Hollywood 2009: Top Directors List

The popular magazine Entertainment Weekly (EW) is famous and notorious for its lists and lists of lists.  In one of their latest issues, they published a list of the Top 25 Active Directors, defined as the “most talented, in-demand directors today.” But what exactly are they measuring, artistic talent, power to get a film made, prestige among colleagues, impact on the industry in terms of making commercially successful picture.  To put it bluntly, you may be very talented and still not be in demand.  And you cannot be active if you have made good movies that have been flops.

Like the Oscar nominations, it's easy to argue and dismiss the EW list.  Also like the Oscar nominations for Best Picture or Best Director, each one of us can compile his or her list and complain about glaring omissions.  Oliver Stone is very active (“W.”) but is not on the list.  David Cronenberg is one of the most talented and accomplished directors around, but is missing in action, even though his last two pictures, “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises,” were good and commercial. 

Glaring Omissions:

Gus Van Sant has just received his second nomination for directing “Milk,” but apparently he is not worthy to be on EW's list.

I also can't help but notice that there are no women or African American on the list, which may be justified but indicates the dismal position of women in both the indie world and mainstream Hollywood. Furthermore, brilliant directors of non-fictional fare, such as Werner Herzog (“Encounters at the End of the World”) are also not included. 


What about foreign filmmakers  Shouldn't they be included on the list  The only one included is Spaniard Pedro Almodovar (“Volver”).

Discrimination Against Age:

The follies of constructing such lists leads to placing Tarantino (number 6) above Clint Eastwood (number 17), even though he has not made a movie in years (so much for being active), whereas Eastwood, 78, is at the top of his form, having made two films this year and in prep for this new one, a biopic-drama about Nelson Mandela starring Morgan Freeman. 


Perhaps the most interesting generalization to be drswn out of such a list concenrs genre:  Most of the innovative, in-demand Hollywood directors have made and continue to make their mark not in prestige genres, such as the biopic or serious dramas, but in the popular formats of the more “debnased” genres of horror, sci-fi, and actioner.

The E.W. List:

1.      Steven Spielberg

2.      Peter Jackson

3.      Martin Scorsese

4.      Christopher Nolan

5.      Steven Soderbergh

6.      Ridley Scott

7.      Quentin Tarantino

8.      Michael Mann

9.      James Cameron

10.  Joel and Ethan Coen

11.  Guillermo del Toro

12.  David Fincher

13.  Tim Burton

14.  Judd Apatow

15.  Sam Raimi

16.  Zack Snyder

17.  Darren Aronofsky

18.  Danny Boyle

19.  Clint Eastwood

20.  Ron Howard

21.  Ang Lee

22.  Paul Thomas Anderson

23.  Paul Greengrass

24.  Pedro Almodovar

25.  Jon Favreau