Part 2: My Top 5 Directors of the Decade
Now for the exciting bit: choosing my favourite directors of the last ten years.
5. Clint Eastwood
Films: Gran Torino (2008), Changeling (2008), Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), Flags of Our Fathers (2006), Million Dollar Baby (2004), Mystic River (2003), Blood Work (2002), Space Cowboys (2000)
I've only seen three of the movies above, but enjoyed them enough to put Eastwood in the list. A director that seems to have got better and better this decade, with a real knowledge of what makes films work. Like Spielberg, he paces a movie almost perfectly and knows how to create characters that you will care about. I look forward to seeing him direct Morgan Freeman as Mandella in Invictus in February, and actually think he'll be the Spielberg of next decade: taken for granted because he's too consistent.
4. Guillermo del Toro
Films: Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy (2004), Blade II (2002), The Devil's Backbone (2001).
I'm gonna ignore Blade II, since I haven't seen it. I do know it's the only one of the films above he did not also write, so don't feel too guilty about doing so.
Anyway, the other four films on the list are really very good. Pan's Labyrinth, in particular is one of my favourite films ever. The reason I think del Toro deserves a place on the list is his character design: the monsters in Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth are some of the most unique I've ever seen. In the age of CGI, it's also refreshing to see someone use mainly animatronics and make-up: another reason his films stand-out so much. His next movie is "The Hobbit" and I have every confidence his work on that movie will make him a household name. In the meantime, if you haven't seen The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth go and rent them now.
3. Peter Jackson
Films: King Kong (2005), Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
To make the LOTR trilogy seemed like an almost impossible task. It seemed you essentially had two choices: leave out large chunks and hence water-down the epicness of the source material, or make some sort of TV series out of it: without the budget to bring Middle Earth fully to life (think BBC's Narnia). Jackson, somehow, managed to produce three 3+ hour movies that audiences loved. Return of the King is this decade's highest grossing movie worldwide. Setting new standards for battles and CGI character design (Gollum), LOTR is successful simply because it relies on the strength of the original tale to propel it forward. Given that the books are 1000+ pages long, this is a remarkable achievement. There is no other trilogy like it, and I don't think we'll see another series of movies like this for a long long time.
2. Paul Greengrass
Films: The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), United 93 (2006), The Bourne Supremacy (2004), Bloody Sunday (2002)
"Shaky-cam" is a phenomenon which has become very popular over the past ten years, and Greengrass is the director most closely associated with this technique. Giving his films a realistic gritty feeling, the technique itself has given rise to some of the most unique films of the last ten years (cf. Cloverfield and District 9). The reason it works is because it makes the unimaginable believable. Through Greengrass' movies we can completely imagine what it's like to be superspy Jason Bourne, to be on the streets of Derry during Bloody Sunday or what it might have been like to be on a plane hijacked by terrorists. This gives these stories an emotional connection that most films simply cannot achieve. Perhaps Greengrass' greatest achievement, however, is a movie he had nothing to do with: Casino Royale. The opening scene where Bond uses his licence to kill for the first time could have easily fitted into Supremacy or Ultimatum. His next film, Green Zone, reunites him with Matt Damon. Here's hoping it's another breathtaking movie from an expert storyteller.
1. Christopher Nolan
Films: The Dark Knight (2008), The Prestige (2006), Batman Begins (2005), Insomnia (2002), Memento (2000)
This truly has been Nolan's decade. Starting out with cult-hit Memento, he's went on to become the most exciting director in Hollywood. The Dark Knight is the superhero movie to end all superhero movies. It really has set the bar high for making exiting, compelling, intelligent blockbusters. At the other side of the decade, Memento is by far the most creative movie we've seen this decade. Given the money Nolan now has available, it'd be great to see him making something like that again at some point over the next ten years. Given how little we know about his next movie Inception, that could well be the return I'm hoping for. Regardless, his ability to weave a narrative web is such that his movies have yet to disappoint. Long may it continue.
Part 3: My Top 5 Movies of the Decade comes tomorrow. In the meantime why not post your own top 5 directors below: