Arts, Column

Keller: Five Modern Directors—And Their Upcoming Films—To Have On Your Radar

Nowadays, it seems like the only time the masses flood to the theater is to see which new superhero movie has been released. There’s nothing wrong with those movies—they actually seem to be the only thing keeping the theaters alive. But there’s much more to cinema. Brilliant young minds with fruitful careers ahead of them, all with movies coming out within the next year, are fueling the future of the cinematic art form. 

I’m not here to talk about the names that are always thrown around. Quentin Tarantino has his 10th—and, according to past interviews with the director, supposedly his final—film looming somewhere off in the distance. Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon will arrive at the end of the year, and Christopher Nolan’s star-studded Oppenheimer is scheduled for release in 2023. They don’t need the buzz. Their names are enough to draw people in.  

Instead, here are five up-and-coming directors with new movies coming out soon. In order to keep cinema alive, these movies need all the buzz they can get. It’s up to us as the audience to show support for their work.

Jordan Peele, Nope (July 22, 2022)

Jordan Peele knows how to tell a story. It’s as simple as that. He knows how to take abstract concepts and ground them in reality, often adding in social commentary. His first two films, Get Out (2017) and Us (2019), are thrillers that keep viewers on their toes. 

Holding the audience’s attention is the key to storytelling. Peele has mastered the art of suspense. He not only keeps his audiences engaged, but he punishes the viewers who are not paying close enough attention. If you miss something in a Peele movie, you’re most likely going to be lost as to what’s going on. 

Nope hits theaters in July, and Peele described it in a video released by Universal Pictures as the most “ambitious cinematic event” that he has created during his career. The film follows California horse ranchers as they are met face to face with a supernatural force that manipulates them and their horses. 

Damien Chazelle, Babylon (Dec. 25, 2022)

Damien Chazelle is best known for his directorial work on the two musical masterpieces Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016). His deep knowledge of timeless jazz music makes for an immersive theatrical experience like no other. 

The score of each film is a story in itself, giving viewers something they may find themselves listening to even after they leave the theater. 

Chazelle is also a master with the camera. His extended shots create intense drama that heightens the stakes of his story. But what I feel he does best is the color grading of his films. The popping colors stand out among other films today, giving his films a signature shine. 

His focus on music and cinematography, two elements that might fade into the background of a blockbuster movie, almost seems to take the audience back to the silent film era by shining a spotlight on cinema as an art. 

This era of film also just happens to be what his new movie is about. 

Babylon, set to release this Christmas, stars Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt as silent film–era stars trying to keep the art alive during the Roaring ’20s. I expect nothing less than another extraordinary film from him. 

Ari Aster, Disappointment Blvd. (2022)

The modern king of horror is back, as Ari Aster is set to release his first film since taking a three-year hiatus. Aster has a gift for concocting pure horror and scaring the living daylights out of his audience. Many deem his first film, Hereditary (2018) as one of the scariest films ever made. He followed Hereditary with Midsommar (2019), a psycho-horror that seems all too real. 

Aside from the sheer horror that comes along with an Aster film, a very interesting aspect of his work happens in the editing room. Aster loves to play around with different cuts and jumps that make his films a really interesting watch. Often, these cuts play a role in the story.

Aster also made something striking from nothing in both of his previous films. In both movies he took two small, single-location sets and created a whole world around them—trapping the audience in the horror of the location. 

The sets became their own characters in each of his films. 

I expect this to be somewhat similar in his upcoming film, Disappointment Blvd. just based on the nod to the locale that’s already in the title. In what Aster has called a “four-hour horror comedy,” I expect him to be at his best and reveal his full potential. 

Greta Gerwig, Barbie (July 21, 2023)

Greta Gerwig is a jack of all trades. She’s acted, voice acted, written, and directed. While she’s great at each, she is a master of directing. Her two most prominent films, Lady Bird (2017) and Little Women (2019), are directorially outstanding.  

The way that Gerwig frames each scene is fascinating. She makes so much happen within each small scene. Gerwig has described her own work as “choreographed chaos.” 

Her signature style of mixing comedy and drama shines through in her pieces. The brilliance of the lines crystallizes when the director’s and actors’ minds come together on set. It comes down to her directorial excellence to perfect the timing and pace of each scene. 

Barbie should be another trophy in Gerwig’s growing collection. The exciting duo of stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling should work seamlessly in a Gerwig-style film. What I hope to see from Barbie is Gerwig winning her overdue Best Director award at the Academy Awards. 

Denis Villeneuve, Dune: Part II (Oct. 20, 2023)

This one is for all the sci-fi fans. From Arrival (2016) to Blade Runner 2049 (2017) to Dune (2021), Denis Villeneuve knows how to craft science fiction and realistic worlds. 

Aside from his ingenious storytelling ability, Villeneuve excels with his use of awe-inspiring sets. There’s purpose behind every on-set decision, and it’s obvious in the final product. The director’s brilliance comes through in each scene’s carefully crafted mood, often with mesmerizing lighting designs. 

Dune: Part II is on pace to release in October of next year. The film should pick up right where the last one left off, so if you haven’t seen Part I yet, I suggest starting there. This is an extremely high-budget film with amazing visuals, so it’d be in your best interest to see this on the biggest screen possible. 

July 8, 2022