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The 10 Most Overrated Movie Directors of All Time

21 September 2018 | Features, People Lists | by Maximiliano Mendez

5. James Cameron

Somehow, James Cameron has been established in the world of Hollywood as a true money-making machine, with his huge productions that have captivated the whole world. But let’s look closer – what can we say about his films? In the first place, there are the many accusations of plagiarism against him (the most famous one is the Harlan Ellison lawsuit about ”Terminator”). Also, he has never managed to make a movie where the characters are not totally flat and cartoonish, reaching a point where the visuals no longer are interesting.

“Avatar” is a great example of this; Cameron declared that he spent several years developing the movie, and the effects are quite interesting , but the dullness of the story is such that it takes out all the interest in the special effects. It would’ve been a good idea to check the script in all those years of preparation.

It all gets worse when we realize that his films pretend to be something more than a bunch of things getting destroyed. He presents  ideas that seem interesting, like “Titanic,” where it shows how class differences can defy love, or “Avatar,” where it all seems to be an argument in favour of ecologism and cultural diversity. But there is a little problem with this, the problem is that Cameron only cares about the box office, so all these interesting themes are treated in the most superficial way imaginable; the viewer even gets the feeling that they use those themes only due to the publicity.

 

4. Wong Kar-Wai

Something very interesting has happened in the world of cinema in this century; that is, the interest from the Western world in several and very attention-worthy Asian film movements. Which includes countries besides Japan, as we are used to, Countries like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea are producing really fascinating films that deserve attention.

Inside this whole movement, probably the most famous director is Wong Kar-Wai, whose works mixes Western pop culture and his own culture. His films often talk about problems that are common in the modern world, like alienation, loneliness, a lack of meaning, etc. Themes that are represented in big cities, that often acts like another character. These concerns, for example, are similar to what Sofia Coppola does in her filmography.

This is probably why Wong is one the most respected directors today, as these aspects are indeed very interesting. But the final result almost always fails; the special attention that he puts in the visual style of his stories is much richer than the actual stories, which are quite uninteresting and at the end, boring. This happens with “In the Mood for Love” and “2046.” Other Asian directors that have similar themes and deserve the attention that Wong receives are Hou Hsiao-Hsien and Kim Ki-duk.

 

3. Steven Spielberg

Since the ‘80s, Spielberg has been recognized as one of the most important (if not THE most important) directors from the United States. His films range from popcorn movies to large epic dramas. One of the most striking characteristic of his movies is that his best films are the ones that apparently he does not take too seriously: ”E.T.”, “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park” are better than “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “Schindler’s List” and “Empire of the Sun.” Actually his best creation is the Indiana Jones trilogy; the original “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is one of the most entertaining movies ever.

But the rest of his filmography includes long and sterile movies (“Lincoln,” for example), popcorn movies of the most generic kind (“Tintin”), or films that try too hard to move the viewer, a try that at the end fails to bring true deep emotion (“Schindler’s List”).

 In addition to this, Hollywood’s black hand can be seen almost always in his films, with forced happy endings, occasional really flat characters, uninspired and cheap patriotism, and at last, a constant feeling of unidimensionality surrounds his movies; there are no second lectures, deep meanings or questions. We should expect more from one of the most important filmmakers in the world.

 

2. Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson has created a whole group of followers that consider him a great creator of beautiful films with eccentric but charming characters. Aside from this, his tumblr-like aesthetic has made him the honorary president of hipsters. 

But behind those bright colors and extravagant designs, it is quite hard to find something meaningful in his films, which are infantile in the worst sense of the word, films with extremely flat characters and a lack of something to say through his films. The giant parade of Hollywood stars that appear in his movies just to say something strange, only increases this feeling of emptiness.

Even though the visuals are the most attractive aspect of his films, Anderson does not manage to capture the viewer during the whole movie after the initial surprise is gone. The influence of Kubrick and Godard over Anderson’s work is quite clear and can be seen in the camera work and how he composes the frame (see, for example, “The Shining” or “Tout va Bien”), but Anderson fails in what those other two filmmakers clearly achieve, which is to use the space and the frame in an expressive way in relation to what he is telling.

The frames in “Tout va Bien” help to show the cold and hard word that is depicted in the film, and the camera movements in “The Shining” turns the hallways of the hotel into something strange, phantasmagoric, even in a character on it’s own.

Instead, Anderson’s aesthetics always seem superficial and lacking effectiveness; this can be seen in “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” where there are gags clearly inspired by Buster Keaton’s films, but those gags are made in the least effective way possible, removing all the humor that may be in the original idea.

 

1. Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock is one of the most famous, respected and influential directors ever; he has been the object of innumerable praises by the public, the critics, and by other filmmakers, being considered by many people as the best director in all of film history and the biggest name in the suspense genre.

But at the moment, in watching his movies, he does not seem worthy of such consideration; we could even say that the huge appreciation of his work in the film world is not that much because of the value of the films, but it is explained in the reason why he managed to turn himself into a famous figure, making even his own face an icon of cinema.

The obsession with the auteur theory in cinema has led to the attribution of “the master of suspense” the biggest accomplishments in this genre. Thus, this ignores a large number of directors and writers who worked in the same time period and worked similar themes as Hitchcock, and it ignores movies that are equal or better than Hitchcock films, but because those movies were made by people that today nobody remembers, it seems that they don’t deserve such praises. 

For example, we could mention directors like Raoul Walsh, Robert Siodmak, Edward Dmytryk, Lewis R. Foster or Jacques Tourneur, all of whom are relatively forgotten as “auteurs” but are at the same level as Hitchcock when it comes to creativity, audacity, and the ability to make intense suspense moments. Let’s take Tourneur for a moment for a comparison.

Hitchcock almost always worked in the same genres and had similar preoccupations regarding the suspense and perfecting the same techniques. This is something very different than Tourneur’s work, which included film noir, westerns, pirate movies, and horror films, among others; these are genres that he not only worked in a extremely efficient way, but also in a way that always had something to say, unlike Hitchcock.

 For example, “Out of the Past” and “Vertigo” have similar ideas, as both films are about unhealthy love and the weight of memory, but “Out of the Past” does it in a way that is much more realistic, meaningful, and in the end, way more intense than ”Vertigo.”

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