4. Richard Kelly:
Climax of his career: A little Indie by the name of Donnie Darko (2001)
I will go on record and say that this film is one of the most intelligent and original flicks I have ever seen. Every detail of this film is a well thought-out setup that pulls more meaning from the plot than's psychically being shown. This movie is Layers of complex theme's stacked on one another. You have to pick apart the plot line of this film for it to make any sense. Everything that is important about this movie is hidden in the subtext, nothing's just given to the audience. It is an exercise in critical thought, and that's a big reason it's so compelling.
A particularly interesting element of this movie is the a-symmetrical time stream weaved through the world the characters live in. It's amazing that Kelly managed to get something so complex across to us so naturally. It is genius how Kelly reveals this to the audience, in an everyday conversation. This way it's our job as the audience to deduce what we want from the scene, and not having it shoved down our throats And that's just scratching the surface as to just how smart this movie really was
Donnie Darko has one of the most compelling narratives ever portrayed on film. A true insight is shown by Kelly in his way of capturing the essence of each character. They all seemed so real on screen, he suspended my disbelief so well I truly felt like I was witnessing an unnatural event in a fellow human's life. They evolved past characters and became real to me. The life of Donnie is so relatable and so naturally captured on the screen. All of this coupled with the seemingly endless layers to this film; ranging from topics of mental handicaps to self sacrifice and countless others, makes this movie great. Donnie Darko is such a deep film that it deserves a re-watch by everyone. Donnie Darko is really one of those special movies where you can watch it every day, and still pull a different message from the film each time. Kelly really outdid himself with this one and succeeded in making one of the best low budget indies ever.
The Decline: Southland Tales (2007) The Box (2009)
First off, I'd like to start a petition to revoke Dwayne "THE ROCK" Johnson's S.A.G card. His performance in this movie is by far his best attempt at acting, but that's really not saying much. Second, Kelly Just straight up changed the central themes of this movie without really changing the story. Needless to say you really can't just do that, he managed to destroy any chance this already convoluted film had.
The initial plan of this film was to be a critique of Hollywood's sensationalism of violence and sex, and Kelly wrote the story that way. But then 9/11 happened, and Kelly was heavily influenced by the event. Instead of his original plan, he chanded his point of the film to have more of a political foundation. Specifically dealing with human rights, and their relation to the Patriot Act. If you missed that point of this movie don't worry, so did everyone else who saw it. Kelly couldn't really have missed his mark more. There's enough plot elements in the film to give it the firepower to make a proud statement about politics. However, the performances and style of the movie tear all that power away. It just didn't work, at all. The entire movie is silly and seem's like its all one big parody of itself. Not in the Terry Gilliam sense, but more of a throwaway gag like a Wayan Brother's movie. This movie had potential in the script, but ended up crapping all over itself in the way it was presented.
The box on the other hand is complete trite. My favorite part of this movie is that because of it, this video was created:
This film is a recreation of the short story and Twilight Zone episode. It succeeded in butchering both. All themes of controversy and moral dilemma's that surround this story are thrown out the window. Unconvincing performances killed this movie, but it's a lot more depressing than that. The Box was the death of Kelly's complex network of stylized scene's and hidden theme's. This movie is superficial, nothing exists beyond the face value of this movie. The original plot of The Box has a lot of implicit subtext that is disemboweled with rather heavy hands and put on display. Kelly seemed to have gotten stuck on the boring parts of this story. It's truly gruesome and not the least bit entertaining.
3. Luc Besson
Climax of his Career: Nikita (1990), Atlantis (1991), Leon The Professional (1994), The Fifth Element (1997)
Luc Besson has a truly special eye in film making. Every one of the pictures above are absolutely amazing because of their really pleasing aesthetics. The cinematography of Besson has always been something of a marvel. Besson's manipulation of light and shadow has always held a special place in my heart. The awe inspiring definition of his lucid environments had me feeling like I was a character in the plot. They were absorbing and always swallowed my attention whole. Besson has the foresight too see things in an incredibly large len's and is obsessive in the most minute details the camera can pick up. Everything has a certain look and certain way it's lit. And every picture Besson creates is different in the way it feel's.
Atlantis was shot completely underwater and has some of the most stunning visuals I have ever scene in a documentary. I am also a large fan of Besson's choice to let the look of the prints speak for themselves. Every image in a Besson film express' it's own story and beauty. The works above are all incredibly vibrant and beautiful, and can only be described as fine art. In no way does Besson lack prowess in his story telling either. He show's this most apparently in the depth of the plot of The Fifth Element, which is pretty deep when you get down to brass tax. My favorite thing about Besson though is the unique insight of the human condition displayed in Leon The Professional. In my opinion Leon The Professional is an underrated movie.
The Decline: Jeanne d'Arc ( 1999), Arthur and The Invisibles (2006), The Family (2013), Lucy (Probably) (2014)
I was able to forgive Jenne d'Arc as a film because of the pretty sweet soundtrack, but the plot was convoluted, overly obvious, and dialogue heavy. Not to mention that dialogue sucked. Characterization's were completely unrealistic. Besson's cinematic touch was very apparent in this film though, and I did enjoy that. Unfortunately that's where I draw the line with Besson. Besson sold out with Arthur and The Invisibles. He gave up his gritty hyper realistic style to rip off Antz. Even my four year old nephew wanted to walk out of the theatre with this one. As for The Family I put it number two on the top five worst films ever made, just behind Nazi's at the Center of the Earth (2012). I could literally write a complete novel about how much I hate this movie. But to save you all the pain here's the top two reasons;
This was the film that proved one of the most dedicated performers of all time, no longer cares about his craft. This movie managed to spoiled my opinion of De Niro and Besson. Two proud, decorated artist, gave up all interest in their art for a fatter paycheck. Besson just didn't care on this one. He gave us a pile of shit, and packaged it as a movie. It was campy, all over the place, and didn't make a shred of sense. Actors were allowed to deliver their lines with so little conviction, I had seen better performances in an elementary school's production of The Wiz. Besson gave up on his ability to capture moments with hyper realism, in favor of splashing obnoxious amounts of meaningless colored l.e.d lights in every scene.
I have very little hope for his upcoming project Lucy as it appears to be a shameless rip off of Limitless (2011), and features a pregnant Scarlett Johannson. Seriously, in an action film, what are you going to do with an actor who can't do anything remotely action-y. Is the entire movie going to be SJ walking around really carefully trying not to bump into anything or exert herself too much? Seriously watch the trailer, even there you can how careful she is being, you can't keep doing this to us Besson.
2. Guillermo Del Toro
Climax of his Career: Cronos (1993), The Devils Backbone (2001), Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004), Pan's Labyrinth (2006), Hellboy II (2008)
Del Toro is a visual genius. His nihilistic approach to the horror genre put the Mexican film industry on the map. He is a revolutionary visionary who is never afraid to push the insanity envelope in film. My only criticism of Del Toro is his eagerness to appeal to mainstream crowds. But even in the early films where he does this he made them really good. In the Hellboy series Del Toro opted to use practical effects such as make-up and prosthetic's instead of digital enhancement and design. He did this to give Hellboy realistic texture instead of digitally generated blandness. This was far more expensive than the digital option as they built practical effects such as animatronics to add to a scene, but worth every penny.
On top of his great early movies, he made a personal favorite Pan's Labyrinth. Pan's Labyrinth was a landmark film for fantasy genre, and remain's one of the coolest uses of pure unadulterated style. On top of this, Pan's Labyrinth was a complex film with every frame displaying additional theme's and meaning. This movie is truly deep and incredibly smart. It manipulates your senses and draws you really close to the story, only to stab you in the heart when you get to the end. Oh the feels of this movie, and wow was it an effective message. Del Toro accomplished this level of emotional content by using various psychedelic visual's and a wide pallet of color's representing a variety of emotions.
The Decline: Pacific Rim (2013), Pacific Rim II (unconfirmed)
Pacific Rim, in my opinion, was an awful movie. Loaded to the Gills with unconvincing, and blocky digital graphics, this colorful piece of crap was an assault on my senses. The acting was sub-par; the effects pretty bad, which isn't good because this movie is one large effect. the meaningless style and lack of theme's were terrible; and the plot wasn't any better. Over complex explanation's and setup's are trampled left and right to make room for more robot fights. Like why even establish all of those rules just to betray them every five seconds. Everything was so convenient to make the plot progress, I couldn't believe anything was real, and before you say that's the point, remember the point of movies is to suspend your disbelief so you can absorb it's meaning. There wasn't a point to this movie, it was just an excuse for Del Toro to fulfill a boyhood fantasy of monsters fighting robots.
I hated every performance in this movie, they were all so campy and unrealistic. Apparently Guillermo forgot that fear was an emotion people do in fact have in the face of death. Del Toro promoted the supposedly revolutionary CGI shamelessly, and still the movie looked completely fake. It was supposed to push boundaries but compared even the trailer's for the new Godzilla it looks like bad digital graphics. Also Del Toro had potential to make a movie that captured everything that fascinated everyone from the last decade, and took a juvenile approach so that kid's would go see it. Don't get me wrong there's some great kids movies out there, this isn't one of them.
Everything was meaningless in this film, the color wasn't used to express anything it was just obnoxiously splashed anywhere at anytime. And the one common theme throughout the film is unrefined, and unexplained. It doesn't mean anything and seem's like an after thought Del Toro had after the movie was finished. I really wanted to like this film, and I was super excited upon it's release. I thought this was going to be Del Toro's best film since Pan's Labyrinth, and sadly it was nowhere close. This film had the opportunity to capture the collective interests of a generation, if only Del Toro held nothing back and was bold with what he wanted to accomplished on screen. But Del Toro was greedy, he wanted to reach a wider audience. So he wrote the story to appeal to a younger people. He lost all the Grit and definition which made his movies so appealing. Although only one film soils my opinion of this man, I can tell that he is not getting any better in the near future. Almost immediately after the first one was finished Del Toro confirmed a sequel, he's in the industry for the money now folks and that's something I can't respect. Film making is an art form, and Del Toro making this film is like Michelangelo taking a poll to figure out to sculpt next. Aiming to please a majority shouldn't be your objective. Art should be an expression of your thought's and feeling's as an artist, it's subjective. We should draw our own conclusion's from what is presented to us as viewers.By trying to appeal to the mass, you give up the individual thoughts that pertain to you, you give up the feeling's that made you want to create your art in the first place. Del Toro has deeply disappointed me, his hunger for money and recognition let him step over his morals. He's now aiming to make hasty blockbuster crap. He is becoming the kind of director like Michael Bay, who works to destroy Cinema, not advance it.
1. M. Night Shyamalan
Climax of his Career: The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000)
Both of these films feature a hyper realistic lens to a surrealistic story which gets the points of the two films across effectively. The Sixth Sense of course is renowned for it's twist ending and approach to the narrative and is Shyamalan's most famed film. I really like both these movies but Unbreakable has always had a more profound effect on me. Unbreakable is one of the most underrated films of all time, and has the best origin story of any super hero movie. It was incredibly unique and misunderstood by people. Samuel L. Jackson gives one of the best performances of his career in the incredible compelling role of Elijah Price. This is the coolest, and most different approach I have ever seen in a plot dealing with a super hero, and I am a big fan. I am still waiting for the sequel to this movie.
The Decline: anything after Signs (2002)
I am not a particular big fan of Signs, but I don't hate it. The main problem I have with that film is the convenience of the setup for the falling action. It really doesn't make sense, and that would be fine for a B monster movie, but M. Night wanted to make a serious movie.
However compared to the rest of his film's its a freaking masterpiece. Each one just gets steadily worse than the prior. I just straight up refused to see After Earth. I'm pretty sure people in The Happening were killing themselves just because they knew they were in The Happening. I know I saved the easy target for last, so I'll just end my M. Night sh-peal by saying no-one destroys their career like M. Night Shymalan.