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10 Great Directors Who Are Currently Dwindling

15 December 2016 | Features, People Lists | by Nick Bugeja

John Carpenter

It is not uncommon for great artists to have periods where their work does not match that which gave them artistic credibility in the first place. It has happened to authors, painters, composers and directors. And, in some cases, directors have naturally declined with age (hence why Tarantino is committed to retrieving after 10 films).

This list attempts to cover some great directors who have fell on hard times in terms of quality cinematic output. Moreover, the list is a relative to the kind of quality films the said director has made, so while some of their contemporary films may be decent, they are lesser than what we know they are capable of.

 

10. Woody Allen

worst Woody Allen movies

Some might find it erroneous that Woody Allen features on this list, but it is indisputable that his recent films have not been up to the standard of his 20th century ones. Although he has released a number of relatively entertaining and engaging pictures (Midnight in Paris (2011), Cafe Society (2016), Blue Jasmine (2013)), they are obviously weaker than the films out of which he made his name.

Allen has not been dwindling in terms of the rate at which his films are distributed- one per year- but in terms of the quality of them. For a while now, it has felt like Allen has been going through the motions with his films, not really offering us anything new or genuine. They lack the acerbic wit of Annie Hall (1976), and Allen has been unable to find a suitably surrogate for himself.

Certainly, his recent films are not bad by any stretch. In most cases, they are better than most other recent releases. But, nonetheless, they lack the memorability of his earlier films.

 

9. Tim Burton

Alice in Wonderland movie image

Tim Burton’s visual style and his set designs are some of the most recognisable in cinema. Many have tried to capture his unique style without success. Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988), Ed Wood (1994) and Edward Scissorhands (1994) showcase the very best he has to offer. Engrossing, atmospheric visuals- along with sympathetic, eccentric characters, Burton has cemented himself as a favourite of many.

However, more recently, Burton has not been at his best. It has felt like he has rested on his laurels, making similar films over and over without imbuing them with passion or heart. This is readily evident in Alice in Wonderland (2008) and Charlie and the a Chocolate Factory (2005). What made Burton’s successful films great was the energetic originality of them; for him to return to his filmmaking heights he has to recapture this.

 

8. Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone

Known for his seamless, human ability to provoke political discussion, Oliver Stone is one of the best agitators in modern cinema. His anti-war film Platoon (1986) realistically portrayed the tragedy of the Vietnam War better than the many other acclaimed films that dealt with the subject.

Similarly, JFK (1991) is a filmmaking masterclass, as Stone is able to coherently and engagingly cram a mass of subversive information into the film to compel us to doubt the official narrative of Kennedy’a assassination. It is scathing and angry; but also emotional and balanced.

Arguably, though, since Nixon (1995), Stone has not made a film up to the standard we know he is capable of. His films have remained political (Snowden (2016), World Trade Center (2006)), but they have lacked rich political discussion and Stone’s unique skill to condemn self-serving political institutions and governments. However, this has still manifested itself in Stone’s public appearances and his books.

 

7. Spike Lee

Spike Lee is one of the most important African American directors living. His engagement with race relations in America is always informed by history and experience, and his films help to highlight underlying racial issues. Lee’s most successful works- Malcolm X (1982) and Do the Right Thing (1990) are cinematic tour de forces. Lee is able to both take pride in his heritage, and also deplore the way that African Americans have been treated in America.

Undoubtedly, there is something kinetic and alive about these films; as they are the product of intense passion.
Of late, Lee’s output has been much less regular. In addition to this, the films that he has directed have been notably subpar. They have failed to tell captivating, layered narratives, and have featured characters that have been wafer thin. This has been readily apparent in Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014).

 

6. Brian De Palma

best brian de palma films

Brian De Palma is an underrated director. He knows his craft as well as any of the other directors that emerged with him in the New Hollywood film period (Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, Friedkin, Spielberg). De Palma’s films have an urgency and sense of importance that is heightened in comparison to the ordinary picture.

This is best represented in Scarface (1983); his memorable mafia epic. Even for a film like Mission Impossible (1996), which was an action film that revolved around Tom Cruise, De Palma’s directorial command is evident in the way that the action is manipulated.

However, since Mission Impossible, De Palma’s career has been marked by a noticeable decline. Femme Fatale (2002) has perhaps represented this; as it is a failed attempt made by De Palma to harken back to his more prosperous days as a filmmaker.

 

 

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  • As far as Polanski and Friedkin are concerned. I have to disagree. The former has made a couple of amazing films in The Ghost Writer and Carnage while the latter has given Matthew McConaughey one of his defining performances in Killer Joe. In defense of John Carpenter, he hasn’t made a lot of films lately due to his disdain for the industry. Sure, The Ward didn’t live up to his standards but it was good to see him return as I think he needs time to come up with another solid film.

    As for Brian de Palma, he has always been polarizing as I’m eager for his next feature whether it’s good or not. Plus, Femme Fatale is extremely underrated.

    • Jeroen Ledderhof

      Carpenter Cigarette Burns (a episode of Masters of Horror) was Brilliant!! 🙂 I think he still got it 🙂

    • Vincenzo Politi

      Yes! That’s exactly what I thought when I read the name of Polanski! I told myself: hold on, how about Carnage? That movie is simply delicious!

      • I know. I fucking love that movie. The audience I saw it with in the theaters, though it was a small audience, laughed their asses off towards the end as it was so fun to watch.

  • Abhishek

    Spike lee is overrated director who should not be in the category of great directors IMHO!

  • Zach

    Annie Hall is 1977 not 1976
    Edward Scissorhands is 1990 not 1994
    Malcolm X is 1992 not 1982
    Do the Right Thing is 1989 not 1990

    Damn son… do some research first

    • Rudi

      That’s just outright lazy.

    • Jacob Lyon Goddard

      Thank you, that was bugging the hell out of me.

  • Eri Taide

    I do agree that Woody Allen hasn’t been on the top of his game, but i disagree when it comes to “Blue Jasmine”, i think its one of his bests and certantly the peak of his 21st century work…Maybe it’s because Cate Blanchett is my little aussie weak spot.

  • Rudi

    The only watchable Woody Allen movies are the ones without himself in it, he’s just so damn annoying. And of course the ones with actors imitating Woody, such as Eisenberg in Café Society and Wilson in Midnight in Paris.

    As for De Palma, his last movie has always been underappreciated. Passion has all the trademarks of a classic De Palma, including some of his best split screens and a tense story that sucks you in from the beginning.

  • Alexander

    Spike Lee was a great director, but it is going to take a while before I can forgive him for the Oldboy remake

  • Gavin Lawson

    Apart from Spike Lee & Tim Burton, this list seems more to do with ageism on the part of the writer than anything. And even then he has got things badly timed, as a number of directors on the list have had comebacks this year, like Oliver Stone with Snowden, Burton with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Spike Lee with Chi-raq. A more appropriate list would have directors in mid-career who are ‘dwindling’, such as Robert Rodriguez, Sophia Coppola or Kevin Smith.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    I hate it when Taste of Cinema goes negative, that’s what the rest of the click-bate internet is for.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    William Friedkin’s recent adaptations of Tracy Letts plays have been some of his strongest work.

  • D Train

    Terrible list and just riddled with factual errors and typos. Embarrassing.

  • Miroslav Maric

    Woody has made some great movies in last decade!

  • Henrik Vinther Sørensen

    I disagree with a lot of those. De Palma in my opinion is at the best he has ever been. Femme Fatale and Passion are two of the most creative and challenging movies in recent years. And damn are they well directed. Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and even Coppola are also bad examples in my opinion, they are still experimenting with their style and try to make something unique. Even if they aren’t as good as they used to be.

    A better example in my opinion is Martin Scorsese, who always get a pass, even though his movies have lacked vision for decades. He is a good craftsman still, but damn his movies have been superficial for years. At least since Casino, and even that one is a slightly flat experience. It seems he is on to something with Silence though.

    Quentin Tarantino: Alright he proved with The Hateful Eight that he can still make an entertaining movie. But his bombastic style and caricature characters he has used since Kill Bill have been much less interesting than what he did in the 90’s.

    And then there’s Ridley Scott who after making one of the greatest films of all time in Blade Runner decided he wouldn’t want to be an auteur, but make tedious blockbuster movies instead.

    But there are so many other directors I could mention, I’m gonna stop now though.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    Im not sure about how I feel about what was said of Woody Allen up here. Anyways, perhaps Roberto Benigni should be on this list.