Directors Talk Film Faves
Given the heat of the Oscar race, we thought it would be fun to ask several contending feature directors to list the five most significant films for them, (live action as well as animated). Some couldn't resist expanding the list, which is fine. So, if you've ever wondered what has influenced Henry Selick (Coraline), Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Adam Elliot (Mary and Max), Conrad Vernon & Rob Letterman (Monsters vs. Aliens) or Christopher Miller & Phil Lord (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), read on…
Henry Selick (Coraline)
Here goes, in chronological order, of when I first saw the films:
1.) The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad: This might have been the first movie I ever saw, late '50s, probably at the Carlton Theater in Red Bank, NJ. No one remembers that a guy named Nathan Juran directed the film; it was Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion monsters that made this film a classic and have a huge impact on me. Harryhausen brought to life a scary two-headed giant Roc bird, a sword-wielding skeleton and a dragon, but it was his cyclops that grabbed my attention and haunted my dreams for years. My appetite for stop-motion animation was whetted right there.
2.) The Adventures of Prince Achmed: This was the world's first animated feature released in 1926 by Lotte Reiniger. I initially saw it chopped up into short bits on a local TV kid's show called Claude Kirchner's Terrytoon Circus when I was around 7. Reiniger specialized in silhouette cut-out animation that could bring a fantasy world to life while maintaining a sense of mystery. You had to imagine the expressions on the darkened faces, all the acting was expressed in poses and body language and there was a sense of dance to how everything moved. I learned from this film that showing less sometimes can be the best way for an audience to be drawn into your characters and story.
3.) The Night of the Hunter: The only feature that the great actor, Charles Laughton, ever directed. I remember watching this film on television with my older sister, probably the early '60s; years later I saw it at a revival house, and have owned it on VHS, then laser disc, and DVD. The story and images connected to the Old Testament bible stories from Sunday school for me, where good and evil were absolute. The image of a drowned Shelley Winters, both terrifying and beautiful with her long hair moving in the currents, has stayed with me always. Robert Mitchum's blood-thirsty charlatan preacher is one of the greatest of all screen villains. The compositions of shots, the theatrical magic that Laughton employed, the lighting; all have influenced my work.