5. James Mangold – Logan
With Logan, James Mangold reinvents the superhero genre as much as Christopher Nolan did with his Dark Knight Trilogy. In this film, Wolverine is fashioned as a Western hero in the vein of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name.
With 1956’s Shane and 1922’s revisionist western Unforgiven as its primary influences, Logan is a film that explore the consequences and repercussions of living a violent life, and how to come to terms with one’s mortality. Through the events of this film, Logan finally finds peace in his life and sacrifices himself for the greater good and leaves behind a legacy of new mutants. Because of what he has done for them, “there are no more guns in the valley.”
4. Aki Kaurismaki – The Other Side of HopeAt the 2017 Berlin Film Festival where he won the Silver Bear for Best Director for this film, Finland’s most popular filmmaker Aki Kaurismaki announced his retirement. Is this is truly to be his last film, then Kaurismaki has left on a good note. The Other Side of hope ranks alongside his best works such as The Match Factory Girl and Le Havre. He was know. for his deadpan humour mixed with a strong sense of humanism.
The Other Side of Hope is the ultimate balancing act – Kaurismaki had to tackle the European immigrant crisis with the seriousness it deserves yet telling the story of one man’s struggle with humour and wit.
The film ends up serving many genres, and draws from a variety of styles including from Fassbinder’s melodramas, the stillness from the films by Robert Bresson and Yasujiro Ozu, and even shot light a classic American film noir. But at its heart, the film’s humanism shines through, and leaves the audience feeling grateful and happy for both the main character’s life and the fact that Kaurismaki has left us with a masterpiece.
3. Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
After breaking out with his Boogie Nights, described as the ‘Goodfellas set in the Golden Age of Porn’, P.T. Anderson has gradually made more and more challenging films. Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood and The Master are all modern American classics that focus on the eccentricities, good and bad, of human behaviour. With Phantom Thread, Anderson is obviously inspired by Hitchcock’s Rebecca, and possibly the offbeat films of Georges Franju to craft a genre piece set in the fashion world of 1950s London.
Baring a similarity to Jean-Luc Godard’s Nouvelle Vague (starring Alain Delon and Domiziana Giordano), the film is a battle of the sexes, an exploration of the complicated emotional struggles between an artist and his muse. Daniel Day-Lewis is once again great, and newcomer Vicky Krieps shines and terrifies under Anderson’s direction. The film’s finale is ambiguous, as the two lovers finally find peace, albeit through unconventional ways. It’s a mesmorising, beguiling and thoughtful piece of cinema.
2. Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water
Now, del Toro has made three truly great films: The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water. The latest film is what good entertainment should be – thrilling and meaningful. This is a film about outsiders searching for their place in the world. A mute, an African-American woman, a gay artist, a Russian spy and a fish creature. Its poignant message that love conquers all, ever in death, is matched by the entertainment factor.
Guillermo del Toro draws on the history of cinema, aping classic genres like the Cold War thriller, the musical, the heist film and the Gothic romance to create a cineliterate and layered story that surprises audiences at every turn. It’s a testament to the magic of movies and the skill of del Toro as a director that it doesn’t all fall into garbage.
1. Denis Villeneuve – Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve had an almost impossible task when faced to make a sequel to the sci-fi cult classic Blade Runner. Ridley Scott’s first film was misunderstood upon its release, and its status was only elevated after years of re-evaluation and a couple of alternate cuts. It was a melancholic, reflective, haunting film that ruminates on the meaning of humanity; the significance of memory.
In a way, Villeneuve was perfect to direct the sequel based on his back catalogue. With films like Maelstrom, Polytechnique, Incendies, Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival, he had built up a formidable filmography that rivals any other contemporary director.
Villeneuve’s films explored the dark sides of human nature but always carried a message of hope and a humanist spirit. He brought this highly intelligent outlook to Hampton Fancher’s screenplay and made a second film that expands both visually and thematically to the first.
Villeneuve brought on a group of masterful artists and performers (including DP Roger Deakins) to bring the world of Blade Runner back to audiences after 35 years, and he pulled off an impressive feat that other filmmakers would definitely have failed at.