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The 10 Most Overrated Movie Directors Working Today

02 December 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Conor Lochrie

james-cameron

In today’s cinematic landscape, there are many treasured filmmakers working. We can count ourselves fortunate to be able to await a new Paul Thomas Anderson film this December (unfortunately Daniel Day-Lewis’s confirmed last picture), for example. Scorsese still continues to release strong films consistently. Producing not feelings of anticipation and expectation, however, are some arguably inferior operators.

During this age of incessant ratings and instant reviews, every filmmaker knows that their work is under increased scrutiny. We the audience love to discuss which directors are producing masterpieces and which aren’t. Lots of filmmakers, one feels, won’t relish this new role the internet plays in film criticism.

Thousands of opinions, thousands of online voices. Put simply, if one isn’t creating what would be expected from their talent, there’s no escaping finding out about it. Occupying the following list are just 10 examples of directors who it could be claimed are overrated. Good filmic output from them seems lost amidst a wave of mediocrity. Justifying these selections, this list will consider their more recent films and whether they deserve the hype and acclaim that they’ve initially received.

 

10. Tom Ford

Tom Ford transferred over from the fashion world to make A Single Man in 2009. Since then he’s only followed up with one other film, last year’s Nocturnal Animals (2016). It might seem hasty to cite someone with only two films to his name as overrated, but such is the level of fawning and enthusiasm over the fashion designer’s works that it feels only right to look closer at them; to check that they’re not knockoff handbags rather than the real deal.

Starting with his sophomore feature, Nocturnal Animals certainly is a visual treat: it’s art direction is impeccable, as one would only expect from Ford. Every frame feels like one of his meticulously prepared fashion shoots. However, when looking for depth under the glamorous facade, none can be found. It’s a two-hour act of vapidity, a hollow exercise in setting and tone. Based on the 1993 novel Tony and Susan, Amy Adams plays the latter, a sleek and sophisticated LA gallery owner. Her seemingly idyllic life is shattered by the arrival of a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward: his novel tells the story of a teacher who finds a trip with his family in Texas turning bad fast.

As she reads it, Susan is forced to confront the nightmarish memories of her past. A source story with scope for a solid psychological thriller film, the attention to the visual aspects feels overdone and distracting. Resultantly, it’s unclear what Ford’s point is by making the film, though it surely feels like he’s trying hard indeed; the impression, however, is of an expensive exercise in style. By the film’s end, it just feels immensely soulless and pretentious.

A Single Man doesn’t suffer the same problems so deeply, probably because it’s based on arguably stronger source material, the classic Christopher Isherwood novel with the same title. Again, though, the ultimate viewing experience is only of witnessing a series of immaculately conceived visual scenes. Colin Firth does give a stirring performance providing a graspable human soul to proceedings but for such an important novel with its activist spirit and powerful themes of gay identity Ford feels like the wrong person to do it justice.

It’s glossy, sure; it’s stylish, yes; but more substance is needed to convey the isolation and sorrow felt by Firth’s George after he loses his longtime partner. When considering Ford’s output, then, the overwhelming sensation is what one might have expected from a fashion designer making the leap to cinema: the feel for humanity, the understanding of substance and profundity seems lost under the surface level beauty. Great films can’t just be good to look at.

 

9. Tom Hooper

Another director with a relatively small filmography, Tom Hooper has been a perennial favorite of the Academy with his unsubtle Oscar-bait films since 2010’s The King’s Speech. It’s his famous adaptation of Les Miserables (2012), though, that’s most well-known. A bold attempt at bringing the stage version of Victor Hugo’s novel to the big screen, it became infamous for Hooper making his cast sing live on set instead of using recordings. While the audacity should be commended, the end product is sorely lacking. Aside from Anne Hathaway’s tearful rendition of ‘I Dreamed A Dream’, most seem unprepared for it; Hugh Jackman is too hammy, and everyone remembers Russell Crowe’s valiant attempts to deliver his lines.

The problems don’t stop there, though. Hooper’s camerawork is convoluted: by seemingly trying to recreate the atmosphere of the stage-set musical, he keeps the focus tightly on the actors in each scene, which only serves to create a claustrophobic sense of the whole film being shot on small sets; more Broadway than Hollywood. The much-vaunted Oscar-winning scene with Hathaway’s Fantine is a prime example of this, as the camera never swerves from the terror in her eyes and the spittle around her mouth. It’s show-stopping acting for sure, but it feels too punishing, too calculating.

Ultimately one feels like Hooper struggled with transferring the stage action to the screen environment. Every cast members performance, not just Hathaway’s, is overwhelmingly overacted. Consider how miscast Helena Bonham Carter and Sacha Baron Cohen are as the Thenardiers: they’re playing the comedy relief, yes, but in a film devoid of any humor, they end up becoming cartoonish in comparison. The rest spend the entire film in serious tones, bellowing their emotions but it all feels rather bland and exhausting for the audience.

In The King’s Speech, Hooper capitalized on Colin Firth’s stirring central performance which garnered most of the acclaim and it feels like the same formula was utilized in Hathaway’s starring, albeit small, role. And that film, too, felt disingenous: perhaps one of the most blatant examples of an Oscar-bait film in recent times, it’s all about the glory, the surface with no true creative or original spark beneath. For a narrative taking place mostly in just 2 locations – Buckingham Palace and Lionel’s house – the only reason for it to be a film at all seems to be for to achieve greater fame. Hooper is never going to be a director that’s going to shock or surprise.

 

8. Jason Reitman

A director who started with a remarkable run of successes – Thank You For Smoking (2005), Juno (2007) and Up in the Air (2009) – Jason Reitman has seen his reputation tainted by a series of recent misfires. His latest, Men, Women and Children (2014), was his worst received film yet and for good reason.

A needless preachy effort tackling our society’s addiction to the internet, it was blatantly obvious what Reitman was aiming for: an important and timely piece of social commentary. The outcome, however, is far too lambasting. While he’s taken on issues in society before, in Men, Women and Children, the human touch is missing, meaning the connection with his audience is lost too. Each chapter regarding different families and their experiences online feels ludicrously forced and blatantly obvious in its indictment. The whole scaremongering feeling borders on the absurd. Labor Day (2013) was another that felt too calculating.

The coming-of-age tale became melodramatic in Reitman’s hands and the film descended into saccharine romance stereotypes. It was unclear what Reitman was truly trying to say by making it. It’s somewhat bemusing to consider Reitman’s collapse, for he is above all a relatively safe director: there’s no visual thrills, no inherent style to his directing, as he presents American tales about American society. When working with Diablo Cody, despite her obnoxious tendencies, Juno and Young Adult (2011) were energetic and fizzed thanks to the screenplay. Perhaps it’s just that Reitman peaked too soon and has lost his ability to present human stories in a relatable manner. It’s notable that he’s pairing with Cody again for his next film, Tully, perhaps an admonition that he’s in need of a little help in getting his career back on track.

 

7. The Wachowski Sisters

the-wachowskis

Leaving aside M Night Shamalayan, have any directors fallen as quickly from the critical adulation as the Wachowski Sisters? Creating the era-defining Matrix trilogy, their offerings since those have ranged from the downright terrible to the spectacular failure. When reflecting on that first Matrix (1999) film however, especially if one watches it now for the first time, it’s difficult to see why it received the acclaim it did. Combining postmodern philosophy themes with gloriously stylish special effects, including the famous bullet-time phenomenon, the film had audiences in thrall. But nothing, truly, felt original: bullet time had been seen in a similar form a year earlier in Blade (1998) and most of the plot enthused pseudo-spiritual nonsense.

By the end, the film seemed to have degenerated into a solid but safe action epic, leaving behind most of its high concept story. In evaluation, The Matrix seems like a film of and for its time. It dominated the zeitgeist as a pop culture phenomenon precisely because of when it arrived: in the final throes of the 20th century, in a society both excited and fearful of the rise of new technology, The Matrix seemed to encapsulate these feelings for a world on the precipice of change. This is also exactly why watching in 2017 is different to seeing it at its birth. After its moment of relevance, such a film can seem hackneyed and useless. The less said about the two sorry sequels the better.

In the subsequent years, The Wachowski Sisters haven’t been able to concoct a similar successful recipe. Speed Racer (2008) had stomach-churning special effects and a limited plot; Cloud Atlas (2012) tackled a complex story but was too overambitious and overwrought. But it’s their latest, Jupiter Ascending (2015), that feels like a stunning misstep.

Ridiculous dialogue, sloppy narrative, an over-reliance on visual effects; everything about the film was preposterous and showed the duo’s weaknesses as filmmakers (they certainly weren’t helped a poor but expected showing from Mila Kunis and a wildly over-the-top villainous performance by Oscar favorite Eddie Redmayne). Since its release, The Wachowski’s have ventured to television to make their show Sense8 but if they are to return to filmmaking, it will be with drastically reduced expectations and a much-beleaguered reputation.

 

6. Kevin Smith

A hilariously lucky product of the 1990’s American independent cinema movement, Smith started with the cult classic Clerks (1994), a film that seemed hip with its Tarantino dialogue and black-and-white colour. It quickly struck a chord with Generation-X slackers: here was a schmuck like me, making a film at the very corner store where he used to work.

With its shoestring budget, handheld camera and amateur actors, Smith crafted a film that was to many fans and critics an authentic slice of American life. It was, seemingly, anti-Hollywood, and it was adored for this very quality. The dialogue mostly tackled pop culture in a delightfully pointless way. While it does have relatable characters and some funny set pieces, it certainly was overhyped, a claim Smith himself has concurred with.

The biggest problem with Clerks was that it gave such an untalented hack the platform to go in search of fame and cinema success. Before his sophomore film Mallrats (1995) was released, Smith said at a panel chaired by Roger Ebert that he’d happily do anything a studio asked him to do, if they paid for his films and, while Ebert and others thought this was said in jest at the time, his resultant filmography makes for queasy viewing in light of this statement.

Mallrats, for example, dropped everything redeemable about Clerks, including the appealing black-and-white colour. Cop Out (2010) was a complete lazy entry into the buddy action genre and felt like the type of film Smith would have onetime mocked; Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008) was a lame attempt at creating a Judd Apatow comedy. Unfortunately for the director, being given bigger budgets and bigger opportunities has only served to highlight his ineptitude behind a camera.

It’s futile to even mention entries like Yoga Hosers (2016) and Tusk (2014). If Tarantino and Smith represent the polarities of the American cinema audience – the first the devoted cinephile who devours every film genre to learn everything he can about the art, the other the lazy armchair fan, passively accepting of what pop culture intends him to like with no sense of for the classical or artistic – then their career trajectories portray exactly what would be expected. Let Smith return to his living room, where his immaturity and juvenilia can be left off of our screens.

 

 

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  • David

    Inarritu, Payne, Cuaron, Chazelle, J.J. Abrams.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Nice… but I would put a line between the ‘Overrated = Not as good as the critics think’ like Inarritu, Cuaron and Payne and the ‘Overrated = They are actually Bad’ like Chazelle and Abrams.

  • ClanTechie

    Jar Jar Abrams, Darren Aronofsky, Zack Snyder.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Agree, except that… Darren is a genius compared to Zack Snyder/J.J. Abrams.

  • Mark A. Kleber

    Quentin Tarentino

    • Javiera

      explain.. please

      • Chris Saunders

        First 3 films are great. The rest have mostly been pale imitations & self parodies, save for the excellent opening scene in IB.

        • Ces Massardo

          First 3 Tarantino feature films were Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, so you’re missing Kill Bill v. I & II, which is a masterpiece by itself. I would go as far as Death Proof, after that I agree is way overrated. I mean, judge in Cannes? Way too much.

          • Chris Saunders

            I am missing those two, yes. While I’ve only watched them once I thought they were tiresome, with huge chunks that could’ve been edited out to make a leaner single film, on first viewing. I may give them another go. I had to turn Death Proof off though. I suppose my disapointment with him personally is that after Jackie Brown, a great film that had proper well drawn characters with emotions, he reverted to one dimensional characters that all talk like it’s Tarantino having a conversation with himself. Worked to great effect in RD & PF when it sounded fresh & exciting, now I find it boring. I appreciate that many still enjoy that though – each to their own.

          • Ces Massardo

            I actually made a semiotic analysis about the female superheroes in Tarantino. Jackie Brown owns the place as soon as she’s in, so much more superhero than The Bride. One of my favorite movies also.

  • Callie Ray

    Oliver Stone

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Many of his films have bad reviews. That’s not Overrated.

  • GC

    Aliens and T2 were NOT predominantly written by others. Do some fact-checking before you make such erroneous claims.

    • giorgio palmas

      True Lies is his only film based on another work. All of his original screenplays have an evil corporation as the antagonist. Evil terraforming space company, evil tech company, evil oil company, evil luxury liner company, evil rare mineral mining company.

      • Jules F. Melo Borges

        giorgio
        So, are you saying that “Evil” is a big part of his work? Maybe Evil that comes from the misuse of technology?
        If you like him, that’s a trait/recurrent theme. If you dislike him, that’s a cliché/lack of originality.

  • sadburbia

    Speed Racer is an incredible film, thank you and goodbye.

    • Agreed!

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      The Wachowskis are both Overrated and Underrated, depend on the film and the type of audience

  • Now this is getting stupid. First off, Joy came out in 2015. Second of all, Sofia Coppola is far from overrated as she is someone that has a completely different approach that is totally not mainstream.

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    To call Kevin Smith overrated is like calling Water… wet!

  • Klevis Cana

    Everybody has the right to have an opinion weather you liked or not

  • Dunno how Jim Cameron comes in at #1 seeing as he hasn’t directed anything in almost a decade

    • Ricardo Correia

      Right now he is directing the Avatar sequels, so yeh, he is working

      • Correct. What also is correct is my above statement, and how we can’t judge movies that haven’t been completed or released.
        Just don’t think it’s a great choice to call him most overrated when he hasn’t released anything this decade.

  • Mortimer

    Nolan, Tarantino, Villeneuve…

    I agree about Tom Ford. After Nocturnal Animals, he is suddenly the next big thing ? And A Single Man s suddenly a masterpiece of Cinema ? Nah, stylish but flawed.

    • Saudade Truth

      The part about Tom Ford: Thank you for saying this.

      When people suddenly went gaga about Tom Ford in a blink, I was likes ”WTH? have superficiality run through the more mindful film viewers?. Then I realized that sometimes people over here are just another side of the same coin with those mainstream films followers they pretentiously despise”. lol

  • Ricardo Correia

    Tarantino and Nolan should be on the list

    • ArmitageX

      Nolan should be #1.

  • Alain

    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.
    David Fincher.

    • David

      I don’t think i can vote this negative enough.

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      That’s not fair.
      If you don’t like him, fine. I’m not his biggest fan really.
      But he’s obviously talented, and clearly not in the same league as those other guys. Learn the difference between “Not my Cup of Tea” and “No one’s Cup of Tea”.

  • Andrey Edward

    WTF Tom Ford is not overrated, Nocturnal Animals is one of my favorite movies

    • ArmitageX

      Same here. I thought it was the best film of the year.

  • He who shall not be tamed

    Glad to know art is now objective.
    Waited too long for it.

  • FortesqueX

    #1. Christopher Nolan
    #2. Paul Thomas Anderson
    #3. Christopher Nolan
    #4. Paul Thomas Anderson
    #5. Christopher Nolan
    #6. Paul Thomas Anderson
    #7. Christopher Nolan
    #8. Paul Thomas Anderson
    #9. Christopher Nolan
    #10. Paul Thomas Anderson

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      Plus for nolan
      Minus for pta

  • Criticus

    Why would Sofia Coppola be overrated? (besides the author’s personal opinion on the matter)

  • Arshad Khan

    James Cameron is the most successful filmmaker in the history of cinema. The writer who wrote this doesnt exist his opinion doesn’t matter.

  • grootrm

    Crap article, nothing but a hatefest for directors OP personally wants to spew vitriol at because he is a failure in life..

    Shame on this site for giving Conor Lochrie any voice

  • bluesborn

    Cloud Atlas is undeniably overwrought and over ambitious and yet..I’ve seen it 5 times and absolutely love it warts and all and there are plenty of warts to go around.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      I absolutely love that movie.

  • bluesborn

    That picture of Cameron is a classic by the way.

  • Guido Von M

    Villeneuve

  • Heber

    So you choose James Cameron for most overrated director, based on critics to his two most successful films ?

  • lamarkeith

    I was out when you criticism of a film, the medium where visuals take precedent, ended up being that it was “a series of immaculately constructed visuals”. What a comment. It’s all at once ubiquitous and contrived. Also, if you think every film (or work of art in general) needs to have substance in order to be a good/great film, then please, stop writing this sophomoric drivel and study the subject more.

  • Joel_Goodsen

    There is nothing more unwatchable than “Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back.” Dated and in-jokes (Magnolia Fan) that lost their tooth years ago. It was on cable the other day and I dearly wished the story just centered around Randall (and not Dante) at the Quick Stop instead of Jay and Silent Bob. Kevin Smith’s direction talent is perfectly suited for Flash episodes on the CW, now.

  • Walkabout

    What’s the point of this shit..? Sounds like one of those neckbeard fucks writing crappy blog listicles for $.005 a word sitting in front of the trusty Compaq in Mom’s basement. Idiot.

  • The Martian is skank. Scott’s only good film in the last 13 years is Prometheus.

  • Ikbal Hossain

    who the fuck wrote this article?
    absolutely stupid

  • Christopher Lambert

    I would have to say Dennis Villeneuve. Critics get wet over everything he does but I don’t know many people who feel the same. Prisoners and Enemy are the only two I even remotely enjoyed.

  • Egi David Perdana II

    Nolan should be no 1