Some directors have a style all of their own. You could turn on the TV and catch a film that you just know is their work. These filmmakers are the ones with whom we identify and revear. Today our writers celebrate the best films from their all time favourite director’s.
Corpse Bride (2005) – Tim Burton
I have a few favourite directors whose films are in my top favourite. There is Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and especially James Wan (I’m a huge thriller and horror fan!). However, Tim Burton is a director and producer whose work amazes me. I love gothic fantasy and horror films and Tim Burton’s creative mind intrigues me. From his work on Sweeny Todd to Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, each is freakish and unconventional but is absorbing and thought-provoking.
Out of all the films Tim Burton has directed and produced, the one that stands out to me is Corpse Bride.
I first watched the film when I was on holiday in Scotland and we wanted a film to watch in the evening, so while browsing the DVDs in Tesco I opted for this interesting looking animation. Before seeing the Corpse Bride I hadn’t seen any of Tim Burton’s films before and this was my introduction to his work. I then became obsessed with the characters and insisted on watching it every day of the holiday. This then sparked my love for Tim Burton’s creations.
Corpse Bride is a whimsical film that follows the anxious and quiet Victor Van Dort who is due to marry Victoria Everglot, but while practicing his vows in the woods he accidentally gets married to deceased Emily, a skeleton-like creature who rises from her grave. And is then whisked off to the land of the dead.
It’s a gothic horror for children and is a visually imaginative animation. A creepy ghost story with simple characters and has a strangely touching plot.
Girlhood (2014) – Céline Sciamma
Céline Sciamma cemented her place as my favourite director with Portrait of a Lady on Fire (more on which tomorrow), but every single one of her films focusing on female, often queer coming-of-age is exceptional in its own right. Girlhood is better described by its French title – ‘Bande de Filles’, meaning ‘girl gang’. It portrays so beautifully the power of meeting your best friends and working out who you are, in the context of Vic, the daughter of immigrant parents growing up in the Parisian suburbs, dealing with the difficulties that this brings.
The question of whether Sciamma, as a white woman, should have directed this story of Black, working-class girls remains – I personally cannot judge the extent of her white gaze in this film. However as director, she does seem to shine a genuine light on the story, in both the specificity in its Parisian setting and context, as well as the universality in its themes of female friendship and growing up.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) – Taika Waititi
The name Taika Waititi might ring a bell as the genius/slight mad-man behind Thor: Ragnarok, but before that – there was Hunt for the Wilderpeople. And whilst it’s got a lot less space fights and Jeff Goldblum, it’s just as good.
Ricky (Julian Dennison) and his step-father (Sam Neill) are on the run, and stranded in New Zealand wilderness. Armed with haikus (“There’s heaps of maggots / maggots wriggling in dead sheep / like moving rice / Yuck.”) and Sam Neill’s beard – they set off on their adventure. Funny, heartbreaking, and all beautifully filmed, it’s a Waititi classic, and I might even argue it’s a little better than What We Do In The Shadows…
Edward Sissorhands (1990) – Tim Burton
Known for his originality and dark themes, Tim Burton has directed many memorable films over his career. However, Edward Scissorhands (1990) showcases his best work. The film marked the beginning of Burton’s long-term collaboration with Johnny Depp, with his touching portrayal of an artificial man with scissors for hands still resonating with audiences to this day. Set in a suburban town run by bored and gossipy housewives, Edward is taken in by a family and soon falls in love with their teenaged daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) after being found alone in a strange mansion. As a Frankenstein’s monster type character, Edward Scissorhands is perfect for those who have yet to be introduced to Burton’s kooky cinematic style as he combines fantasy with a love story.
Based on a drawing by Burton himself, Edward represents the feeling of isolation and struggling to communicate properly with other people. With a musical score by Burton’s frequent collaborator Danny Elfman, a prominent staple in Burton’s films, Edward Scissorhands is the film I always revert to. Whether that’s at Halloween or Christmas, Tim Burton provides that gothic escapism we’ve grown to love, making his films easy to identify and distinguish from other directors because of his unique cinematic flare.
Shallow Grave (1994) – Danny Boyle
Danny Boyle’s career sky-rocketed at the release of Trainspotting meaning that the film I’m going to talk about Shallow Grave often gets forgotten. This phycological thriller about flatmates finding and keeping money found on a dead body in their flat is incredible. It’s analytical of the characters and very exciting really emphasising their conniving nature, it truly shows the skills that Boyle has a director as well. The intimate space of the flat turns into a nightmare apartment and the obsession and mental downfall of some of the characters projects onto the flat as cleverly facilitated by Boyle. This film fits very well into Boyle’s style as it follows character’s inner most thoughts and arguments on morality. It is in my opinion the spring-board that Boyle needed to experiment and solidify his work for later on. Trainspotting is a masterpiece and a classic of course but should never undermine works like this one which Boyle keeps in his catalogue of work.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson is one of the best directors working in the business at the moment. Some people complain he is more style over substance but I think that can’t be further from the truth. Yes, his films are extremely stylistic, which is part of why I love them, but the style is part of the substance of his work. He tells his stories primarily through visuals and it works remarkably. I also love how unlike other directors he hasn’t just stuck with live-action films but has explored the industry with his brilliant stop motion films Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Isle of Dogs (2018).
I could rant on about any and all of his films but instead, I’ll talk about Moonrise Kingdom (2012) for the sole reason that I really like this film (and the fact I’ve already talked about The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)). Following two teenagers in love who run away together and have local law enforcement and parents hot on their trail. It’s such a sweet movie about young love and doesn’t try to take itself too seriously. It is a very Wes Anderson movie (I mean what were you expecting?) from the colour pallet to the cinematography and has shots that are now iconic pieces of cinema. Everyone seems to go on about The Grand Budapest Hotel or Fantastic Mr. Fox which is valid as both are fantastic but this is another of his films that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. So please give it some love.
Now if you excuse me, I am going to go and watch The French Dispatch Trailer for the 19th time today.
Get Out (2017) – Jordan Peele
I have so many favourite directors – Christopher Nolan, Wes Anderson, Greta Gerwig but it feels wrong to not talk about my love for Jordan Peele and Get Out. Jordan Peele manages to mix in everything you want in a film – humour, politics, intelligence, wickedness, visually stunning scenes as well as just being very very calculated and scary as hell. I would go as far as saying Jordan Peele’s Get Out is the greatest directorial debut since the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple. It’s one of the most original, enjoyable and entertaining movies I’ve seen in a very long time and perfectly blends horror with comic satire in a way that you wouldn’t think works but it does. It really does.
There’s one scene where Georgina apologises for unplugging Chris’ phone and the camera keeps switching back and forth between Chris and Georgina. Chris is filmed from a medium close up, his neck and face visible, full expressions, mostly confusion, fear and frustration while Georgina is filmed very close up as a single tear streams down her face. It’s this one moment in the film that Peele creates this thoroughly unnerving experience for the audience, pitching the viewer from the outside of reality entirely, a potent illustration of the horror of being locked in one’s own body.
All in all, Peele’s directing choices make this one of the best films I’ve ever watched. The innovative concept this film brings out makes it a modern day horror masterpiece for sure and I can’t wait to see what Peele does next with the upcoming Candyman reboot.
La La Land (2016) – Damien Chazelle
Damien Chazelle’s work is just incredible, and thanks to the success of Whiplash (another amazing film), La La Land was resurrected from purgatory. I’m so glad that he won the Best Director Oscar for La La Land! You can just see through his directing (and writing) how much he loves the films he makes, and it’s certainly evident in this one.
The passion for musicals in this film is so beautiful to watch. Chazelle wanted to make a modern musical which still paid respect to the classics, and I think he did an excellent job. The amount of homage made throughout the movie is genuinely so fun to watch, especially if you adore musicals. The most obvious are Singin’ in the Rain (1952), West Side Story (1961), Grease (1978) and Moulin Rouge! (2001) but there are tons to look out for. The attention to detail and admiration of its genre is what really sets the tone for the film. I love the decision to make so many homages because they’re not lazily put in, each one flows naturally within the film.
Most of the song and dance routines were shot multiple times, but a lot of them were done each time in a single take so it had that authentic musical feel. Even the ones that weren’t a continuous shot, such as the ‘Another Day of Sun’ scene, still appeared to be a continuous take, but it’s made up of three shots with unnoticeable cuts. The ‘A Lovely Night’ routine? Yeah, each time they filmed that, they did the entire 6-minute sequence. Not only that, but specifically at ‘magic hour’. That gorgeous sky in the background? Literally the colour of the actual sky. Its decisions like this which just make the film breathtaking to watch.
I love this film, but it’s important to remember that whilst Damien Chazelle directed it, everyone on set and through production helped create his vision. The music composers and writers, set production, costume team, dancers, the lighting team…literally everyone comes together to make a film, not just the director. Honestly, the entire team for a film need more love, rather than complete worship for the director.
Céline Sciamma corpse bride Damien Chazelle danny boyle Edward Sissorhands Get Out Girlhood hunt for the wilderpeople Jordan Peele la la land Moonrise Kingdom Shallow Grave taika waititi Tim Burton wes anderson
Last modified: 3rd May 2020