Dunavin on Film: Really Good Directors of the 2000s, Part I

Because I try not to be completely negative, here are some of my favorite directors of the past decade. None of them are particularly obscure; in fact, a couple of them verge on household names, and one is Pixar, so take that for what you will. What makes them worth following is that all of them make movies about people (well, Pixar also makes movies about fish, toys, robots and cars) rather than making a movie to try to impress you with flashy editing or “mind-blowing” plot twists. For example:

Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, Sideways)

Alexander Payne was one of two great directors to only make two films in the entire decade – and he’s been silent since 2004, which is really, really annoying. About Schmidt and Sideways were amazing road trip films, but Payne’s real love is looking at how the dynamic between men and women changes as we grow old. His first two movies, Citizen Ruth and Election, were sexual satires on the level of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but masquerading as ’90s comedies. With About Schmidt, he made Jack Nicholson a totally three-dimensional elderly widower – lonely, socially awkward and naïve – and put him on the road, where we cringed with him until he ran headfirst into Kathy Bates’s explosion of trashy Midwestern joy. Similarly, he took Sideways‘s two middle-aged wine snobs, with all their neuroses and hangups, and expanded their characters until the overlap with the women they courted and tried not to love turned ugly and beautiful. He’s been silent since then, although rumors of projects keep popping up.


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