'll know what it is about Edgar Wright that makes him such a brilliant director. Not only is the writing sharp, but the cinematography and the attention to detail is like nothing I've ever seen. A second viewing of his films reveals a whole new wave of jokes you didn't get the first time around, as does the third and fourth viewings. Combine this with some excellent storytelling and highly likable characters and you have films you'll want to watch over and over.
7. John Lasseter
(Toy Story/A Bug's Life/Toy Story 2)
The man who arguably saved Disney from becoming a laughing stock, Lasseter is best known as co-founder of computer animation giant Pixar. Almost comparable to Walt Disney in a lot of ways Toy Story was the first fully computer animated film in the same way Snow White was the first traditionally animated one. His directing style is whimsical, highly imagintive and often trying to give life to things which we otherwise wouldn't think of. His films bring you right back to your childhood. After all, who wasn't watching Cars and thinking "this is what I used to do with my Hot Wheels".
6. Ron Clements and John Musker
(Aladdin/The Little Mermaid/The Princess and the Frog)
The men behind making Disney strong again in the 80s and 90s, a time known as the Disney Renaissance, they helped bring back a classic Disney feel to what was otherwise a company on a bit of a downwards spiral, both in the 70s and the early 2000s (I'm looking at you, Emperor's New Groove). Their directing style keeps humour mixed with an almost Hans Christian Anderson-like fairytale feel (The Little Mermaid being an Anderson story, too). The current kings of Western hand-drawn animation, Clements and Musker are top-notch directors.
5. Tim Burton
(Beetlejuice/Edward Scissorhands/Big Fish)
Tim Burton made a name for himself in making films which didn't conform to Hollywood's "standards". It all began with a short he made while working for Disney, called Vincent, about a young boy who believes he's Vincent Price. It was dark, fantastically animated and had a certain creepy style about it, which became Burton's trademark. In recent years, he's tried to appeal to his fanbase as well as the mainstream with some lackluster films like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Alice in Wonderland, but his genius lies in his ability to mix humour and horror, and make the grotesque beautiful.
4. John Woo
(Mission: Impossible II/A Better Tomorrow/The Killer)
There's nobody in the world who can direct an action film quite like John Woo. Here and there he delivers the odd badly written movie, or badly acted, but there's something that doesn't quite falter: the way he delivers his action sequences. I've seen a tonne of beautifully choreographed sword fight or martial arts films, but when it comes to a shoot-out, many films are lost in a hail of bullets and explosions. Woo's action scene are like ballets in comparison, and they're told with such passion, too. And it's not just gun fights. Red Cliff features some of the most impressive fights I've seen in ages. And while some of his films have been a bit hit-and-miss, they never lack in the entertainment department, making his "heroic bloodshed" films absolute treats.
3. Christopher Nolan
(The Dark Knight/Inception/The Prestige)
Nolan shot to fame after having successfully rebooted the Batman franchise from a blubbering mess into a series of dark, and highly well-made films. His films always find a way to tell stories in new light (see Memento, for example), all the while focusing intently on character development. There's never a weak character in a Nolan film, and that's what makes them so fascinating. There's always great tension within, and with some fantastic screenplays from his brother, his films have always managed to entertain and amaze me.
2. Takashi Miike
(Ichi the Killer/Zebraman/Chakushin Ari: One Missed Call)
I put Miike high (or rather, low) on the list mainly because of how many times I've been surprised, taken aback or simply baffled by what I was watching. He's known in the West mainly for his over-the-top portrayals of violence and disturbing horrors (see Ichi the Killer or Audition), but the fact is there's just so much more to him. His films go from the slow and well-thought out dramas (Rainy Dog, the Bird People in China) to the outright insane (The Happiness of the Katakuris, Gozu). An incredibly prolific director, he churned out a total of 15 films over 2001 and 2002. It's no doubt that some of them are gonna be pretty bad, but for the most part, Miike has shown that he is by no means a one trick dog.
1. Kim Ji-Woon
(A Tale of Two Sisters/The Quiet Family/A Bittersweet Life)
My favourite director still working today. Why? Well, there's just something about all of his films that I've absolutely adored. A bit like Miike (but considerably more sane) he's shown that he can work with all kinds of genres. Compare A Tale of Two Sisters, which was a dark, creepy horror to the Good, the Bad, the Weird - an epic-scale wacky comedy, all of which he manages to handle with ease. His style is focused on cinematography, and it definitely shows; his films all have a distinct visual style about them which bring you right in the mood of the film. Combine this with some very well crafted storytelling and a star-studded cast and you have yourself some of the best films I've ever seen.
And that's it. My list of top ten film directors. And it has taken an ass-long time. With all this inspiration, I think I could get back to work now