What do directors Fritz Lang, Stanley Kramer, Preston Sturges, Stanley Kubrick, Sam Peckinpah, Alain Resnais, Ang Lee, Wim Wenders and Peter Watkins have in common?
They’re all filmmakers who made their reputations by taking the movies to new places, to worlds and ideas they hadn’t visited either by the helmers’ cinematic approaches or by embracing material that didn’t conform to the “commercial” film business of their times.
Despite their different nationalities, wildly disparate techniques and wide range of genres they worked in, they were all innovators.I think the Oscar race of 2013, a contest characterized by boldness and daring, might impress cinema’s great risk-takers.
Fritz Lang would be intrigued by “Gravity’s” mix of sci-fi and metaphysics. Stanley Kramer’s social conscience would be touched by “Philomena.” Road movie pioneer Wim Wenders could see a lineage to “Nebraska.” Preston Sturges would laugh and admire the inventive antics of “American Hustle.” Ang Lee could relate to “Dallas Buyers Club’s” humanism and tough questions. Peter Watkins could connect with how “Captain Phillips” initiates conversations about the human costs of the so-called “global economy.” Master of violence Sam Peckinpah might salute the unflinching honesty of “12 Years a Slave.” Stanley Kubrick would get a kick out of the social satire and bold excesses of “Wolf of Wall Street.” And Alain Resnais might be surprised that the avant-garde elements of “Her” mesh so seamlessly with the all too human love story at its heart.
All of which means there’s also something that movie lovers have in common with the movie greats: Despite the conventional wisdom of movie-business “suits” that sequelitis and playing it safe is the path to moviemaking prosperity, we still love the movies best when the artists show us something we’ve never seen before.