This weekend, the sole movie getting a wide release is Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood.”
In a summer dominated by superhero movies and Disney remakes, it’s the rare film that’s original and driven not only by the cast, which includes Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, but also by its director.
The movie got a friend and me thinking: Who will be this next class of directors that will drive people to movie theaters for something original? Who will be the next Tarantino, Spike Lee, Wes Anderson or Christopher Nolan? Will there even be an audience for them as franchises take up most spaces at the movies?
We landed on a few picks:
Jordan Peele — As it stands, Peele’s horror movie “Us” remains one of the top-grossing movies in America this year. This is a feat not only because it is original, but also because it was advertised only using Peele’s name, not those of the cast. Inspired by a mixture of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Joel Schumacher, Peele has carved his name into the canon of great horror-mystery directors, as well as already being an established name in comedy. His success is the rarest feat in modern cinema.
James Wan — James Wan’s name may not be as recognizable, but his work on movies like “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” have inspired an entire decade of mainstream horror films, and his gleefully goofy presence on franchise films like “Furious 7” and “Aquaman” is palpable.
Taika Waititi — “Thor: Ragnarok” writer-director Taika Waititi is one of the lone standouts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that brings his own style and sense of humor to usually boilerplate superhero films. His dry, New Zealand-inspired humor and warm spirit propels cult hit comedies like “What We Do In The Shadows” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” It's transferred surprisingly well into the mega-budget world of the MCU. With his next movie, “Jojo Rabbit” going back to his off-kilter roots, with a child having Hitler as an imaginary friend, he could be a director who balances making blockbusters with odd knee-slappers.
J.J. Abrams — While he’s been directing and producing since the ’80s, Abrams’ prominence as a director didn’t hit until the 2000s with “Mission: Impossible III” and “Star Trek (2009).” One of the rare Spielberg-esque, blockbusters-only directors, his slick, kinetic direction overflows with energy and pizazz. Like Spielberg, his movies are rooted in nostalgia, sometimes a bit too much, but he knows how to construct a crowd-pleaser better than almost any working director.
Ava DuVernay — While 2018’s “A Wrinkle in Time” didn’t equal mainstream success for DuVernay, she continues to prove to be an important, thoughtful voice in cinema. “Selma” was an excellent, nuanced portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. The Netflix documentary “13th” was a damning look at the treatment of black people after slavery was abolished. This summer, “When They See Us,” the miniseries about The Central Park Five, was one of the most well-made, heartbreaking portraits of injustice released this year. Her ability to bring humanity and intimacy as she discusses injustice is outstanding.
— ANDREW GAUG | ST. JOE LIVE