Friday, August 23, 2013

Top 10 Directors Who Released Two Great Films in One Year

In today’s cinematic landscape, I think we’re lucky if we get one truly great film a year. So it speaks rather well of the filmmakers below that, at least once in their careers, they managed to release two great films only a few months apart. A prolific work ethic paired with incomparable skill. Not that’s saying something.

Alfred Hitchcock
Dial M for Murder and Rear Window (1954)
Old Hitch was prolific as all hell, and throughout his career, he was known for making multiple films in the same year. My favorite duo has to be Dial M for Murder, a patient thriller about a husband plotting to kill his cheating wife, and the classic that is Rear Window. Two of Hitch’s best films, released just three months apart.

Ingmar Bergman
The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries (1957)
I honestly still can’t believe this happened. Four months after Bergman released The Seventh Seal, a classic that may be his most well known film, we got Wild Strawberries, as beautiful and melancholic a film as he’s ever made. Two cinematic masterpieces, released back to back. If this list was ranked in terms of preference, you can be sure Bergman’s ‘57 pair would top.

Akira Kurosawa
Throne of Blood and The Lower Depths (1957)
First up was Throne of Blood, a remake of Macbeth, followed by The Lower Depths, a remake of a classic French film. Shakespeare and Renoir in one year… ballsy, and not half bad.

Ingmar Bergman
Winter Light and The Silence (1963)
As two thirds of Bergman’s Faith Trilogy (preceded by Through a Glass Darkly, 1961), Winter Light and The Silence are two of the most emotionally brutal films I’ve ever seen. They’re both brief in running time, but last longer than you can possibly imagine.

Francis Ford Coppola
The Conversation and The Godfather Part II (1974)
Between the two Godfather films (and all of their massive, impressive scope) Coppola made a smaller, more nuanced film about a surveillance professional who thinks he may have accidentally discovered the plot of a potential murder. Relentless in its repetition, maddening in its pace, The Conversation is a ‘70s staple, and Coppola followed it up with one of the best films ever made. So there’s that.

Krzysztof Kieślowski
A Short Film About Killing and A Short Film About Love (1988)
When Krzysztof Kieślowski made The Decalogue, his miraculous 10-part series based loosely on the Ten Commandments, he was contractually obligated to expand two of those segments into feature length films. He chose segments Five and Six, the plots of which are aptly described in their respective titles. The lasting impact of those films, however, is far longer than their titles suggest.

Oliver Stone
The Doors and JFK (1991)
Two lengthy biopics, two controversial landmarks in Stone’s ultimate body of work. The first was met with a Spring Break-appropriate release date, for fans both new and old to once again rejoice in the troubled world of Jim Morrison. The latter was fitted for an Oscar-friendly release date, and remains, perhaps, Stone’s best film.

Steven Spielberg
Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List (1993)
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Steven Soderbergh
Erin Brockovich and Traffic (2000)
I’m counting these two entries as a tie because I think both are fine examples of a great director releasing two worthy films in the same year. However, while I like Jurassic Park and Erin Brockovich enough, I’m not sure I would label them as great. Or at least not as great as the films each director released next.

Richard Linklater
Waking Life and Tape (2001)
Part of what makes me love Waking Life and Tape so much is that they couldn’t be more different. Sure, both are radical experiments made by a guy who has based his career on experimenting, but their tone, complexity and execution vary drastically. I love them both wholeheartedly; two of the best films Linklater has made.

Werner Herzog
Rescue Dawn and Encounters at the End of the World (2007)
My favorite narrative Herzog from this century, paired with my favorite documentary of his career. That’s a damn good year. Although Encounters at the End of the World was technically released in American theaters in 2008, it made a huge impact cruising the festival circuit in ‘07. Either way, these are two very different films made by one very different kind of man. I dig. I will always dig.

54 comments:

  1. Congratulations for the unique list. I am ashamed to say I have seen only four films from this list. I really have to see the rest of them.
    By the way, what do you think of the 1994 pair of Wong Kar-Wai films, Chungking Express and Ashes of Time?

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    1. Thanks! I highly recommend all of these films. Some classic stuff here. I'm a huge Kar-Wai fan, and considered that '94 pair. But ultimately, I'm not sure I would consider Ashes of Time a "great" film. Not sure though, need to give it a rewatch.

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    2. You may be right. While I enjoyed Ashes of Time I understand why you would say that. It's a beautiful film featuring great actors but it's a hard film to like as a whole.

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    3. Yeah, nothing against it at all, I just need to watch it again.

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  2. NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO, NO...

    You're wrong on Oliver Stone. The Doors is an abomination. It's a piece of shit, overblown film that was all based on too many exaggerations and taking a lot of dramatic liberties to play into Jim Morrison's mystical bullshit. It's one of the worst films I had ever seen.

    Where's Mel Brooks who released both Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein in 1974?

    Clint Eastwood for both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima in 2006?

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    1. Whoa. Holy shit. So... not a fan of Stone's The Doors. Fair enough.

      Brooks '74 is a good call, but it wouldn't beat any of my 10. Iwo Jima is masterful, but Fathers is just shy of great. Either way, probably wouldn't crack my initial 10 either.

      Guess this one is a miss for us.

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    2. I should also note that Rescue Dawn premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2006 so it really sort of disqualifies that in some respects.

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  3. Not a fan of the Oliver Stone double feature, either. And Rescue Dawn is definitely the weaker of the two Herzog films. A good film, but not great.

    Here are a few more I'd toss into the conversation. It was a whole lot easier to pull this off back in the studio system:

    '40 John Ford (The Long Journey Home/The Grapes of Wrath)
    '44 Fritz Lang (Woman in the Window/Ministry of Fear)
    '48 John Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre/Key Largo)
    '62 John Frankenheimer (Manchurian Candidate/Birdman of Alcatraz)
    '74 Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles/Young Frankenstein)

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    1. 1948 was an impressive year for Huston, no doubt. Wow.

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    2. Yep, but I personally wouldn't call Key Largo great.

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    3. Key Largo isn't the best example of that kind of noir pot-boiler, but it holds a special place as one of those films I saw as a kid that stuck with me. Besides, with that crackerjack cast and sharp dialogue, what's not to love?

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    4. Oh, don't get me wrong, I really dig Key Largo (Robinson is tops for me). But "great"? I dunno, tough call.

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  4. The only year where I've seen both the movies is the Tape and Waking Life one, and totes agree.

    Cool list :)

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    1. Thanks! Those are two great flicks. Linklater had a hell of an '01.

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  5. 1957, Man! Would you just look at that??

    Once again, I am glad to have you share a controversial opinion of the film. Back in US, my roommate was almost offended once because I said I consider The Jurassic Park as minor achievement in Spielberg's career. I like that film but considering all that he has done, it probably won't make my top 5 Spielberg films.

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    1. Isn't '57 crazy? What a remarkable director.

      Jurassic Park wouldn't make my Top 5 Spielberg either. Very rewatchable, very entertaining, but it's not one of his all time bests.

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    2. I disagree! When it comes to Jurassic Park, seeing it again in the cinema this year has crystallized it as near-perfect blockbuster cinema; honestly, I think it's on par with Jaws (well, okay, just below). It fascinated me as a young boy and it's still great today.

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    3. I may have undervalued my JP taste. I'd give that movie a solid A, but do I think it is one of Spielberg's Top 5 ever? Nah. Still a good one though.

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  6. I took a Film Authorship class for Coppola's films (very good) and I had a rough time watching 'The Conversation'. When you're a stressed out college student who just wants to go back to your dorm and sleep, that movie is not ideal at all. The pace and repetition did drive me nuts, but I do want to watch it again. I feel I would appreciate it more in a more relaxed setting :)

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    1. Ha, that is very, very true. It really is a maddening film, and the stressors of college don't necessarily make for a pleasant viewing experience on that one.

      Would be interested to hear your thoughts if you watch it again!

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  7. Great list! I had no idea The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries were released the same year. Amazing.

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    1. Thanks! Isn't that incredible? There was no one like Bergman.

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  8. Great list! I have a bunch of Bergman films in my Netflix queue right now. I've never seen any of his work, but I've heard nothing but good things.

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    1. Thanks! Bergman is easily my favorite director of all time. Really hope you have a chance to watch some of his stuff soon. There has never been one like him.

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    2. I'm in the same boat here; so far I've only seen Persona, which was fantastic but frustratingly dense; one of those films that I like so much I need to give it time to settle before seeing it - or even another Bergman. If Persona is at all representative of his oeuvre, I'm very much looking forward to watching more of his films.

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    3. I'd say Persona is probably the most "out there" of his films. Some of his other films are deliberately paced or odd, but Persona is completely batshit crazy. And I love it.

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  9. Surprised Fassbinder didn't get a spot, he was the first name I would've thought of, he often had 2 or 3 films premiere at the same Cannes Film Festival.

    Also, with Spielberg, I would've mentioned '02 he had "Catch Me if You Can," and "Minority Report" in the same year. I would've mentioned that over "Schindler's List" and "Jurassic Park".

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    1. Yeah, you're right about that. In fact, Fassbinder would sometimes have a film every season during his hey-day.

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  10. off topic, but are you considering doing a piece on Elmore Leonard? He died, and I'm sad. :(

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    1. I was really sad about that too. Considered a post, but couldn't think of anything beyond a Jackie Brown/Out of Sight tribute, which plenty of other blogs did, very very well.

      But still, a sad loss.

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  11. Very interesting list. Love the choices. I'd have to second the nom for Huston in '48 and Brooks in '74.

    I'd also be willing to add Michael Curtiz in 1938. He released both Angels with Dirty Faces and The Adventures of Robin Hood. On top of those, he released three other movies: Four Daughters, Four's a Crowd, and Gold is Where You Find It. I haven't seen any of those three, but that's extremely prolific for a guy making quality pictures like Angels & Robin Hood.

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  12. Awesome list! I've considered doing a similar one before, but never did. It'd look a lot like yours, though. Hitchcock, Bergman (especially 1957), Coppola and Kieslowski are just ridiculous. How can you top years like those?

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    1. Thanks man, those years are just insane. I still can't believe one man was able to release two amazing films like those.

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  13. The only one I am flabbergasted not to find on this list is Mel Brooks. He released both Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles in the same year. I'd put him in the Top 3 after Spielberg for Jurassic Park/Schindler's List and Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather Part II/The Conversation.

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  14. Very cool list, man. It's mind-boggling that some directors were able to pull off not one, but two masterpieces in less than a year. Those Hitchcock picks are two of my favorites from him.

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    1. Thanks man. Dial M For Murder never really gets enough praise, in my opinion. Maybe because it came out a few months before Rear Window. But either way, I LOVE that movie.

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  15. So many great choices here! I need to see those two Kurosawa films. I too enjoyed Rescue Dawn-it's sort of underappreciated, isn't it?

    I've been watching a bunch of Brian De Palma films, so I'm tempted to say Obsession (1976) and Carrie (1976). I know some call Obsession a minor De Palma film, but I really liked it.

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    1. Thanks man! I LOVE Rescue Dawn. That was the first narrative Herzog film I ever watched, and I have been in love with it ever since.

      I've been cranking out De Palma flicks as well. Need to give Obsession another go soon, but I remember liking that one a great deal.

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  16. Phil Lord and Christopher Miller - 22 Jump Street and The Lego Movie (2014)

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    1. I wouldn't consider either of those films great, but I definitely give them credit for releasing such drastically different flicks only months apart.

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  17. I know you'll disagree with me but let me say that I consider Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor two great directors very misunderstood and the same is all there films. I love the fact that they managed to make two great films in 2009 - Crank: High Voltage and Gamer.

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    1. I haven't seen Gamer but I love the Crank films. They're so much damn fun. I always respect movies that own up to exactly what they are.

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  18. Victor Fleming directed two small, under the radar films called Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz back in 1939.

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    1. Fleming left The Wizard of Oz in the middle of production and was replaced by King Vidor. Fleming took over Gone with the Wind from George Cukor, and was replaced briefly during filming by Sam Wood. Fleming co-directed both films, not directed. Huge distinction. Learn your shit before you come at me.

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  19. 1956 For Hitch's re-make of The Man Who Knew Too Much is great- but I only just saw The Wrong Man today (also 56) and I agree with your sentiments entirely: Masterful film. Hard to argue against Rear Window though. No- impossible to. Forget I said any of this, Rear Window wipes the floor with it ALL.

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    1. I'm actually in the minority for liking the original The Man Who Knew Too Much more. Remake is okay, but there's something about the first one that I really enjoy. The Wrong Man is masterful - one of Hitch's most criminally overlooked films, which is kind of baffling.

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  20. For the love of all that's holy, where's Preston Sturges, who turned out both "Sullivan's Travels" and "The Lady Eve" in 1941?

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  21. František Vláčil with Marketa Lazarová & The Valley of the Bees in 1967 is an obscure but no less worthy example. Two incredible films.

    I remember reading that you saw the former ages ago. What did you think? I'm immensely curious for me its like a maverick Andrei Rublev.

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    1. Oh wow, I haven't thought about that one in years. I need to revisit it before commenting on it!

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