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Posts Tagged ‘sidney lumet’

Director Sidney Lumet Passes Away at 86

Without a doubt, perhaps the most saddening news I have heard in quite some time. Sidney Lumet, one of the greatest individuals ever produced by Hollywood, has died this morning from lymphoma.

Lumet started his career in 1957 with perhaps the greatest of all diectorial debuts, outside of “Citizen Kane.” That film was “12 Angry Men” and, to this day, it stands as a benchmark for pure suspense built through nothing more than powerhouse acting and thematic brilliance, both can be largely attributed to Lumet’s talent. Since that day, Lumet has produced a solid and intimidating career. Some classic examples of his greatness include “Fail-Safe,” “The Pawnbroker,” “Serpico,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Equus,” “Prince of the City,” “The Verdict,” “Running on Empty,” “Find Me Guilty” and “Network,” which is largely considered to be the most influential film of the 1970s.

Then, there’s my personal favorite, “Dog Day Afternoon,” which is one of the most rousing and unsentimental heist movies ever made. Certain scenes, such as the cheering of “ATTICA!” or Al Pacino on the phone with Chris Sarandon, live, in my mind, as absolutely classic. The film also features a performance by Pacino which I believe to be the greatest acting work of anyone on screen. Ever.

Lumet’s final film, “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead,” was released fifty years since his opening salvo, and overall, it was a fantastic film to close out with. It’s a wholly original script, fresh and wholly captivating at points. The movie also contains my favorite performance of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s career, which says quite a bit.

Lumet was my third favorite living director behind Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. He is also easily ranked as one of the top ten greatest directors of all time, living or dead. However, words cannot fully describe this man’s greatness. Therefore, I’ll be putting together a collection of clips that help best exhibit his raw talents.

Thank you, Sidney, for being one of the greatest contributors to the world of cinema.

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The DGA and the SAG: Now It’s Time to Vent…

February 1, 2011 1 comment

Well folks, Tom Hooper has just won the DGA and the cast he directed took home Best Ensemble at the SAG. Coupled with the PGA win last week, “The King’s Speech” has now emerged as not only the frontrunner, but pretty much the inevitable winner of the Best Picture award at the Oscars. As this film has picked up speed in the last few weeks, I’ve tried to keep an open mind. I’ve tried to tell myself that this kind of healthy competition will make for a better Oscars and would make “The Social Network”‘s eventual victory all the more sweet. However, now that the race has shifted from a neck and neck dogfight to a potential sweep for “The King’s Speech,” it has become impossible to suppress my rage.

This situation is, more or less, a travesty for American cinema. For the last half of the previous decade, the AMPAS showed that they had the potential to change with the times. By awarding films like “The Departed,” “No Country for Old Men,” and “The Hurt Locker,” the Academy has proven that they have the ability to not only award phenomenal films, but ones that represent a shift in the balance of power. These are films that show a new Hollywood, emerging from the ashes, making art for a new generation and ultimately changing movies for the better. With “The Social Network,” the AMPAS were given an opportunity to crystalize this new reputation by awarding not only the best movie of the year, but one that is an absolute game-changer in the world of filmmaking. Instead, they are willing to flush it all down the drain.

“The King’s Speech” is not a bad film. It is simply a good film. It has good acting, good writing, good direction, good production quality and good music. In case you haven’t noticed, “good” is the key word, here. I don’t think there is a single aspect of this film that achieves a level of “greatness.” It is an iconic example of middle-of-the-road filmmaking, directed straight at a block of people yearning for that warm and fuzzy feeling in their stomachs. It’s “triumph of the human spirit” pornography. More than anything else, however, it is straight-up Oscar fodder, and they are eating it up, hook, line and sinker. They’re all too willing to vote their souls away for a chance to award this heart-warming work of mediocrity.

“The Social Network” is the best film of the year. Even if people’s opinions cannot agree with or grasp this concept, the title still pretty much remains the same. Never in history has a film garnered so much recognition and awards. Never has the population of this nation’s film critics solidified so strong and unanimous an opinion about a single film. However, it’s more than just a critical tally or mantlepiece full of statues. This is a film that resonates so strongly with this societal climate, much in the same way did “Network” in 1976, “Bonnie and Clyde” in 1967, and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” in 1939. When looking down the road, it is a film that will be remembered, not only for it’s cultural impact, but for the flawless nature of its filmmaking prowess. And since I am one such person who can actually make this statement from a position of age and experience (I started college only a year after “The Facebook” was created, back when it was just a college thing), this is, in fact, the movie that defines my generation.

The Academy Award is called that for one reason: it is awarded upon the voted decision of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It’s their award and they can technically do whatever they want with it. However, I really have to ask just what the hell is wrong with these people? Are they really that much an organization of pure saps? Are they really that cynical that they would deliberately snub the frontrunner for an inferior underdog just because their sick of the unanimous praise? Have they really not gotten tired of having Harvey Weinstein’s lips wrapped around their you-know-whats?Can they really not look beyond four weeks from now and consider what history will judge as the more educated and lasting decision? Most importantly, has the Academy really gone back to its old ways? God, let us hope not.

So is the race over? The answer is no. Even when things get to their bleakest point of flat-out certainty, the race is never over until the last envelope is opened. However, it’s really not looking good for David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin’s masterpiece. With the combined weight of the SAG, PGA, and DGA, anyone who has spent any time in the industry of awards prognostication would be a fool to not call it for “The King’s Speech.” After all, the actors and producers, put together, make up nearly half of the Academy’s voting block. Hope is not lost, completely, but I would now peg “The Social Network”‘s chances at around twenty to twenty-five percent.

At points like these, one can only find comfort by constantly reminding themselves of the most important lesson the awards season has ever taught us: as many fantastic films have won the Oscar for Best Picture, there are exponentially more amazing films that have lost it. “The Social Network” may soon join the ranks of films like “Fargo” and “Saving Private Ryan,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull” and “Apocalypse Now,” “Taxi Driver” and “All the President’s Men,” “Chinatown,” and “Jaws,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” and “The Graduate,” “Vertigo” and “Rear Window,” “Double Indemnity,” and, yes, “Citizen Kane.” Coupled with the movies I mentioned previously in this article, this is not exactly bad company to be kept with. However, if you listen very closely, you can clearly hear Orson Welles rolling over in his grave, that after seventy years of history, lessons have yet to be learned.