I saw Wes Anderson’s latest flick ‘Isle of Dogs’. Best movie of 2018 so far and, in my opinion, the 2nd best in Anderson’s body of work. I’ll review it in another post. It got me thinking about the fact that my least favorite Anderson movie ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ is still a decent movie. I can’t say the same thing for the all too often feted Paul Thomas Anderson. There are directors who maintain their own high standard consistently over the course of their careers with few if any missteps and there are the ones who have one great work in them and nothing they do afterwards comes close. The marathoners and the one hit wonders, respectively.
I’m here to fete the long distance directors.
My methodology: (only feature films, no documentaries, shorts or TV work)
To complete a marthon:
1. 75% of their films have to be (I struggled with this percentage but everyone gets one or two mistakes but not everyone gets to be legendary so this is a good compromise) the same level of quality as their best work or at least reasonably close or at least still a very fine movie.
2. They must have at least 5 movies in their repertoire.
3. Their best film has be fantastic. Tyler Perry is consistent but his movies are all mediocre.
Marathoners (not listed in any particular order):
1. Alfred Hitchcock
2. Stanley Kubrick
3. Wes Anderson
4. Quentin Tarantino
5. Steven Spielberg
6. Christopher Nolan
7. Ridley Scott
8. James Cameron
9. Sergio Leone
10. David Fincher (technically only sitting at 70% but the committee agreed to let him slide in)
11. John Huston
12. John Hughes
13. Robert Zemeckis
14. Guillermo del Toro
15. Ang Lee
16. Spike Jonze (only 4 feature films but I decided to let him slide in as well)
Notables who fell short: (This is obviously not to say that they are not great directors – well I am saying it sometimes. But they are no marathoners.)
Martin Scorsese (28 feature films, only 7 come close to his best ‘Goodfellas’). T
Francis Ford Coppola Less than 30% of his movies come remotely close to the Godfather.
Woody Allen – ‘Midnight in Paris’ was the rare exception in Allen’s precipitous drop in quality since the 1980’s.
Clint Eastwood – He does have TWO Best Director Oscars
David Lynch (again, I cannot agree that he has ever made a good film)
Paul Thomas Anderson (a contemporary darling but has never come close to Boogie Nights)
Peter Jackson (sorry, buddy, that Hobbit trilogy killed your numbers)
Spike Lee (I didn’t think he’d come close but I love a lot of his joints)
Brian De Palma (far too much mediocrity) (and Scarface really isn’t all that – I don’t care if it’s embraced by so many “artists” today)
Notables who could not be evaluated because I have not seen 75% of their films (much to my shame and detriment):
Charlie Chaplin (I’ve never seen a film of his that I’ve enjoyed or respected)
Roman Polanski (Sure, he’s a repugnant human being but I’m not here to evaluate private lives)
Tim Burton (firing in at 50% or so and that’s being generous)
Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men is one of my favorite movies – it stuns every single time I watch it)
Werner Herzog (he’s a giant weirdo but in the best possible way)
Sam Peckinpah (I’ve loved every movie I’vs seen of his, fwiw)
Oliver Stone (he’s a stupid prick and most of his movies are bloated mas
In summary, only 16 directors have accomplished/are accomplishing the incredible feat of staying consistently great throughout most of their careers. Again, I’m not saying these are the 16 best directors of all time, not by any means. But I just wanted to give a shout out to long distance filmmakers.