The Director of a film (or a play, or a television show episode) is the person responsible for the creative vision of the piece. They create a concept from the script (which may or may not be something concretely found in the script, it may be metaphorical or tangential) and from the concept lead the design and production team towards a collaborative vision. Once rehearsals/filming have begin, the director blocks the piece (i.e. tells actors where to move), provides objective and subtextual support to the actors (i.e. tells them why they are saying the things the writer wrote) and ensures that the visual style and setting are within the original vision or concept parameters.
In film, they also work closely with the DP, first story-boarding the script, and then, once on set, making sure that each shoot is framed, blocked and shot per their vision. Including ALL design aspects, from the color of the walls to the type of purse a character might wear.
In essence they are the Captain of the ship. A lot of my notes below can also be laid at the feet of bad writing, but in film (less so TV and theatre) directors have a great deal of oversight on the writing, so they are typically held accountable if the writing is terrible.
A film which has been directed badly will usually (but not always, the problem with a collaborative art form, which is what film is, is that there are many, many chefs in the kitchen. However, since the director tends to get the credit when everything works, they also tend to get the blame when it doesn’t)–usually show the following flaws:
There Will Be Blood
Filming Marty’s Auto-Lace Sneakers for Back To The Future Part II
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
I had to start off by mentioning Jiro. Not only is this documentary fantastic, but it’s one of the more recognizable titles in this list. I have friends who either never watched, or claimed to hate documentaries, but ended up loving this movie. I think it’s a great jumping off point into the genre. Jiro Dreams of Sushi chronicles the life of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi chef who runs one of the best sushi restaurants in the world. However, as much as this is a film about the quest for gastronomic perfection, it’s also a film about family, legacy, personal sacrifice and how all these things fit together (or don’t).
2001 Space Odyssey
“2001″ is a story of evolution. Sometime in the distant past, someone or something nudged evolution by placing a monolith on Earth (presumably elsewhere throughout the universe as well). Evolution then enabled humankind to reach the moon’s surface, where yet another monolith is found, one that signals the monolith placers that humankind has evolved that far. Now a race begins between computers (HAL) and human (Bowman) to reach the monolith placers. The winner will achieve the next step in evolution, whatever that may be.
New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Athough his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain.
“I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces. Seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a camp to inoculate the children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for Polio, and this old man came running after us and he was crying. He couldn’t see. We went back there and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile. A pile of little arms. And I remember… I… I… I cried. I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it. I never want to forget it. I never want to forget. And then I realized… like I was shot… like I was shot with a diamond… a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought: My God… the genius of that. The genius. The will to do that. Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they were stronger than we. Because they could stand that these were not monsters. These were men… trained cadres. These men who fought with their hearts, who had families, who had children, who were filled with love… but they had the strength… the strength… to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral… and at the same time who are able to utilize their primordial instincts to kill without feeling… without passion… without judgment… without judgment. Because it’s judgment that defeats us.”
Did it ever happen in your life that you’ve seen such a beautiful movie, such a perfect piece of art, such an unbelievable example of man-made splendor, such a gorgeous masterpiece that it hurt your eyes? Well, I did. And it wasn’t the Schindler’s List or the Lord of the Rings. No, it was the BEST action movie ever made. The BEST interpretation of the Governator. The BEST explosions. The BEST one-liners. The BEST plot. And the BEST tag-line. This movie is like the Art of Japanese gardening. Simple and beautiful. Balanced. Proportioned. There’s just the right amount of everything. And there is just about everything that should go into an action movie: car chases, explosions, drug-lords, sex, an invincible hero, sitting-duck-like enemies, humor, knife duels, fist fights, rocket launchers, blood, death, bullets, glass, pectorals, muscles, some more muscles, explosions and more explosions. You need more? It’s got Arnold. Need more? It’s got Arnold with a sense of humor. Still more? It’s got Arnold with a sense of humor and a rocket launcher. Put these three elements together and try to guess what happens. Destruction. On a mass scale. I won’t give away the plot, because it is too intricate and surprising. Basically it is Arnie on a mission to save his daughter. That’s about it. But what is important is not the fact that Arnie will save his daughter, but HOW will he save his daughter. Oh, are you saying that The Matrix is the best action movie of all time? Does The Matrix have Arnold Schwarzenegger? NO. Does Commando have the Matrix? YES. JOHN MATRIX, in fact. Oh, so you are saying that Neo dodges bullets? John Matrix doesn’t need to. He is bulletproof. He eats bullets for breakfast. Need more proof? I thought so… I gave this Caravaggio painted on celluloid a 10 only because IMDb doesn’t go to 11. This movie is so eye-blindingly beautiful I can’t find the words to properly end my commentary and render justice to this cinematic masterpiece. So I will just use the movie’s tag-line: Somewhere… somehow… someone’s going to pay!