10 directors who have shaped my movie viewing tastes


Inspired by a recent post over at abbiobiston.com, I thought I’d sit down and list ten movie directors I either seek out without hesitation, or have made some of the most affecting and inspiring movies I’ve ever seen, shaping what kind of movie viewer I am today and creating experiences that have transcended basic entertainment to actually mean something to me as a person.

Quentin Tarantino

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As a reviewer, occasional-writer and movie fan, Quentin Tarantino ignited a spark inside me that has yet to go out.  When first seeing Pulp Fiction, I knew this was the sort of material I wanted to write about, and this continued with his script for Natural Born Killers and also his debut, Reservoir Dogs.  He was a rebel, he challenged people’s ideas of what violence was all about on screen, not there for just shock value but to make you feel something.  He managed to back this up with amazing dialogue writing skills and a keen eye for pop-culture and cinema history that has continued to this day.

David Cronenberg

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Horror for me was never just about hiding behind my cushion and trembling – horror for me was about the strange and surreal, the gruesome but in a way that made you ponder what it meant.  Croneberg has always been a master of this, of using body-horror to make you feel something you’ve never felt before, backed up by intelligent direction that more often than not has a lot of social commentary of the times we live in i.e. sexually transmitted infections with Shivers.  He has continued to shape his often controversial style into the modem gangster and crime genres to brilliant effect in movies like Eastern Promises.

Stephen Spielberg

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Probably the most famous director of all time who seems to barely put a foot wrong and can turn his hand to a wealth of different genres and subjects, from the industry defining Jaws and Jurassic Park to powerful masterpieces like Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List.  Assured, confident and always entertaining and thought-provoking, this maverick director continues to be a name to bet on even after almost 40 years in the business.  As long as we don’t mention the most recent Indiana Jones movie, Spielberg remains one of those names every movie fan will know and surely appreciate to some degree.

John Carpenter

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Fallen from grace he may be, but during the seventies and eighties, this guy made some of the coolest and most sort after movies I’d ever seen.  Who can argue the merits of Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China?  Although I can’t say I totally appreciate Escape From New York as much as others, I have a soft spot for lesser known efforts like Prince Of Darkness and In The Mouth Of Madness.  This guy knew how to create perfectly entertaining genre movies and although he hasn’t made much of note for years, that’s a hell of a back catalogue of classics.

David Fincher

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Although I think he’s become a bit relaxed in recent years, churning out fairly ‘safe’ movies, for the most part Fincher has still created some of the most stylish and intricately directed movies I’ve seen, namely the multi layered classics Fight Club, Seven and even Zodiac.  His directing style is crisp and beautiful even when it’s dealing with very dark subject matter, and his camera work and imagery have stayed with me long after the credits have rolled.  He’s a technical directing fan’s dream director, as for me I can appreciate every aspect of the setting, the camera work to the music and lighting.  Helps he can also pull out great performances from the likes of Brad Pitt and Jake Gyllenhaal to name but a few.

Stanley Kubrick

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With a fairly small catalogue of movies, this director like no other has made some of the masterpieces of my lifetime.  The Shining is still the best horror movie I’ve ever seen and probably the most perfectly directed, on a technical level movie I’ve seen also.  His strong visual skill at making every shot and every camera movement look so well executed has made movies even of lesser impact like Eyes Wide Shut a work of art.  He proved again and again that careful eye for detail, iconic performances can turn even a well worn subject like the Vietnam war into amazing cinema.  I haven’t seen everything he’s done, but of the movies I have, he keeps on amazing me, and is possibly the best director on this list.

Dario Argento

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Perhaps at his best during the seventies and eighties, but this often controversial director has gained a strong cult following over the years and remains one of the most stylish and genre-defining film-makers around.  At his best he can make gruesome murder look beautiful, and his frequent collaborations with the band Goblin and musician Claudio Simonetti has helped create a brand of effective Italian cinema that still stands the test of time.  Try watching Suspiria or Tenebrae without marvelling at the camera work, atmosphere or use of lighting and music.  Argento will always be the maestro when it comes to horror, even if his light has considerably faded over the years.

Martin Scorsese

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The Don.  How does this guy keep doing it?  To this day Scorsese still manages to amaze and impress.  He has crafted true classics such as Taxi Driver and Goodfellas and still manages to churn out quality movies like Shutter Island and The Wolf Of Wall Street.  It’s always exciting when I hear he’s making another movie and even diversions like Hugo retain that Scorsese eye for style and cinematic creativity I’ve grown to love about him.  He has a tendency to work with the same actors but also manages to bring out wildly different performances from them, that give each movie their own voice.  One of the best film makers of all time in my opinion.

Joel & Ethan Coen

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In recent years their brand of southern comedy and thrillers has felt a tad hit and miss, but when these sibling directors are on form, they can make some of the best movies you’ll ever see.  Comedies like The Big Lebowski and Raising Arizona offer up laughs as well as style and assured direction along with iconic performances, and thrillers like Fargo and No Country For Old Men prove they can deliver tight, well executed stories that pack a punch.  They continue to be favourites at Oscar season and amongst a huge cult audience, and with a strong visual style and often award winning performances, their movies are hard to dismiss.

Park chan-Wook

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Another director who can explore very dark themes but make them beautiful with imaginative camera work, scene setting and particularly artistic shots.  His American debut Stoker is a perfect example of strong story, strong performances and beautiful, almost poetic direction.  His vengeance trilogy that incudes the cult classic Old Boy is powerful, gut-wrenching but extremely moving and artistic, blending classical music with striking story-telling and stunning cinematography.  Park chan-Wook’s the real deal if you can appreciate quality direction with a signature touch.

Scenes that make the movie


I’ve been thinking about this idea for a post.  Ten memorable scenes from some of my favourite movies of all time, or simply great moments that make a particular movie going experience stick in my head.  This may become a continuing series as I recall other great moments…but for now, here are ten stand out moments from great movies:  Minor spoilers.

Akira

Teddy bears & hallucinations.

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As a telepathic Kaneda post-brush with an infected child of the Akira experiment, recovers in hospital, he begins to experience terrifying hallucinations where teddy bears and toys comes to life as his powers start to manifest in horrifying ways.  One of the defining moments of this complex and ground-breaking Anime.

An America Werewolf In London

Stick to the road

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Two back packers after stumbling into local watering hole The Slaughtered Lamb are ushered back out into the night, with simply the warning of ‘stay on the road, keep clear of the moores’ – which they subsequently ignore and are soon stalked by a blood thirsty werewolf in John Landis’ still superb 1984 horror classic.

Blue Velvet

In Dreams

Blue Dean

Amateur detective Kyle MacLachlan gets a little too close to nut-job mobster Dennis Hopper who takes him for a visit to his cross-dressing neighbourhood friend Dean Stockwell, who lip-syncs to Roy Orbinson’s timeless classic in possibly one of David Lynch’s most freaky and brilliant scenes.

Boogie Nights

Disco montage

Boogie Nights

As former nobody Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) rises to infamy in the seventies porn movie industry, we are treated to this fabulous disco montage, cut seamlessly with various shots of Dirk ‘in action’ or receiving awards and culminating in a wonderfully choreographed dance number with fellow stars Reed Rothchild (John C Reilly) and Roller-girl (Heather Graham).

Eyes Wide Shut

The secret sex party

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Only in a Stanley Kubrick movie can a high society sex orgy come across as creepy and surreal.  The master film maker in probably his most misunderstood work, presents the viewer with a secret society that Tom Cruise manages to sneak inside of and witness the debauchery of most-likely high profile dignitaries with various high class call girls.  All to a haunting, incredibly eerie score.

Goodfellas

Paranoia, drugs and guns

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In the final act of the movie an increasingly paranoid Ray Liotta, struggles to juggle family responsibilities with fencing guns for Robert DeNiro and avoiding what he thinks is an FBI helicopter during the day from hell.  Expertly edited for maximum tension and intensity by the grand master Martin Scorsese.

Monsters Inc.

A chase through the doors

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After discovering the main villain’s evil scheme, Billy Crystal’s motor-mouthed Mike and John Goodman’s lovable Sully are chased by Steve Buscemi’s dastardly Randall into the inner workings of the Monsters Inc. facility and through a plethora of doors into the human world.  Exciting, inventive and visually stunning.

Pulp Fiction

Jack Rabbit Slims

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In a mob movie with pop-culture quoting wise guys and a soundtrack to die for, who’d have thought one of the best scenes would be a night out between John Travolta’s mob hitman and gangsters-mol Uma Thurman?  Culminating in the world famous Twist Contest.  Sharp dialogue, a highly memorable setting, and an after-math that segway’s into probably the other best scene in this movie.

Saving Private Ryan

Omaha Beach Landing

After visiting the final resting place of hundreds of soldiers, an elderly veteran recalls his experience with tears in his eyes – switch to the shocking beach onslaught in Omaha in 1944 as thousands of troops fight against impossible odds.  A stunning opening to one of the greatest WWII movies ever made, with star (Tom Hanks) and director (Steven Spielberg) on blistering form.

Trainspotting

Clubbing to Blondie.

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Taking a break from ripping people off and doing drugs, Ewan McGregor’s Renton finds himself on a night out with friends, hitting the clubs and listening to Heaven 17 and Blondie (or Sleeper doing a marvellous version of Atomic), where he meets Diane (Kelly MacDonald) and leads to a montage of sex, alcohol and pulse-pounding music in Danny Boyle’s break-out gem.

Do you agree with my list?  Have favourite scenes of your own?  Leave your comments below or link to your own lists…

Ten of the best


Top Ten lists are sort of something I enjoy doing, especially at the end of each year.  But Top Ten Favourite Movies of all time?  Harder.  I used to have a list a while back of which some of the movies below used to appear on.  Yet I gave up putting them in a particular order as they are so different some of them, comparing is impossible.  So find below Ten movies I think have had the greatest effect on me, either growing up, inspiring me (writing, movie tastes) or just hitting me on an emotional level.

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Fight Club

Made me a big fan of the movies of David Fincher and has arguably Edward Norton’s finest turn.  Style, effects work in a movie that didn’t need it, a great soundtrack, that twist and endlessly quotable.

Gran Torino

Emotional, heart-wrenching, funny, touching with one of Eastwood’s best performances.  The cast of newcomers surrounding him are also first-rate.

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21 Grams

Complex and twist-filled with three stunning performances (especially Naomi Watts) and a script that is quite literally genius.  Tough going but well worth the journey.

21grams

Pulp Fiction

Possibly still my all time favourite movie.  The dialogue is amazing, funny, very cool and  believable.  The sound track is stuff of legend and performances across the board are superb.

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Leon

Natalie Portman’s debut.  Ice-cool, Gary Oldman’s looniest but greatest villain, Jean Reno as a lovable assassin and Luc Besson on stunning form.

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Annie Hall

All of Woody Allen’s best ideas, cleverest dialogue and touching observations rolled into one perfect movie.  Diane Keaton is excellent and Allen has never been funnier.

Annie-Hall

Terminator 2: Judgement Day

James Cameron fully realising Terminator … stunning effects work, amazing action sequences, Arnie at his best, Linda Hamilton as the most bad-ass female role model since Ellen Ripley.  The ultimate sci-fi blockbuster.

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Blue Velvet

Weird but one of David Lynch’s most coherent works, with a great cast (Hopper is just plain nuts) and haunting music and a dream-like atmosphere.  Sexy and disturbing just how Lynch should be.

blue-velvet

Goodfellas

The finest gangster movie ever made, fast, packed with ideas, dialogue, people getting wacked, great dialogue and great performances throughout.  Martin Scorsese at his very best.

goodfellas

The Shining

Stunningly filmed, creepy as hell, scary, with an amazing Jack Nicholson and a true directing auteur in the shape of the late Stanley Kubrick.  The best horror movie ever made?  Quite possibly.

The-Shining

Alphabet Movie Meme


I saw this idea initially over at The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger, although the idea originates from this blog:The Drama Llama and well I thought it was pretty cool.  Below you will see my choices and I heartily recommend you have a go yourselves!

Anticipating Movie Of 2014

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Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes

I was very impressed with how ROTPOTA turned out… really well done origin tale of the whole ‘apes mythology and made me anticipate what comes next immensely.  That anticipation has died down in the few years since, but now it’s finally due out this year … I can’t wait.

Book Adaption I’d Like To See

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Before I Go To Sleep

I didn’t realise it was coming out, and as I am not an avid reader, of the very few books I have read, last year I got around to Before I Go To Sleep … a wonderfully thrilling and gripping story about a woman with 24hr amnesia, and the mystery of those in her life, who can be trusted and who is telling the truth etc.  The movie has Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth in it, very much NOT how I saw it, but will be interesting to see how S J Watson’s text translates to the big screen.

Celebrity I’d Most Like To Meet

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Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

I tried and failed to read his autobiography last year (will I pick it up again?) but have always been an admirer, not just down to his movies, but also his political career.

 

Dream Director / Actor Pairing

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David Fincher & Ellen Page

One of the best directors around right now with one of the best young actresses right now.  ‘Nuff said.

Essential Classic Film

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Taxi Driver – one of the most thought-provoking and daring movies of the 70s with  a superb Robert DeNiro and a stunningly convincing Jodie Foster.  Love it.

Favourite Film Franchise

I actually don’t think I have a favourite right now…titles like Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars etc come to mind, but firstly is ‘Rings a franchise?  Oh and Star Wars has disappointed me too many times to be a favourite.

Genre I Watch The Most

Thriller – I was going to go for drama, but I think I find myself watching crime movies, action, something with a bit of danger, violence or mature themes in it a lot… gritty you might say, so yes thriller kind of covers all those.

Hidden Gem

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Hmm, by this I’m guessing something fairly obscure that not many have heard about?  I’ll go for Let The Right One In … yes marginally famous but believe me, most who don’t have an awareness of world cinema (and have only seen the dire remake) will not know about this one.  And they really should do … now!

Important Moment In My Film Life

First time I watched Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.  I remember bringing it home from the rental store, on VHS and thinking I had something very special in my possession.  It remains my favourite movie of all time, endlessly watchable and has inspired my style of fiction writing and my love of great dialogue and the crime / gangster genre a whole.

Just Right Movie For A Rainy Day

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The Back To The Future Trilogy

I’ll go for these as they are easy watching, very easy to enjoy from the start, not overly deep, serious or complex and when not in the mood for anything else, superb fun. 

Kiddie Movie I Still Shamelessly Enjoy

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The Lion King

… a great story, beautiful hand-drawn animation and memorable songs!!

Location I’d Most Like To Visit

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The Shire … I mean, who wouldn’t?  Beautiful, and such lovely houses!

Marathon I First Attended

I haven’t ever done a movie marathon … to my recollection.  I don’t think I have the attention span.

Netflix Movie I Actually Watched

V/H/S – which I enjoyed a lot.  Strangely the last Netflix movie I saw too, if you don’t count documentaries.  I do intend to rectify this though as there are a few movies I plan on watching.

One Movie I Saw In Theatres More Than Once

I actually don’t think this has ever happened.

Preferred Place To Watch A New Movie

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Difficult one … I love the cinema, but technology being what it is now, I’d say the home get’s my vote.

 

 

Quote That Inspires Me

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This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time’ and pretty much most of Fight Club as well.

 

 

Remakes (Friend or Foe)

Neither

I don’t have a problem with remakes in theory, as long as they bring something new to an old idea, not just re-tread the same ground, often resulting in a poor imitation.  Which is often the case.

Snack I Enjoy Most

Anything chocolate based.

Twist That Boggled My Mind

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Hmm how to say this without a spoiler…so I wont… but pretty much the best goes to Twelve Monkeys.

Unapologetic Fanperson For

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Martin Scorsese … but who would apologise for that?  He’s amazing.

 

 

 

 

Very Excited For Award Show Season?

Mostly ‘meh’ … good movies rarely even get a nomination, let alone win, with some exceptions.  I’ll check out the winners and be happy if something I think is good walks away with something… but otherwise I’m not overly bothered.

Wish I’d Never Watched

Seed Of Chucky

How to kill a perfectly entertaining franchise … or at least I thought it had…until I heard of Curse Of Chucky.

XXX-Movie I Watched At A Really Young Age

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A Nightmare On Elm Street … scared the crap out of me, and I loved it!

Your Latest Movie Related Obsession

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Studio Ghibli

I love this style of animation, endless imagination, wonderful art and personality.  I haven’t yet seen a Ghibli movie I haven’t liked … and several I have loved.

ZZZ-catchers

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Anything with Harry Potter in the title … just does nothing for me and I am proud to say I have never watched even one of them.

Django Unchained


Viewed – 29 January 2012  Cinema

When Quentin Tarantino makes a movie, it’s an event.  Fact.  Few director’s have the kind of celebrity status he enjoys, and thankfully more often than not, he can deliver.  Over the years I would say he has evolved, from merely the movie geek wonder kid with a series of snappy scripts and a growing cult fan base, into a film-maker of true credibility.  2009’s Inglorious Basterds proved that, and now with this highly anticipated latest effort, he’s painting the classic spaghetti western in his trademark sharp-as-a-knife dialogue, clever-ass narrative and obscure soundtrack.

Django Unchained

Jamie Foxx (Ray, Colateral) plays Django, a slave who teams up with savvy bounty hunter King Shultz (Inglorious Basterdz’ Christoph Waltz) who promises to help him track down and free his wife, who has been sold off to a local tycoon, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).   Now as should be expected, this isn’t like every other western you might have seen (technically it’s a southern, according to Quentin) with Tarantino’s usual mix of sporadic violence, smattering of carefully implemented comedy and lengthy scenes of tense dialogue all aided by a soundtrack so bizarre and obscure, that the whole thing threatens to turn into farce.  Yet Tarantino is better than that and somehow makes it all work, especially once you get into the groove.  Waltz, as in Basterdz steals the show with a brilliantly charming but no less deadly performance, aided by a perfect Foxx, who owns the title role.  Of course it should go without saying that DiCaprio is also excellent in possibly his first villainous turn (proving very psychotic), and a special mention should go to Samuel L. Jackson who as always lights up the screen every time he appears.

Naturally though this is QT’s gig, working from his own brilliantly entertaining and often shocking script (his take on the slave trade utterly humbled this viewer) … and although stylised and at times comic-book-like (the bloody violence clearly exaggerated) still nails one of the darker times in American history.

Essential.

Verdict:  5 /5