Best Direction | The Best of 2015

It’s difficult to really know what goes on behind the scenes of a film shoot, how much each authorial entity, from writer to director to actors to cinematographer, affects the final product that is put forth on the silver screen. However, it’s easy to see when a director’s vision is executed beautifully in a film; if anything, a great director is meant to manage and maintain all of those authorial voices and put forth something as beautiful and singular as possible, so the influence of the other key players on set is not all that significant when considering the best directors of 2015. These are the directors whose visions were clearly realized and resulted in a beautiful visual experience.

It's difficult to really know what goes on behind the scenes of a film shoot, how much each authorial entity, from writer to director to actors to cinematographer, affects the final product that is put forth on the silver screen. However, it's easy to see when a director's vision is executed beautifully in a film; if anything, a great director is meant to manage and maintain all of those authorial voices and put forth something as beautiful and singular as possible, so the influence of the other key players on set is not all that significant when considering the best directors of 2015. These are the directors whose visions were clearly realized and resulted in a beautiful visual experience.

David Robert Mitchell
5. David Robert Mitchell
It Follows

"It’s part of my style in the sense that I like not being locked into the rules of our natural world. I like being able to change some of the ground rules in creating a film, and that happens to be what I’ve done in the films. I like altering something just a little bit. It’s about creating something closer to a dream state (or a nightmare), and that’s something I like to do."
Who isn't excited to see what this guy does next? It Follows was so well done in every facet that David Robert Mitchell is a prime candidate for the next Director-Auteur. Hopefully his career arc will resemble that of John Carpenter. – Clark Carmichael
Guillermo del Toro
4. Guillermo Del Toro
Crimson Peak

"Making a film is like raising a child. You cannot raise a child to be liked by everyone. You raise a child to excel and you teach the child to be true to his own nature. There will be people who’ll dislike your child because he or she is who they are, and there will be people who’ll love your child immensely for the very same reason."
There was hardly a film in 2015 more ornately composed than Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak. The black and white tones of the towering Gothic architecture of Allerdale Hall on the snow-capped "Crimson Peak" are dashed beautifully by the dark red tones of the spookily red clay and even spookier red blood of pretty much all of the film's characters by its end, looking like a White Stripes album cover in the 1600s. Del Toro gets career best performances out of all involved while giving them a gorgeous and haunting backdrop against which to work, using that careful composition to maximum effect in one of his finer efforts. – Jeff Pearson
George Miller
3. George Miller
Mad Max: Fury Road

"There were 10 pole cats swaying, coming down the road at speed, all of them on cars, and Guy was on one of the poles filming them. I choked up. I thought: ‘Wow, it’s real. It’s absolutely real.’"
George Miller really pulled a fast one on me here. I am a big fan of the original Mad Max movies. If you want to see something impressive, just go watch those early movies and reminde yourself that Miller has shepherded this franchise from Mel Gibson to Oscar gold. – Brian Urrutia
Alejandro González Iñárritu
2. Alejandro González Iñárritu
The Revenant

"We were, in a way, surviving. And when you are in that state of mind, believe me: you do things better."
Closely (remarkably so) following in the wake of the Academy Award-winning 2014 film Birdman, Alejandro González Iñárritu delivered once again with The Revenant. Without doing any research as to the timelines of filming/releasing those two films, I've deduced that Iñárritu likely has somehow figured out a way to eschew the natural human need for sleep and dietary sustenance, and he quite simply lives off of making movies. It’s not so much the unprecedented clip at which his films are being released these days; it’s rather the quality. While Birdman garnered him his first Best Director Oscar, The Revenant might be even more of a visual achievement. The world in which he opens up for the viewer is at once terrifying and abundantly beautiful, and Iñárritu gloriously makes use of natural light for the film's duration, giving the world his Barry Lyndon. Unsurprisingly, he is reportedly just as difficult to work with as was Kubrick, given the fact that Tom Hardy may have been driven to choke Iñárritu out at shoot's end, but it seems it was all worth it when you sit back in your chair at the theater and breathe in the entirety of the world that he has created. – JP
J.J. Abrams
1. J.J. Abrams
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

"We really tried to look at it from the inside out. What makes this story have a beating heart? What makes it romantic or fun or surprising or heartbreaking or hysterically funny? We simply approached this narrative from the point of view that this is a story about a young man and a young woman, not with the idea that we can do anything we want."
All that needs to be said is that J.J. Abrams has been solely responsible for the reboot of two of the biggest geek franchises in the history of popular culture. He is two for two and he hasn’t just hit singles. He’s hit Vladimir Guerrero monster bombs both times. With the amount of anticipation and fanaticism this franchise has surrounding it, the pressure and difficulty involved with creating something acceptable to a wide audience is absolutely unimaginable. What he created is not just accepted or critically acclaimed. It is loved. As the person we all would have blamed if this was terrible, I think we have to give Abrams the same credit for making it amazing. He is a master caster and did a great thing in choosing up-and-comers to fill the roles of these iconic characters we now have. He has helped create a new generation of Star Wars fans. How he was able to take creative control of George Lucas’ creation and maintain everything about the franchise that people love is astounding. He combined powerful nostalgia and his own distinctive style to create something that feels brand new and age old. I wish he were doing episodes VIII and IX. Also, it should be clarified that absolutely none of what I’m saying is hyperbole. – Anders Oster
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