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Lincoln Center Celebrates Sidney Lumet

By | Monday June 27, 2011 @ 5:19pm PDT
Mike Fleming

Pete Hammond Remembers Sidney Lumet
Having covered Hollywood from a New York base for over 20 years, I watched Gotham hold its own because of filmmakers that included Jonathan Demme, Alan Pakula, Woody Allen, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. So let’s see where that leaves us. Demme doesn’t work often enough. Pakula, whose resume includes one of the greatest American movies ever in All the President’s Men, died in a freak accident on the Long Island Expressway. Allen has been on an extended tour of Europe that I admit has completely reinvigorated him as a filmmaker but hasn’t helped the production scene in Manhattan. Scorsese shoots all over the place, and Lee has had trouble getting his films funded even though he’s a voice well worth hearing. Finally, Lumet, the guy who made seminal movies like Network, 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, and continued directing films at such a fast pace that co-workers swore he shot while double-parked, passed away. Now, Lincoln Center has announced a summer series of films made by the great Lumet. It is worth checking out some of his great films. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for that electrifying new New York filmmaker who’ll have the clout to force productions to be shot in his backyard despite the high union costs, and who makes Gotham relevant again on the feature scene. Here’s the info on the Lumet retrospective:

New York, NY, June 27, 2011- Following a heartfelt and entertaining memorial for Sidney Lumet at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall with speakers and performers including Lauren Bacall, Walter Bernstein, Bobby Cannavale, Glenn Close, Jonathan Demme, James Gandolfini, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jenny Lumet, David Mamet, Phylilis Newman and Christopher Walken among others, the Film Society of Lincoln Center has announced the details today for a retrospective of the admired and beloved director’s work, Prince of the City: Remembering Sidney Lumet which will screen at the Walter Reade Theater July 19 – 25.

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Pete Hammond Remembers Sidney Lumet

By | Saturday April 9, 2011 @ 6:25pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Sidney Lumet wrote the book on making movies. Literally. His fascinating and wise 1995 career memoir/handbook Making Movies is unlike any other film book I know. He meticulously takes you through the process in a way even the greatest pros can learn from. It’s a must reference to have, but even greater is the remarkably fine filmography he has left behind.

Although his movie career actually stretched back to 1939, Hollywood’s greatest year, when as a teen actor he made his film debut in  …One Third of a Nation…, throughout the 1950s he was a leading director during TV’s Golden Age — and most significantly in 1957 with his feature directorial debut, 12 Angry Men. This ultimate courtroom drama knocked it out of the park. It “explodes like 12 sticks of dynamite,” as the ads said. And it established Lumet’s gritty New York-based style while winning Oscar nominations for Screenplay Adaptation, Best Picture and Best Director. David Lean and The Bridge On The River Kwai won, instead.

But it represented the first of only four nominations in that category for Lumet. That’s an underwhelming number when you consider the rich variety of movies he made that weren’t recognized by Oscar: The Fugitive Kind (1960), Long Day’s Journey Into Night (1962 – DGA nom), A View From The Bridge (1962), The Pawnbroker (1965 – DGA nom), Fail Safe (1964), The Hill (1965), Serpico (1973 – DGA nom), Murder On The Orient Express (1974 – DGA nom), Equus (1977), Prince of the City (1981 – although he did deservedly get a writing nom for it),  Daniel (1983 – one of his personal favorites), The Morning After (1986), Running On Empty (1988), Q&A (1990), Night Falls On Manhattan (1996), and his final grossly overlooked gem, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007), released when he was 83.

In addition to his film debut, the three other directing Oscar nominations he received came in his own golden period between 1975 and 1982, and they were masterpieces all: Dog Day Afternoon (1975), Network (1976) and The Verdict (1982).

For me the one unforgivable loss was Network, a movie as relevant, important and prescient today as it was when it was made 35 years ago. It earned 10 Oscar nominations, the largest single total for any Lumet film, and won four including for Paddy Chayefsky’s brilliant original screenplay predicting a new media age run amok, and lead acting awards for Peter Finch and Faye Dunaway, and supporting actress Beatrice Straight. It was wickedly funny and knowing, a perfectly written, acted, and directed film. But it ran smack into the Rocky juggernaut that year and probably also divided votes with extremely strong competition from the other Best Picture nominees, All The President’s Men, Bound for Glory and Taxi Driver. That’s a tough year in which to make a masterpiece. Read More »

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R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

By | Saturday April 9, 2011 @ 9:36am PDT

Quintessential New York director Sidney Lumet, helmer of such classics as Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Network, died Saturday morning of lymphoma at his home. He was 86. Born in Philadelphia, Lumet grew up in New York and filmed most of his movies in his beloved city. He started off in TV, making his feature debut with the 1957 courtroom drama 12 Angry Men starring Henry Fonda, which earned him the first of five Oscar nominations. Lumet’s last film was 2007′s Before the Devil Know You’re Dead. In 2005, he was awarded an honorary Oscar. Deadline’s Pete Hammond is preparing a retrospective of Lumet’s work for posting later today. Watch for it.

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