9 Awesome Directors Who Temporarily Lost Their Mind

9 Awesome Directors Who Temporarily Lost Their Mind

If you catch your wife in bed with another man and shoot the guy, it's second-degree murder. If you shoot him 147 times, put on a dress and make love to the corpse, you get a pass because you were temporarily insane.

We think the same rule should apply to Hollywood. As these guys prove, a good director occasionally will do something so mind-bogglingly bad, temporary insanity is the only explanation possible.

Francis Ford Coppola

Awesome because of:
The Godfather (I and II), Apocalypse Now, The Conversation

Clearly unwell because of:

What happened:
We can blame the disastrous The Godfather Part III on nepotism (his non-actress daughter is painful to watch) and astronomical expectations. But, there is no such excuse for Jack, Coppola's inexplicable Robin Williams comedy in which The Hairy One Who Riffs plays a fifth-grader with the body of a gorilla.

Coppola makes up a fake medical condition in order to give Robin Williams an excuse to talk about diarrhea (as if he needed a reason) and the secondary characters a chance to drop hilarious one liners like: "We're going to have to change your name from Jack to Shaq." Get it? Because they're both big and their names rhyme and they've both played rapping genies!

Coppola making this movie is like Alex Rodriguez showing up to play in a Little League game for some reason ... and then striking out. Or, better yet, if Alex Rodriguez struck out in a Little League game, shat on home plate, kicked an orphan and then made a movie about a child in a hairy man's body.

Spike Lee

Awesome because of:
Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, 25th Hour, Inside Man

Clearly unwell because of:
She Hate Me

What happened:
Between making his most critically lauded movie in a decade (25th Hour) and his most commercially successful ever (Inside Man), Spike Lee took a break to make She Hate Me, a movie that feels like it was co-directed by a teenage Bang Bus subscriber and a drunk John Grisham.

The first and third acts are a high stakes corporate drama. The second is a raunchy comedy about a guy who becomes a human sperm bank for a bunch of attractive lesbians, who choose to have sex with him rather than be artificially inseminated (because deep down lesbians are just chicks who are open to three ways, right?). In the end, he enters into a polyamorous relationship with two lesbians but remains friendly with the 18 other lesbians who are currently carrying his children. Everyone involved is totally OK with that, except for the people who paid to watch the movie.

Now, in case you're wondering if the title for this film (that you didn't watch) came from an athlete (that you're not familiar with), who played in a sport (that you aren't interested in), then you are absolutely correct. In an experiment in ridiculous pop-culture references, this unwatchable movie took it's name from the nickname of obscure athlete Rod Smart, a running back in the now-defunct-but-always-irrelevant XFL who had "He Hate Me" on the back of his jersey.

This would be like releasing a movie a year from now titled Leave Britney Alone! if instead of being an Internet meme, that phrase had been the nickname of a player in the WNBA.

Guy Ritchie

Awesome because of:
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, titling a movie Snatch

Clearly unwell because of:
Swept Away

What happened:
We know some film snobs will question our decision to include Guy Ritchie on a list of awesome directors, but hear us out.

Ritchie is to great directors what Pringles are to vegetables: incredibly unwholesome, but so enjoyable, and undeniably addictive that he's the closest most adolescents get to enjoying one. Oh, and like Pringles, his films look identical to one another. For instance, see if you can tell which Guy Ritchie movie this describes: "London's criminal underworld takes notice of a (random nationality) mobster's shady (random industry) deal, a scam that puts millions of dollars up for grabs."

We actually copied that from the IMDB plot synopsis of his upcoming RocknRolla, but it works just as well for Lock, Stock and Snatch. And, really, that's fine with us because Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Snatches is brilliant garbage and you get the feeling his "blood-drenched-cockney" sensibilities wouldn't really work out in, say, a chick flick. Ritchie apparently didn't get that same feeling, and in 2002 made the erotic satire Swept Away.

Perhaps you remember it as that movie neither you nor anyone you know saw. To fill you in, it's about a rich woman (Madonna) and a poor deck hand (some Italian dude) who get marooned on a desert island and, facing imminent starvation, proceed to fuck each other blind.

Trying to figure out what went wrong here is like trying to figure out which bullet killed Sonny Corleone at the toll booth. First of all, unless Nora Ephron decides to direct Tango & Cash 2, we can't imagine anyone taking on a project further outside their wheelhouse. But more importantly, he cast Madonna as the lead even though she is known to be a terrible actress, by all accounts an intimidating bitch to work with and widely rumored to be HIS FUCKING WIFE.

Terry Gilliam

Awesome because of:
All things Monty Python, Time Bandits, Brazil, Twelve Monkeys

Clearly unwell because of:

What happened:
Terry Gilliam's whole thing has always been that he's totally insane, so how does he make a list of directors who just "temporarily" lost it? To explain, we could compare Gilliam to Axl Rose. We could say Twelve Monkeys and Brazil constituted the crazy-as-in-awesome phase of his career, like when Rose was jumping into mosh pits and punching people in the face while wearing a kilt, and that the depraved Tideland brought Gilliam into Axl's post-Use Your Illusion, holed-up-in-a-bunker-letting-his-paranoid-mind-cannibalize-itself phase.

Or, we could just show you Gilliam's video introduction to Tideland:

Sure, Gilliam admits that he is, deep down inside, a little girl. And, sure, his monotone repetition of "Thank you" at the end of the clip can generously be described as slightly creepy, but more accurately described as fucking terrifying. And, sure, the movie is about a 10-year-old girl hanging out with the rotting corpse of her heroin addict father. But, those aren't even our biggest problems with this clip.

No, our problem is that Gilliam, anticipating people not liking his movie, is explaining that it's the fault of the viewer for watching it wrong, and that they should re-watch it while pretending they're a little kid. You made a shitty movie, Terry Gilliam, now live with it. You didn't see Coppola make a speech before Jack saying "Look, folks, this movie blows, but when you watch it, imagine yourself as a person with really shitty taste in movies and I think you'll really enjoy it."

Steven Spielberg

Awesome because of:
Jaws, E.T., Schindler's List, The Indiana Jones movies

Clearly unwell because of:

What happened:
Whereas a number of the other films on this list were obviously destined for disaster from the word go, Hook actually sounds like a perfect match for Spielberg. He's always known the first rule of making fantasy movies is that children like to be treated like adults, and adults like to be made to feel like children, which hits right on the main theme of Hook. Great director, timeless story and a great cast should be awesome, right?

Well, you know how walking down stairs is really easy until you think about putting one foot in front of the other? We're not sure what that's called, but Spielberg apparently had it for the year he made Hook. The movie feels like it was made by somebody who had never actually met any children, but had seen them in early '90s NERF commercials. The Hook kids are a faceless gang who settle scores with skateboarding contests and take advantage of the absence of parents by eating paint. The child actors could have all swapped roles half way through the movie and nobody would have noticed.

Also, there's a fine line between "childlike fantasy" and "weird and creepy." And, this movie stumbles across the line every few minutes. Dustin Hoffman hamming it up as a goofy Captain Hook is an example of the first, Peter's implied love affair with the 3-nch-tall Tinkerbell would be the other one.

We can't help but notice that this is the second time on this list that Robin Williams has been directly involved in the temporary insanity of a director. When Swept Away tanked, Madonna vowed never to act again. It's time to do the right thing, Robin.

M. Night Shyamalan

Awesome because of:
Unbreakable, The Sixth Sense, that kooky name

Clearly unwell because of:
Lady in the Water

What happened:
Shyamalan has gotten a bad name these days, but the guy deserves credit. He can use a camera to frighten people like nobody since Hitchcock. It's his writing that gets him in trouble, combined with an ego so huge the gravitational pull of it can affect the tides.

Some claimed they saw the signs when ... well, Signs contained an extended cameo from Shyamalan himself that did nothing to move the movie forward, other than presumably giving the director the masturbation fodder he needed to get through the editing process.

If you're one of the many, many people who never saw Lady in the Water, just imagine a less subtle Passion of the Christ with an evil film critic instead of Pontius Pilate, and M Night Shyamalan instead of Jesus. He casts himself as a political philosopher whose writing, it is revealed by a water nymph (naturally), will one day save the world.

All of this would have been just mildly clown-shit insane if the movie hadn't been accompanied by The Man Who Heard Voices, a book about the making of the film featuring lines like:

"The lesson of Night's own 34 years was so clear to him: If you're a Bob Dylan, a Michael Jordan, a Walt Disney--if you're M. Night Shyamalan--and you have faith and a vision and something original to say, money will come."

Holy shit. Literally, the guy thinks his shits are holy. Michael Jordan? Listen, M. Night: Not only can Michael destroy you in a game of one-on-one, but we pretty sure he can out-act you, too. We've seen Space Jam and while it was no masterpiece, we'd rather watch it than Lady in the Water any day of the week.

Clint Eastwood

Awesome because of:
Unforgiven, Letters From Iwo Jima, Mystic River

Clearly unwell because of:
The years 1996-2002

What happened:
In the early '90s, Clint Eastwood made Unforgiven, a movie so good that every Western since has seemed half-assed by comparison. Unfortunately, Eastwood's follow-up work between 1996-2002 wasn't even quarter-assed. In this stretch, Eastwood made a series of movies so laughable that they required an immediate Unforgiven chaser to get the taste of retardation out of your mouth.

There was Absolute Power, which operates on the premise that a career thief breaks into a lady's house and witnesses her being murdered by The President of the United States. So, first we have to understand that someone thought this idea was plausible enough to write a script about it (and before that, a book), which then Clint Eastwood agreed to direct.

If you think that's implausible, check out Blood Work in which an FBI agent who profiles serial killers has a heart attack and receives the transplanted heart of someone who was killed by a serial killer. Making the movie even worse than you'd think, Eastwood's character's bad heart means that he must take frequent naps, he can't run or get in fights or do anything other than sit there and grimace for almost the entire movie.

Also, this era also produced Space Cowboys, a movie about how hilarious it is when really old people try to do anything.

Sidney Lumet

Awesome because of:
Dog Day Afternoon, The Verdict, Serpico

Clearly unwell because of:
The Wiz

What happened:
In 1978, Sidney Lumet took a break from making gritty crime dramas about hard-luck men in desperate situations to make The Wiz, an all-black musical re-imagining of The Wizard of Oz. And, why wouldn't he? Dog Day Afternoon had that part with music in it. And, Serpico was always dressing up in costumes. Oh, and there were a couple of black characters in both of those movies.

In news that will surely shock those unable to detect sarcasm, the film was an unmitigated disaster. In the role of the young and vulnerable Dorothy, Lumet cast Diana Ross, a 30-something diva who couldn't pretend to be vulnerable if she was tied to railroad tracks. A young, still-cool Michael Jackson plays Scarecrow, which sounds like an awesome idea until you watch this scene that supposedly has him in it:

Was that Michael Jackson and Diana Ross? Did they have to use stunt doubles for some reason? Was it two bear cubs dressed up in Scarecrow and Dorothy costumes? We honestly have no idea because Lumet shot the entire three-minute scene from a stationary camera 30 feet behind the actors!

And, lest you think we just pulled a weird scene out of an otherwise good movie, Wikipedia notes that, "The Wiz was such a critical and commercial failure that it marked the end of the resurgence of African-American films that began with the blaxploitation movement of the 1970s." That's right, The Wiz was the worst movie from the film movement that produced Blackula.

Ridley Scott

Awesome because of:
Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator

Clearly unwell because of:
That Russell Crowe movie where he does nothing but sit around and drink wine

What happened:
Russell Crowe Drinks Wine For Two Hours (aka A Good Year) goes beyond mere "What was Ridley Scott thinking" and plows headlong into "This can't be Ridley Scott" territory. After the first hour and a half of uneventful poolside wine-drinking, you're more likely to believe that there is a second director named Ridley Scott, or that Ridley Scott was replaced by a replicated robot whose primary function is to monitor Russell Crowe's alcohol consumption.

Or, as we suggest, there was some kind of psychosis involved. In these cases, you can either treat the symptoms or learn to cope with them. Based on the fact that his next four movies have Russell Crowe in them, Scott seems to be suffering from a debilitating Crowe fixation coupled with a corresponding delusion that everyone else likes to watch him do nothing as much as he does.

In the good news department, it appears Scott has realized simply watching Russell Crowe drink isn't enough to entertain the rest of us, because American Gangster looks fucking awesome.

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