I was going for a walk the other day and I remembered a discussion the sports talk show had a few years ago (my mind always wanders to random things): the Mt Rushmore of sports. The idea was if you took one guy from each of the major sports (meaning baseball, basketball, football, and a wildcard), who do put up there? It’s actually a discussion that happens more often than one would think (think of a Mt Rushmore for the New York Yankees, for example). So, as I finished up my walk, I began to wonder what four directors I’d put up on my own personal Mt Rushmore.
I posed this question to twitter. I got three responses and all three were drastically different. I think that’s why I love this question so much. There are no wrong answers, it’s all about personal preference. With that, here are mine with some brief commentary.
The Master. I won’t pretend to have seen every film by Kurosawa (I’m working on it, though, thanks to Netflix), but every single one I have seen has been an absolute masterpiece. Hugely influential on Hollywood (much more so than in his home country of Japan), his films have inspired some of the best movies made in the States (perhaps most notably Star Wars). Covering a wide variety, Kurosawa films are all tonally different from one another. Yojimbo ( which influenced The Man With No Name trilogy) is a pure western, Ikiru is an inspirational drama, Ran is a great adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” Oh, did I fail to mention Rashomon and Seven Samurai? Whoops. Again, he’s the master and there is none greater.
John Ford (1894-1973)
The King of the Western. Arguably the best American filmmaker ever (and one that’s definitely overlooked by most), Ford’s influence was global. In fact, he influenced Kurosawa a great deal. He was famously grouchy, so much that when a very young Steven Spielberg met him, he scoffed and gave Spielberg a lecture about western painting and some advice about never spending his own money before telling Spielberg to “now get the hell out of here.” Spielberg tells this story with a smile. Ford is known for his beautiful longshots and use of gorgeous scenery. We can’t mention Ford without mentioning John Wayne as the two made so many great films together, most notably The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach and The Searchers.
Steven Spielberg (1946 – )
It’s not that I don’t think Ford believed the teenage Spielberg didn’t have talent (he passed Ford’s quiz, after all), I just don’t think Ford really cared. Regardless, this member of the fabled Movie Brats (a group that included Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and George Lucas), Spielberg’s filmography is basically a list of great movies released from 1975 (Jaws) on. His films are stuff that someone my age grew up with. From E.T. to Jurassic Park to the Indiana Jones series, Spielberg’s films are created since a since of wonder that we all have as children and is something he never lost. However, he’s not just about adventure and fantasy; indeed, his two greatest films are Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List (which is one of the best ever).
Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999)
While the first three were no-brainers for me personally, I had a hard time thinking about who should fit into this fourth spot. I ultimately went the man who Spielberg partnered with to finish A.I. with. It’s interesting that the two would work together on what would have been Kubrick’s final film as one could argue that they were opposites in many ways. Kubrick tended to be more cynical. One only needs to look at his superb war movies Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket (vs the honor filled Private Ryan) to see the difference. In addition to these, you have the bleak A Clockwork Orange, the creepy as can be The Shinning (the furry scene: what the…??), and probably the greatest science fiction film ever 2001: A Space Odyssey and you have someone worthy of being on this Mount Rushmore.
There’s my list. What’s yours? Don’t be afraid, no one will mock you here.