Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekend Weigh-in: What Director Is Ready to Hang It Up?

But don't be mean about it.

Side Effects opened this weekend, and (for now) it's the last theatrical movie we're ever going to get from Steven Soderbergh, who's retiring from directing. Kevin Smith has said that he's got one more movie (maybe two, if he does another Clerks sequel) in him before he devotes his life entirely to podcast and getting baked. Even Quentin Tarantino has been talking lately about retiring after 10 movies and focusing on writing film criticism.

So who do you think should retire from directing? And I was serious about not being mean. This isn't the place to say "So and so has always sucked and should never have started" or something ignorant like that. This is to talk about filmmakers you think may have already said everything he or she is going to say, or who have a strong enough body of work already to have left a legacy, or who shouldn't risk tarnishing a perfect track record with a bad movie.


  1. I think the best way to approach this without being mean is to discusss established legacy. If we're talking in those terms, there are several directors who could retire today and be remembered fondly: Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, The Choen Brothers, Robert Zemekis, Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola, Ridley Scott, etc.

    However, I don't know if I want to see any of them hang it up just yet. Perhaps of that list I would choose Woody Allen, but he has a movie coming out this year, I think, so he's not ready to call it quits at this point, I guess. Another choice would be Francis Ford Coppola, whose older work outshines anything he's done lately, I feel.

  2. I know this kind of talk doesn't belong on the internet, but I honestly don't think any director should hang it up, even the "bad" ones like Jim Wynorski or Uwe Boll. Don't get me wrong, Boll seems to be an execrable human being but In The Name Of The King wasn't the worst (close call, though), and I prefer to think that even someone like him whose career is built on awful movies can still surprise us.

    For example, I saw The Roost and absolutely hated it. It was dull, uninvolving, and forgettable. I then saw Cabin Fever 2 from the same director, and it was also lousy so it seemed worth writing him off. I was talked into seeing his next movie The House Of The Devil, and I absolutely loved it. He followed that up with The Innkeepers, which was one of my favorites of last year, so I know that if I'd have dismissed Ti West after not liking his early output then I'd have missed two movies I genuinely love and I'm happy to be excited about what he's doing next.

    Even when a director has "lost it" (which I've heard about possibly every director who's ever made more than one movie) doesn't mean they can't still surprise you. I greatly enjoyed Midnight In Paris, Mulholland Drive, The Departed, Miracle At St. Anna (a mess, but an interesting one), Scream, and countless others from directors who were considered past their prime. I prefer to believe that they've all got another story to tell, and I try to remain as open-minded as possible.

    1. I tend to agree with you. It's kind of a stupid question (I can say that, because I came up with it). While I agree with John Murphy saying Coppola could easily retire, I like that he's spending his later years doing crazy movies that he's financing himself and gets to do whatever he wants. I don't know that I'm crazy about those movies, but it's cool to have them.

      I want to say that I've seen everything Wes Anderson has to say (which isn't to say I don't like Wes Anderson, just that's repeating himself a lot), but if he were to hang it up now it would rule out the possibility that's ever going to do something totally different and interesting. Even Tim Burton, who I could probably do without more than most major directors these days, might some day make another Ed Wood. It's unlikely, but the 1% chance might be worth two or three more Dark Shadows.

      Maybe not.

      The question was really just to get a conversation going about directors' legacies, and how much we value a "perfect" track record versus getting more half-hearted movies from someone we once loved.

    2. I don't know that any director could have a perfect track record. My favorite is David Cronenberg, and I've found things I like in even his lesser efforts (I kind of hated Cosmopolis, but I appreciate what he was going for and R-Pattz's surprisingly solid performance) but I can readily admit that some of his stuff just plain doesn't work and doesn't seem as vital as his earlier stuff. That being said, it's worth slogging through an A Dangerous Method or two when there are still gems like A History Of Violence hidden among them.

    3. God, I wish Alfred Hitchcock would hang it up! He's dead! Geez, Al. Take a hint.

    4. For the record, I agree with JP's comment, too. Even if a director has made a string of bad or less enjoyable movies after multiple successes (seemingly "losing it"), that's not to say he or she isn't perfectly capable of returning to their former glory, or at least churning out a surprise here and there that shows hints of what they once were.

      Also, I can definitely see Patrick's suggestion of Wes Anderson being a legit choice. There has been a certain "sameness" to a lot of his movies, but I still find them interesting and enjoyable, anyway. Moonrise Kingdom is very good for what it is. And who knows, like you said, maybe he'll do something COMPLTELY different one day.

    5. Another vote for Burton going away and enjoying his ill gotten gains....

      BTW, warn everyone away from "Hitchcock" because of how unrealistic it is....

      You know that "Ed Wood" (especially concerning Lugosi) is full of crap, too?

    6. Yes. We address that on the show. My big issue with Hitchcock isn't that it's a fiction. It's that it's a lousy fiction. Ed Wood is not.

    7. While I don't think Burton had to go to such lengths to make Lugosi look as pathetic as possible, I see your point.

      (and no, I haven't listened to that show yet because I plan to see "Hitchcock" when my library gets it and then listen to your take - so, sorry I didn't know that you'd mentioned it)

    8. My big issue with "Hitchcock" isn't that it's a fiction. It's that it's a lousy fiction. Ed Wood is not.

      Wasn't that also Patrick's (and Mark Ahn's) problem with "Braveheart"? Guess that makes Mel Gibson a director we're glad the market forces "retired." Shame, I really wanted to see the man's take on the biblical Maccabees texts (i.e. the 'torture porn' of its day) until I knew Joe Eszterhas was writing the screenplay. Did we learn nothing from "Sliver" and "Showgirls" Mel?

    9. I get the "good" fiction/"bad" fiction thing.
      Another of my favorite films is "Shadow of the Vampire" - which nobody would think is true. But it goes into the "Wouldn't it be cool if..." file with "Inglourious Basterds".
      I like "Ed Wood" too in spite some of the complete fiction. Hell, I went to the movie's opening at midnight at a theater where I may have been the only naturally-born female in the place.
      I try to look at it as they couldn't get releases from people who are still around (ex: Bela Lugosi, Jr who HATED Wood, btw) and they had to be left out of the story.
      I just wonder if "Hitchcock" ran into the same problem of releases from people involved and they had to change things accordingly?

  3. I can almost agree with the Tim Burton vote if it wasn't for his excellent work in stop motion animation. He just needs the CGI taken away from him. My favorite films of his have been ones where either all or a majority of the effects were practically done, Ed Wood, Beetlejuice,and Big Fish to name a few. I think he's guilty of hitting the "All you can CGI buffet" as of the last few years. Poor George Lucas closed a string of those restaurants with the SW prequels.

    Back on topic my choice for director who should call it a day would sadly have to be John Carpenter. I love The Thing and Halloween (and have a soft spot for Starman) but he fell hard in his later years and I just don't see what other stories he has to tell. With that being said though John if you are reading this I would love for nothing else than for you to make a classic film again than throw me an email that says "How about this excellent piece of awesome Tom, now go F yourself!"

  4. ^^^ Agree, although supply and demand economics pretty much took care of the retirement part a long time ago. I'm still surprised someone gave the go ahead for him to direct "The Ward," which only proved (at someone's expense) something we've all known since 1992.

    Michael Mann: We get it: criminals are humans too and cops are as flawed as the bad guys they chase after while women are neat objects of beauty to put in the background as plot devices. Rinse, lather, repeat.

    Walter Hill: "Bullet in the Head" kind-of sums up the man's career now. He left his mark with "48 Hours," which practically institutionalized the bickering buddy cop movie as a genre trope.

    Manoel de Oliveira: He's 104 years old and still actively directing. Not a reflection on the quality of the man's work, just that at his age he should really retire. :-)

    Sam Raimi: If you're comfortable letting others redo your seminal work (which you kind-of already did, albeit watered-down for PG-13, with "Drag Me To Hell") and producing then it's time to let others direct. Especially now that your once-distinctive voice/style have been co-opted/abused by others (I'm looking at you, Stephen Sommers).

    Mike Leigh: I love British working class dramas/comedies as much as anyone here... anyone? Bueller? But after hitting a peak with "Secrets and Lies" in '96 and consistent work for decades, is Leigh saying anything now he hasn't said about britons already a dozen times?

    Wes Craven: For every distinguished bullet point ("A Nightmare on Elm Street") there are many cinematic corpses ("Deadly Friend," "Shocker," the "Scream" sequels, etc.) littering several genres. Time to let others hit at bat and/or shove manure.

    Roland Emmerich: Because seriously, unless he switches to other galaxies, dimensions, parallel universes or genres ("Anonymous" says 'hello' and JB says 'fuck you'), how much more of a cinematic trashing can the mighty Planet Earth take again?

    David Cronenberg: Because how can you top being killed by a resurrected Vorhees in "Jason X"? :-P Seriously though, after two decades of gross-body cinema and two decades of intellectually-lacerating cinema (though "eXistenZ" mixes both) Cronenberg seems to have said everything he ever wanted to say and some.

    Mike Nichols: The man's directorial career has been an unsuccessful chasing of the dragon known as "The Graduate" (of which only "Carnal Knowledge" came close to).

    Francis Ford Coppola: Ditto, though his peaks ("Godfather 1 & 2," "Apocalypse Now") are nice contrasts to the humble hills of ideas on which Coppola has chosen to spend his golden years and "Godfather" money. If once-great directors need a hobby and can afford it, the Coppola model (low-stakes little indie movies made on the cheap) is the way to go.

    Hark Tsui: Seriously, enough with the the wuxia epics... ENOUGH!

    My new-to-me movies for the past few days:

    2/7/13: René Clair gets jiggy with it (the camera that is) in ENTR'ACTE (1924) at NYC Anthology Film Archives.

    Free sex and communism don't mix (though they should, and do) in Dusan Makavejev's W.R.: MYSTERIES OF THE ORGANISM (1971) at Anthology Film Archives.

    One-person screening of Don Coscarelli's JOHN DIES AT THE END (2013) for me? Oh, Landmark Sunshine Theater, you shouldn't have!

    2/8/13: Charles E. Sellier Jr.'s SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT (1984) -or, as the director likes to call it, "the show"- on DVD:

  5. I guess if I had to choose I would say someone like Woody Allen, which John Murphy mentioned above. The guy has made TONS of movies, one almost every year, and his best ones were his first ones. However, I have no problem with him making a new movie every year. I feel like he already has enough of a reputation that he doesn't have to prove himself anymore. Now he's free to make anything that comes into his head, which I think he does, and that's pretty cool. That's how I feel for most established directors, it's the unestablised one's that sometimes need to decide if this is the right profession for them.

    Someone like Robert Altman is a good example of a great director who reached the level to where he could just make the movies he wanted. He made alot of movies, alot of great ones, some not soo much, but even in his lesser movies there's the spirit of someone who just loves film. And we could definitely use more of that these days.

  6. I'm late to this party but don't have a whole lot to add anyway. I wouldn't say it's a stupid question (it's at the very least thought-provoking) but it is certainly difficult to really answer. I would say Woody Allen only because I've never really enjoyed his movies. I wouldn't say they're BAD and they have their moments but when I like something about one of his movies I always feel like it's "in spite of" his style, not "because of" it. I know I might be fairly alone on that one.

    Basically though I would have a hard time stifling any well-known director because you just never know what they're going to come up with, right? If John Carpenter has another The Thing in him I'd love to see it - no real skin off my sack if all he's got are more Vampires.

    In terms of the Seinfeld approach to leaving them still wanting more, I'd say Scorsese's time is ripe to leave a pretty rock-solid legacy, though I see on imdb that he's got four things coming down the pipe as we speak so he seems unlikely to hang it up anytime soon and I'm glad for it!

    So I guess they can all just keep at it until they die as far as I'm concerned!

    1. ^^^ I agree, if a director still wants to, has something to say (which most younger directors don't, they just want to make movies and will do anything that comes across their way) and someone's willing to finance their projects then I'm all for them still directing until they can't no more. That's why I didn't include George Romero in my list above (unlike Coppola, who I think doesn't have another "Godfather" or "Apocalypse Now" left in her): his latest "Dead" movies have been disappointing but it comes across that Romero would turn into a pillar of salt the moment he turned around and couldn't direct a movie anymore.

      It's more of a hypothetical exercise than a realistic one, but how often do directors with the clout of Soderbergh hang it up when they're still relatively young and with the clout to keep on going? It's an unusual case, one that called for an unusual topic.

  7. I'm not trying to make a joke but John Hughes probably should've hung up the cleats (so to speak) after 'She's having a baby' (which is a movie I actually kinda love minus, maybe, a few of the "fantasy" sequences). It seemed like on that movie he had something personal to say and he said it. After that he did 'Uncle Buck' (which is a movie I also really enjoy) and 'Peggy Sue' (which I have no interest in seeing ever). Which are/I'm sure are fine films but 'Baby' would've been the perfect closer. And yea he wrote a bunch after that (Home Alone), which I'm fine with, but I think as a director, 'Baby' should've been his last.

  8. I would say John Woo and Martin Scorsese, for roughly the same reason. Both of them had a great amount of energy and style once, but both of them descended into self-parody and the vibe is gone.

    I liked The Departed and even enjoyed Shutter Island and The Aviator, but not anywhere near as much as Casino, Raging Bull or Goodfellas. I don't want to watch him crash and burn like some other directors I've seen.

    Except I can't really say that because of What John Woo did.

    Red Cliff redeemed Woo, and put him back in a place where I was jazzed to sit through a 2 hour 20 minute movie, having just sat through a 2 hour 20 minute movie (yeah, Red Cliff is super long) and I really enjoyed every bit of the nearly 5 hours we sat watching that thing. If ever there was a pace where a director had become a complete and utter joke, and then made the biggest movie like ever (for Hong Kong), then it's John Woo.

    So what I'm saying is that if Martin Scorsese has some kind of super-long historical epic in him, I'll be there.

    1. I respect your opinion, but I have to disagree with you on Scorsese. I mean, if he did quit now, I wouldn't really blame him, and would be appreciative of all that he has churned out so far, but Hugo was wonderful, in my opinon, and proof that, while it's maybe not Raging Bull, Taxi Driver or GoodFellas, he can still make a great movie. I feel he's still going strong at this point. I guess with every director there's always the possibility of crashing and burning, and maybe there's something to be said about getting out while they are ahead, but I don't think the fear of crashing should stop them from trying to make something good.