See Kenny, Zoller Seitz, Edroso, and this oldie-but-goodie from Dargis. Roy’s post, with its account of Lumet’s setting of Newman’s summation in The Verdict, has many insights but I especially like this one:
His work was uneven, but I don’t know that we’d have the good films he gave us if he husbanded his energies like Kubrick, and made movies less often. His was not a ruminative talent. He got the idea, made the picture, and moved on. This resembles the method of the hack, but Lumet was clearly not only talented, but artistically ambitious — he actually got an NYPD trilogy (Serpico, Prince of the City, Q&A) made in Hollywood; who among our auteurs could do likewise? They could sell a superhero property, of course, but a three-film examination of big-city police and political corruption? It wouldn’t even occur to them. Which is just another reason to mourn Lumet’s passing.
Pauline Kael vividly, if too uncharitably. described the approach in her essay about the making of The Group. The two salient features of Lumet’s body of work are the peaks and the fallow periods. But it was a very different trajectory than the burn-bright-and-slowly-fade-away pattern perhaps less prominent in film than in music or poetry but still pretty common. One the one hand, he was always very uneven, following up Serpico with Loving Molly and the Network with an unsuccessful adaption of Equus. On the other hand, what stands to me as his greatest film came out 25 years after Twelve Angry Men, and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead ranks near the top of his canon. I’d like to think that the latter was his last film because he knew he had really nailed one after a lot of partial and full misfires, but Glenn confirms that he never would have thought that way, and the restless energy of his 70s peaks never could have happened any other way.
Since it’s nearly obligatory to note an idiosyncratic favorite, I’ll note that with the exception of James Foley’s Glengarry Glen Ross Lumet’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night might be my favorite filmed theater.
Obit here in the NYT. Not much to add to this. I was too young to vote in that disaster (my first was the 1986 mid-terms), but I still remember it reasonably well. With the advantage of time, she was probably under-qualified for the VP nomination, but in 1984 tacit qualifications for the post weren’t as defined as they are today (e.g. it’s difficult to imagine George H.W. Bush being nominated for VP today, let alone Sargent Shriver). Her career would have benefited from remaining in the House, where she was something of a rising star.
And the Democrats learned a valuable lesson on vetting candidates for the VP nomination. While Mondale is almost certainly wrong in his suggestion that the financial disclosure of both Ferraro and her husband, John Zaccaro, cost the campaign 15 points in the polls, it certainly didn’t help the cause.
Affection for Taylor is a generational thing; by the time I started watching films with any seriousness, she had become less artist than icon. For my parents and especially my grandparents, though, Liz Taylor was a major cultural figure. I wouldn’t say that her work has aged particularly well, although I like Giant as much as the next guy. I find it just a bit remarkable that she was only 79 when she passed; compare the arc of her career to Clint Eastwood or William Shatner (both about a year older), and remember that at the intensity of her stardom considerably outshone either.
R.I.P. Snider is actually a significant part of my childhood, not of course because of his starring role on the Only Team That Ever Mattered (and we shouldn’t forget the 140+ OPS he put up for the surprise World Champion Dodgers either) but because he was the analyst on the Expos broadcasts I cut my baseball teeth on (along with recent HOF inductee Dave Van Horne.) His memorably expressed point that the early-80s Expos lacked a left-handed hitter with “hair on his butt” still holds up!
Speaking of which, let’s give it up for Mr. Woodie Fryman. I have earlier sports memories, but the check-swing bloop single Bob Boone hit off Woodie in the top of the 9th in the penultimate game of the 1980 season was my real introduction to sports, i.e. searing pain. Somehow that was worse than the Schmidt homer it set up (just as Posada’s bullshit bloop double off Pedro in the 2003 ALCS is much worse for me than the Boone homer.) He came to Montreal when he was 38, and after getting his feet wet was a hell of a reliever for three years. R.I.P.
Don Kirshner, the man responsible for the music behind the Monkees, has died. The Monkees represented everything that was most crass and reprehensible about the pop music scene of the time, and Kirshner, the impresario behind the Brill Building music machine, was the perfect man to exploit all that crassness and reprehensibility for maximum profit. But just as the Hollywood studio system couldn’t avoid creating some great movies, Don Kirshner couldn’t avoid helping create some great pop music.
(After the Monkees rebelled against Kirschner’s dictatorial ways, he went on to create the Archies, who, being cartoon characters,were more willing to indulge his artistic whims).
Those of us of a certain age remember Kirshner best for the Midnight Special, his eponymous Rock Concert, which would, in those pre-American Idol days, occasionally expose a bemused network TV audience to something like a seven-minute four-song full frontal assault from the Ramones:
If I had to choose my “most underrated middlebrow filmmaker,” it would definitely be Jim Sheridan, whose work I’ve admired for a long time (up to and including 2009′s fine Brothers.) One of his coups was to cast Postlethwaite in In the Name of the Father, resulting in him damn near stealing the movie from Daniel Day-Lewis. R.I.P.