#2. Kathryn Bigelow -- The Hurt Locker
Best Known For: Point Break, being James Cameron's ex-wife, height.
Unlike Brett Ratner, no one ever called Kathryn Bigelow a terrible director or accused her of having a small penis. No one had unkind words. No one really had any words. Wikipedia refers to her "trilogy" of works Blue Steel, Point Break and Strange Days, but I'm pretty sure most people have just seen Point Break, and I'm even more sure that most people have no idea who directed it. The movie is known for many things, but the distinctive signature touches of a director/auteur is not one of them. Instead, people think of utterly awful-of-awesome lines like these:
Another hero has disabled embedding, but the link is above. Also, I totally just copyrighted "awful-of-awesome" as a word.
But Then There's This: The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker was probably the best-reviewed film of 2009, and it won Bigelow an Oscar for best director. The movie tells the unconventional story of a bomb disposal team in wartime Iraq. It was shot with hand-held cameras, had relative unknowns in the lead roles and had no clear bad guy. And despite it bucking conventional wisdom, everyone loves it. Check out the power of this scene, in which the unit suffers a sniper attack:
How Did That Happen?
I'm not sure. Maybe Bigelow just had the resources, the backing and the time to make a movie she believed in. Maybe Hollywood didn't require a Keanu Reeves in it to suck it up. Also, I think you have to give some credit to Chris Innis and Bob Murawski, who edited the nearly 200 hours of footage from multiple hand-held cameras to form a coherent and immediate movie.
#1. Joel Schumacher -- Falling Down
Best Known For: St. Elmo's Fire, Flatliners, Batman & Robin, sucking at everything all the time.
I'm not sure why I have such disdain for Mr. Schumacher. I mean, I hated him before Batman & Robin. I think it's because he was the first director I noticed making choices that were just wrong. Take Flatliners, for example, a movie about medical students who find a way to spend time in the region between life and death. Not surprisingly, the netherworld is creepy and bathed in blue light. But guess what? Lots of stuff in the movie is bathed in blue light. And lots of normal stuff, like the medical school itself, is needlessly creepy and gothic, so the differences between life and death, scary and not scary, are blurred from the beginning. Nice try, but no. And all the false profundity that mars St. Elmo's Fire can't hide that it's a dressed-up nothing without even the insight of a Sixteen Candles.
Ultimately, the scariest things in Flatliners were the haircuts.
But Then There's This: Falling Down
Falling Down is one of my favorite movies of all time. It's Schumacher's best film, it's Michael Douglas' best performance and it's like few movies ever made. It tells the story of a divorced unemployed former contract worker as he makes his way through LA to his ex-wife's house for his daughter's birthday. Hollywood sold the movie as mere wish fulfillment for angry white men everywhere, but it was so much more than that.
What makes Falling Down such an amazingly rare movie is that it's one of the few times on film where you have a protagonist who correctly finds fault with everyone, and yet is still wrong. Short of a Franz Kafka story or Barton Fink, that's virtually unheard of in art. Douglas is not just a mere antihero like some Clint Eastwood cowboy; he is a virulent social critic who speaks the truth about the ills of the world. He correctly identifies every single bad guy in the movie, but is completely oblivious to his own faults. The trailer embedded above is a lie. Douglas takes no vindication from his rampage. He's simply out of ideas. Nothing he believes in exists anymore, including the man he thought he was.
How Did That Happen?
I have no idea. I have never seen Schumacher show such depth in any other film. The screenwriter's only subsequent credit was a reboot of Car 54, Where Are You? A better man would say I've misjudged Mr. Schumacher, but I've seen his Grisham movies, 8MM and Flawless, so better men must have bad taste in movies.
People with great taste in movies watch HATE BY NUMBERS. They also follow Gladstone on Twitter and stay up-to-date on the latest regarding Notes from the Internet Apocalypse. And then there's his website and Tumblr, too.
For more from Gladstone, check out 5 Satirists Attacked by People Who Totally Missed the Point and Was 'Arrested Development' A Remake of a 70s Sitcom?.