The Top Directors Working Today: Marc Forster + Curtis Hanson

I was very surprised when I posted on Filmspotting about Marc Forster and Curtis Hanson. They received some of the lowest marks I've seen so far. Guess they're not as respected as I had thought. So in the interest of time, I've decided to post them together.

I can’t put my finger on how Marc Forster directs. His lack of style genuinely bugs me, although it makes him adaptable to all kinds of projects. (Who else could go from The Kite Runner to James Bond?) His brief filmography has quickly become a decidedly mixed bag – FINDING NEVERLAND followed by STAY – and there’s no telling where he may end up.

According to the poll on Filmspotting...

4% think he's proven his Greatness.
8% think he definitely has potential for Greatness.
36% think he's Good, but don't see him doing anything Great.
28% think he's too hit-and-miss to merit consideration.
24% don't think he's ever been good, let alone Great.
Honestly, I included him in this discussion at the strong suggestion of others, but I think he's the least deserving name I've posted so far. If you'd vote in the top 2 choices, I'd love to hear what draws you to his work. Why do you trust him?

Haven't seen any of his films? You're not missing anything. It's interesting how everyone seems to love his movies when they come out, but it doesn't take long for them to slip into obscurity. I had not heard one word on Monster's Ball for years (until today), and I see Finding Neverland and Stranger Than Fiction going down the same path.

He's the kind of director who gets work because he can keep a production together, come in on time and on budget, and has directed an actress to an (overacted) Oscar-winning performance. He's not bad at it so you can't really wish he would stop getting work, but he's not interesting enough to eagerly await his next film. He can tell a story well enough but I don't know that he has the potential to be great. I have yet to see anything in his films that shows me that he wants to be better than he is. And all of this is fine. I guess not every director needs to bleed all over every single frame of every one of his films.

Marc Forster is a poor man's Ron howard, who's a poor man's Robert Zemeckis, who's a poor man's Steven Spielberg. Marc Forster sucks.

Curtis Hanson is an interesting case. After a series of genre thrillers, Hanson reinvented himself and opened a lot of eyes with L.A. Confidential, one of the absolute greatest films of the 90's. He followed that up with Wonder Boys. In those two films, Hanson proved he can be a director of the highest caliber. Since then it's been diminishing returns, almost as if he's sliding back into being a mostly reliable hired gun. He brings a lot of respectability to his projects, but like John McTiernan, I think his time of Greatness came and went very quickly.

A lot of people suggested Hanson is only good when working with good material. While the material has a lot to do with it, I'd like to defend Hanson and say he's always elevated the material. His early genre thrillers like Hand The Rocks The Cradle and The River Wild benefitted from above-average performances. (Even Bad Influence was the first time I believed Rob Lowe could Act.

He's also gotten career Best performances from Kim Bassinger, Toby Maguire, (arguably) Michael Douglas, and yes, Steve Guttenberg. He worked really hard with Eminem to make that performance (and many of the untrained supporting cast) very credible as well.

Hanson doesn't have an identifiable visual style, but he's really good with actors, and all his films...all of them (be it L.A. Confidential or Lucky You) come out better than the final screenplay would suggest. Does that make him Great? I say, no. But he's definitely better than average.

According to the poll on Filmspotting...

4.5% think he's a Great director and will watch whatever he makes.
13.5% think he's not always Great, but he's worth watching.
36% think he was Great for a couple of films. Now he's solid at best.
23% think he's only worth watching if given the right material.
23% don't see anything special in his directing.

I think it's definitely in his power to make another great film or even a few more. But he seems to have fallen into his good films by accident, judging by the ones that are not as good.


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