Monday, April 11, 2011

Sidney Lumet

This piece is written by our friend & writer Jonathan Tsuneishi who has been so kind to allow us to share it. It's a short and sweet ode to the great Sidney Lumet. His talent will surely be missed! - TKS

For my money, he was one of the great American Directors. Sidney Lumet was that, not because he directed with the visual vibrato of John Ford or Howard Hawks, but because he recognized the human spirit and could break your heart with a scene.

He directed fourteen films, receiving an Oscar nom as a director for “12 Angry Men”, “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Network”, and one of my favorites, “The Verdict”, which incidentally was a film by Twentieth Century Fox.

He gave being liberal a good name, not by standing on a soap box, but by directing scenes and getting performances out of actors they sometimes didn’t know they had in them. It’s been many years, but before “The Verdict”, Paul Newman was considered a matinee idol, a good looking hunk. “The Verdict” shows he could act. A drunk, washed up attorney who takes on the catholic church represented by powerful and supremely smart Boston attorney, James Mason, over a medical malpractice case. But instead of accepting a settlement, Newman does the right thing and fights to expose the church’s greed for the dignity and life of a young woman.

It is surprising Lumet never won a Best Director Oscar though he was nominated four times. Unlike recent years, where one had to question the eventual winner of films considered but left behind, the films that did win in the years Lumet was nominated were David Leans’ "Bridge on the River Kwai", Milos Forman’s "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", John Avildsen’s"Rocky", and Richard Attenborough for "Gandhi."

You could argue that “Rocky” doesn’t belong, but the point I’m making is compare that group of films by Lumet and those Oscar winners to what we’ve had the last few years and you come away believing that in Hollywood’s obsession for box office share and weekend grosses, they have forgotten how to make a movie that matters.

Sidney Lumet passed away Saturday, April 9th.

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