Though they are never seen on the screen, unless they're named Clint or Woody, but directors are the real artistic forces behind whatever film it is that you are watching. Actors can be bad, sure, but at the end of the day, most, if not all, of the blame will be placed on the director. Director's are closely scrutinized, aren't they? They'll make one great film, be heralded as a new master, and then tank on the next one. 2011 saw crap directors maintain their usual standings, crap directors do better, great directors do poorer, and great directors do great!
From superheroes to serial killers, there was plenty for directors to sink their teeth into. Here are Films From the Supermassive Black Hole's MVP Directors of the Year.
10. Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class)
Matthew Vaughn not only dragged this ragged franchise, kicking and screaming, back into the limelight, but managed to make one of, if not the, best superhero movies since The Dark Knight. Fist Class has all the mutant shenanigans that we've come to expect from the series, only turned up to 11. But the stylistic choices that Vaughn makes are what makes it stand out. First Class has the feel and pacing of a classic Bond film, which is something altogether unexpected and welcome.
9. Tarsem Singh (Immortals)
Sure, Immortals wasn't all that in the compelling story department, but damn was it pretty to look at. Tarsem Singh knows how to form a visual feast, and if Immortals is anything, it's a visual feast. Chock full of sumptuous shots, lovingly crafted costumes, and torrents of thrilling, blood filled violence, this was one of the more pleasant surprises of the year, thanks in large part to Singh and his unique, stylistic touches.
8. J.J. Abrams (Super 8)
Mr. Abrams proved he could do big, epic entertainment with 2009's Star Trek, and he reels it in for something decidedly more intimate for Super 8. The spectacle is there, but there's a wonderful heart beneath it all. Many films try to emulate the movies that today's adults grew up with, the imaginative, spectacular flights of fancy that Spielberg did so well! J.J. Abrams succeeds where they all fail.
7. Kenneth Branagh (Thor)
Easily the weirdest choice to helm a big budget superhero flick, but one that paid off beautifully, Branagh directs Thor so that it is quite unlike any superhero movie before it. Utilizing his Shakespearean background, Branagh handles the larger than life scenes of gods making grand declarations and fighting against backdrops of swirling nebulas and galaxies like no one could. It's a shame he won't be back, but at least we know he's capable. Here's hoping he'll get more gigs like this in the future.
6. Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
Alfredson masterfully directs this old school spy thriller, the anti-Bond, if you will. He somehow manages to make the lack of explosions and chases just as, if not even more, exciting than non-stop action. HIs ensemble, led by a never better Gary Oldman, is aces. The film is tense, methodical, and well paced. Alfredson knocked it out of the park.
5. Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist)
Mr. Hazanavicius had a gimmick of a film when he started. A silent film. Usually, that would just turn into something lame that wouldn't rise above the gimmick, but Mr. Hazanavicius has made a film that transcends all forms of gimmickry. The Artist utilizes all the tropes of classic silent films, whilst crafting a story that is memorable, with a main character who is relatable. The movie carries an irresistible charm and quirky sense of humor, along with lots of effective dramatic weight. I can't wait to see what genre Mr. Hazanavicius turns on its head next.
4. Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life)
Easily the most decisive movie that came out this year, The Tree of Life is something really special. Malick movies carry the certain look, the certain touch that you can always pinpoint. Tree is no exception. With jaw dropping imagery, a beautiful story, and superb acting, this is Malick at his very best.
3. David Yates (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2)
David Yates started off his Harry Potter career with the worst film in the series. He ends it with its best! Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is superb, and a mark of how far Yates and his ensemble have come since 2007. The finale of this extraordinary franchise is wonderful, full of emotion and spectacle. Yates has directed one of the most perfect send offs I can recall ever seeing. Props!
2. David Fincher (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo)
Yes, yes, David Fincher has done a smashing job with kinder, more family friendly stuff over the last few years; no one is knocking the excellence of The Social Network. All I'm saying is that Fincher is at hi best when he is dealing with murder, corruption, and lots and lots of blood! He is on fire here with Dragon Tattoo, crafting a compelling and engrossing adaptation of Steig Larsson's novel. His cast does a great job, headlined by a star making performance from Rooney Mara. All the skills he learned Se7en and Zodiac have been honed to a razor sharp efficiency. I can only hope that Fire and Hornet's Nest are this good.
1. Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive)
Easily the best directing job of the year, Winding Refn does a masterful job crafting this steely, cool as ice thriller. It's is like nothing we've seen in a long time, full of violence and atmosphere, thrills and chills, but still retaining hardcore art house elements. Winding Refn directs his cast to great performances, including a career best from Ryan Gosling, emulating McQueen and Eastwood. Winding Refn has had a good career in Europe, but he exploded on to the scene here in the US with this, the best directing job of 2011!
Only one more list before we get to the two big kahunas. We are almost done! Your patience is appreciated. Be sure to check back at 2011: The Retrospect for everything you might have missed thus far. Tune in tomorrow for a quick look ahead. Until then, imps!