6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

If, like me, you have thoroughly enjoyed any or all of his movies that have come out in the past couple of years, the announced retirement of director Steven Soderbergh comes as a real bummer. Given his prolific filmmaking pace, completing 26 movies over the past 24 years of work, it’s understandable why he might be a tad burnt out. Apparently he wants to devote more time to painting and other projects. He has an HBO movie about Liberace airing soon, but after that he plans to take at the very least a long break from filmmaking.

It’s just too bad, because he’s produced so many great works at such a consistent rate. Most recently, he has directed Side Effects, Magic Mike, Contagion, and Haywire. That was just in the past two years. All of those are solid films, especially when you consider how they compare to the genres they’re meant to fit into. He’s a master at subverting your expectations; you’re expecting a straightforward stripper movie and instead you get a fascinating character piece, or a pharmaceutical conspiracy that becomes a disturbing relational thriller. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that he’s decided to get out of the game when he’s arguably at his peak.

He’s decided to burn out rather than fade away. Probably a smart move. Other directors have gone down the latter path, releasing stuff that’s a shell of their former work, but continuing to plug away, to audiences’ chagrin. Here is a list of directors who would have been wise to follow the Steven Soderbergh model years ago.

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1) Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood1 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

Clint Eastwood is without a doubt one of the greatest directors of all time. I don’t think there’s anyone who would even attempt to dispute this. He provided a much needed shakeup to the Western genre with his 1992 Oscar-winner Unforgiven, and really hit his stride about a decade ago, with the successive masterful hits Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. Then he went on to follow these movies up with the bold World War II double feature, Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. He was on a huge roll, cementing his reputation as one of, if not the, best filmmaker working at the time.

But that seems like forever ago now. I was a fan of Changeling, although that one was not as well received as his previous few knockouts. Gran Torino was the first indication that he was slipping. Then came the enormously disappointing Invictus, the slightly improved Hereafter, and then the epic failure that was J. Edgar. He has since been relegated to acting in trifling little movies like Trouble with the Curve, and giving rambling speeches at political conventions.

With no solid projects upcoming, it seems safe to say Eastwood has most likely lost his artistic touch. Maybe his heart’s not in it anymore. Had he ended on that amazing and daring double feature project, his legacy would have been one of a man going out on top. Instead, he’s going the way of many directors, working into old age but producing films that make people yearn for past days.

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2) Roland Emmerich

 Roland Emmerich 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

I had to double check and make sure that Roland Emmerich was actually still working. Sure enough, he has an upcoming secret service summer blockbuster starring Channing Tatum and a number of rather impressive names, going by the title White House Down. So if that’s good I may end up having to eat these words later. For now, it is to revel in the garbage he has put out recently.

I’m not saying he was ever this brilliant filmmaker, but Independence Day was a solid summer movie, even if its special effects in hindsight look even more dated than they actually are. Still, it was a fun movie. I wouldn’t call it amazing but I don’t think of it as a bad movie either. 2012, on the other hand, while tremendously fun to watch, was an absolute mess of a movie. 10,000 BC wasn’t even enjoyable, and The Day After Tomorrow looked incredible at the time but was a bit of a joke. Anonymous was basically dismissed out of hand. It’s tough to imagine that Emmerich will ever recover and return to even the midlevel status of a movie like Independence Day.

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3) Garry Marshall

Garry Marshall 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

It’s likely that Garry Marshall was never that good, but filled a niche of a market that had a high demand, and hit that niche hard with overwhelming success in Pretty Woman. That was a long, long time ago. Now, although he made basically the same type of movie over and over again, he is now almost literally making the exact same movie time and time again.

It started with Valentine’s Day in 2010, an ensemble picture meant to imitate Love Actually, and continued the following year with New Year’s Eve, following the exact same concept. The phrase “same sh–, different day” has never been more applicable. One would expect other such days to be followed up, from MLK Day to Yom Kippur. Hopefully Marshall is making enough money off the types of crowds that enjoy these movies so he can enjoy his last few decades in maximum comfort while not forcing us to see any more commercials for his movies.

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4) M. Night Shyamalan

M Night Shyamalan 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

Now here’s a guy who I almost don’t want to retire because there’s still an outside chance that he could bounce back. But he has such a long way to go to get there. I can’t think of another director who followed the highs of films like The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, two absolutely excellent movies, with so many failed projects leading up to a movie like The Last Airbender. How this ever happened still baffles me. I can’t fathom just whether he got lucky in those first two movies, or whether someone else deserves credit for them, or whether he’s just been unlucky for the past, you know, 15 years.

To be honest, I gave up after The Happening, so I didn’t see that last one. I had seen every other one up to that point though, and they were dumb in a fun way at the best of times, but at this point the trajectory of Shyamalan’s career just sort of depresses me. He seems sad in interviews. It’s possible he should pursue something else; maybe get into television where he can work within someone else’s framework (it actually looks like he may be doing this). And maybe his Will Smith vehicle coming out this summer will restore his integrity a little. I would love to be proven wrong about this guy’s skills. The safe thing to do would be to bow out gracefully, hang up his director’s megaphone and maybe work behind the scenes somewhere. I’ll give him one thing: continuing to work in such a high profile business while people hack away at his skills and character rather unmercifully takes cajones.

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5) Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

Next to Clint Eastwood, I can’t think of another director who has gone from being such an important and masterful director to making movies that are essentially an afterthought. To take the guy who was responsible for Platoon and Born on the Fourth of July, two amazing pieces of filmmaking that were responsible for defining an entire genre of Vietnam war movies, not to mention great work in the 90s from JFK to Any Given Sunday, and see him now making stuff like W. is somewhat disheartening.

It seems like it may have begun with Alexander, and the personal antipathy towards star Colin Farrell at the time (he’s since redefined his image in a fantastic way by taking on awesome little projects like In Bruges). Since then Stone hasn’t had the same kind of reputation as he did just a decade prior. Perhaps politics has become such an area of concern, and his positions in said area have become so unorthodox and extreme, that this has somewhat hindered his ability to express himself through compelling stories and images.

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6) George Lucas

George Lucas 6 Directors Who Should Retire Instead Of Steven Soderbergh

From the sounds of it, George Lucas essentially is retired. He has said that he is done with making big, Star Wars-scale blockbusters and wants to focus on smaller films. This is, by all acounts, for the best. As the man who people credit as responsible for the diminished quality of the Star Wars prequel trilogy, as well as the newest relatively dismal Indiana Jones movie, it’s probably a realm that he is well served to keep his distance from. It will be interesting to see if and when he does produce some independent movies the type of quality that comes out of this. It’s a bit of a risk, and may not pay dividends for him. It’s clear that whatever magic touch he had in the 1970s, that’s all but gone. All he can do is wipe away his tears with his millions of dollars.

There are other directors that may be smart to take their leave from the industry, but it’s still possibly too early to tell. Someone like Michael Mann has released some rather disappointing work lately, but could easily return to form in the blink of an eye. Some would say Tim Burton has lost a step. Ron Howard is on and off, and lately, especially with the Dan Brown movies he’s done, it’s been mostly off. Robert Redford keeps working away with some mediocre material, but he has a new one coming out that may be worthwhile.

Then there are directors who you hope never retire, like Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg, Roman Polanski. Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman and Sydney Pollack were doing great work right up until their deaths. It’s tough to say when the best time is for an artist to abandon their craft. Ultimately, even the worst productions may be worth the effort if it gives the director an opportunity to express themselves, especially if they have the potential to produce great work later. In the case of Steven Soderbergh, he’s clearly someone with lots left to say and do, and hopefully his retirement from filmmaking is short-lived.

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  • Darren Ruecker

    Had I seen Oz before this afternoon, Sam Raimi would have been #7.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jason-Richards/100002224412328 Jason Richards

      In the last decade Raimi has made Spider man 2 and Drag me to hell, which are outstanding films.

  • Cody W

    Dont forget Emmerich directed The patriot..which IMO was a pretty good movie. Im not saying Im a fan but its like the guy needs to stop with these effects driven disaster films and maybe try for something smaller scale like The patriot

  • Nelson

    i actually kind of liked Alexander

  • Danny

    Where is Tim Burton on this list?