About a week ago, I was thinking about the film, Friends With Benefits, which was on TV at the time. I thought about how Will Gluck’s (director of Easy A and director/writer of Fired Up! and Friends With Benefits) movies had been written off as generic teen comedies and/or formulaic romantic comedies. When in reality, Gluck has made some good movies. I then decided to make a list of some of the many underrated directors/writers of the past 20 or so years, which would make a great article. Take a look below for my list.
The Most Underrated Director/Writers of Hollywood
The director of Fired Up!, Easy A, and Friends With Benefits is not a household name. Although his movies have done fairly well at the box office and he has gotten some praise for his films, Will Gluck has never been looked upon as more than just another rom-com and teen comedy director, who is making his way in Hollywood. This lack of caring is a shame. His movies are no masterpieces and are a little predictable, but they are surprisingly funny and his scripts are actually quite clever. Many of his movies have satirized the clichés of movies, romance, and life, while showing the characters that some of these clichés stay on the screen and some of them are more real than they seem, such as in Easy A and Friends With Benefits. What I also like about Gluck is that all of his movies so far has proven many actors’ comic abilities, such as Emma Stone (Easy A was one of the movies that made her ironically an A-lister), Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis, Woody Harrelson, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, and Malcolm McDowell. I honestly just hope people will see that his movies are better than a typical ensemble comedy and enjoy his clever and entertaining movies.
2. Rian Johnson
In a change from the comedic Will Gluck, the director of film-noir cult classic, Brick, the caper comedy, The Brothers Bloom, and the wildly original sci-fi film, Looper, is in need of some attention. Although he is known and respected by most movie buffs and has become a bit more mainstream with the praise garnered by Looper, it is a mystery to me why Rian Johnson is not more well known. With stylish filming, out of chronological order story structure, great character development, and original plots, Rian Johnson proved he knows how to make a good movie. Johnson also took his often collaborated star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and put him on the path to stardom. In addition, Johnson has multiple short films and recently directed two episodes of AMC’s Breaking Bad. Although each of his movies received positive critical reactions, people just haven’t paid him enough attention yet. If only more people knew who he was and could see that; Looper was one of my four favorite movies of 2012.
3. Martin McDonagh
Even though I have only seen Seven Psychopaths and have yet to see In Bruges, I am extremely impressed by Martin McDonagh. Although acclaimed at award shows such as the Academy Awards with a nomination for his script for In Bruges and a win for his short, Six Shooter, additionally being extremely acclaimed in Europe as both a filmmaker and a playwright (of which he is considered one of the most important Irish playwrights living), this British-Irish filmmaker has not quite caught on in the United States. Similar to Rian Johnson, if you ask a movie buff about Martin McDonagh, they will know him, and he has a big fan-base, but he is not a household name in the U.S. After seeing Seven Psychopaths on DVD, I was horrified to find out that although it was a critical success, it was box office bomb starting at #9 on the box office on it’s first weekend! It was a phenomenal film of which was one of my favorite movies of 2012. It was a truly different film experience with an amazing and superb original story that is funny, dramatic, pop culturally brilliant, and violent. The script was so good that it is a crime it was robbed of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and amazing performances from the whole cast and a tour de force (in my opinion) performance by Christopher Walken. His violent, darkly comedic, and gritty directing and writing chops, which he showcased in Seven Psychopaths, and from what I am told, the superior In Brudges, is reminiscent of and occasionally superior to film master, Quentin Tarantino. Even though McDonagh is not for everyone’s taste, I really hope that he catches on in the States.
4. Bryan Singer
It isn’t Bryan Singer’s crowd that makes him underrated; he is a well-known name and quite a hero in the comic book world. What makes Bryan Singer underrated is people’s lack of appreciation and forgetfulness to the array of movies he has done. Many people, who go to the movies to see a comic book adaptation, go for the fun and don’t particularly care who directs it. But it takes an insane amount of work to get a comic book movie from the drawing board to the screen. Out of the 5 (soon to be 7) X-Men movies, Bryan Singer’s first two were the best with X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which is in it’s defense a underrated movie that is pretty entertaining) missing what made X-Men and X2: X-Men United great. When the X-Men series regained its glory with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class, who else but Bryan Singer wrote it. He is set to direct X-Men: Days of Future Past. Besides just X-Men, people forget some of the other good movies he has done and the one legendary movie everyone forgets Singer made. That one legendary movie is The Usual Suspects. The Usual Suspects (one of my favorite movies) is a movie that some consider to be one of the best movies ever made, winning two Academy Awards for Christopher McQuarrie (Best Original Screenplay) and Best Supporting Actor (Kevin Spacey). It was directed by Bryan Singer. With many superhero movies, Valkyrie, and Jack The Giant Slayer being among Singer’s ranks, people tend to forget that he has the capacity to make a film like The Usual Suspects. Another thing that always bothered me was the hateful fan reaction to Singer’s Superman Returns and the mixed reception of Valkyrie. Looking back on it, Superman Returns was a flawed movie, but it is well filmed, with jaw dropping special effects, an interesting plotline, a great performance by Kevin Spacey, and it was the first coaster for IMAX superhero movies. Fans turned the cold shoulder to this movie with criticism of its casting, continuation of the Christopher Reeve’s series, length, and extreme detail. Although the movie made a lot of money and a sequel was planned, once the sequel was dropped, everyone forgot about this movie. On a final defense of Bryan Singer, the WWII thriller, Valkyrie, did have many problems such as its historical accuracy, Tom Cruise’s constantly switching accents, disjointed scenes, and controversial plot. In reality, the movie was pretty good and was intense and interesting, but its problems turned many people off to the film.
5. Jackie Chan
Many people don’t know that Jackie Chan is more than just that kung fu guy in Rush Hour. In reality, many of Jackie Chan’s kung fu movies in China are not only starring him, but are written, directed, choreographed, produced, and art directed by Jackie Chan himself. Another very impressive thing is that almost every single one of Chan’s movies (Outside the U.S. and inside the U.S.) he does his own stunts for. Chan even started an association for training stuntmen out of his own wallet. Chan just broke two Guinness World Records, one for most stunts performed by a living actor (of which Chan put his life in danger and broke several bones in his unknown track to making this record) and the record for the person who has the most cast and crew titles with 15 credits. (He was the director, co-writer, leading actor, producer, executive producer, cinematographer, art director, production manager, prop provider, stunt choreographer, stunt double, stunt actor (uncredited), lighting man, two musical department credits, set production assistant, and dialogue coach for his newest and possibly last movie, Chinese Zodiac) Not all of Chan’s movies are masterpieces, but many are martial arts classics which Chan’s huge fan base love. Martial arts movies with many stunts are sometimes some of the hardest movies to make. Next time you talk about Jackie Chan, don’t just think of him as the guy from The Spy Next Door and realize his immense dedication to the trade of film.
6. Ben Stiller
This Hollywood funny man has made people laugh for years, yet recently has been coming up short. Many people forget that Stiller has written and directed many of his movies such as, Reality Bites, Zoolander, and Tropic Thunder. Now not all of these are amazing movies, but Stiller has made some pretty hilarious movies, some of which are so stupid they are brilliant. Stiller is not in the ranks as some of the other people on this list, but he deserves a little more credit for his directing and writing jobs.
7. Alfonso Cuaron
Mexican director, Alfonso Cuaron, is known for films such as Y Tu Mamá También and Children of Men (I have seen one of these, which was phenomenal). The movie he made that changed a series for the better, people tend to forget he even directed. The film I am talking about is Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Everything about this movie was strange, but strange in the best of ways. It had style, it was dark, it boasted impressive effects and had a less straightforward approach than the first two Potter films. This was the first Potter movie to be a cinematic triumph, not just a direct adaptation. After this came the Cuaron-absent, darker better Potter movies. Countless young fans transfixed in wonder by the later films of the boy wizard owe it all to Alfonso Cuaron. I am very excited for his newest project, the sci-fi film, Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock coming out this October. Hopefully you are excited to see it now too.
8. Michel Gondry
Criminal. It is criminal this man is not better known. The French director is a bender of reality and thought on camera with films ranging from the mind-bending romantic science fiction film, Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind to films such as the underrated Mos Def and Jack Black movie about movies, Be Kind Rewind and Seth Rogen’s visual rush providing Green Hornet.
Michel Gondry is known for his original camera techniques, which are apparent in all of his works. Much like Spike Jonze, Gondry had worked with Charlie Kaufman a few times. And much like Spike Jonze, Gondry is a music video and commercials master with more than 30 music videos (musicians including The Rolling Stones, Radiohead, The White Stripes, Björk, and Foo Fighters) and 20 or more commercials. Gondry revolutionized the one-shot music video. People have told Gondry to stick to making music videos. But I disagree. Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind is confusing, but before you leave this planet Earth, I suggest you take the train to Montauk and see that film. One of my personal favorite movies is Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, which is goofy gem for those who have seen it, and for people who haven’t seen it, it is a movie that they should see. I have not seen it, but I have heard the Gondry’s strange surreal, The Science of Sleep, is quite great as well. Although its visuals were great, the one movie of his I was not thrilled with was The Green Hornet, which was a pretty cliché and unoriginal comedy. However, Gondry has obvious chops for the craft of film, and his films and videos should see the light of day more than they do now.
9. Irvin Kershner
Irvin Kershner proves humble beginnings bring on great things. This independent comedy-maker took a turn for legendary. People tend to forget that George Lucas didn’t screw up all the Star Wars movies. Lucas only directed A New Hope for the original trilogy. Yet arguably the best Star Wars movie of them all was not helmed by Lucas but by good ol’ Irv Kershner. Kershner directed The Empire Strikes Back. Although he didn’t do much else after that, besides doing the unofficial 007 movie, Never Say Never Again, which is better than it gets credit for. Kershner deserves attention for this one grand movie of which became one of the most classic movies ever. Kershner also oddly showed up as in actor in some movies in small roles, like Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ and Steven Segal’s On Deadly Ground. Kershner was known as a good man by all who knew him; he passed away in 2010. Rest in peace, Irvin Kershner.
10. Guillermo del Toro
Where to begin with Mr. del Toro… Well, he is a nerd favorite, and I will fully start by saying he isn’t completely underrated. Any movie fan will know him. It is the crowd I am worried about. This visionary is perhaps the best known on this list, but he is well known for his lesser movies. He did have his name on one of the biggest movies of last year, seeing as he was one of the writers of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The two films by Guillermo del Toro that I saw were absolutely amazing. He is not always given credit for his masterpiece–the movie that put me in a loss for words–the Spanish language film, Pan’s Labyrinth. More people have to see this movie! I have also seen the first Hellboy film, which was extremely entertaining. I have heard the second Hellboy is better though. I also hope that this summer’s monster movie homage, Pacific Rim, is good enough to make people want to see his other amazing movies. Guillermo del Toro has so much talent, dedication, cool ideas, CGI mastery, and magic in him; the world needs to fully see this!