Writers who outshine their directors. . .

Discussion in 'Archive: The Amphitheatre' started by Mastadge, Jan 30, 2005.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    Most of the time, a movie is seen mainly as the product of its director. However, occasionally it's the writer who gets the acclaim. A current example is Charlie Kaufman, whose films -- Natural History; Being John Malkovitch; Adaptation.; Confessions of a Dangerous Mind; and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- despite being made by three different directors, are all more recognizable as Kaufman films than as Spike Jonze films and Michael Gondry films, etc. Another example is Quentin Tarantino. Is it any coincidence that Tony Scott's best film, by far, scoring a full .4 IMDB points above his next best-rated film, is the one written by Tarantino? I don't think so. . .

    What other screenwriters regularly boost their directors to the "next level," or are perhaps bigger names than the directors who film their material?
  2. Armenian_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2003
    star 7
    hmm, that's an interesting question.


    I love both Kaufman and Tarantino.




    When you say writer, you're not counting authors who's books get turned into movies are you?
  3. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    No, just the screenwriters.
  4. Armenian_Jedi Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 14, 2003
    star 7
    That's what I thought.


    Now you've forced me to think, which I hate doing.


    Alright let me think and I'll get back to ya.





    I know Tarantino was paid more attention than Robet Rodriguez when they were working on From Dusk Till Dawn. Robert directed and Quentin wrote it.
  5. Mastadge Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 1999
    star 7
    That one I consider a Rodriguez flick. It's got the Tarantino dialogue, but Rodriguez' manic energy and directing style.

    I think Rodriguez is a pretty bad director, which is partly made up for by the fact that his enthusiasm and energy really shines through in his films, partly made up for by the fact that his action's usually pretty good, and mostly made up for by Salma Hayek's appearance in most of his movies.
  6. Nrf-Hrdr Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 3, 2000
    star 4
    I think Rodreguez's main problems are with his writing, rather then his directing.

    Anyway, Michel Gondry is incredible, and it's unfortunate that he gets little credit for Eternal Sunshine (even if that film only shows a little of his usual music video style). Hopefully he'll finally get his name recognised when his non-Kaufman film projects are released.
  7. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    The person who immediately comes to mind for me is Michael Mann.

    Maybe he's not a a perfect example, because most times he both writes and directs his own films, but it's his writing that really shine through.

    For example, if anyone has read the box "Red Dragon," and then seen Mann's "Manhunter," it's a rare instance where the movie actually outshines the novel.

    He also had a short-lived tv show a couple of years ago "Robbery Homicide Division." I don't think there was a better written show on the air.

    Not all of Mann's movies are award winning classics, but they all capture the essence of the story.
  8. Tyranus_the_Hutt Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 14, 2004
    star 4
    David Mamet, who as a filmmaker tends to both write and direct his own material, is a better writer than director. One of two working directors ever to publically discuss their directorial methods (Sidney Lumet is the other), Mamet has revealed a disappointing simplicity to some of his filmmaking techniques; there isn't anything flashy in his pictures, just pure, straightforward, unobtrusive cinema. I suppose that this isn't necessarily a flaw, but it does suggest that Mamet relies quite heavily on his written material and his actors to carry the load. He is a good director, yes, but his true mastery lies in the written word.
  9. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    Yes, Mamet, another one.

    Spartan, which I believe is Mamet's latest, perfectly illustrates this.

    Spartan isn't your typical government/shadow/spy/whatever you want to characterize it as, movie.

    Ronin, another.

    But Mamet's screenplay shines in the details.
  10. solojones Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    Well, I was going to say Kaufman. He's probably the only stict writer (as in, not a writer/director) that I follow. How often does this happen? I followed 'Eternal Sunshine' from pre-production stages because I knew Kaufman was the writer.


    -sj loves kevin spacey
  11. Drac39 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 2002
    star 6
    Charlie Kaufman is definatly one,hes got a great imagination that is hard for a director to get on film.

    I`d say David S Goyer too,the guy is a great writer,and Batman Begins is going to rock with his treatment,and Chris Nolan's directing.
  12. bterrik Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 11, 2001
    star 4
    If we're allowed to delve into television:

    I would say Manny Coto clearly outstrips the cabablities of Rick Berman and Brannon Braga. His influence has breated maturity and entertainment into Enterprise.
  13. Darth-Kevin-Thomas Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2002
    star 5
    but his true mastery lies in the written word.

    Please no....(in relation to David Mamet)

    where as i think he is a good director and his stories and rather witty. his dialoge is utter crap. There are so many cheesy one liners that make me cringe.

    I want you quite
    I am quite
    I WANT YOU QUITER THAN AN ANT PISSIN ON COTTON

    Good day for a race
    What race?
    The human race.


    blahhhhh

    i can't stand to watch some of his movies. Spartan was infact good. But i still sensed some of the same cheesyness.

    dkt
  14. Excellence Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 28, 2002
    star 7
    Coupling

    A naughty but very sharp ABC-aired comedy. The reposts and come backs are eeriely superb.
  15. master_organa Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 2004
    star 5
    "I know Tarantino was paid more attention than Robet Rodriguez when they were working on From Dusk Till Dawn. Robert directed and Quentin wrote it."
    That isn't the same Rodriguez who made the Spy Kids series is he?
  16. FORCEOF1 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 13, 2004
    star 1
    Yes, and ONce Upon a Time in Mexico and Desperado. He also directed one of the rooms in "4 Rooms"
  17. Mr44 VIP

    Member Since:
    May 21, 2002
    star 6
    where as i think he is a good director and his stories and rather witty. his dialoge is utter crap. There are so many cheesy one liners that make me cringe.

    I would agree, to a point.

    I wouldn't characterize them as "one-liners," as much as they are disjointed responses. I think much of that is simply his personal rhythm in how he writes the scenes.

    Mann, who I previously mentioned, suffers from some of the same criticism.

    A prime example of this; the scene in Heat where DeNiro's and Pacino's chararcters are having coffee, is almost painful, if it wasn't so surreal in its execution.

    But I suspect that Mann engineered this to poke fun at himself in the process.
  18. sidious618 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 20, 2003
    star 6
    I never liked the fact that writers don't get as much credit as directors.
  19. Darth-Kevin-Thomas Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2002
    star 5
    it funny becuase playwrites get immense credit where as screenwriters get crap.

    for a social stament about this watch Barton Fink, a COEN brothers movie.

    dkt
  20. Tyranus_the_Hutt Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 14, 2004
    star 4
    Yes, Mamet's dialogue does sound very stylized, even affected at times. But the thing that is so masterful about his writing is that, apart from anything else, he creates a labrynthine vernacular maze which both entices and challenges the viewer/listener/reader. Not all actors would be willing to admit this, but there are only a select few who are able to properly "speak" Mamet's dialogue; I am thinking of some of his favorite actors: William H. Macy, Joe Mantegna, (his wife) Rebecca Pidgeon, Al Pacino, etc. It is a skill, to be certain. Perhaps as an audience member or reader, his language is more of an aquired taste; once accepted, though, his craft is spellbinding.

    Now, on to Charlie Kaufman. While I admired Michel Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", I don't think that it was entirely successful. It was a good film, and yet it should have been a great one. I attribute some of this to the director, who in my opinion did a less skillful job of negotiating Kaufman's dense and convoluted screenplay, than other directors, namely Spike Jonze, have, turning equally problematic material into complete and effective cinematic entities. Yes, I am aware that Gondry did have a hand in writing the screenplay, but no matter; when I saw the picture during its theatrical run, I was always aware of the fact that I was watching a movie. Not once was I fully enveloped within its narrative - I was always left in a state of critical remove - in other words, I could see the gears turning. This is problematic - Spike Jonze was able to craft two completely absorbing films out of Kaufman's screenplays - "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation". George Clooney did an admirable job with "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". Gondry, however, has made one garbled mess, "Human Nature", and another picture, "Eternal Sunshine", that, while almost infinitely superior to the former picture, is still somewhat lacking in emotional and narrative resonance. My opinion is obviously not in the majority, but, if nothing else, it does serve to exemplify one of Godard's famous sayings: "The only way to criticize a movie is to make another movie." If this is indeed true, then by contrast and comparison, "Malkovich", "Adaptation", and "Confessions" reveal the shortcomings of "Human Nature" and "Eternal Sunshine".
  21. solojones Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 27, 2000
    star 9
    Those are interesting points about Kaufman films, Tyrranus. But does any of that have to do with Charlie himself? As you pointed out, it was Gondry's direction you seem to have a problem with.

    Honestly, I need to have a Kaufman marathon before I comment on comparison of the films.


    -sj loves kevin spacey
  22. JediMasterAaron Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Oct 14, 2000
    star 5
    On the topic of Robert Rodriguez (From an earlier post):

    It's interesting that you should see Rodriguez as having a signature style, Mastadge. I don't see him as having any one characteristic that sets him apart as a director. If anything about him could be called unique, I would be more willing to dub him a genre director (The Mexican action film) than anything else.

    Rodriguez is a guy who is extremely frustrating to me, as an appreciator of movies. His best work is his low budget, low expectation stuff like Spy Kids (A surprisingly fun movie), The Faculty, El Mariachi, and Desperado. Once Upon A Time in Mexico was a huge disappointment for me, as was Spy Kids 2, and Spy Kids 3? In 3-D?

    Good Gravy.

    His next project is in 3-D as well, and judging by the title (The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl in 3-D) will probably suck.

    But, on the other hand, the trailer for Frank Miller's Sin City, his soon-to-be-released project, is almost shockingly perfect, IMO.

    JMA
  23. Nrf-Hrdr Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 3, 2000
    star 4
    I'd say from Desperado onwards Rodriguez definitely has an identifiable visual style. Some of it is hard to put your finger on, but the regular use of Mexican/Latin settings and actors, beige colour tones, as well as signature techniques like his use of multiple fades in a single shot, and the sight gags in action scenes are all pure Rodriguez.

    I'd say From Dusk Till Dawn is fairly evenly split between the two - the dialogue is obviously Tarantino, the visuals are obviously Rodriguez. I think they made a good team, I'd like to see them work together again.

    But yeah, Rodriguez is annoyingly inconsistent. I like him and some of his films, but I don't think he has enough creative depth to make a real 'masterpiece', or anything. But that's no crime- he's basically a B-movie director at heart, and a great one when he gets it right.
  24. Rust-and-Stardust Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 12, 2004
  25. Tyranus_the_Hutt Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 14, 2004
    star 4
    Rust-and-Stardust - You are absolutely correct in citing Kevin Smith. He is a wonderful writer, but (as he himself concedes) only a borderline director. In terms of his visual acuity and creativity as a filmmaker, much is left to be desired. He is more of a "point-and-shoot" director, and his mise-en-scene is essentially supported by his screenplay. That works when his material is strong, as in "Chasing Amy", but can create problems when his script material is drawn-out or lacking in some way (ie. "Dogma"). I guess that is reason #117 as to why he shouldn't have dropped out of film school.

    solojones - While I don't necessarily think that the flaws which are inherent in the Kaufman/Gondry pictures that I mentioned are entirely a result of the screenplays, there is an exception: In the case of "Human Nature", Kaufman's screenplay is decidely below par - it seems to be somewhat muddled and unfunny - a one-joke film. In fairness, the joke is initially amusing, but at 96 minutes, begins to wear thin. What is amazing about movies such as "Being John Malkovich" and "Adaptation" is that they are endlessly inventive; there is a sense of wonder and mystery to their bountiful depth of ideas. The result is two exhaustive and delirious pieces of entertainment; we are exhilarated by the sheer level of screenwriting ingenuity. "Human Nature" is a bright idea that goes nowhere. Therefore, I suppose it would be unfair to hold Michel Gondry personally responsible for that film's failure - he had only so much with which to work.

    "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is another matter entirely. While I reiterate that I think that the film is good, I am somewhat discouraged by the knowledge that it could have been better. I certainly attribute responsibility to Gondry in this case. I will explain. I think that Gondry shoots his picture in such a way that casts a cognitive remove over the entirety of the film - there is almost a sense that isolating paramaters are bordering the divide between the audience and the movie. This may have been a deliberate choice, but is, to my mind, a miscalculation. It must be stated that indeed all films are in fact guilty of "artificial manipulation"; there is no "true emotion", per se, rather the filmic affectation of emotive constructs. The goal of a good film is to transcend that which is, in its abstract form, "artificial", and create a sense of feeling through the delicate creation of art. I don't think that "Eternal Sunshine" was able to achieve this in a manner which is adequate to its story's success; I felt it to be a feigned attempt at emotional resonance, and ultimately quite synthetic. When I saw the picture last year in the theater, I admired it, but didn't like it. I was always aware that I was watching a movie, and never once was I absorbed into its narrative. This is odd because, as I have previously mentioned, other equally playful and convoluted Kaufman screenplays have been transformed into films with spellbinding narratives. I am reminded of Jean-Luc Godard's 1963 picture, "Contempt", starring Michel Piccoli and Brigette Bardot. That was a film containing a problem similar to the one described above - Godard makes the mistake of constantly reminding the audience that it is in fact watching a film, something which prevents complete entry into its world (the whole story of this film is somewhat more complex, and there are reasons for this, but I am not going to discuss those things here). Like "Eternal Sunshine", some people think that Godard's film is a masterpiece. Perhaps the flaw rests in me. I don't know.

    By the way, Kevin Spacey is a great actor, and as much as I enjoyed "Beyond the Sea", someone needs to tell him to give up smoking.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.