Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters New ‘Ant-Man’ Photos; Movie May Include More Marvel Cinematic Universe Characters Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Over 30 New 'Jurassic World' Photos, Plus 2 New Clips & Lots Of New TV Spots Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' Matt Damon Goes Interstellar Again In New Pics From Ridley Scott's 'The Martian' First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ First Look: Matt Damon As An Astronaut In Ridley Scott’s ‘The Martian’ Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Cannes Review: Justin Kurzel's 'Macbeth' Starring Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Watch: Incredible Vintage Footage Of Audience Reactions To 'The Exorcist' In 1973 Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Cannes Review: Gaspar Noé's Hardcore And Softhearted 'Love' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Here's The Character Backstory For Doof aka Guitar Flamethrower Dude In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem Cannes Review: Hou Hsiao-Hsien's 'The Assassin' Is An Epic Visual Poem The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season 10 Movies Booed At Cannes 10 Movies Booed At Cannes All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Best Of 2013: The Breakout Directors Of The Year

The Playlist By The Playlist Staff | The Playlist November 27, 2013 at 5:20PM

Every year, film buffs get themselves in a lather over the latest from their favorite experienced directors. The calendar is marked for the next Spielberg, I’ll be there opening day for Scorsese’s latest, I am all about Spike Lee, etc. But the real pleasure in being a film fan is stumbling upon the undiscovered, lifting a rock and uncovering a new talent, a new voice, with a brand new vocabulary for us to learn. The Scorsese films will be there for us to discover and rediscover whenever we want. In 2013, however, there was only one Shaka King picture, there was only one Lake Bell joint.
14
Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Don Jon")
Who knew that sinewy, heartthrobby body behind hits like “Looper” and “Inception” had a brain behind him? Gordon-Levitt tends to play characters who are a couple of moves ahead of the competition, but you wouldn’t figure the young child star of capturing a major unspoken facet about a large chunk of the population. As writer, director and star, Gordon-Levitt deceives by setting up “Don Jon” as a standard romantic comedy: he’s broken, and his tough-talking counterpart (Scarlett Johansson) can’t be seduced until he fixes himself. The character’s step-by-step process of fixing his inadequacies would be rousing montage material in another, simpler romance (perhaps like the ones Gordon-Levitt parodies in the film, starring the likes of a humorously clock-punching Channing Tatum and Anne Hathaway). Here, however, Gordon-Levitt gets to the heart of why most relationships, romantic or otherwise, fail, largely due to one side completely dismissing the other. Most of the pleasures of “Don Jon” come from Gordon-Levitt setting up expectations and then softly deflating them: the blustery father figure played by Tony Danza starts out as a “type” before he begins to reveal layers of cultural and sexual identity that complicate a simpler interpretation. And what the narrative does with Johansson’s Barbara isn’t quite expected either, providing an honest-to-god talking point between couples who caught the film upon release. It’s a stretch to say Gordon-Levitt has shown a strong authorial stamp this first time around, but when he decides to halt his promising leading man career to get behind the camera once again, it’s bound to be interesting.

Ryan Coogler Michael B. Jordan

Ryan Coogler (“Fruitvale Station”)
For some in Hollywood, success is an escalator, and it there isn’t much space for reflection as one slowly rises to the top. That wasn’t the case for Coogler, who happened to board a fairly speedy escalator when “Fruitvale Station” was named the Best First Film at the Cannes Film Festival and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. But Coogler couldn’t let it go to his head; like his father, he has spent time working with incarcerated youth, experiences that likely fueled the story of Oscar Grant, a young man felled by an inadvertent bullet fired by a BART cop on New Year’s Eve in Oakland in 2009. "Fruitvale Station” attempts to humanize Grant beyond being a statistic, another innocent young black man killed by an armed white man with no one held accountable, and by doing so, creates something entirely different: this is a remarkable story about an unremarkable man, a gentle spirit barely getting by, failing to support his young child but touching those around him with a sweet smile and a fraternal spirit. Deifying Grant would have been easy, but Coogler has great weapons at his disposal: as his loving but disapproving mother, Octavia Spencer reveals several layers of expectation, love and regret both in her interactions with her son as well as during the film’s fateful climax. “Fruitvale Station” isn’t so much about a man as it is about a community, and the extraction of one of its vital cogs: when a life is lost so needlessly, the ripple effect can be overwhelming. Coogler’s moving to a much loftier goal, attached to direct the “Rocky” spinoff “Creed,” which might re-team him with 'Fruitvale' collaborator Michael B. Jordan. The thought of Coogler’s skills used to finally portray the absence of a figure like Apollo Creed, who died in that series’ fourth film, makes one think it will be the most humane manner the boxing world will have been seen in years on the big screen.

The Act Of Killing

Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing”)
Few documentaries burst onto the scene quite like Joshua Oppenheimer’s “The Act of Killing.” Then again, few also boast the approval of Werner Herzog and Errol Morris, both of whom produced this epic. It’s not a confusing picture at all: in fact, Oppenheimer’s camera is rarely confrontational and never manipulative, capturing the frank horrors of the subject matter. But “The Act of Killing” is an impossible film to summarize because of the topics addressed by its controversial subject matter, the type that have lingered for months after the film’s release. Firstly, Oppenheimer’s camera address veterans of Indonesian genocide, asking of them what it’s like to emerge the victor, to be the killer and the hero. But it’s not muckracking of any sort, because these “survivors” are more than willing to talk. What Oppenheimer does next is cinematic subversion of the most eye-opening kind, allowing these admitted murderers to re-create this violence for the camera in the form of a congratulatory film that is at points brilliant, terrible, hypnotic and upsettingly revealing. Oppenheimer’s unobtrusiveness allows him to capture moments like the leader of a “death squad” instructing the real life killers to not celebrate so much for the camera, either because that isn’t how he remembers it, or because of the fear that the camera captures the sort of truth no one wants to preserve. It’s the strongest doc of the year, and proof that Oppenheimer is one of the year’s boldest, bravest new filmmaking voices.

Blue Caprice

Alexandre Moors ("Blue Caprice")
You can’t easily explain or map out a disassociated mind, as much as you can be sympathetic towards it. What’s curious about Moors’ debut, the upsetting true-life story “Blue Caprice,” is that, upon first glance, it’s a horror film, depicting the twisted bond between a man and child in a way that led to the Beltway sniper incidents of the mid '00s. But behind the gathering storm is the sense of humanity being lost, a tragedy in three acts, the vanishing connection tethering two men to society; perhaps it plays like a horror film because it’s almost like a vampire picture without vampires. Moors, a commercial and music video veteran, takes a psychosexual view of the tragedies, depicting John Allen Muhammed (Isaiah Washington) as a virile man who observes women as subjects to be conquered, fools to be shown a light that only he can comprehend, despite his abstract teachings to the young teenager he’s taken under the fold. One is likely to know the true story walking into “Blue Caprice,” as they would when seeing any true story-based film. But what “Blue Caprice” does is subtle, in how you forget that the bloodshed and anger is coming, instead getting wrapped up in a tense two-hander where one man quietly twists and manipulates another for morbid gain. Moors as made a truly upsetting film, one that frustrates those looking for answers. What it does is raise questions instead, suggesting that the story goes on in the thoughts of the viewer, a true sign of respect between artist and audience.

This article is related to: Features, Destin Cretton, Short Term 12, Shaka King, Newlyweeds, Lake Bell, In A World..., David Lowery, Ain't Them Bodies Saints, Sebastián Lelio, Gloria , Jordan Vogt-Roberts, The Kings Of Summer, Jill Soloway, Afternoon Delight , Haifaa Al-Mansour, Wadjda , Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Don Jon, Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station, Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing , Alexandre Moors, Blue Caprice, Amy Seimetz, Sun Don't Shine, Best of 2013, Best Movies of 2013


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates