Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sophomore Slump Dogs Hot Independent Directors

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Sophomore Slump Dogs Hot Independent Directors

Article excerpt

After winning Cannes prizes and an Oscar nomination for his breakthrough debut, "sex, lies and videotape," Steven Soderbergh created "Kafka," a title that has since become almost synonymous with "sophomore jinx."

Spike Lee followed his first movie, "She's Gotta Have It," with the muddled college musical, "School Daze."

After "Boyz N the Hood" made John Singleton the first African-American filmmaker to receive an Academy Award nomination for best director, he wrote and directed the spectacularly sophomoric "Poetic Justice."

Like hotels and film festivals that get superstitious about using the number 13, independent filmmakers are leery about making that second film.

The Hughes brothers, Allen and Albert, who made a sensational debut with "Menace II Society," even jokingly announced that they were planning to skip their second picture and go straight to their third.

Third time is often the charm, perhaps because many filmmakers learn from failure. Lee's third picture was "Do the Right Thing," still widely regarded as his best work. Soderbergh's third was "King of the Hill," which made many 10-best lists and couldn't have been less like his debut.

The Hugheses seem to have escaped the jinx. Their second picture, "Dead Presidents," had an even stronger opening than "Menace II Society," and reviews have been mostly positive. They made the picture they set out to make, complete with downbeat finale, without interference from the studio that backed it.

Other new directors haven't been so fortunate.

Matty Rich's well-received "Straight Out of Brooklyn" led to the glossy Disney flop, "The Inkwell," which was pockmarked with compromises.

After Michael Lehmann made the daring teen-suicide satire "Heathers," he wound up with much of the blame for "Hudson Hawk" with Bruce Willis.

Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kevin Smith are the latest examples of filmmakers who work well on their own, but not so well when they're essentially directors for hire. It's hard to see anything of the creative artist who made "Proof" in the suffocating banalities of "American Quilt. …

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