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Overrated directors / Underrated directors

42 posts in this topic

My picks for the most overrated:

1. Frank Capra
2. Francois Truffaut
3. James Cameron
4. Quentin Tarantino
5. Cecil B. DeMille

Underrated:

1. Edward Dmytryk
2. Ida Lupino
3. Mitchell Leisen
4. Arthur Lubin
5. Alexander Hall
6. Sidney Lanfield
7. Garry Marshall
8. Paul Newman
9. William Beaudine
10. Abel Gance

Directors who can never be overrated or underrated:

1. Alfred Hitchcock 
2. John Ford
3. David Lean
4. Roberto Rossellini
5. Steven Spielberg

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Amen to James Cameron as overrated. He is very good with special effects, but his plots are all derivative and his characters all behave predictably. Don't get me started on Titanic OR Avatar. I like Capra's work - perhaps he is so well known because nobody thought anything good would ever come out of 1930's poverty row Columbia?  DeMille - I agree with you. He was just so prolific in his early days that his reputation lingered. Edward Dmytryk and Lupino for sure are underrated. Dmytryk because of politics and Lupino probably because she was a woman. Mitchell Leisen might not be so underrated if he had not done so much work at Paramount and thus his films largely sit in mothballs.  I think Mervin LeRoy is overrated too. If you ever watch a film that he directed that was adapted from a play, it STILL looks like a play!

How do you feel about Michael Curtiz? Overrated, justly rated or underrated? I thought underrated until the book came out on him this year as well as the TCM spotlight on his work. He finally got the attention I think he deserved. He really could and did direct everything - from some early talking precodes when WB was still poverty row, to Errol Flynn's adventure films, to Casablanca and White Christmas. Does this make him a better or worse director than Hitchcock whose movies all had similar styles and themes?  I really don't know.

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12 minutes ago, calvinnme said:

Amen to James Cameron as overrated. He is very good with special effects, but his plots are all derivative and his characters all behave predictably. Don't get me started on Titanic OR Avatar. I like Capra's work - perhaps he is so well known because nobody thought anything good would ever come out of 1930's poverty row Columbia?  DeMille - I agree with you. He was just so prolific in his early days that his reputation lingered. Edward Dmytryk and Lupino for sure are underrated. Dmytryk because of politics and Lupino probably because she was a woman. Mitchell Leisen might not be so underrated if he had not done so much work at Paramount and thus his films largely sit in mothballs.  I think Mervin LeRoy is overrated too. If you ever watch a film that he directed that was adapted from a play, it STILL looks like a play!

How do you feel about Michael Curtiz? Overrated, justly rated or underrated? I thought underrated until the book came out on him this year as well as the TCM spotlight on his work. He finally got the attention I think he deserved. He really could and did direct everything - from some early talking precodes when WB was still poverty row, to Errol Flynn's adventure films, to Casablanca and White Christmas. Does this make him a better or worse director than Hitchcock whose movies all had similar styles and themes?  I really don't know.

Yes, I'm a fan of Michael Curtiz. I consider him a very artistic director. I think he strikes the right balance between commercial and intellectual filmmaking. So I'm glad he's been given his due lately.

I've never thought much about Mervin LeRoy. Maybe his work never caught my attention.

I agree about Leisen. If his career had been predominately at MGM, then his films would be on TCM more and with increased exposure, a greater appreciation for his work would occur. But I am glad his career was largely at Paramount, because he, Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges helped make Paramount so great in the 30s and 40s.

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Probably this categorization depends upon the experience of the one rating the directors. Is he/she evaluating the technical proficiency of a director's work? Orson Welles would rate highly then. Or, is it the skill he/she had with performers? Give it to Cukor then.

I'd make my choices based on the totality of the director's work and the lasting effect of their films over time. So, I'd be more generous with Capra, and I'd give high marks to Wyler and Curtiz. And though I like several of his films, I'd be less indulgent of Preminger. He does not seem to me to have had a consistent directorial vision. Directors just on the edge of 'greatness' (Robert Wise) may move in or out of favor, but the work has to remain relevant.

This is a great discussion point and I'm not challenging any selections. I simply think that, absent any qualitative standard, we have to rely on something like 'endurance' to make such determinations.

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3 minutes ago, Brrrcold said:

Probably this categorization depends upon the experience of the one rating the directors. Is he/she evaluating the technical proficiency of a director's work? Orson Welles would rate highly then. Or, is it the skill he/she had with performers? Give it to Cukor then.

I'd make my choices based on the totality of the director's work and the lasting effect of their films over time. So, I'd be more generous with Capra, and I'd give high marks to Wyler and Curtiz. And though I like several of his films, I'd be less indulgent of Preminger. He does not seem to me to have had a consistent directorial vision. Directors just on the edge of 'greatness' (Robert Wise) may move in or out of favor, but the work has to remain relevant.

This is a great discussion point and I'm not challenging any selections. I simply think that, absent any qualitative standard, we have to rely on something like 'endurance' to make such determinations.

Sometimes endurance is simply whether or not you can endure sitting through another one of the director's movies.

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Some directors I feel get just the right amount of recognition:

People like James Ivory, Jacques Tourneur, Jane Campion, Martin Scorsese, Billy Wilder, Gordon Parks and John Frankenheimer.

Then we have ones like Woody Allen, Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin, where it's almost impossible to separate their persona as an actor (and their notoriety as off screen celebrities) from their role as a director.

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3 hours ago, calvinnme said:

Amen to James Cameron as overrated. He is very good with special effects, but his plots are all derivative and his characters all behave predictably. 

What do you think of Mel Brooks? His material is derivative. I don't think I've seen an original idea from him, ever, on screen. Have you? He's just taking what other directors have done and poking fun at it. Though he's raised that to an art form of sorts.

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In his  heyday I think Brooks was very original. Mel Brooks is not a director at heart, though. Instead he is a comedian and author of comic material. The guy is 92 now, so I'll just let it go that he did The Producers twice as a movie and once as a Broadway show. He created the idea behind "Get Smart", "Blazing Saddles", and "Young Frankenstein". Sure, most of the time he was doing spoofs of more serious films, but I just think that made it more relatable to the audience.

One thing I will say about Hitchcock. He was very adaptable. Making films in the silent era? No problem. Adapting to sound? No problem. Making films in the American studio system under the production code? No problem. Dealing with television? No problem. I do think it was rather small of him to blame Vertigo's failure on James Stewart because he was "too old" and then turn around and hire another actor - Cary Grant - to do North By Northwest who was actually older than James Stewart.

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Overrated

  • Steven Spielberg
  • George Lucas
  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Michael Mann
  • Jim Jarmulsch
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Coen Bros
  • Buz Luhrman
  • James Cameron
  • Sam Raimi
  • Tony Scott
  • Benedito del Torro
  • Ron Howard
  • Peter Jackson

 

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11 minutes ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Overrated

  • Ron Howard

Yeah I don't care for Ron Howard as a director. Nice guy in real life but not my kind of director. His stuff feels too sappy, too commercial. The western he directed that starred Tommy Lee Jones (THE MISSING) was dreadful.

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American cinema is a dogcatcher's kennel these days. Full of mongrels gathered in from any alley or empty lot in town. It's an embarrassment. Once the glory of our nation ...once the credentials which stood us in good stead worldwide...

I've racked my brain to think of classic directors who really didn't deserve their renown but nothing comes to mind. Anyone from the studio system (or, shortly thererafterwards), were invariably competent and credible in their field.

The buffoons today not only don't seem to know what they're doing, they seem not even to have their hands in the process. The whole film is made in the lab. Look at this: https://tinyurl.com/yd66c8kq

 

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15 hours ago, TopBilled said:

What do you think of Mel Brooks? His material is derivative. I don't think I've seen an original idea from him, ever, on screen. Have you? He's just taking what other directors have done and poking fun at it. Though he's raised that to an art form of sorts.

And why shouldn't it be?  :D  Back when we suffered the "Scary Movie" and "Disaster Movie" plague, Brooks made a comment on "Young Frankenstein"'s disk commentary--"I've been called the 'father' of modern movie parody, and...I'd like to apologize."  After Brooks, nobody really seemed to get the idea, except for maybe Zucker & Abrams, and they never held onto it.

If you go back and look at the golden one-two of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein--and maybe High Anxiety, although the comedy was a little Borscht-ier when he starred in them--they're the perfect skewerings of beloved old-film mythos, with bad jokes so perfectly timed, they're their own commando attack, that just needed the right general to orchestrate them.  And, of course, "The Producers" is nastier fun when you consider the number of real Broadway flops that Brooks worked on during his post-Sid Caesar years--Only an insider could tell those jokes.

7 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

Overrated

  • Quentin Tarantino
  • Christopher Nolan
  • Coen Bros
  • Buz Luhrman
  • James Cameron
  • Benedito del Torro
  • Ron Howard
  • Peter Jackson

I didn't realize Benecio del Toro had turned to directing, maybe Guillermo del Toro (and yes) will put him in one of his. ;)  Oh, and it's BAZ Luhrmann who wants to be Australia's Next Ken Russell, and definitely.

Christopher Nolan had one hit in a genre he hated, and one Oscar nomination plagiarizing a Japanese anime remake he turned down.  James Cameron will make you cringe every time he puts Sigourney Weaver or Linda Hamilton into his own misogynistically fetishized view of all female characters, Quentin Tarantino is on the list of directors you would rather hear talk about movies than demonstrate it by copying them in their own (qv. Joe Dante), and I liked Ron Howard before he did the Grinch movie, went loopy, and turned into a raging Codie who believed every book--Hey, even "Willow" wasn't his fault.  And sitting through the third "Hobbit" movie will make you ask a LOT of questions about Peter Jackson's personal life that "Lovely Bones" and "Heavenly Creatures" can't answer.

But "Overrated"?  Once in a while, I like to sit someone under 30 on grandpa's knee, and tell them what we all REALLY thought of John Hughes in the day.  For every "Breakfast Club", there were three "Weird Science"'s...Usually in the same month.

And then, if they're not traumatized yet, I give them a long history of the OTHER movies Bob Clark directed...  😈

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"Overrated" and "underrated" seem to be mostly individual opinion.  There are some directors some people like ALL the work from, some who DON'T like ANY of the stuff from others, and then too, those who don't rally know or care who the director of any movie is or was.  

And too, some whom might have directed a movie we REALLY love, but we know of no other movie they might have directed.  Or saw one or two of them but DIDN'T KNOW they directed them.

I suggest that too strict attention paid to ANY director could have unwarranted circumstances, like for instance, some director one concludes they DON'T care for because he/she directed some movie the individual DIDN'T REALLY like, gets subsequent projects snubbed and rejected out of hand, AND might have become that individual's favorite movie if not for that preconceived notion.  

But, there CAN be "underappreciated" directors( by most people due to their not spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over it) whose other work doesn't get that much general attention.

For me, TWO come to mind( and I'll bet there are others I'll have to give some thought to...) and that didn't make ANYONE'S lists...

And they are---

WILLIAM FRIEDKIN

BRIAN DESMOND HURST

Sepiatone

 

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11 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

"Overrated" and "underrated" seem to be mostly individual opinion.  There are some directors some people like ALL the work from, some who DON'T like ANY of the stuff from others, and then too, those who don't rally know or care who the director of any movie is or was.  

And too, some whom might have directed a movie we REALLY love, but we know of no other movie they might have directed.  Or saw one or two of them but DIDN'T KNOW they directed them.

I suggest that too strict attention paid to ANY director could have unwarranted circumstances, like for instance, some director one concludes they DON'T care for because he/she directed some movie the individual DIDN'T REALLY like, gets subsequent projects snubbed and rejected out of hand, AND might have become that individual's favorite movie if not for that preconceived notion.  

But, there CAN be "underappreciated" directors( by most people due to their not spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over it) whose other work doesn't get that much general attention.

For me, TWO come to mind( and I'll bet there are others I'll have to give some thought to...) and that didn't make ANYONE'S lists...

And they are---

WILLIAM FRIEDKIN

BRIAN DESMOND HURST

Sepiatone

 

Maybe under appreciated and underrated are synonymous in this discussion? I don't know. 

As you indicate with Friedkin and Hurst, just as I indicated with Lubin and Lanfield and a few others, there are some directors whose names are usually absent from discussions about directors. They never get any sort of evaluation or appreciation because the household names (Hitchcock, Ford, etc.) dominate.

There is a term called journeyman director which I don't like. I also don't like the term studio director. Where critics sort of look at someone like Arthur Lubin, and say oh he was a studio director, he just churned out what the studio asked of him. But that doesn't mean he didn't take routine assignments and elevate their quality. Lubin was particularly skilled across genres, and anyone who's seen the 1943 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will tell you that film was made by a top director. I don't think Hitchcock could have done a better job with the same material.

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10 hours ago, EricJ said:

And why shouldn't it be?  :D  Back when we suffered the "Scary Movie" and "Disaster Movie" plague, Brooks made a comment on "Young Frankenstein"'s disk commentary--"I've been called the 'father' of modern movie parody, and...I'd like to apologize."  After Brooks, nobody really seemed to get the idea, except for maybe Zucker & Abrams, and they never held onto it.

If you go back and look at the golden one-two of Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein--and maybe High Anxiety, although the comedy was a little Borscht-ier when he starred in them--they're the perfect skewerings of beloved old-film mythos, with bad jokes so perfectly timed, they're their own commando attack, that just needed the right general to orchestrate them.  And, of course, "The Producers" is nastier fun when you consider the number of real Broadway flops that Brooks worked on during his post-Sid Caesar years--Only an insider could tell those jokes.

I wasn't placing a judgment on Brooks necessarily with my earlier post. But calvin had said Cameron was derivative and I do think the same could be said for Brooks. It's true that he doesn't present original ideas. He uses the ideas of others and slants them for comedic purposes. He's successful at it. But his films are still highly derivative.

Is anyone going to find hidden meanings in a Mel Brooks movie (the way you can with a Woody Allen movie)? Will anyone find real substance or something new being offered up to the audience in a Mel Brooks comedy? 

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20 minutes ago, GatorSteve said:

Amazing to me how William Wyler is hardly ever mentioned when it comes to the greatest Directors. 

He's probably overshadowed by the producer (Sam Goldwyn) and the actresses (Bette Davis, Greer Garson & Olivia de Havilland). Goldwyn and the lead stars tended to get the credit for Wyler's greatest films. My theory.

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6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Is anyone going to find hidden meanings in a Mel Brooks movie (the way you can with a Woody Allen movie)? Will anyone find real substance or something new being offered up to the audience in a Mel Brooks comedy? 

If you mean that Blazing Saddles is as much an inappropriate satire of 70's-era racism as it is of 70's old-film-deconstructionist Western cliche's, yes, but then that could also be a product of Richard Pryor's screenwriting.  (And Pryor's own attempts as a director were much less successful.)

As for Young Frankenstein, a whole subplot in Gene Wilder's script, about Wilder's, um...frustration at not being able to get a roll in the hay with Teri Garr, was left on the cutting room floor, except for a few scenes at the beginning and end.  But as for Gene Wilder as a comedy director, "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" is barely tolerable, and "The World's Greatest Lover" is excruciating physical pain.  😡

...Comedy is old jokes, after all, but it's all in the art of telling them.

(And yes, Mel had his best stuff in the 70's, and so did Woody Allen, which is the only reason anyone's still using them together in the same sentence anymore, like we used to back during the days of Annie Hall.)

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17 hours ago, EricJ said:

But "Overrated"?  Once in a while, I like to sit someone under 30 on grandpa's knee, and tell them what we all REALLY thought of John Hughes in the day.  For every "Breakfast Club", there were three "Weird Science"'s...Usually in the same month.

And then, if they're not traumatized yet, I give them a long history of the OTHER movies Bob Clark directed...  😈

That was my adolescence and I enjoyed those films. My friends and I still talk about them today. Maybe they didn't age well at all but, were spot on in their day.

 

23 hours ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

The buffoons today not only don't seem to know what they're doing, they seem not even to have their hands in the process. The whole film is made in the lab. Look at this: https://tinyurl.com/yd66c8kq

 

Today its photoshop and CGI but, yesterday it was "have a rib removed" or "have some molars pulled". Hollywood has always been this way. Its never real on screen, its not supposed to be real. Its supposed to fill your imagination will fantasy.

But, I do admit its true, no one out there today is really inspiring the imagination.

6 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Is anyone going to find hidden meanings in a Mel Brooks movie (the way you can with a Woody Allen movie)? Will anyone find real substance or something new being offered up to the audience in a Mel Brooks comedy? 

Mel Brooks is of the world of Mad Magazine, Watergate, Variety shows , Kentucky Fried Movie etc... an era when poking fun at institutions was really at a peak because there was so much to poke fun at. Its been done to death now so Mel's films look like a bad version of something much worse.

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59 minutes ago, EricJ said:

If you mean that Blazing Saddles is as much an inappropriate satire of 70's-era racism as it is of 70's old-film-deconstructionist Western cliche's, yes, but then that could also be a product of Richard Pryor's screenwriting.  (And Pryor's own attempts as a director were much less successful.)

As for Young Frankenstein, a whole subplot in Gene Wilder's script, about Wilder's, um...frustration at not being able to get a roll in the hay with Teri Garr, was left on the cutting room floor, except for a few scenes at the beginning and end.  But as for Gene Wilder as a comedy director, "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother" is barely tolerable, and "The World's Greatest Lover" is excruciating physical pain.  😡

...Comedy is old jokes, after all, but it's all in the art of telling them.

(And yes, Mel had his best stuff in the 70's, and so did Woody Allen, which is the only reason anyone's still using them together in the same sentence anymore, like we used to back during the days of Annie Hall.)

Who says comedy has to be old jokes? There are plenty of new comedy writers around with new jokes and new material.

I don't agree with what you wrote in your last paragraph. I'm not putting Allen and Brooks together because they had films in theaters during the 70s. I was mentioning both of them because both often starred in the films they had directed. Personally I think some of Allen's best films occur in the 80s and 90s.

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

I don't agree with what you wrote in your last paragraph. I'm not putting Allen and Brooks together because they had films in theaters during the 70s. I was mentioning both of them because both often starred in the films they had directed. Personally I think some of Allen's best films occur in the 80s and 90s.

And also that Sleeper and Love & Death were seen as specific genre "parodies" of sci-fi and Russian epics, which only increased the 70's Coke-vs.-Pepsi discussions of Mel vs. Woody for who was the better genre-spoofer in A-list 70's comedy directing on the same ballfield.

Then, of course, Annie Hall and Manhattan came out, and we accepted that post-Early-Funny Woody had taken his ball and went home.

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An interesting topic. Over time, reputations rise and fall just like stocks on the stock market. For instance, Samuel Fuller, once unfairly neglected, is now easily the most overrated director of the classic era. Pickup on South Street and The Steel Helmet are quite good, the others I've seen less so, despite an inventive scene here and there. Too bad Fuller kept working with that less than first-rate writer . . . Samuel Fuller. Fuller's directorial skill is consistently undercut by poor plot development and goshawful dialogue. The opening scene of Shock Corridor is a case in point.

I agree with TopBilled that Truffaut is an overrated director. He was basically treading water after his first three films. The Story of Adele H. is probably as good as the first three, Two English Girls lacks the acting to match the superb music and cinematography, and none of the films I've seen are really bad, but without the Truffaut brand few of them would have been imported to America.

Almost all of Truffaut's older French contemporaries are underrated, thanks to the attacks of the New Wave critic-directors and then the Americans like Andrew Sarris who simply took their opinions for gospel. Julien Duvivier is one of the great directors; Rene Clement was a great director from the late forties through the early sixties; the two films (This Special Friendship and The Eternal Return) I've seen by Jean Delannoy, whom Truffaut & Co. especially hated, are superb; Yves Allegret's Dedee d'Anvers is a great film noir; and so on.

There is probably no more overrated director on this planet than John Cassavetes.

On a happier note, attention to a few underrated directors of the classic era: Jean Negulesco's black & white films are excellent; all of Bryan Forbes' black & white films are good, and King Rat and Whistle Down the Wind are far more than that; William Wellman's early films at Warner Brothers are full of life; so are Mervyn LeRoy's films at Warner Brothers and his early MGM movies (the later films get longer and stodgier); and Lewis Allen is beginning to get some attention. Then there's Edward C. Blatt, whoever he may have been, who directed Between Two Worlds, which I would gladly watch in preference to many a celebrated film.

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10 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Who says comedy has to be old jokes? There are plenty of new comedy writers around with new jokes and new material.

Yeah.  Problem with that is...you wind up getting movies with WILL FERRELL and ADAM SANDLER. 

**** gags(with a capital "gag") and not so clever double entendre .  It's kind of like the eighth graders have taken over the comedy genre writing.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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4 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

Yeah.  Problem with that is...you wind up getting movies with WILL FERRELL and ADAM SANDLER. 

**** gags(with a capital "gag") and not so clever double entendre .  It's kind of like the eighth graders have taken over the comedy genre writing.  ;) 

Sepiatone

Not all new comedy writers have a juvenile sense of humor. Some of our newest playwrights and screenwriters do have a sophisticated brand of humor.

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