September 26, 2019

Modern Masters: 2019 List

I should have published this in March, when this amazing list of the Greatest Films of the 21st Century was updated. Anyway, here is my list of Top 10 Directors with the most impressive filmography in this century, for the fifth year. This ranking considers the number of movies each director has in Top 1000 as well as the respective ranks of their movies. 

There are three names who have been a part of the top ten in one or more of the previous years. Quentin Tarantino is currently at #11. With 'Once Upon A Time In... Hollywood' he may regain his position in the top ten next year. Hou Hsiao-Hsien is at #13. He hasn't had a release since 2015's 'The Assassin' and his next, 'Shulan River', will be out earliest in 2020. Steven Spielberg has come down to #16. His remake of 'West Side Story' will be released in December 2020. So it is unlikely for Spielberg to find a spot in the top ten before the 2021 list is out. At #12 we have Alfonso Cuaron, some 247 points behind currently ranked tenth, Claire Denis. If next March's update improves the ranks of Cuaron's films, he may find a place in the top ten as well.

Let us check out this year's rank-holders now:

10. Claire Denis (73-year old French filmmaker): Except 'High Life', all seven films directed by Denis in this century feature in Top 1000. I have watched 'Bastards', 'White Material', 'Trouble Every Day', and '35 Shots of Rum'. Hoping to watch 'Let the Sunshine In', 'The Intruder', and 'Friday Night' soon. If 'High Life' makes it to the list next March, Denis may get to improve her rank. Otherwise, it may be tough, with her next coming not before 2021 and Tarantino breathing down her neck.

9. Christopher Nolan (49-year old British-American filmmaker): Down two positions from last year, and only 11 points ahead of Denis, Nolan is also precariously placed at #9 this year. Last year he was at #7, and I had assumed that he will stay in top ten for some time. In fact, five of his films - 'Memento', 'The Dark Knight', 'Inception', 'Dunkirk', and 'The Prestige' - have maintained or improved their rankings. But the fall of 'Interstellar', 'Batman Begins', and 'The Dark Knight Rises' have cost him more than 300 points. Don't be surprised if 'The Dark Knight Rises' fails to find a place in the Top 1000 next year. His next, 'Tenet', will be out next July.

8. Paul Thomas Anderson (49-year old American filmmaker): Gaining one rank from last year, thanks to the improved position of 'Phantom Thread', Paul Thomas Anderson has no feature release coming up anytime soon. Four of his other features from this century find a place in top 1000. They are 'Punch-Drunk Love', 'There Will Be Blood', 'The Master', and 'Inherent Vice'. 

7. Martin Scorsese (76-year old American filmmaker): Although Scorsese is back at #7, his best rank in five years, he is only 330 points ahead of eleventh ranked Tarantino. Depending on how well Tarantino's latest ranks next March, the positions of Scorsese, PTA, Nolan, and Denis are at stake. But unlike others, Scorsese has an imminent release in 'The Irishman'. The performance of this film may greatly affect the bottom five ranks of my list next year. 'The Departed', 'Hugo', 'Shutter Island', 'Silence', 'The Aviator', 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and 'Gangs of New York' are Scorsese's films in top 1000.

6. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (49-year old Thai filmmaker): As predicted last year, Weerasethakul has lost his #5 position to Wes Anderson, although by merely 48 points. Out of his six films in top 1000, I have watched 'Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives', 'Tropical Malady' and 'Syndromes and a Century' and am yet to watch 'Blissfully Yours', 'Cemetery of Splendour' and 'Mysterious Object at Noon'. His next, 'Memoria', features Tilda Swinton and will be out in 2020. 

5. Wes Anderson (50-year old American filmmaker): All seven films that Wes Anderson has directed in this century features in Top 1000, including a lowly ranked 'Isle of Dogs'. If this film can improve its ranking next March, Anderson's position may improve as he is only 32 points behind Jia Zhangke. His other six films on the list are 'Moonrise Kingdom', 'The Grand Budapest Hotel', 'Fantastic Mr. Fox', 'The Darjeeling Limited', 'The Royal Tenenbaums' and 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou'. His next, 'The French Dispatch', comes out in 2020.

4. Jia Zhangke (49-year old Chinese filmmaker): Maintaining his position as the leading Asian filmmaker of 21st century, Jia Zhangke has directed eight films since 2000, six of which feature in top 1000. I have watched '24 City', 'Still Life', 'Unknown Pleasures', 'Platform' and 'A Touch of Sin' and am yet to watch 'The World'. His last two films, 'Mountains May Depart' and 'Ash is Purest White' have failed to make it to top 1000 yet.

3. The Coen Brothers (64 and 62 year old American filmmakers): The latest film by the Coen Brothers, 'The Ballad of Buster Scruggs' failed to make it to the list. 'Hail, Caesar!' is out of the list. 'Burn After Reading' is at #905. And 'The Ladykillers' and 'Intolerable Cruelty' are not in top 1000. But still, they have reclaimed their #3 position, edging Jia Zhangke by just 47 points, thanks to 'No Country for Old Men', 'Inside Llewyn Davis', 'A Serious Man', 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?', 'True Grit' and 'The Man Who Wasn't There'. Joel Coen is directing 'Macbeth' without Ethan but there is no clarity on when it will come out.

2. Michael Haneke (77-year old Austrian filmmaker): Despite making only one film in the last seven years, 'Happy End', that failed to feature in the top 1000, Haneke maintains his #2 position. Out of his six films on the list, I have watched 'Amour', 'The White Ribbon', 'Cache', 'The Piano Teacher', and 'Code Unknown' and am yet to watch 'Time of the Wolf'. Over the years, Haneke will fall in the rankings, as younger and more prolific filmmakers replace him, but I don't see him going out of top ten anytime soon.

1. Richard Linklater (59-year old American filmmaker): My favorite modern filmmaker maintains his top position the second year in a row and with 5152 points he has a solid lead over others. Linklater has directed fourteen films since 2000. 'Tape', 'Bad News Bears', 'Fast Food Nation', 'Me and Orson Welles', and 'Last Flag Flying' do not find a place in top 1000. His latest, 'Where'd You Go, Bernadette', hasn't been received very well. But in 'Waking Life', 'School of Rock', 'Before Sunset', 'A Scanner Darkly', 'Bernie', 'Before Midnight', 'Boyhood', and 'Everybody Wants Some!!', Linklater has created a body of work that is exciting, unpredictable, and extremely unique. By the way, did you know that Linklater is directing an adaptation of the musical 'Merrily We Roll Along' that will be shot over 20 years!?

Although only 13 names have featured on this list over the last five editions, and many of them seem to be juggling positions among themselves, the rankings actually have less stability than it appears. With 'The Irishman' and 'Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood', which may break into top 1000 next March, it seems the list may not undergo any serious change. But then this is a list created out of the performance of 1000 movies, and that list is very dynamic. Every year dozens of new movies replace others. Rankings undergo massive changes. We shouldn't be surprised if next March when I publish the updated top ten of 'Modern Masters', things have moved quite a bit.