Friday, July 23, 2010

The least-talented major movie directors working today

Some movie directors working for Hollywood studios have lousy batting averages for making quality movies. Yet they still get work, probably because their movies make money anyway.
Other times their movies are just OK or their directing skills so unremarkable that it would be better if the studios gave someone else a chance behind the camera.
Occasionally one of their films turns out to be good or even very good. Often it’s saved by the actors or a great script.
The other day I wrote about once-respected movie directors who have lost their creative mojo. I put together a list of talented movie directors who have fallen into a slump and are now consistently making bad movies. Their earlier movies had originality, style and energy. But their latest films are bland and dumb.
This new list includes directors who are not so much terrible as they are just ordinary or overrated. As such, they continue to be put in charge of big-budget movies that attract marquee actors. (This is not a list of obvious hacks like Uwe Boll.)

1.
Nora Ephron

Batting average according to Rotten Tomatoes: .375
(3 films “certified fresh” and 5 films “rotten”)

I’d argue her batting average should be lower because many critics inexplicably gave thumbs up to dreck like “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) and “You’ve Got Mail” (1998).
Her last movie, “Julie & Julia” (2009) was her best reviewed, scoring 75% positive notices.
Career lows include “Mixed Nuts” (1994), “Lucky Numbers” (2000) and “Bewitched” (2005).

2.
Joel Schumacher

Batting average according to Rotten Tomatoes: .333
(6 films “certified fresh” and 12 films “rotten”)

Schumacher is best known for killing the Batman movie franchise with “Batman Forever” (1995) and “Batman & Robin” (1997). He made Batman movies in the corny style of the old TV show and bizarrely added nipples to the superheroes’ armored suits.
He also ruined the big-screen transfer of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit Broadway musical “The Phantom of the Opera” (2004).
Schumacher is capable of making a good movie occasionally – such as “The Lost Boys” (1987) and “Falling Down” (1993). But he’s had way more strikeouts than hits.
Some of his other career lows include “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” (1981), a rare 0% positive reviews from Rotten Tomatoes; “8MM” (1999); “Bad Company” (2002); and “The Number 23” (2007).

3.
Michael Bay

Batting average according to Rotten Tomatoes: .143
(1 film “certified fresh” and 6 films “rotten”)

As a director, Bay is more interested in staging big, noisy action sequences than telling a cohesive story. He’s much better with machines and special effects than with actors and dialogue.
I don’t have a problem with him making big summer blockbusters. I enjoyed “The Rock” (1996) and “Transformers” (2007), dumb as those flicks were. But some of his movies are so unintentionally hilarious that they could be future episodes of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” – such as “Armageddon” (1998) and “Pearl Harbor” (2001).

4.
Tony Scott

Batting average according to Rotten Tomatoes: .214
(3 films “certified fresh” and 11 films “rotten”)

Like Michael Bay, Tony Scott is more interested in style over substance. And when I say style, I should say STYLE, because his technique is so exaggerated.
As with Bay, sometimes his films are good in spite of his tendencies. “Crimson Tide” (1995) and “Enemy of the State” (1998) are career highlights.
His accidental comedies with Tom Cruise – “Top Gun” (1986) and “Days of Thunder” (1990) – were lowlights.

5.
Chris Columbus

Batting average according to Rotten Tomatoes: .357
(4 films “certified fresh” and 9 films “rotten”)

Once again, I’d say his batting average should be lower because too many critics liked “Adventures in Babysitting” (1987) and “Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993), which I thought were terrible.
There are worse directors out there than Columbus, but his skills are decidedly pedestrian. He seems to have a paint-by-numbers approach to filmmaking.
He appears only to go after movies he thinks will be hits with the general public. The result is often lowest-common-denominator fare, but it keeps him employed.
He was lucky enough to direct the first two Harry Potter films, the weakest in the series. It could be argued that those stories were so good that they could have directed themselves.
His attempt to turn hit musical “Rent” into a movie showed that he can mess up can’t-miss material too.

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