Apparently, the fine folks over at Spike had nothing better to do this week, what with the election over and having already read all major scholarly works their local community college library had to loan out, so they decided to hash together a list of the Ten Most Overrated Directors. Unfortunately, there’s no link for it, because as of this point, it appears to have either 1) Been removed from the site or B) Never existed at all outside the drug-addled mind of the author of this piece. The link’s presence on Digg points toward the former. The talking totem pole to my left and my full sheet of acid tabs suddenly being half-full points toward the latter.
However, despite an intense psychotropic disadvantage, I’d like to take the FSR faithful, true movie geeks all, through Spike’s ill-conceived list – a list that might has well have been called Spike’s List of the Ten Directors That Spike Has Heard Of.
And here we….go:
10. Kevin Smith
Claiming that Kevin Smith is overrated is like saying that comic books are overrated. In fact, just like most directors on this list, Kevin Smith is completely accurately rated. The people that love his films are obsessed with them in the cult way, whenever he tries to take a serious turn people end up hating it, and a decent amount of the public are either unaware of him or find him too raunchy to care about. The more I think about the analogy, the more I think Smith is exactly like comic books. Loving his films makes you geeky, slightly smarter than those around you but no more popular, and gives you the urge to rip your shirt off and go fight crime. Or at least complain about working on a day you weren’t scheduled to work. And, yes, the correct response to seeing Smith on this list is, “He’s not even supposed to be here!”
9. M. Night Shyamalan
Now this is impressive. Had Spike’s list come out in 2001, it would have been the most prescient statement of the decade. People would have scoffed originally, claiming that Shyamalan had created two genuinely strong films, but by Lady in the Water people would have been applauding how correct Spike had been back in the day. Currently, Shyamalan is viewed as a director that had two to three great films and has steadily dropped off so badly that The Happening is considered the Funniest Comedy of 2008. He’s gone from visionary to hack within a decade – how is that overrated?
8. Quentin Tarantino
Oh, Spike, I bet you thought you were being really ballsy with this choice, especially considering that your core audience is men who still relive throwing that game-winning touchdown pass twenty years ago and frat boys who think Kurosawa is the sauce they put on their moo shoo. They worship QT, so putting him on the list was guaranteed to produce some angry responses and increased pageviews. Oddly enough, I think QT is a hack, but he’s definitely not overrated. I’m starting to see your pattern – cult directors that have intensely strong followings but are virtually unrecognized by the public at large. There are a few on the fringe that worship at the Idol of Cinema of Cool, but for the most part people see him as a talented man who borrows heavily from influences and has had his fair share of missteps. Crazy as a cartoon rabbit? Yes. Overrated? No, sir.
7. Wes Anderson
I get it. Anderson is the type of director where fans use the tried and untrue line that, “if you didn’t like it, you must not have gotten it.” And that sucks. Anderson’s fans suck. But Anderson doesn’t. Rushmore is fantastic. Bottle Rocket is a solid indie. The rest of his films have settled into similar themes and patterns, but the guy’s design eye is incredible and his ear for unconventional dialog is strong. Like the others, some people think he’s the Cinematic Second Coming and others think he’s a hack extraordinaire. So tell us, Spike, how can someone be both loved and reviled and also be overrated? Does that mean he’s also underrated? You are blowing my mind.
6. Judd Apatow
Wow. I could almost give you credit for this entry if it was an Overrated Producer’s list. But it’s not. He’s overexposed as a producer and has given the world a borderline-annoying troupe of comedic actors that are equally overexposed, but outside of some brilliant television work, Apatow has only directed two movies: Knocked Up and The 40-Year Old Virgin. I’m glad your list was on the internet, because there’s no way you could say those movies were bad with a straight face. He’s competent, has a unique take on R-rated humor, and his films (the one’s he actually directed) were liked by people both critically and commercially. You wishing you were funnier does not make Judd Apatow overrated.
5. Bryan Singer
So your argument is that Superman Returns was bad? Hell yeah, it was bad. It was so bad that it might as well have been directed by a blindfolded Ang Lee. Sidenote: Lee actually does some of his best work blindfolded. It’s a zen thing. Digressions aside, Singer gave us The Usual Suspects – a movie that most of your audience has posters of in their dorm room – and the first two X-Men films. Did you accidentally drop his name on this list while trying to place him at #5 on your Talented and Well-Liked Directors List? Speaking of which – what a lame title for a list. I could have pretended you came up with something better than The 10 Talented and Well-Liked Directors, couldn’t I? Maybe it’s because my mind is numb from trying to figure out how Singer made it on here. Or, you know, all the other entries.
4. The Coppolas
Francis Ford Coppola gave us two of the greatest films ever made. Ever. Therefore, he, by definition, cannot be overrated. Since no words of praise will ever quite encapsulate how incredibly talented or mind-bendingly fantastic those films are, it is quite literally impossible to rate him above how awesomely bad ass he is as a director. Plus, it is agreed by everyone that those films are two of the best films in the history of film. Since this is correct, he’s accurately rated. Sophia Coppola, on the other hand, you can put on the list without any argument from me – except she’s sort of the female Wes Anderson, and I don’t think there’s a huge swath of the population that thinks she’s brilliant. In fact, it’s probably closer to the truth that the exact right amount of people who should like her work, like her work and the exact right amount of people that find it boring, wandering and pretentious find it a lot like they find your list.
3. Steven Spielberg
Now we’re just getting ridiculous. Do I even have to write a rebuttal paragraph for this or can we all just agree on how moronic his inclusion on the list is? Oh, we rhetorically can? Sweet. Moving on.
2. Tim Burton
You’ve finally given me something of a challenge, although I have to assume you’re the type of people that think Burton directed The Nightmare Before Christmas because you don’t know any better. Burton could be said to have driven himself into a thematic rut – the subdued colors, the continual casting of the same actors, the Gothic romance angles – and there are some who are starting to lose faith in the guy. However, it would take someone with a What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately attitude to consider him overrated. Over a 37-year career, the man has given us some average flicks and a few that completely blew our minds. He’s earned the status of a visionary, and even though he’s knee-deep in passion projects that appeal to a much narrower audience, he’s still delivering for their (and subsequently our) expectations. It’s difficult to overrate an artist when you know exactly what to expect from him – and sometimes, just sometimes, he delivers more creatively than you thought possible.
1. George Lucas
Either you’re attacking a sacred cow or hopping on the bandwagon who find Lucas to be easy prey nowadays. Also, kudos for getting me to use the word ‘nowadays’ in an article. But no kudos for topping your list with Lucas. At this point in his career, the guy is thoroughly scorned by those who were his strongest fans for what he’s done to their favorite franchises. How can a guy so hated be overrated? Loyal Fanboys aside, the average person hasn’t even heard of him (to the gasps of Star Wars geeks) and loathed by former geeks who feel betrayed. His street cred is in the gutter. By this point in your list, I shouldn’t be surprised that your logic is completely unsound.
Congratulations to you, Spike, for grabbing some Diggness and for further proving that you have almost zero cinematic knowledge. If you were going to make a list of overrated directors, why not make a list that creates a conversation? Choose directors like Orson Welles – best known for the most overrated movie of all time – Ron Howard – who remains more average than outstanding – Hitchcock – who had a huge amount of flops amongst the few classics he’s remembered for – Clint Eastwood – who studios think should have every film he helms up as Oscar Bait – Kurosawa himself – who some feel had no ear for dialog or concept of editing skill – Pasolini – who is either a genius or the worst filmmaker ever – Wolfgang Petersen, Gus Van Sant, Kubrick.
I’m not saying that all these directors are overrated, but at least there are arguments on both sides of the fence for them. There’s no way to realistically argue that the directors you chose are overrated. So thanks for a great laugh over here at the FSR offices. I needed something to lift my spirits after watching Big Fish on DVD tonight. That flick always makes me cry.