Top 5 Director Departures

Have you ever seen a film, find out the director and thought ‘wait, how can that guy be associated with this?’  Where something in their cannon is outside their usual fare.  To qualify, the film that is a departure had to be one I liked (so Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack is out). And because I like you all so much, this is actually a top 10 list.

  • Ang LeeCrouching Tiger, Hidden DragonEat Drink Man Woman? Sense and SensibilityIce Storm?  Nope, didn’t see this one coming either.  One of the best action movies – in any genre – ever made.  Engrossing and epic in scale, with unique stunts (mostly wire work).  If only The Hulk were this good.
  • Doug LimanBourne Identity. Before Jason Bourne, there was Trent.  After Swingers came Go.  Two very indie movies.  This definitely came out of left field.  But in doing so, I think Liman solidified his standing as a director that could cover any topic.
  • Ridley ScottThelma & Louise.  Come on, really?  If he’s not on your list for this then I’m not sure you actually watch movies.
  • Spike Lee25th Hour. The first time a Spike Lee joint felt like someone else’s joint.  And it remains his best film.  I know there is a lot of love for Do the Right Thing, but it’s not a film I admire.  He did also make Inside Man a few years after this, which is another departure.
  • Brad AndersonNext Stop Wonderland.  The Brad Anderson I know has directed some of the coolest and spookiest films… The Machinist, Transiberian, Session 9, episodes of The Shield and The Wire… but one of his first features was this rom-com done documentary style (before that was in vogue).  It’s a good little film.
  • Curtis Hanson – 8 Mile.  The River Wild, LA Confidential (an awesome noir detective film) and a weird little somewhat-gay movie in Wonder Boys… and then a down and dirty rap film set in Detroit.  Starring Eminem, based on his life. I give the team behind this a lot of credit for hiring Hanson.  That is serious foresight.
  • Peter Berg Friday Night Lights.  Up until this movie I had known Berg as an actor, specifically the cokehead from K-12.  Then he goes and directs the best football film ever made.
  • Gus Van SantGood Will Hunting. On the surface this may seem odd… a very indie director known for much darker material like Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho and To Die For, crossing over into what is essentially a feel good movie – but Good Will Hunting is very much ground in a stark reality. Van Sant brought that out and turned what could have been a good film into a great film.
  • Paul Thomas AndersonThere Will Be Blood.  It’s not that PT didn’t have it in him, he’s at the top of the food chain… but nothing he had done previous was an indication that he would take on this near-perfect period film.
  • David FincherCurious Case of Benjamin Button. Like Paul Thomas Anderson, Fincher is a guy who I’d classify as a living legend. But the other films he’s made are dark thrillers, so coming out and directing a drama about a man aging backwards seemed odd.  It’s a really good film and you can see his fingerprints all over this one.
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