Troy Patterson
November 26, 1999 AT 05:00 AM EST

Who are these guys? At the reductive risk of classifying their idiosyncratic approaches into facile phyla, here’s a taxonomy of directors at the fore of the next Next Big Thing.


DAVID O. RUSSELL Add up the dark oedipal farce Spanking the Monkey (1994), the screwball family comedy Flirting With Disaster (1996), and the political action-adventure Three Kings: His is a restless intelligence in search of a genre to scramble.

STEVEN SODERBERGH The rhythmic fragmentation of The Limey and Out of Sight (1998) is just a noir inflection of the elliptical storytelling voice behind sex, lies, and videotape (1989).

PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON Hard Eight (1997) and Boogie Nights (1997) are the work of a Valley Boy full of nerve and verve gunning for the deluxe adrenaline rushes of Scorsese.

M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN Trading splatter for suggestion, eschewing wink-wink postmod cleverness in favor of thorough invention, Shyamalan restores elegance to the horror film with The Sixth Sense.


DANIEL MYRICK & EDUARDO SANCHEZ Post-Blair Witch Project, they’re the crown princes of lo-fi.

THOMAS VINTERBERG With his mordant tragicomedy The Celebration (1998), Vinterberg made the first masterpiece under the minimalist Danish film manifesto, Dogma 95.

HARMONY KORINE The writer of the fitful Kids (1995) and director of the punkish Gummo (1997) declares his (punkishly fitful) allegiance to Dogma 95 with julien donkey-boy, a post-Godardian portrait of a schizophrenic.


TREY PARKER AND MATT STONE Kicking out all stops with South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the pair explore all kinds of crudity—verbal, moral, aesthetic—with the glee of pure showmanship.

SPIKE JONZE In Being John Malkovich, as in a score of instantly classic music videos, his wonder inspires delighted dadaism and his precision grounds soft surrealism.

ALEXANDER PAYNE On the evidence of Election and the abortion rights farce Citizen Ruth (1996), he is the truest kind of satirist—one full of sympathy for the characters he skewers.

WES ANDERSON In Rushmore (1998) and Bottle Rocket (1996), the director and his writing partner, Owen Wilson, deploy ’60s-steeped visuals with cool savvy and sweet whimsy.

KEVIN SMITH Fueled by a comic-book sensibility and a near hostility to proper production values, he’s evolved from the slacker slapstick of Clerks (1994) to the cosmological wisecracking of Dogma.


DARREN ARONOFSKY Despite its title, last year’s [Pi]—an art project seeking a new language of cinema panic—showed Aronofsky to be less a whiz at math than at intimate mayhem.

DANNY BOYLE For the transporting Trainspotting (1996), Boyle laid on a dance-music-like propulsion to turn Irvine Welsh’s ”unfilmable” novel into a cult smash. What can that mean for Alex Garland’s The Beach, due next year?

DAVID FINCHER His Fight Club—a Nietzschean exploitation film starring Brad Pitt as the will to power—delivers on the peculiar promise of Seven (1995): It floats on a techno-grotesque style.

ANDY AND LARRY WACHOWSKI The brothers behind Bound (1996) crammed all manner of subcultural treats—anime, cyberpunk, chopsocky—into a metaphysical blender and served up unprecedented pulp: The Matrix.

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