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Best director-actor combinations

Robert Zemeckis-Tom Hanks

Cast Away (2000) - Tom Hanks

“Forrest Gump” (1994), brilliant in both its set-up and execution, marked a period that helped take both Zemeckis and Hanks into the cinematic stratosphere. Zemeckis accelerated his fascination here with the concept of digital imaging — having Forrest greet folks such as President Kennedy — and Hanks won the Oscar for the second year in a row, right on the heels of “Philadelphia.” Zemeckis also won and they would reunite six years later on “Cast Away,” which was a tour de force performance for the actor, possibly the best of his career and one which earned him his fifth nomination. In 2004, Zemeckis would reinvent how animated film are created with “The Polar Express,” and although the reviews were mixed, the film earned $179 million, which once again proved the duo’s box office resilience.

Tim Burton-Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp

Six films later, it’s difficult not to think of one without the other. Burton’s love of the dark and macabre has proven to be a perfect fit with Depp’s fondness for screwball and disenfranchised characters. What started out with the off-kilter suburban drama “Edward Scissorhands” — a film that is hard to imagine being directed by and starring anyone else — the pair have continued to give a good name to movies that resonate in their unrelenting, but quite amusing, bleakness. “Ed Wood,” “Sleepy Hollow” and the latest, “Sweeney Todd,” may be comedic and, even, worthy of a sing-along, but each blossoms in the director’s love of all things dreary. I don’t ever imagine you’d catch these two comfortable in the sunlight, sunbathing at the beach.

David Fincher-Brad Pitt

Fight Club (1999) - Brad Pitt

Sure, it’s been 13 years since “Se7en” arrived but even today, the movie’s cult fave status continues to flourish. Same with “Fight Club.” Both starred Pitt as Fincher’s actor du jour, molding him from pretty boy cameos to top-listed ultra-serious dramatic fare. “Fight Club,” especially, proved that Pitt could attract guys to a theater, as well as the ladies. The two reconnect later this year for the highly anticipated “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” about a man who ages backward. For Fincher, who must feel like he’s standing on Oscar’s doorstep waiting to be asked in, “Button” seems like the movie to get him over the top. With Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton starring, and based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, what’s not to like?

Martin Scorsese-Robert De Niro

While De Niro’s film choices these days leave something to be desired, that wasn’t always the case. For those who can remember, there was an 18-year period (1973 to 1991) where his collaboration with Scorsese meant the movie was deemed an instant classic. “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas” are just some of the films that had cineastes licking their chops. Three of De Niro’s Oscar nominations come with Scorsese calling the shots, and while the actor has seen his cache fall in recent years, Scorsese continues to shine — this time with Leonardo DiCaprio (“Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator,” “The Departed”) as the actor who fits comfortably working with the Italian maestro.

Pedro Almodovar-Penelope Cruz

"Volver" - Penélope Cruz

There’s no one who knows the curves of Cruz’s beautiful frame more than fellow Spaniard Almodovar, who has turned his muse into an international star. “All About My Mother” may not have gotten the Stateside attention it deserved, but “Volver,” which earned Cruz her first Oscar nomination, rectified that. Almodovar knows women like no other male director, and his skill lies in teaching us what makes these great ladies tick — whether they’re moms, daughters, hookers or housewives. Cruz lights up the screen no matter who’s in the director’s chair, but she blossoms with her compatriot calling the shots. The two will team up again in 2009 with “Broken Hugs,” a revenge thriller that’s already on my must-see list.

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