Most Overrated Directors
6. Roman Polanski- Roman Polanski is so overrated that he can sexually assault a 13-year-old, get convicted and flee the country, and be awarded an Oscar for it. The Pianist, while a touching piece of work due to Polanski’s personal involvement, it is not a great movie. He was awarded best director because the voters were sympathetic. But why wasn’t he there to accept the award? Oh yeah, he was a fugitive at the time for sexually assaulting a 13-year-old (Polanski beat out Martin Scorsese and Pedro Almodóvar).
5. Ridley Scott- Scott has built a fortune and gained a whole bunch of critical praise off overstuffed and shallow big budget epic blockbusters. Sure, he’s much better in the genre than Michael Bay, but at the same time he’s no David Lean. How did the director of Alien and Blade Runner turn into the director of G.I. Jane and Kingdom of Heaven? Why did Gladiator win best picture? Why was American Gangster hailed by many critics as the new Goodfellas (its not)? There are no reasonable answers to these questions. Nothing explains why Ridley Scott is still one of the biggest names in the business when he hasn’t made a significant, timeless statement on the big screen in 28 years. Scott is the sell-out, corporate version of John Carpenter. Here’s a prediction for this summer, Robin Hood will debut to big box-office numbers and Scott will be declared by critics as Hollywood’s great gift to us all. I’m not excited.
4. Michael Moore- Michael Moore is the only documentary filmmaker whose films get shown in megaplexes. He is as big a celebrity as Quentin Tarantino. One would think he must make the best docs, right? Wrong. Michael Moore’s popularity is based largely on his enormous ego and shameless self-promotion. He can be found making regular appearances on the network of his supposed enemy, Fox News. Surely Moore would tell you that this shows he isn’t afraid of confronting his opposition on their home turf. Sorry Michael, all chumming it up with Bill O’Reilly does is improve Fox’s ratings, you aren’t going to change anyone’s mind there. Moore’s films always follow the same formula, which is Moore making a scene and drawing attention to himself in the name of some liberal cause by screaming out of a megaphone or arguing with security guards. Many documentary filmmakers question authority and fight for change, and many do it better than Moore (see Food Inc.). The only difference is they don’t blow horns and wave flags that say ‘look at me’ while they do it. Errol Morris’ The Fog of War came out the same year as Fahrenheit 9/11 and uses interviews with Robert McNamara to say more about the Bush Administration’s errors than Michael Moore has the capacity to. Of course it was Moore who won the Golden Palm though, ugh.
2. Michael Mann- According to Wikipedia, “Total Film ranked Mann #28 on their 100 The Greatest Directors Ever and Sight and Sound ranked him #5 on their list of the 10 Best Directors of the Last 25 Years, Entertainment Weekly ranked Mann #8 on their 25 Greatest Active Film Directors list.” This critical worship for Mann has always mystified me. To me he is a superficial director, a sometimes interesting technician and a boring storyteller. The overly praised Heat was a well executed but standard crime drama and its main purpose was to build up to a scene between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. With Ali Mann successfully turned one of the most fascinating athletes of all time into a uniform biopic. In his most recent work, Public Enemies, Mann takes legendary American gangster John Dillinger and actually makes him boring. Keep in mind that this guy is roughly the same age as Martin Scorsese. The fact that he is often ranked with Marty is ridiculous.
1. Steven Spielberg- Steven Spielberg paved the way for the likes of James Cameron, Ridley Scott and even Michael Bay. His big budget, special-effect driven career is a major reason for the ugly and unstoppable trend known as the summer blockbuster. He is a director of extraordinary talent, but his films are often compromised by being too Spielberg-y. Kubrick’s brainchild A.I. could have been a great picture and is at times a pleasure to watch, but it is ruined by a classic Spielberg happy ending. Schindler’s List is a powerful and moving film but is still a Hollywood version of the Holocaust, complete with English dialogue and an inspirational ending, which to me is a little unsettling. No offense to Liam Neeson, but if you want authenticity why not use a German actor speaking German dialogue? I wish Spielberg would give up on his World War II fetish and wind up his career with a bunch of small, enjoyable pictures like Catch Me If You Can and The Terminal. Fat chance.