Master Filmmakers

There are few directors that had a career like Billy Wilder‘s. There are probably none that reached his level of skill and notability while staying as diverse as a storyteller. The man did drama and comedy with equal acuity, but his dominance of filmmaking almost didn’t happen. Born in what is now present-day Poland, Wilder left for Paris during the initial rise of the Nazi party in Germany and soon left for the States. He got out early, yes, but it’s difficult to think about the magic he’s delivered without being reminded that but for a few years he may have found himself a victim of the fear-mongering and murder that befell European Jews at the height of Hitler. Fortunately, he did get out and did go on to craft some of the best scripts and movies of the era (and, you know, of all time). His breakout was writing the hilarious Best Picture nominee Ninotchka; success he translated into a fruitful writing/directing career which produced a truckload of notable classics like Double Indemnity, A Foreign Affair, Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd., Stalag 17, Some Like It Hot, The Seven Year Itch, The Apartment, Witness for the Prosecution, Sabrina and more. The man was seriously prolific. With six Oscars and a ridiculous list of incredible films under his belt, he’s a perfect director to take a few tips from. So here it is, a bit of free film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from a legend.

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In his review of Mean Streets, Roger Ebert claimed that Martin Scorsese had the potential to become the American Fellini in ten years. It probably didn’t really take that long. Scorsese is a living library of film, but he isn’t a dusty repository of knowledge. He’s a vibrant, imaginative creator who might know more about movies than anyone else on the planet, and that makes him uniquely qualified to be both prolific and proficient. Over the course of his career, he’s created indelible works bursting with anger, violence, fragility, care, and wonder. Never content to stick with one story mode, he’s run the gamut of styles and substance. So here’s a free bit of film school (for filmmakers and fans alike) from our American Fellini.

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Stanley Kubrick has appeared in the credits for at least 17 films since his death in 1999. How is that possible? There’s a ton of people thanking him and making movies about him. His influence stretches even beyond his impressive body of work. The infamous control freak has taken us to the Overlook Hotel, to a War Room where there’s no fighting, on an odyssey in space and beyond. He’s an indelible part of the film conversation who had a rare gift for challenging conventions while embracing components of traditional commercial filmmaking. Last Friday’s Short Film of the Day was a hint at which director this column would take on next, so here it is: a free bit of film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from a chaotic mind with a gorgeous eye. Or, as Kirk Douglas put it, “a talented shit.”

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Happy Birthday Kurosawa! Happy Birthday Toshiro Mifune! Their birthdays are a week apart, so we’ve decided to celebrate by remembering the time that Kurosawa shot real arrows at his favorite lead actor. Oh, those lovable scamps!

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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