Whit Stillman: The indie scene has changed dramatically since the Sundance heyday. That still doesn’t explain why the world spent 13 years without a new missive from the appropriately named Whit Stillman, poet laureate of the yuppies and preppies, even if his characters prefer the invented term “urban haute bourgeoisie.” Metropolitan, Barcelona and The Last Days of Disco are not only richly rewatchable but unique in subject, falling somewhere between glorifications of a traditionally mocked class and self-deprecating gagfest about the same. Damsels in Distress, his way belated comeback, operates as though he’s never been gone. Let’s keep it that way.
Nick Gomez: Inner-city dramas don’t get more raw than Laws of Gravity, Gomez’s 1992 debut starring volatile Pulp Fiction rapist Peter Greene and a youngish Edie Falco. Like many who blasted out of the gate, Gomez had trouble keeping the speed. After 2000’s Drowning Mona, he’s languished in TV purgatory.
Carl Franklin: How did the lean craftsman behind the devastating, off-beat thriller One False Move wind up making a splashy Terms of Endearment knockoff (One True Thing), a goddamned Ashley Judd thriller (High Crimes) and not much beyond TV since? Don’t sell out, kids.
Tom Noonan: A lanky giant whose calm is pure creep, Noonan is most recognizable as the villain of Manhunter, Robocop 2 and Last Action Hero. He’s also a playwright and director whose sole two films adapt his work. What Happened Was... is the delightfully odd answer to “What would Tom Noonan look like on a date?” The Wife is an atypically atmospheric chamber piece that features the 6-foot-6 Noonan towering over the 5-foot-2 Wallace Shawn. (Both are newly on Netflix Instant. Hop to it.)
Darnell Martin: When Columbia agreed to make I Like It Like That (1994), Martin became the first woman ever hired to produce and direct for a major studio. Good for humanity, less so for Martin, whose output since has been the disastrous rap musical Prison Song and the less disastrous Cadillac Records—plus, of course, lots of TV.
Eduardo Sanchez & Daniel Myrick: Because The Blair Witch Project is actually quite brilliant. Like the others on this list, they deserved better than very little.
Matt Damon delivers in "The Martian"