Virgins on film

“Baby, it’s hard out here for a first-time director in this cutthroat industry.”

“Baby, it’s hard out here for a first-time director in this cutthroat industry.”

Looking over my list of the decade’s best movies, it struck me that it was dominated by directors who were already established before the decade began.

Other than Christopher Nolan, who technically debuted with a 1998 cheapo called Following that was barely seen before his 2000 game changer Memento, this decade’s rookie class of filmmakers went entirely unrepresented.

It’s a stark contrast to the 1990s, when a plethora of talents as diverse as Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, P.T. Anderson, Alexander Payne and Darren Aronofsky emerged almost fully formed onto the cinematic scene.

But in the interests of grasping on to a shred of hope, I’ve compiled an alternate list of the most auspicious first-time filmmakers of the last 10 years.

10. Craig Brewer, Hustle & Flow. His follow-up, Black Snake Moan, was a misguided dud, but this arresting debut about a pimp turned rapper pops with scuzzy atmosphere and the as-yet-unrealized promise of Terrence Howard.

9. Fabián Bielinsky, Nine Queens. The unsung tragedy of the decade is that the director of this sharp-as-nails Argentinean con-man film died of a heart attack in 2006 at the age of 47.

8. John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mitchell adapted and starred in his own off-Broadway musical about a transgendered East German pop star; for all of its pansexual trappings, the film really connects with song, style and soul.

7. Kenneth Lonergan, You Can Count on Me. Even bleaker than this 2000 drama of two grown orphans failing to connect as irresponsible adults: Writer-director Lonergan has barely been heard from since.

6. Fernando Meirelles, City of God. His English-language films are serviceable hack work, but there wasn’t a more powerful debut this decade than Brazilian director Meirelles’ searing coming-of-age crime drama.

Next week: The decade’s top five first-timers.