Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Gimme Five: Five Less-Than Great Directors Who Are Technically Auteurs

I thought about this one a while back, but now seems like a good time to put it up. These directors are not exactly cinematic masters, but they have become legends in their own subgenres and have a distinctive style that pretty much makes them auteurs, if you buy into auteur theory. But don't be fooled: they're no Hitchcock.
1. Roland Emmerich
Emmerich specializes in the end-of-the-world film, creating works that are usually high on destruction and low on plot. Even more so, he has a particular fondness for the destruction of New York City (see: Independence Day, Godzilla, The Day After Tomorrow), though what crime the Big Apple committed against him is anyone's guess. But you can tell you're watching a Roland Emmerich film: there will be highly-stylized scenes of destruction, a thin plot that usually doesn't make a lick of sense, and, as always, the dog will live to the end. Emmerich may have tried branching out with efforts like The Patriot and 10,000 BC, but take a look and even those films follow Emmerich's blueprint. And 2012 is his magnum opus, more or less ditching narrative all together to make a movie where the destruction knows no end and people drive Bentleys out of the backs of airplanes. It's excessive Emmerich at his best.
2. Uwe Boll
No one's ever accused Boll of making a great film; hell, no one's even claimed that he's made a mediocre film. Boll's films are always met with near-universal jeers, and if you've ever had the (dis)pleasure to see one of his films, you'll know why: stale stories, wooden dialogue, terrible picture quality and uninteresting characters dominate his films, which are usually video-game adaptations. It's become his trademark, at this point, and he's even appeared to embrace his status as this generation's Ed Wood: why else would he make one of his next films Blubberella, which he describes as "the world's first fat superhero?" There's no doubt it will be terrible, but it wouldn't be a Uwe Boll film otherwise.
3. Tyler Perry
Not all of these directors are on here because their contributions to cinema are detrimental; indeed, I do enjoy an Emmerich film every once in a while. And Perry has carved himself an interesting place in pop culture. He's not a very talented director, as evidenced by the uninspiring staging and mise-en-scene he incorporates into all of his films, but that's probably because most of his films are based on plays and still feel like plays in the way he shoots them (even though he's adapting those plays himself, which may be part of the problem). Perry hasn't exactly been well-received by everyone, either, with several critics claiming that his films are "minstrel shows" that advance black stereotypes. But Perry does have his faithful audience, and amidst all of the corn-pone humor and Christian uplift is cinematic comfort food. His films stand out, and he's a very wealthy man for it.
4. Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg
I've already written about these two before, but they bear repeating. These two have taken over the spoof genre after the Wayans Brothers decided that they have better things to do, and as a result we get one terrible spoof after another, most of which do nothing but make pop culture references in the hopes that something is funny because it exists. There's nothing good about their abilities as directors, and audiences have been waning from this tired genre. Yet their style in unmistakable, and for some reason, studios keep giving them money to make their films. I genuinely feel sorry for them, but perhaps they enjoy their jobs, and it doesn't really matter how the films do? One can only hope.
5. Michael Bay
Bay is infamous for his heavy action, laughable plot style of filming, and he also could care less if you don't like it. Bay is perhaps the truest auteur on this list, as there's no way you could mistake a Michael Bay production for one of his many knock-offs. From buddy-cop films (Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2) to historical "prestige" films (Pearl Harbor) to glossy sci-fi (The Island), there's no film genre that Bay can't jam a million explosions and car wrecks into. There's a reason his films usually do well: he appeals to the 13-year-old boy inside of most Americans, perhaps because he himself is very in-touch with his inner 13-year-old. Which is why the Transformers movies are his Citizen Kane: nothing better exemplifies Bay's explosive tendencies like these "ROBOTS GO SMASH!!!!!!!!!!!!" epics. Do his films follow any logical storytelling? That would be assuming that Bay actually has a story to tell. But when you need a film where pretty much everything goes "BOOM!," Bay's your man.
Honorable Mention: Brett Ratner
I don't actually have anything to say about him. I just wanted an excuse to use this picture again.

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