Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Michael Mann Director's Poll

Since his debut as a feature length filmmaker in the late seventies, Michael Mann has been one of the most distinctive and fascinating directors in American cinema. His greatest films have endured long after many more critical and popular favorites by lesser directors have long faded away, and even his missteps have proven much more interesting than perhaps first imagined. In an attempt to try and kick Moon in the Gutter off auto-pilot, I am hosting a new director's poll that I'd like everyone to participate in based on Mann's feature length films. His newest, Public Enemies, is one of the most anticipated films of the year and the timing seemed right. So, vote for your favorites and we'll tally up the results in the next week or so.


Professor Brian O'Blivion said...

This is cool! Tough poll, I love so many of his films. came down to Heat,Miami Vice and Manhunter. Looking forward to Public Enemies. Trailer looks sweet.

Guillaume said...

Mann is my favorite director (with Dario Argento) so it's a difficult poll!
I think that MANHUNTER has always been my favorite,at least it is Mann's film that made me fall in love with the Mann!
But i even like very much Mann's most "controversial" works like THE KEEP,ALI and MIAMI VICE.

J.D. said...

Along with David Lynch, Mann is also my fave filmmaker. I would have to say, if push came to shove, THE INSIDER is my fave film of his. Just a great film in every aspect.

Nice wallpapers, btw., Jeremy!

Tony Dayoub said...


I've always known you have good taste, I'm a Lynch and Mann fan also. Who would think two such disparate styles would appeal to the same film fan?

Anyway, my picks were for Thief, Manhunter, Heat, Collateral, and Miami Vice. Hard to narrow it down for me as you can see. Thief is my all-time favorite.

J.D. said...


I couldn't agree more. Yeah, you couldn't get further apart than Lynch and Mann... which is interesting as Lynch was approached first to direct MANHUNTER but turned it down because he found the subject matter repulsive (?!). Good thing, because I love Mann's take on the material.

I'm glad you mentioned MIAMI VICE. It's a film that sure has taken a critical pounding, but I think it is excellent.

Guillaume said...

MIAMI VICE has received very good reviews and did pretty good business in France,but i've heard that the word of mouth has been more mixed in the States!
MIAMI VICE is another visually stunning Mann's film...i really liked Gong Li,and this ending,with this beautiful use of Mogwai's "Auto Rock",was great!

J.D. said...

Yeah, I really dug the ending of VICE as well. I also love that shot of the plane being dwarfed by those huge clouds in the sky. What an incredible shot!

Guillaume said...

I like when Mann's camera is focussing on Gong Li's expressive face at the end...simply wonderful!
The ultimate shot is great...subtle,simple yet haunting,evocative.
The shot of the plane through the clouds is awesome yeah...HD cinematography rocks!

I also like the theatrical opening,so "in your face" (like "Collateral"'s opening),without title cards,no background...just music and visuals!

The scene with John Hawkes/Alonzo is masterfully done too.

J.D. said...

Yeah, that jarring theatrical opening ticked off a lot of people who were expecting something more conventional, which Mann ended up doing on the so-called "Director's Cut," which I like in its own way and is certainly a more traditional Mann film opening.

Yeah, Mann really did a nice job in photographing Gong Li. I think he said somewhere that he tried to cast her in HEAT but it never happened for whatever reason. Nice to see she finally showed up in one of his films.

Guillaume said...

The opening on the "director's cut" is beautifully shot but i still prefer the jarring theatrical starts like a "bang!" about non conventional filmmaking!
I like the way the story is told,there is in fact no real beginning and no real ending, just the everyday/daily lives of these cops.

Gong Li's character is probably the heart of the the relationships of these troubled cops are threatened by their dirty,dangerous,overwhelming undercover work.

It is not always said and noticed,but i really think that Mann always offers interesting,beliveable female characters in his films:
Gong Li in "Vice",Alberta Watson in "The Keep",Madeleine Stowe in "Mohicans",Tuesday Weld in "Thief",Diane Venora and the others ladies in "Heat",etc.
Not so common in the thriller/action genre!

J.D. said...

"I like the way the story is told,there is in fact no real beginning and no real ending, just the everyday/daily lives of these cops."

True. I like that quality about the theatrical cut as well.

Your raise an interesting point about how women are represented in Mann's films. The common complaint of his films is that he doesn't present strong female characters, which I think is true of MANHUNTER and ALI but as you point out, quite a few of his other films have very strong female characters, esp. for such male-dominated films.

PIPER said...

I think The Insider is probably my favorite Mann film. Followed by Manhunter.

But I have been a longtime defender of Miami Vice. I thought it was excellent. And I have taken many lumps for liking it.

J.D. said...


I'm convinced that the film was doomed to fail from the get-go with all the negative press it got from its troubled production history, what with Jamie Foxx acting like a diva.

And then there was the account of a bodyguard associated with the production shooting at somebody while on location. And then, dealing with Hurricane Katrina while filming. It seemed like one negative thing after another and people were gunning for the film when it came out.