A few current directors that have my attention, no matter the type of movie they release: foregoing the obvious candidates like Paul Thomas Anderson, Christopher Nolan, Tarantino, and other recognized names.
I have briefly mentioned Ruben Östlund’s movie Triangle of Sadness in one of my previous articles as an acting clinic on screen. Every actor in the ensemble cast gave a great performance unique to their individual characters, making this one of my favorite movies of 2022 and one of my favorite comedies of all time. Triangle of Sadness as a stand-alone work is enough to make me love and respect Ruben Östlund as a director, but what I find most impressive is Östlund’s consistency throughout his filmography.
Östlund is a true auteur, consistently attacking moral and societal issues of our world in a satirical way. Through his direction, he makes a point to highlight honest and real conversations and awkward situations that we as humans are put in every day. These scenes are almost funny until we realize that what we are seeing on screen could happen to us at any moment, forcing us to reflect upon our own day-to-day scenarios. In addition, Östlund’s cinematography is consistently pleasing, working in tandem with his choice of music and score.
If you are a fan of realism and moral dilemma in films, look no further than Östlund’s filmography as he creates a hilarious attack on modern society. Both The Square and Triangle of Sadness won the Cannes Film Festival’s most prestigious Palme d’Or award. Additionally, Triangle of Sadness has garnered praise from the American and international film communities going into the award season. I only expect Östlund to gain more traction as a director as he continues to release films. IN DEN WOLKEN!!!
The Square, Triangle of Sadness, Force Majeure
In a lot of ways, McDonagh and Östlund remind me of each other. I discovered their filmographies around the same time this year, and I have noticed they both have their own, stylized approach to reality that often highlights the subtle flaws in humanity. McDonagh, who was previously a playwright, takes a quick-witted and comedic approach to reality, making his movies less embarrassing than Ostlund’s, yet equally hilarious. His theater background set him up as an elite screenwriter early in his filmmaking career, resulting in consistently phenomenal dialogue.
I have talked a lot about his fourth feature film released this year, Banshees of Inisherin, and Colin Farrell’s amazing performance previously. Banshees of Inisherin is another film that is receiving a large amount of critical acclaim this award season. Despite how much love this film has revived this year, I don’t think it’s nearly his best film. His 2008 production In Bruges, his first film to bring together the likes of Brendan Gleason and Colin Farrell, will make you laugh until your insides feel like they’re going to explode. I am sorry, Ruben Östlund, but In Bruges has to be my favorite comedy of all time. The acting and dialogue is perfectly witty for the narrative and the cinematography is fantastic.
McDonagh is able to teleport us to a new world: a world of hitmen with their own rules that we don’t seem to question because of how entertaining the film is. There is no doubt in my mind that In Bruges is truly the most all-around, well-done comedy I have ever seen.
In addition to these two previously mentioned films, Mcdonagh also has other great works like Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and Seven Psychopaths. If you are a fan of comedies, I highly encourage you to check out his films and I am extremely glad that McDonagh is beginning to see widespread recognition.
In Bruges, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Banshees of Inisherin
Charlie Kaufman, like my two previously mentioned directors, is as good of a screenwriter as he is a director. In Kaufman’s case, however, I would almost argue that he is a better writer than he is a director, which is by no means a bad thing. Kaufman has as many great sole writing credits as he does directing credits. He is a longtime collaborator with the incredibly talented director Spike Jonze; however, Kaufman makes it on this list because he simply shits out great scripts and movies. Kaufman does not miss. In addition, he is largely responsible for the greatness of some of Spike Jonze’s best films including Adaptation and Being John Malkovich.
I would not say that Kaufman’s direction or writing have a ton of consistent themes other than the fact that he is one of the premier visionary filmmakers of today. People oftentimes praise Christopher Nolan for creating out-of-the-box, wacky concept films; however, Kaufman does the same while often stripping out all the bullshit and focusing on creating an enjoyable experience (some of his directing can certainly be mind-bending at times). His films don’t spend hours throwing mounds of exposition at you, either. Kaufman is amazing at throwing you right into the middle of his narratives and you figure it out yourself, creating an exciting experience from start to end. Some of my favorite films that Kaufman has written are Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Being John Malkovich. All three of these films are beautifully written by Kaufman and beautifully directed by Spike Jonze. They are all undeniably hilarious while attacking serious underlying themes of career, passion, identity, and love.
Furthermore, Kaufman is able to touch on these themes in the most creative ways. Adaptation explores the self-loathing mind of a screenwriter. Nicholas Cage plays a fictional Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother, Donald Kaufman in the film who starts to break into the industry. Yes, there are two Nicholas Cages on the screen on many occasions. Being John Malkovich follows Craig Schwartz, played by John Cusack, as he finds a way to infiltrate the mind of celebrity John Malkovich and take control of him whenever he wants. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind follows Joel, played by Jim Carrey, who is recounting experiences with his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) while he undergoes a procedure to have her removed from his brain. The film is beautifully sad and funny at the same time and is one of those must-see movies. The point being, Kaufman deserves endless praise for his writing alone.
When it comes to directing, Kaufman only has three films in his filmography, all of which I have seen and love. These films are Anomalisa, I’m Thinking of Ending Things, and Synecdoche, New York. Kaufman directs the type of films that you may love or hate depending on the person. His films itch a certain part of my brain. They can be intensely random or complex, but once you break them down, they can be immensely rewarding. The best way I can describe his films is like a fever dream. He is somewhat of a new-age David Lynch, and if you have never seen a David Lynch film, then you are missing out on the worst, best, weirdest, and most creative type of filmmaking you will ever come across all at the same time. Anomalisa is the least talked about Kaufman film; however, it is an awesome film that explores identity and love through claymation (Wes Anderson fans would enjoy it). I’m Thinking of Ending Things is the definition of surrealism, exploring dreams and age in an eerie, frightening manner. This is the closest thing to a Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway that I have seen in recent years. I know I’m rambling about Kaufman, but bare with me here because I saved the best for last. Synecdoche, New York may be the most creative film I have ever seen. I truly believe everyone should watch this movie for good or for worse. This movie made me feel both hopeless and hopeful for life at the same time as I found myself shedding a tear during the end credits. The film was truly beautiful. It is almost impossible to put this film into words other than it is a twisted and unforgivingly truthful take on the reality of life.
Synecdoche New York, Adaptation, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Robert Eggers is the young prodigy of Hollywood. I guess, when it comes to directors, I can call 39 young. Regardless, the dude only makes good movies. His three releases so far, The Witch, The Lighthouse, and The Northman have all been amazing films. So far in his career, Eggers has been known for taking an eerie approach to old stories and folktales and I fucking eat it up. The Northman is a classic, Hamlet-inspired revenge story with an intense Viking revamp. The Lighthouse is a brilliant, stylized, and psychotic take on the classic crazy seaman. Finally, The Witch is a spiritual horror movie surrounding the fear of witches in a more primitive civilization.
Eggers is an auteur, and while I am interested in seeing him branch out, I also think he is beyond perfect in the realm in which he has been working. Additionally, his cinematography and scores are perfect backings to his narrative creations, immersing us in his intended world when we watch his films.
The Northman has received tons of well-deserved viewer and critical praise this year. Eggers is also working on the production Nosferatu, rumored to be released in the next two years, which is possibly my most anticipated film at the moment.
The Northman, The Lighthouse
My last choice for this list may be the most obvious of them all. David Fincher has simply owned the last 30 years of filmmaking, creating some of the best thrillers in cinema history. While my favorite of his movies is Se7en, every movie in his filmography is worth a watch for a different reason, and they will all keep you on the edge of your seat.
Fincher’s cinematography is gorgeous in all of his films. In addition, while he does not write his films, what strikes me the most about his movies is his pacing. Fincher is able to pace each one of his films perfectly creating a masterly suspenseful product that keeps us viewers engaged through every single moment.
Interestingly enough, The Social Network, which is one of his most popular works, is probably one of my least favorite films that he has directed. Meanwhile, his lesser-loved film, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, is one of my favorites. Regardless, you cannot go wrong with any movie he has made. Even his TV series on Netflix, Mindhunter, is fantastic and is one of the best psychological serial killer series ever made. It is hard to be patient in anticipation of every new release of his. I am especially excited about his upcoming film set to release in 2023, The Killer. Fincher is teaming up with Michael Fassbender, who I think is a criminally underrated actor. I wonder if it’s going to be another murderous thriller.
Seven, Fight Club, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Written by Brian Chander