that is my friend's exact complaint about the book. it's not a good book for a classic film novice, but if your opinions are set, thomson's book does point things out that are good food for thought.
there is a book called THE AMERICAN CINEMA, published in 1962, by andrew sarris, where he ranks the directors. talk about slanted! it is so slanted that it was scandelous in it's day. my taste runs more with sarris than it does with thomson. THE AMERICAN CINEMA is one of my favorite reference resources. it's out of print, can't buy it any more. my copy is so worn out i keep it in a zip lock bag so i don't lose any pages.
he categorizes the directors, writes a few pages on each one, list his films, then at the end of the book he lists the most significant films released each year. since every welles film made the list, i knew this was the book for me. and sarris' slanted opinions slant in the same direction as mine do, so it's a pleasure to read.
the thomson book is cool, lots of research went into writing it, the sarris book just kicks ass. i highly recomend it to experienced cineastes. well worth the trip to the local pubic library.
here is his list of the directors he considers to be the pantheon:
chaplin, flaherty, ford, griffith, hawks, hitch, keaton, lang, lubitsch, murnau, ophuls, renoir, sternberg, welles.
he's right on the money for me.
the rest of the directors are in these categories:
the far side of paradise
less than meets the eye (love this category)
oddities, one-shots, newcomers
subjects for further research
make way for the clowns (w.c fields, etc)
and not many directors escaped. he must list about 130 of them. mark robson escaped. i remember seeing a robson film, and thinking, 'man, this guy is terrible.' i flipped through my handy director ranking, and robson had been left out. so is richard wilson.