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Archive for April 20th, 2013

By Bob Clark

For the past thirty-odd years or so, we’ve seen a great many directors rise to feature filmmaking through the gruelling creative workshops of making commercials and music-videos, and a couple of these directors have even been good. The obvious examples that spring to mind are Ridley Scott and David Fincher, guys who cut their teeth on television and special-effects in background roles before rising to the lead position on ads for computers and luxury cars and shorts for MTV, the necessary quick editing and flashy imagery of those bite-sized units of visual information becoming vital instruments in their gradual assimilation into theatrical cinema, both of them becoming pioneering figures of world-building and digital filmmaking. As directors, they benefited greatly from the periods they rose up in– Scott coming to prominence in the 70’s and 80’s when so many of the polished production genre and period pictures he gravitated to were still fairly novel and open to interpretation (Alien and Blade Runner have both proven at least as influential to the longstanding trends in science-fiction as any big or small-screen franchise with the word “star” in its title), and Fincher coming of cinematic age in the strange confluence of independent and studio-driven hard-R sensationalism of the 90’s (it’s hard to imagine as willfully antagonistic of audience expectations as Se7en even being conceived of, let alone greenlit, in the gore-drenched, but thematically rote horror cinema of today).

We’ve seen more migrate from the short forms on the small screen since then, the ones with the highest profiles mostly coming up with middling results– in many cases it’s sad to observe that oftentimes a director’s best work might be a mere commercial (Michael Bay’s Got Milk? ad) or music-video (Madonna’s Bedtime Stories, courtesy of Mark Romaneck). And though most of these directors have climbed into the major leagues during the same era as Fincher, they’ve achieved more of their successes during subsequent periods in which studios have shown less and less courage and imagination in the projects they push through the system– it’s truly depressing when you can look at projects as creatively barren and philosophically offensive as Armageddon or Bad Boys and see them as relative high-water marks in the overall career of a filmmaker which includes The Island and three Transformers movies (and counting). A sad truth for any director looking to work in high end productions is that much of their output is not truly going to be representative of their talent or personal choices as a whole, but instead will also at least partly be reflective of the commercial landscape that they come to bear in (one of the reasons the Movie Brats were able to get away with as much as they did in the 70’s is thanks to studios being bought by corporate types who didn’t yet know how movies really got made, and therefore didn’t know to get in the way). As such, it’s necessary to look at a director like Joseph Kosinski and be mindful of his position as a filmmaker in the second decade of the 21st century, especially when looking at his sophomore effort, Oblivion.

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