Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Auteur Watch - Richard Donner

Sir Richard Donner undoubtedly has one of the great directing careers in recent Hollywood history, and he's still on track to flush it all down the toilet. Or maybe Mel Gibson's Public Image Rehabilitation Project has finally succeeded. I think they should start showing Braveheart for free on NBC or something. That would help. But as usual I digress. This was supposed to be about Donner... this all seems very familiar.
The main thing is, though, his installment of "The Directors" does him more justice. As a protege of Martin Ritt he started tentatively with an episode or six of The Twilight Zone. So far I've only seen The Jeopardy Room and what can I say? I liked it. They must've had a budget. It's not often a Twilight Zone ends with a... well, I don't want to give it away. He also moved on to do stuff for Hanna-Barbera like The Banana Splits, but managed to not let it define his career. The Omen was his first REALLY big movie; I didn't get to see Salt and Pepper. Damn, he busted his ass throughout the 60s!
But The Omen is definitely when his career started maturing, and to go from that to Superman, well, not many directors can boast that. Having tangled with the Salkinds and lost, he did some smaller pictures, Inside Moves and The Toy. Well, at least The Toy had star power to boot. Then, it was Ladyhawke and The Goonies and then the picture that would further change it all: Lethal Weapon. It was around this time that the Big 5 consolidated: Donner, Zemeckis, Walter Hill, David Giler and someone else. Oh yeah, Joel Silver, and they did Tales from the Crypt for HBO, Donner and Zemeckis saving the higher profile episodes for themselves. Looks like Zemeckis and Silver are the only ones left today.
If I had to guess favorite decade, that's a tough call. Maybe it's the 60s and the Golden Age, when he was lean and hungry. Or maybe it was how he weathered the go-go 80s and all its excesses. Or maybe the 90s with his streak of Radio Flyer, Lethal Weapon 3, Maverick, Assassins, Conspiracy Theory and finally petering out with Lethal Weapon 4. Hard to say. But if Jon Favreau couldn't get to the bottom of it, no one can.

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