Several years ago I suffered what I’ve since learned is a common problem: I had no idea what to get next from netflix. I’ve always had the two disc plan, and sometimes you just don’t know what to watch on short notice. People often let their discs sit and linger for months, but I refused to let myself throw money down a hole that way. Besides, it wasn’t that I was unwilling to watch movies, I just didn’t know what movies to watch.
This was the birth of Directed Viewing, which started as a personal project and eventually evolved into its current form as an ongoing article. Directed Viewing is all about directors: finding noteworthy or interesting directors and watching their entire filmography. I try to do this chronologically, and write a piece about each film. Sometimes movies aren’t available, especially with older or more obscure directors, but I try to make every reasonable (and sometimes unreasonable) attempt. The reason is threefold:
- first and foremost, an entire body of work often gives you a unique and powerful insight into a creative voice’s evolution and focus (this is very much wrapped in auteur theory, the merits of which are a debate maybe outside the scope of this series) over a lifetime
- secondly, it has proven incredibly useful in filling in cinematic gaps in my own watching history, while at the same time allowing me to discover hidden gems and surprise flops in even the most famous directorial careers
- and finally, it keeps me on my toes, my queue moving, and my comfort zone and focus always shifting.
As you might expect, these are often very big projects that take a lot of time, so I plan them very far in advance. That said, I do take suggestions on which director I should focus on next, and I’m happy to discuss the reasons why I will or won’t accept them to anyone who wants to offer me ideas. Feel free to contact me through twitter or email, and maybe I’ll be dedicating a future project to you!
Also note, as often as I do historic directors I also look at the directors of today. The only problem with that is that those directors keep putting out films. Thus, some directors will have Redux articles attached, normally movie-specific analysis with a focus on how it relates to their previous body of work. Those will be noted as such in this table of contents.
Martin Scorsese – this was the first time I had done a series of director specific articles, and I didn’t have any real format for doing so. Having already watched the entire filmography by the time I got around to writing about it, I structured it more along thematic lines, constructing a five piece series on Scorsese’s works that I remain incredibly proud of. It’s not particularly movie-specific, and I’ll admit that in some ways it bears more than a little resemblance to Roger Ebert’s wonderful Scorsese by Ebert, but in some ways I remain more proud of it than any project since.
Part 1: Context, and Watching ‘Important’ Films
Part 2: Men Concerned with Women; The Mob Scene
Part 3: Identify, and Failing the Ideal
Part 4: Hidden Gems and Sinking Ships
Part 5: The Top Three and Final Thoughts
Steven Spielberg – I’m going to be honest, of all the projects I’ve done this is the one that undoubtedly one day bears revisiting. I was not yet regularly doing these articles at the time I tackled this project, but coming off of the life changing experience of seeing Scorsese’s films for the first time I simply didn’t have anything to say about most of Spielberg’s body of work. If I did it today, I would do it differently or not at all, but for now it will simply have to stand as an abandoned project needing some attention.
Jim Jarmusch – After the initial disappointment of the Spielberg project, I decided to re-evaluate the way I did Directed Viewing as a piece. This was when the current format of the article was first created, and tried out on a decidedly more arthouse candidate than Spielberg. Jarmusch was a trial by fire in many ways, as he’s a director whose films I can’t stand as often as I love. But it also was a firm foundation on which I’ve been finding success ever since.
Intro and Permanent Vacation
Jarmusch After School, Stranger Than Paradise
Hitting it Big and Down By Law
Trying Days of Jarmusch: Mystery Train
Repeated Sentiment with Night on Earth
Dead Man and Unexpected Reversals
Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai
Coffee and Cigarettes; Vignette Vengeance
The Zen of Murray and Broken Flowers
The End of Jarmusch and The Limits of Control
Paul Thomas Anderson – This was my first director request, one that I was happy to take in part because I had only seen two of his five (at the time) films and needed to fill in the gaps. It doesn’t hurt that it was a short project, and one that would undoubtedly pay dividends over his hopefully long future career. If you check out anything from this project, I can’t help but recommend the piece on There Will Be Blood, which is a film I am utterly in love with and tried to talk about with a degree of authority that set new standards for this series.
Introduction: Hard Eight
Boogie Nights and the All-American Family
Magnolia: Thoughts on the Modern Epic
Punch-Drunk Love and Exceptions that Prove the Rule
There Will Be Blood and the Tyranny of Success
Stanley Kubrick – The reality is, Kubrick has always been the director I wanted to do this project on, but it was only with a few prior projects under my belt that I began to feel confident about approaching one of the most notable figures in American cinema. Not only are his films nuanced and difficult to speak clearly about, but I knew going in that I do not have popular opinions on some of the critical and cultural darlings of his career. But I endeavor to rise to these challenges, and offer a look at one of the landmark directors of the 60s and 70s.
Why Kubrick? Fear and Desire
Killer’s Kiss and the Formal Exercise
Directorial Growth and The Killing
Paths of Glory, the Visceral Response
I am not Spartacus
Culture Comedy and Lolita
Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Refused to Play into the Obvious Joke
Beyond the Limits of Humanity—2001: A Space Odyssey
Exhaustive Social Commentary of A Clockwork Orange
The Humour and Tragedy of Barry Lyndon
The Shining Curiosity
Balancing the Unbalanced: Full Metal Jacket
Eyes Wide Shut and Careers Cut Short
Lars von Trier – A director I’ve been working up to as long as I’ve been writing about movies, I’ll freely admit that doing Lars von Trier is as much an exercise in pushing my ability to talk about film as he is a choice based on my interest in his movies. Dense, divisive, and firmly entrenched in the world of ‘arthouse’ cinema, I pick von Trier because the few films I had seen before going into this project had been profoundly moving (mostly terrifying), and unlike anything I had ever seen before. Will all of his films be as richly rewarding? Also: the first time I’ve ever written about a TV series!
Oh dear, von Trier: The Element of Crime
Adaptation and Medea
The Europa Glamour
Riget I and II, The Horror of the Unreal
Of God and Sex: Breaking the Waves
Dogme 95 and The Idiots
Dancer in the Dark and the Grace of Musicals
Dogville‘s Long Awaited Retribution
The Five Obstructions and Personal Honesty
The Boss of it All and Redundant Aberration
The Manderlay Problem
Melancholia of the Heart
Quentin Tarantino – C’mon, who doesn’t like Tarantino? This has been by far my most requested Directed Viewing subject to date, someone I put off because I had seen all the movies and wasn’t sure if I had anything to say. Turns out I had reams of things to say, just in a very different way than the movies I was approaching for the first time. This is by far the most theme-heavy of the Directed Viewing seasons yet.
A Tarantino Child and Reservoir Dogs
Pulp Fiction and the 90s Megaton
The Tarantino Clip Show
Kill Bill: Volume 1 and the Long Setup
Kill Bill: Volume 2 Deepest Regrets
The Argument for Death Proof
Inglourious Basterds and the New Remix
COMING SOON: Spike Lee in brief, John Carpenter Drive In Double Features, and more!