Four Filmmakers Who Deserve The Big BreakPosted: July 31, 2014
It’s rare that I do one of these lazy list posts, but I want to squeeze in one more for the month and I’m not supremely passionate about anything else out there right now so what the hell. It does seem slightly appropriate given that James Gunn is about to take a massive leap towards the mainstream with Guardians of the Galaxy tomorrow, after starting off at Troma and crafting such niche movies as Slither and Super. While I’ve previously lamented the almost-certainty of the studio farming of indie talent, I do also believe that large-scale studio filmmaking can be good under the right circumstances, and the more distinctive the vision behind it all, the better the chances are for success. If nothing else, I do appreciate getting to see truly talented and original voices getting to play on the biggest stages, instead of the anonymous studio hacks that bring nothing specific to the table. So on that note, here are a group of filmmakers that not only deserve this sort of opportunity, but who could really thrive in it and help provide us with more of the quality mainstream films that we deserve.
We should note right away that there are many filmmakers that I left off here, either because they have already begun the transition to mainstream film (Josh Trank, Duncan Jones, Colin Trevorrow), or that seem best suited for the indie world (David Michod, Ben Wheatley, Jim Mickle, Gillian Robespierre). Essentially I’m focusing on newer indie filmmakers whose sensibilities I think could play on a much larger, wide-release-kinda canvas, if given the proper circumstances.
Attack the Block showed a Spielbergian ability to combine the natural with the fantastical, with an added layer of social commentary on top of it. Cornish should be (and probably is) on the shortlist for any and every scifi franchise out there, but his tone and style could be useful for any kind of genre adventure story. The fact that it’s been 3 years since his debut and he still doesn’t have a definitive next project surely speaks to his level of selectiveness, that he won’t pursue a project unless he would be able to do it his way, with the right sort of depth. Of all the projects he’s been attached to/considered for, I could easily see him bringing a real sense of excitement and awe to Skull Island, or some zany, knowing absurdity to Snow Crash. But whatever Cornish does next, I’m sure it will be the sort of brilliance we always hope for in our genre cinema.
We seem to talk more and more about the lack of female representation in film, and the lack of female creatives on the other side of the camera, and while it’s good that we’re talking, it would be better if we actually solved the problem directly. On that note, I submit that Lake Bell could easily be at the forefront of a new wave of mainstream female directors if given the right chance. Her debut as a director, In A World… could have easily been a wide release, and is one of the easily recommendable “indie” movies I’ve seen in the last couple of years. Bell has a sharp and knowing comedic voice, that seems to be a very natural extension of herself, and one that could be molded to all sorts of stories. She’s supposedly working on a marriage-related comedy called What’s The Point, which I would love to see; after the self-aware and personal tone of her debut, I’m sure her take on relationships and marriage could be really compelling. Bell certainly deserves a chance to play with bigger names and bigger money, and help bring a distinctive voice to the mainstream comedy audience.
Of all the major players involved in True Detective, Fukunaga seems to have received the least amount of credit, which is ridiculous: his visual and emotional sense was a huge part of what made that first season so successful. He has shown a great ability to adjust his keen sense of drama and humanity to fit a wide variety of narratives. Just consider the visceral scramble of Sin Nombre, the smothering tension of Jane Eyre, the rot and machismo of True Detective, all in the space of a few years. He could easily be making the sort of impactful and intense dramas that most awards-bait movies wish that they were, especially considering his ability to bring legitimate emotion into his films without making it feel like schmaltz. Fukunaga is already making Beasts of No Nation, a child-soldier movie with Idris Elba, which is sure to be another searing piece of filmmaking that won’t get nearly enough mainstream attention. His voice is a strong and clear one, uncompromising in pursuing whatever story is in front of him, and would be an asset to any major studio drama.
When you look at the sheer technical skill of Gareth Evans’ martial arts movies, it’s shocking that we haven’t heard of him at least being considered for a Hollywood action movie. Maybe it’s due to the increasing reliance on/expectation of CGI setpieces while Evans is clearly focused on practical stuntwork… which is exactly the reason Hollywood can use him. Many have lamented the increasing lack of real stuntwork and coherent action cinema, two things that Evans is legitimately a master of. Furthermore, as his VERY ambitious Raid 2 demonstrated, he’s a capable dramatist as well, able to build tension and conflict on character and situation alone, without the fisticuffs. Evans has the sort of tactile and uncomplicated filmmaking style that the best Hollywood and Hong Kong action films have, and the idea of seeing major actors going through the sort of physical wringer that Evans specializes in is exciting as hell, and increasingly rare in the States (think of Bruce Willis in the first Die Hard… where’s THAT kind of action hero nowadays?). Here’s hoping we can get a generation of action stars molded in the crucible of Evans’ films… just as soon as he finishes his Raid trilogy.
And those are my four choices (yeah, I couldn’t get to five, just sue me). Here’s hoping all of them can break into Hollywood and help hijack the predictable system the way James Gunn has… I may defend mainstream film, but it does’t mean it couldn’t use an upgrade or ten.