The scope of his film! Carlos was perhaps the closest we came in 2010 to having an "epic" film.
A multi-country, multi-cultured, multi-decade drama that focused on the life of a single person. Combining classic Hollywood filmmaking with 70's political cinema and filtering it all through his truly unique personal vision, Assayas made of Carlos "The Jackal", someone we could comprehend for a moment.
The fact that the movie originally was supposed to focus on one specific episode and was extended after Assayas realized he wanted to say more, is an impressive commitment on its own.
4. Roman Polanski for The Ghost Writer
As his world became more controversial and many expected him to slip into quiet retirement, the incredible Roman Polanski delivered one of the greatest films of his entire career.
The Ghost Writer had the balls to address current issues while recurring to political allegories that recalled The Manchurian Candidate and thrills worthy of Hitchcock's best work.
You can feel his hand the second the film begins and as it evolves you see how this seemingly simple film, ties up many of the themes he's explored in over four decades.
Best of all? The utter joy that exudes from the darkly mischievous film. Watching it you can feel Polanski's smile while he shot it. He truly loves the movies!
It's taken Darren Aronofsky a while but he finally delivered the movie worthy of his talents. After exploring the machinations of the human mind through addiction (whether it be to drugs, love or perfection) and trying out more intimate dramas, he grabbed all of his obsessions, techniques and styles and threw them together to create Black Swan.
This psycho-sexual-character study not only proved he's a master at directing actors (Natalie Portman will have trouble topping off her role here...) but that he's at his best when he loses some control himself.
Black Swan sometimes feels confused and misleading, but for the first time Aronofsky (who's known for his meticulousness) delivered something messy that might've lacked the firmness of his previous works but felt like a breathing, living organism.
Making weird films is certainly easy. Making the weirdness feel coherent and achieve verisimilitude is on another different level though and that's precisely what Lanthimos does in his wickedly brilliant Dogtooth.
He creates a unique universe located within a house, but makes it work in relation to the world around the characters. Watching the precision with which all his means achieve diabolically funny ends, you can't help but think that he either lived something as insane as what goes on in the film, or he began writing it at age six.
Such is the level of encompassing power provided by Lanthimos that it makes sense that in some circles (and languages) a film director is also known as a "creator".
1. David Fincher for The Social Network
Even if he's accused of being cold, insensitive and too technical, David Fincher is truly one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers. His style is perhaps too European for Hollywood and this is why his attempts at creating fascinating essays are botched by middlebrow studio sensibilities (Benjamin Button anyone?).
It was a true delight then, to see him work at what seems to be complete freedom; in The Social Network he displays a mastery of the cinematic form that baffles in its effortless brilliance.
First, he created a movie that deals with lawsuits over a website, yet managed to make it more layered and intricate than anyone would've expected.
Second, his lead character is a complete asshole, yet like Welles in Citizen Kane he managed to make us look past the surface and created the most effective portrait of loneliness in ages.
Third, even if he says he didn't do it on purpose, he did capture the zeitgeist! The Social Network is a movie that encompasses an entire generation with such effortlessness that some out there still wonder what's the big deal about it. Others just surrendered to its perfection.
Fourth, his mastery of the cinematic form is such that it takes one several screenings to realize what a tight film this is. There's a million things going on at the same time, several times narrated and yet every single thing about The Social Network is united and flawlessly put together.
His work here is worthy of all the likes, shares and pokes anyone might think of, but perhaps his greatest achievement is that he gave us a movie to discuss over decades to come. Fincher seems fully aware that the greatest cinema doesn't stop living after the credits end, it moves with the audience who take it with them for the rest of their lives.