Where are the next great American directors?

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An interesting observation: The '80s and '90s saw a slew of brilliant American filmmakers making their debut. For example, we saw the likes of Spike Lee, Steven Soderbergh, Jim Jarmusch, Oliver Stone, Jonathan Demme, Michael Mann, John Sayles, Gus Van Sant, Tim Burton, Sam Raimi, Joel and Ethan Coen and Kathryn Bigelow, John Hughes and Barry Levinson. The 1990s were even better, due to the indie film movement blossoming into its peak, with the likes of Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Jonze, Todd Solondz, Todd Haynes, Alexander Payne, David O Russell, Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher, Kelly Reichardt, and Brad Bird, among many others who made their first films that decade.

Now, think of an American director, who had his film debut at the earliest in 2003, who has built a solid reputation and has had a legitimately important impact on cinema in the same vein as the names I just mentioned? Anyone? I can think of many directors born outside the United States: Dardenne, Glazer, Villeneuve, Joon-Ho, McQueen, Farhadi, Lanthimos, Chan-Wook, Refn, Mungiu, Weerasethakul, Wright, Arnold etc. but not many Americans.

American filmmaking giants that have emerged in the 2010s are scant and few. J.C. Chandor is building up an intriguing oeuvre at the moment ("Margin Call," "All Is Lost," "A Most Violent Year"), and then there's Kenneth Lonergan, whose "You Can Count on Me," "Margaret" and "Manchester by the Sea" represent a masterful trio of despair. I guess Tom McCarthy should count as well -- despite the lack of an actual distinctive voice in his work, he's managed to make some top-notch films ("The Visitor," "The Station Agent," "Spotlight," "Win-Win."), there's Bennett Miller ("Capote," "Moneyball," "Foxcatcher"). Also, whether you like him or not, you probably have to add Damien Chazelle ("Whiplash," "La La Land" "First Man"), as well as Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter," "Mud," "Loving") and maybe Charlie Kaufman? I guess, although the latter did start as a screenwriter for Spike Jonze in the '90s and then decided to upgrade to the director's chair in the aughts ("Synechdoche NY," "Animolisa"). 

I also feel like Jeremy Saulnier should be included; though he's only made two films ("Blue Ruin" and "Green Room"), he's surely made a mark. Ditto Ryan Coogler ("Fruitvale Station" and "Creed"), Mike Mills ("Thumbsucker," "20th Century Women," and Beginners") and Ava DuVernay ("Middle of Nowhere," "Selma" and "The 13th"). Another director I'm not sure about is Judd Apatow, whose best work ("The 40-Year-old Virgin," Knocked Up," and "Trainwreck") has been marred by disappointments as well ("Funny People," and "This Is 40").

That's pretty much it. Am I missing anybody? The amount of new talent that has grown from the American studio system since the 2000s is pathetic when compared to the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Of course, I didn't forget Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Christopher Nolan, Paul Greengrass, Yorgos Lanthimos, Denis Villeneuve, and Edgar Wright, but they're not American!

So what does this all mean? It means that the directors who started in the '70s, '80s and '90s have to pick up the slack, and even they are not being given as many opportunities as possible these days, what with Hollywood's current fascination with sequels and comic book movies. Also, they can't live forever, and many of them are well into their late 60s and early 70s. It's a very interesting time we're living in at the movies. Who will pick up the slack? It's not unrealistic to think that more foreign filmmakers will be coming in to pick up the slack, what with Cuaron, Del Toro, Inarritu, Joon-Ho Bong, James Wan, Martin McDonaugh and Yorgos Lanthimos all having made the plunge to American cinema this decade.