Tom Ford, Scott Cooper on Variety’s Directors to Watch list

Posted by · 10:03 am · January 21st, 2010

Tom FordVariety’s annual Directors to Watch list lives up to its title more often than not, frequently highlighting names that go on to be hotter talking points in the year that follows.

Last year’s list, for example, include “(500) Days of Summer” helmer Marc Webb, who recently signed on to reboot the “Spider-Man” franchise, as well as Cary Fukunaga (“Sin Nombre”) and Adam Elliot (“Mary & Max”) — in addition to already-lauded names like Matteo Garrone and Steve McQueen.

This year’s list similarly blends directors still in the wings with those who have already arrived. The year’s most successful freshman filmmaker, Neill Blomkamp, isn’t on the list (Variety hardly needs to remind the industry of his presence, after all), but two first-timers with films in the Oscar hunt are: “A Single Man”‘s Tom Ford and “Crazy Heart”‘s Scott Cooper.

I’ve been a champion of Ford’s lavishly stylized debut feature since it premiered in Venice in the fall. As a celebrity fashion designer, no debuting director in the last year faced as many sceptics as he did, and indeed, some critics have charged Ford with an overly precious visual sensibility. Others, like me, are charmed by the film’s forays into kitsch: Ford admits in his Variety profile that “enhanced reality, rather than gritty reality, is what comes to me naturally.”

Meanwhile, actor-turned-filmmaker Cooper, a recent WGA nominee for “Crazy Heart,” claims his work bears the influence of Southern storytelling traditions:

As a proud Virginian, I’ve always been drawn to telling stories … If you look at people that I’ve admired and been influenced by — Horton Foote or William Styron (a fellow Virginian) or William Faulkner, who taught my father at the U. of Virginia — it’s all about treating the human condition very delicately,” Cooper says. “You won’t soon see me making a movie with flying saucers or robots.”

Variety’s list also includes three directors whose work I’ve already sampled. Renowned British artist Sam Taylor Wood’s debut feature, the John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy,” landed her a pair of BAFTA nominations this morning. The film is fleetly paced and sharply acted, but for me, it didn’t quite build on the cinematic promise of Wood’s remarkable short “Love You More.” I suspect she has more to offer.

Italian director Luca Guadagnino is attracting Sundance buzz for his Milan-set family melodrama “I Am Love,” though I wasn’t as enamored as some critics when it bowed at Venice. It does, however, boast ravishing visuals and a superb Tilda Swinton performance, and will likely make waves on the arthouse circuit.

But the real one to watch on Variety’s list, I think, is 28 year-old Mia Hansen-Løve, a Cahiers du Cinema critic (and fiancee of Olivier Assayas), whose sophomore feature, “Father of My Children,” was my favorite discovery of the London Film Festival. Both a richly layered relationship drama and an incisive study of the perils of independent film production, it had me making a mental note of the director’s name as soon as the credits rolled: I’m glad to see Variety did too.

More on Variety’s list here.

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8 responses so far

  • 1 1-21-2010 at 1:40 pm

    Bia said...

    Agree with your assessment of A Single Man, I saw it recently and it was beautiful. I look forward to Ford’s next film…

  • 2 1-21-2010 at 1:45 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Ford seriously deserves a Best Director nomination for “A Single Man.” And to think it’s only his first film!

  • 3 1-21-2010 at 2:17 pm

    Patryk said...

    “an overly precious visual sensibility”


  • 4 1-21-2010 at 2:40 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    What’s the confusion?

  • 5 1-21-2010 at 8:56 pm

    Steven Kane said...

    Man, no Duncan Jones for Moon?

  • 6 1-21-2010 at 9:25 pm

    Leone said...

    A SINGLE MAN is poignant and beautiful and has one of the best scores of the year. Firth is SPLENDID and Julianne Moore, delightful. I really love this movie and hope it makes it in to Oscar’s 10-best list.

  • 7 1-22-2010 at 3:46 pm

    zoots said...

    yeah, no duncan jones and no oren moverman? this group is just too random (is it about aggressive publicists, i wonder?)

  • 8 1-22-2010 at 4:14 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    It would be a very dull list if it ONLY featured people who are already above the radar.