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Hollywood directors

There are no artists at all in Hollywood. Or there might be one . . . Let’s consider a few famous Directors who are often mistakenly labelled artists:

Michael Bay is not an artist. He is a technician, a craftsman, very much in control of his tools, and I believe he gets the effect he seeks: big explosions, special effects, visual pyrotechnics.

Tim Burton is not an artist. He is “visually very creative” — which means that he can get a shot or an effect, but he can’t make a scene or tell a story. It’s no accident that his best movies — Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood — were made when he was less the full-on auteur.

James Cameron is not an artist. He is a magician, a circus ringmaster, who shows us incredible things we’ve never seen before. An indestructible, unstoppable liquid-metal killbot! The greatest shipwreck in history! Nine-foot-tall blue-skinned aliens! Arnold Schwarzenegger!

Martin Scorsese is not an artist. He is a minor poet, who manages to transform his personal fascinations into (mostly) compulsively-watchable genre pieces. But Taxi Driver is a magnificent, confused mess — remembered because it was seen as echoing the USA’s confused mess of feelings about its defeat in Vietnam. Raging Bull does a good job of making us care about an unlikeable protagonist (unlike, say, Frances; by the time Frances Farmer is committed to an asylum, abused, and lobotomized, we’re almost glad because she’s been so despicable that we want to see her punished), and (like Robert Heinlein’s novel Glory Road) continues on beyond what is usually the end of such a story. But what brought attention to it was Robert DeNiro’s spectacular weight-gain to portray the older Jake La Motta

Stanley Kubrick was not an artist. He was a painter; his movies are still lifes, each piece perfectly and passionlessly set in place.

I said there might be one artist in Hollywood. That individual is Woody Allen. It is significant that he can no longer find funding in Hollywood, and must make his movies in Europe. In show business, there is no room for an artist.