After recently watching Trespass on Blu-ray, The Ward on Netflix Instant and catching J. Edgar on its early rollout, I began to notice a trend of legendary and/or highly touted filmmakers who have tailed off in recent years.
So I began thinking of other helmers that have fallen onto similar hard times and came up with a list of nine who, in my opinion, have lost their fastball. It’s important to note that while it’s difficult to evaluate all of these directors on an equal scale, all of these names were selected based on one basic criteria: their recent output has failed to live up to their once impressive past.
Outside the nine below, there were a few I others I considered. Directors such as Bryan Singer, Tim Burton, Stephen Frears and Cameron Crowe, but ultimately I didn’t think their declines were as steep as those I chose to profile, though I felt I should mention their names for the sake of conversation. Because I think we all know Valkyrie is no Usual Suspects and Burton’s films may make money but where quality is concerned he’s been shaky. After Stephen Frears scored with The Queen, he dropped Cheri and Tamara Drewe on us like a box of rocks and while Cameron Crowe may have brought us Say Anything…, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, what has he done since?
That said, here are nine directors (in no particular order) I think could use a little bit of a career “pick me up”. You know, a little something to set them off in the right direction and back to the prominence they once enjoyed.
The older Scott brother is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, but it’s going to be hard to defend him if he keeps churning out bloated clunkers like Robin Hood. Sure, it made $321 million worldwide, but that number only looks good before taking into account the film’s $200 million production budget and no matter how much money it makes can’t change my opinion of it. And while I did like Body of Lies, that didn’t exactly set the world on fire either.
Moving forward, I’m apprehensive about Prometheus because I can’t help but feel like a lapse in creativity is inspiring him to return to familiar territory. Oh, and there’s also this news about that Blade Runner sequel. That said, Scott’s career hit a previous lull in the ’90s before he returned to prominence with Gladiator and Black Hawk Down so I’m confident he can once again recover.
Creative Peak: Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Gladiator (2000).
Rock Bottom: A Good Year (2006), Robin Hood (2010)
Eastwood had been on such an unbelievable run as a director until the bland and aimless Hereafter that I considered it an aberration. Then I saw J. Edgar and it became clear to me that Eastwood is just going through the motions these days. He works notoriously fast, but maybe it’s time for him to slow down a bit because neither of his two recent films feel fully conceptualized, nor has a clear, driving theme.
Creative Peak: Unforgiven (1992), Mystic River (2003), Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Rock Bottom: Hereafter (2010), J. Edgar (2011)
Alex Proyas had an exciting start to his career with some dark, unique movies that are still worth revisiting from time to time. He could have been an auteur. Instead, he began making some relatively ordinary and forgettable, albeit not entirely terrible, mainstream sci-fi movies with massive stars like Will Smith and Nicolas Cage.
His latest feature, Knowing was incredibly divisive, but I side with those who thought it was a mess. And while Paradise Lost sounds like it could go either way, I’m hoping it leans a little closer to his early work. Or is this just who he is now?
Creative Peak: The Crow (1994), Dark City (1998)
Rock Bottom: I, Robot (2004), Knowing (2009)
Perhaps the most obvious name on the list, Coppola had possibly the greatest decade in film history in the ’70s. He followed that with some solid, if unspectacular, films in the ’80s before selling out to Hollywood in the ’90s and fading into obscurity in the 2000s while concentrating on smaller personal projects and living off the revenue from his winery (and presumably the royalties from all those The Godfather boxed sets). Buzz out of Toronto has not been kind to his latest offering, Twixt where Brad saw it and has still yet to review it, although he tells me the buzz is accurate. Such a shame.
Creative Peak: The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather: Part II (1974), Apocalypse Now (1979)
Rock Bottom: Jack (1996), Youth Without Youth (2007), Twixt (2011)
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