Tuesday, May 7, 2013

My Answer to the Most Recent Criticwire Survey: Best Director Under 40

Who is the best filmmaker under 40? I was somewhat surprised, although I shouldn’t have been, that many of the directors I feel are at the top right now – Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, etc. – all have 40 in the rear view mirror. I was also surprised to learn that other directors I thought may make it – Ben Wheatley, Shane Carruth and Rian Johnson – are all also 40, but barely (and in the case of Johnson, he’ll be 40 this year). I also considered Derek Cianfrance, mainly for Blue Valentine and Craig Zobel, for Complaine, but for the life of me, I could not find their birthday. Maybe they’re 40, maybe not, so I decided to play it safe and go with someone else – I probably would have anyway.

But who? Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was great, but I’d want to see Elysium before I decide on this him. Same with Sean Durkin – as much as I loved Martha Macy May Marlene, I need to see a follow-up before I anoint him the chosen one. Mia Hansen-Love is one of the more promising directors, as her first two films – The Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love, are quietly very good – but not quite great.I quite liked Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother and Heartbeats – and I still need to see Laurence Anyways – but he’s got to at least be on the list, since he’ll be eligible for years and years to come. Edgar Wright is right on the cusp of 40, but not there yet, so I considered him – but as good as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World are – he’s a notch below my top 3.
Jason Reitman has got to get some attention – mainly because he’s one of the few directors who keeps getting better each time out. There is a marked improvement from Thank You for Smoking to Juno to Up in the Air to Young Adult (even if audiences didn’t care for that last one). He’d be a very solid choice. Fellow Canadian Sarah Polley would also be a solid choice – although her best film remains her debut – Away From Her – but Take This Waltz and the documentary Stories We Tell are also excellent.

But my choice is Jeff Nichols. Nichols is only 35, and I can attest that he has made two great films – Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011), and based on all the reviews, his latest Mud is one of most anticipated films of 2013. Take Shelter is one of those rare movies that just grows in your mind over time – I think it’s better now than I did even back when I saw it at TIFF in 2011. He’s a young master in the making.

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