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Unappreciated directorial debuts

post #1 of 52
Thread Starter 

Okay, forgive me, but, another one.  What are some movies by first-time directors who didn't get acknowledgment that in a just world would have?  This can include directors who went on to enjoy successful careers or not.  It can also include movies that weren't themselves necessarily unappreciated, but participants other than the director were disproportionally credited with its success.  (A lot of movies with tremendous performances are candidates for this.  Also, while JAWS doesn't qualify, at the time the studio and the award dispensers preferred to credit the film's monster success to Vera Miles rather than the youthful Spielberg...stuff like that counts.)

 

I'll attempt to suggest the potential of this thread by kicking it off with two non-obvious examples:

 

1. RETURN TO OZ - Disney's infamous, non-musical "sequel" to THE WIZARD OF OZ was directed by none other than legendary film editor and sound designer Walter Murch.  It was a problematic, budget-breaking production that required George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola to actually come to bat for their friend when Disney brass wanted him fired in the middle of filming.  When the movie died on arrival at the box office so too did any future for Murch's directing career.  Revisited, this movie reveals itself to be a Grade A fantasy picture and an incredibly impressive outing for a first-timer.  Our loss.

 

2. THE CABLE GUY - I constantly have to remind myself that Ben Stiller directed this.  When the movie came out it was a success, but a somewhat muted one due to an audience that wasn't ready to see Carrey star as an obnoxious stalker in a jet-black comedy.  I think most people agree now that this was a good movie, but I never see any acknowledgment of Stiller's highly competent work here.  In context, I'm forced to call this a pretty auspicious directorial debut.  In fact, you know what, I'm just gonna go there: 

 

3. DIRTY WORK

 

How about you lot?

post #2 of 52
ALIEN 3. It was disappointing to the viewers who were hoping to see, essentially, ALIENS redux. Looking at it on its own merit, divorced from the franchise, it's a rock solid effort that manages to overcome many of the shortcomings of the script. Fincher would, of course, go on to a wonderful career as a director.
post #3 of 52

The winners of this thread are Ridley Scott with the virtually unheard of The Duellists (his best movie? Probably) and, to a lesser extent, Tony Scott's gloriously gothic The Hunger from 1983.

Both of them are WELL overdue for Criterion blus.

post #4 of 52
I think that Mel Gibson did an excellent job with THE MAN WITHOUT A FACE. It's a minor film in the grand scheme of things and it's pretty easy to dismiss, but it's a solid effort that's worthy of a look. It was a good film to cut his teeth on, and he didn't embarrass himself with the project. He has since gone on to a pretty damned respectable directorial career.
post #5 of 52

It's not particularly underappreciated around these parts, but I still think THIEF is one of Michael Mann's best films.

 

I also remember liking Alexander Schmidt's nasty, shit-slinging debut CITIZEN RUTH a lot.  It's broad, but it's got a kind of nihilistic charm.  


Edited by Ratty - 1/9/13 at 2:18pm
post #6 of 52
Damn...I thought that he did THE KEEP first. My error. THIEF is excellent in every way, shape, and form.
post #7 of 52

To be fair, The Duellists did win Best Debut at Cannes, so it was hardly slighted by the critical community; but I agree that for a movie that's arguably better than Alien and far better than the likes of Gladiator, it's shameful how underseen it is, especially when Sir Ridley's as big a name as he is today.

 

And I'll second Alien 3 deserving a better reputation than it has. It's not what a lot of us were expecting (which was xenomorphs on earth like the teaser promised, damn it!) and it shows a lot of the adolescent grimdark elements that I don't think do it or Seven any favors, but it's still a solid horror/scifi with ambition, a colorful cast, and one badass Charles S. Dutton. As should be expected, Josh's assessment of it for "Franchise Me" was right on the money.

post #8 of 52

I hate ALIEN 3.

 

My contribution: Martin Brest's wonderful, funny and bittersweet GOING IN STYLE. Best old folks movie ever (honorable mention: HOMEBODIES).

post #9 of 52

I know it's not underappreciated around here, but I still think Bottle Rocket should be more beloved among Wes Anderson's oeuvre by the greater viewing public.  It's one of those movies that should be on basic cable channels on many a Sunday afternoon, and you just stop and watch it at whatever point it's at.

 

In a way I liken it to the much more popular Reservoir Dogs, in the sense that you get a real taste of each director's burgeoning style, but you can also tell it's not quite fully formed, which is kind of refreshing to look back on.

post #10 of 52

MOONRISE KINGDOM gives it a run for its money, but BOTTLE ROCKET is still my favorite Wes Anderson.

post #11 of 52

Removed from the Alien mythology, Alien 3 might be seen as the great horror film it kind of is. But since that isn't the case - the movie is unequivocal shit.

post #12 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Judas Booth View Post

ALIEN 3. It was disappointing to the viewers who were hoping to see, essentially, ALIENS redux. Looking at it on its own merit, divorced from the franchise, it's a rock solid effort that manages to overcome many of the shortcomings of the script. Fincher would, of course, go on to a wonderful career as a director.

 

Thank you.  I don't think you need to divorce it from the franchise to appreciate it; to me its a return to form, and while Cameron's flick is probably the better movie, ultimately I think Alien 3 is a better Alien movie than Aliens.  If that makes sense. 

post #13 of 52

Zero Effect was a tremendously entertaining debut from Jake Kasdan that seemed to have a really quirky, unique voice behind it.  Too bad his output since then has been not nearly as amusing or singular.

post #14 of 52

Michael J Bassett's Deathwatch was a great directorial debut, heavy in atmosphere and featuring great performances from a cast that included Jamie Bell and (non-CGI) Andy Serkis. It showed a ton of promise, which is why I'm really disappointed by the reviews of Silent Hill: Revelations which he directed last year.

post #15 of 52
Todd Solondz' Fear, Anxiety & Depression (his real debut, the one he disowned and won't discuss in interviews) isn't a patch on his later work but it's amusing enough if you find it at a yard sale for a dollar. (Certainly not $35 or whatever they're asking at Amazon.) Plus Solondz is actually the star, doing his best Woody Allen, and there's nice early work from Stanley Tucci.
post #16 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by fuzzy dunlop View Post

 

Thank you.  I don't think you need to divorce it from the franchise to appreciate it; to me its a return to form, and while Cameron's flick is probably the better movie, ultimately I think Alien 3 is a better Alien movie than Aliens.  If that makes sense. 

The biggest problem is that we don't get Fincher. We get a mishmash from all the studio fiddling. Even the assembly cut is incomplete. If they'd left it alone then it could be assessed as whether it was any good. As it is now, it's damaged goods.

post #17 of 52

Longtime screenwriter (The Player, Changing Lanes) & sometime director Michael Tolkin's debut film, 1991's The Rapture, is a roundly ignored masterpiece.

post #18 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Longtime screenwriter (The Player, Changing Lanes) & sometime director Michael Tolkin's debut film, 1991's The Rapture, is a roundly ignored masterpiece.

 

YES! One of the great films of the 90's.

post #19 of 52

D.J. Caruso's theatrical directing career ended up being warmed-over shit, but his debut, 2002's The Salton Sea, is a hell of a lot of fun.  And speaking of the only good latter-day worthwhile Kilmer performances, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, Shane Black's directorial debut.

post #20 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by FatherDude View Post

Okay, forgive me, but, another one.  What are some movies by first-time directors who didn't get acknowledgment that in a just world would have?  This can include directors who went on to enjoy successful careers or not.  It can also include movies that weren't themselves necessarily unappreciated, but participants other than the director were disproportionally credited with its success.  (A lot of movies with tremendous performances are candidates for this.  Also, while JAWS doesn't qualify, at the time the studio and the award dispensers preferred to credit the film's monster success to Vera Miles rather than the youthful Spielberg...stuff like that counts.)

 

I'll attempt to suggest the potential of this thread by kicking it off with two non-obvious examples:

 

2. THE CABLE GUY - I constantly have to remind myself that Ben Stiller directed this.  When the movie came out it was a success, but a somewhat muted one due to an audience that wasn't ready to see Carrey star as an obnoxious stalker in a jet-black comedy.  I think most people agree now that this was a good movie, but I never see any acknowledgment of Stiller's highly competent work here.  In context, I'm forced to call this a pretty auspicious directorial debut.  In fact, you know what, I'm just gonna go there: 

 

I LOVE The Cable Guy and think you're right that it's sorely underrated, but it wasn't actually Stiller's debut film. Reality Bites came out two years before Cable Guy and is probably a bit better and certainly a great directorial debut.

 

I think PT Anderson's Sydney (Hard Eight) is a nice debut. Like Bottle Rocket in that it has a lot of foundation of what's to come. Good dialogue, cool characters, and of course the father/son, mentor/student relationship in almost all of his movies.

post #21 of 52

Brando's intense, kick-ass One-Eyed Jacks deserves more love. It usually gets slagged off as "messy".

post #22 of 52
Thread Starter 

Oh, I've got a good one: Bob Gale's INTERSTATE 60, unappreciated because no one actually saw it.  I extolled its virtues here.

 

Oh, and it's free on Hulu.

post #23 of 52

One of the great Revenge flicks. You're on a roll, Art!

post #24 of 52
Thread Starter 

The absolute king of this category has got to be Charles Laughton for THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.  Who knows what films the world lost out on by failing to recognize the man's talent behind the camera before he was dead.

post #25 of 52

I think we can safely say that NOTH has become very well appreciated.

post #26 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Longtime screenwriter (The Player, Changing Lanes) & sometime director Michael Tolkin's debut film, 1991's The Rapture, is a roundly ignored masterpiece.

The Rapture was a damn good movie with a bleak ending. I also agree with FatherDude about The Cable Guy and Dirty Work.

post #27 of 52

Oh for Pete's sake, The Cable Guy wasn't Ben Stiller's debut. The underappreciated Reality Bites was. Get on the trolley, Grampa!

post #28 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

The winners of this thread are Ridley Scott with the virtually unheard of The Duellists (his best movie? Probably) and, to a lesser extent, Tony Scott's gloriously gothic The Hunger from 1983.

Both of them are WELL overdue for Criterion blus.

 

 

Hell yes The Hunger.

 

 

 

Just watched it for the first time a few days ago and loved it, Artiest horror flick ever.

post #29 of 52

Kevin Reynolds' Fandango is one of the most unappreciated films of the 80's, bridging the gap between American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused.

post #30 of 52
Thread Starter 

I am humiliated.  Also, I'd forgotten that Judd Apatow essentially wrote THE CABLE GUY's final script uncredited.

post #31 of 52

Michel Gondry's feature debut Human Nature is a funny, twisted, smarter-than-average comedy with a terrific comedic turn from Rhys Ifans.  It was never going to be a hit, but would probably be thought better of by those that see it if it hadn't been the first collaboration of Gondry and Charlie Kaufmann, who would go on to do incredible, insane, inpossible things with their follow ups.

post #32 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Oh for Pete's sake, The Cable Guy wasn't Ben Stiller's debut. The underappreciated Reality Bites was. Get on the trolley, Grampa!

Reality Bites is actually something of a cultural touchstone for Gen X'ers I think. That movie definitely has a following.
post #33 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

The winners of this thread are Ridley Scott with the virtually unheard of The Duellists (his best movie? Probably) 

 

 

Holy crap, he came out of the gate with The Duellists? 

 

 

That is talent. 

post #34 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr Harford View Post


Reality Bites is actually something of a cultural touchstone for Gen X'ers I think. That movie definitely has a following.

 

 

Eh, as a Gen X'er I much prefer Singles or Swingers. 

 

 

Chuck Klosterman likes Reality Bites, though. 

post #35 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chavez View Post


Eh, as a Gen X'er I much prefer Singles or Swingers. 


Chuck Klosterman likes Reality Bites, though. 

Sure, but the soundtrack did really well at the time, and the film had very successful 10th and 15th anniversary DVD releases. It's a well remembered movie among people of a certain age.
post #36 of 52
Aliens 3 is such a complete and utter mess that blame can be happily spread to everyone involved. There's not one aspect of it that works either as a standalone or part of a series.

Pee Wee's Big Adventure is a pretty good feature debut for Tim Burton.

Bad Taste is a pretty damn audacious debut for Peter Jackson. Likewise, Raimi pretty much kills Evil Dead for a debut.

*Though Evil Dead would be difficult to call under-appreciated.
post #37 of 52

Noah Baumbach's Kicking And Screaming (1994) really hit a nerve for me, but Greenberg and The Squid And The Whale have soared much more, critically.  I still keep looking for THAT voice from his earlier films.

post #38 of 52

Love The Duelists.

 

Who's That Knocking On My Door? isn't Scorsese's best movie or anything, but it's interesting how fully realized his themes already are in that film.

 

High Plains Drifter is way better than most of Eastwood's Big Important Director work from the past decade or so.

 

I will never get tired of the fact that Woody Allen's first movie is What's Up, Tiger Lilly? It's pretty awesome, as far as borderline racist proto-MST3K films go.

post #39 of 52

Play Misty For Me was Eastwood's debut. Get on the trolley!

post #40 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanielRoffle View Post

Love The Duelists.

 

Who's That Knocking On My Door? isn't Scorsese's best movie or anything, but it's interesting how fully realized his themes already are in that film.

 

High Plains Drifter is way better than most of Eastwood's Big Important Director work from the past decade or so.

 

I will never get tired of the fact that Woody Allen's first movie is What's Up, Tiger Lilly? It's pretty awesome, as far as borderline racist proto-MST3K films go.

 

WHO'S THAT KNOCKING's easily in my top 5 Scorsese, one of the best movies detailing the twentysomething experience. 

post #41 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagboy92 View Post

Kevin Reynolds' Fandango is one of the most unappreciated films of the 80's, bridging the gap between American Graffiti and Dazed and Confused.

 

I recommend this movie to everyone I know. Haven't had a disappointed reaction, yet. Anyone that thinks Kevin Costner sucks needs to watch it. Pure charisma.

post #42 of 52

File source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Looking_for_richard.jpg

Pacino's travelogue documentary/stage performance/examination of Shakespeare is a fucking fascinating work. Hard to find but well worth owning.
 

Anton Corbijn's love letter to Ian Curtis & Joy Division is fucking beautiful.

post #43 of 52

Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS is a pretty great debut and a great meditation on violence and aging.

post #44 of 52

I think it tends to get lost in the shuffle when looking at a career that's had much more dramatic hits and misses, but Zack Snyder coming out of the gate with an "I can't believe this is even watchable, much less good" version of Dawn of the Dead is still one of the more impressive debuts I can think of. Especially considering it had the baggage trifecta of being A.) A reboot to B.) A beloved property (nerd property no less) with C.) no involvement by the original creator.

post #45 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

 

Anton Corbijn's love letter to Ian Curtis & Joy Division is fucking beautiful.

 

Liked this well enough, but surely not underappreciated? I remember plenty of hype and a warm critical reception at least.

post #46 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Art Decade View Post

Play Misty For Me was Eastwood's debut. Get on the trolley!

 

And is bloody brilliant. Far better than Fatal Attraction, if for no other reasons than:

 

1. an entire sequence of Eastwood's character attending the Monterrey Festival seemingly only because Eastwood loved him some jazz;

2. Don Siegel as a bartender;

3. a genuinely unsettling antagonist, as opposed to Glenn Close's hammed-up loopy turn;

4. Eastwood was so much cooler than Michael Douglas.

 

Has a tremendous sense of place too. It's a postcard from the late sixties/early seventies California coastal lifestyle.

post #47 of 52

Aronofsky and Pi. To come right out of the game with what's essentially a left-brain oriented Altered States on a shoestring budget is just flat out audacious, but it still tends to get kinda ignored in the face of his other work.

 

Im also throwing Chris Walas directing for the first time on Fly II, which isn't a GREAT sequel, but a very, very watchable one, with probably the most heartbreakingly tragic animal death in a film.

post #48 of 52

I'm going with Cronenberg's Shivers. Nobody would've dreamed that he would be celebrated as an auteur - one of the best that Canada's ever had - instead of our answer to Corman. He WAS labelled a schlockmeister at the time.

post #49 of 52
Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Clark View Post

 

Im also throwing Chris Walas directing for the first time on Fly II, which isn't a GREAT sequel, but a very, very watchable one, with probably the most heartbreakingly tragic animal death in a film.

 

Jesus Christ, yeah. I may have said this here before, but in the midst of this otherwise forgettable film there's that dog scene that fucking shocked tears out of me.

post #50 of 52

Joel Schumacher's The Incredible Shrinking Woman.  THREAD. CLOSED.  

 

*drops huffing can*

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