Tag Archives: Paul Newman

R.I.P. Sidney Lumet

Lost a giant this weekend; Sidney Lumet passed away at 86.

One of my favorite directors ever. Lumet’s films were almost always as much about morality and social conscience as they were good storytelling. No wonder that some of the finest actors of all time – Henry Fonda, Al Pacino, Paul Newman among them – gave perhaps their finest performance under his leadership. You always got the sense that everyone involved in the production shared his passion for authenticity and depth.

Lumet worked heavily in theatre and in television, directing over two hundred productions for Playhouse 90, Studio One and Kraft Television Theatre before moving on to film. His first movie, 12 Angry Men, remains an all time classic over fifty years later. His last, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, proved he hadn’t lost a step. Hopefully his overlooked series 100 Centre Street will be released on DVD someday soon.

Amazingly, despite such a stellar career, he never won an Oscar for directing, although he was presented with the Academy Honorary Award in 2005 for his career achievements. He was nominated four times, for 12 Angry Men, The Verdict, Dog Day Afternoon and Network.

He did, however, directed seventeen different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Katharine Hepburn, Rod Steiger, Al Pacino, Ingrid Bergman, Albert Finney, Chris Sarandon, Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Beatrice Straight, William Holden, Ned Beatty, Peter Firth, Richard Burton, Paul Newman, James Mason, Jane Fonda and River Phoenix.

When someone from the arts passes, I like to celebrate their life through that art by listening to some of their music, or watching one of their films. With Lumet, there is a wealth to choose from but I will probably pull this one off the shelf.

Roger Ebert wrote a nice remembrance.

A very informative New York Times obituary.

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…and now, The Oscars

Finally, the big daddy of the back-patting events is upon us.

Tonight’s Oscar hosts are James Franco and Anne Hathaway, as the industry makes an obvious ploy to skew younger. That sentiment probably won’t carry over into the actual voting, where veteran actors who might have been bypassed earlier in their careers get rewarded at the expense of a newcomer who has his whole career ahead of him. Really…Al Pacino won for Scent Of A Woman? Paul Newman won for The Color Of Money?

And sometimes this screws over a more deserving veteran actor. Yes, I’m talking to you, Henry Fonda! No way Burt Lancaster shouldn’t have won in 1981 for his amazing performance in Atlantic City!)

But I digress. The Oscar host thing has always been a conundrum. Bob Hope owned the role for years, as did Johnny CarsonBilly Crystal did it well and got to keep the job for a while, seemingly alternating every couple of years with Steve Martin and Whoopi Goldberg. But lately it’s been as volatile and unpredictable as a Charlie Sheen alibi; the only repeat host in the last ten years was Jon Stewart in 2006 and 2008 (Steve Martin hosted in 2003 but co-hosted in 2010). Stewart was excellent, but has the grind of his Daily Show schedule. But Wolverine Hugh Jackman was incredibly game and entertaining and got raves for his stint, yet wasn’t asked to repeat?

Perhaps tonight will be fine; Franco is a likeable guy, and Hathaway proved she is as fearless as she is talented when she joined Jackman onstage a few years ago. But for the self-proclaimed “Hollywood’s Biggest Night“, one would expect a real game-changer at the helm. And as afraid of him as they obviously are, I think any awards show not hiring Ricky Gervais is settling.

Here is the list of nominees.

I’m pretty much sticking with the picks I made right after the nominations came out, although The King’s Speech has picked up incredible momentum since then, along with Geoffrey Rush. But I have a feeling that the Darren Aronofsky magic touch will again become the Darren Aronofsky curse; Mickey Rourke lost to more established Hollywood veteran Sean Penn, and Annette Bening has never won for Best Actress despite four nominations. (No truth to the rumor that Natalie Portman got pregnant to sway the sympathy vote.) I also wouldn’t bet my life on Supporting Actress, as this is a category where teenagers can and do win, especially when they are playing more of a lead role.

My predictions for tonight’s winners:

Best Picture: The Social Network
Best Director: David Fincher, The Social Network
Best Actor: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Best Actress: Annette Bening, The Kids Are Alright
Best Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, The Fighter
Best Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Best Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
Best Original Screenplay: Christopher Nolan, Inception
Best Cinematography: Wally Pfister, Inception
Best Score: Trent Reznor, The Social Network

While you await tonight’s ceremony here are some treats to pass the time:

Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter act out the Best Picture nominees

Ricky Gervais wrote an opening script for Franco and Hathaway

You can bet on anything – even the In Memorium montage.

Racetrack odds on tonight’s favorites to Win…Place and Show mean nothing!

***

Tomorrow: The winners, the losers, the analysis.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten From Arthur Penn

Arthur Penn died earlier this week. Although he wasn’t a prolific film director, his batting average was incredible, and his films were an accurate reflection of the mores and zeitgeist of their times. His most famous epic, Bonnie and Clyde, was not only a cultural phenomenon in the 70s, but the critical and popular success of its tone and style opened the doors for other landmark films that would revolutionize the film industry.

Penn got his start in television, directing live dramas for shows like Playhouse 90, and was also a very successful Broadway director, winning Tony Awards three times in a four-year span. His work included dynamic shows like Clifford Odetts’ Golden Boy and the original productions of Wait Until Dark and The Miracle Worker.

But although he received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, he never took home the statuette for his film work. No matter – his impact was huge. Despite a short filmography, he worked with all of the greatest actors of his time – Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Warren Beatty – and was adept at extracting eclectic performances from them. Ironically, he hated method acting, although he worked often with some of its biggest practicioners.

Arthur was often mistakenly identified as the father of the successful Penn brothers – actors Sean and Christopher and musician Michael; their father Leo was also in the industry but no relation.

So in tribute to Arthur , I give you Ten From Arthur Penn. These are his ten best films – also his first ten films – and I suggest those you haven’t seen go on your “must see” list. And if the independent film era of the 60s and 70s  interests you, I highly suggest you grab a copy of the fascinating documentary Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.

01. The Left Handed Gun (1958) – Newman as Billy The Kid, an underrated Western with some great performances.

02. The Miracle Worker (1962) – Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in the award-winning smash

03. Mickey One (1965) – An underknown classic with Beatty as a nightclub comic fleeing the mob. Sadly not on DVD yet.

04. The Chase (1966) – An amazing cast in an oddball combination of a Southern melodrama and an action film, scripted by Horton Foote and Lillian Hellman.Trainwreck great.

05. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – One of the best films ever made, period.

06. Alice’s Restaurant (1969) – Arlo Guthrie’s song took up an album side and Penn made it into a counterculture classic.

07. Little Big Man (1970) – The oddest history lesson ever and a great anti-Western; Forrest Gump stole the concept.

08. Night Moves (1975) – One of the dozens of reasons that Gene Hackman might just be the best of his generation.

09. The Missouri Breaks (1976) – At this point directors let Brando do what he wanted just to get him in the film; he was rarely odder than this one.

10. Four Friends (1981) – Craig Wasson leads a lesser known cast in one of the better films made about growing up in the turbulent 60s. Written by Steve Tesich, who gave us another coming-of-age classic in Breaking Away.

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Re-Opening Channel D

The Last of the Magnificent Seven

The Last of the Magnificent Seven

When I was young, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was a smash hit. Boys wanted to be like Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin; suave and cool secret agents who could dazzle the ladies and get the best of the bad guys (or was that the  other way around?) Girls just wanted Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, the handsome actors who portrayed those gadget-touting hipsters. It was one of many important lessons I’d learn over the years about women and how they think. But it was also an opportunity to discover Robert Vaughn, who has led a fascinating life far beyond his accomplishments as a television and film star.

Vaughn’s book A Fortunate Life is more of a memoir than an autobiography; he does not dwell on his childhood and adolescence for chapters on end nor does he make his hit television show the focus of his book. In fact, Vaughn takes us through a series of events and relationships as a confidante where the focus is seeing through his eyes rather than looking at him. It’s a subtle but clever move that makes for a vastly entertaining read (I devoured it in one sitting) aided by the fact that Vaughn is one of the most intelligent and erudite actors on the planet. Being witty as hell doesn’t hurt, either.

The book came out late last year and I finally made time to get a copy this weekend; for some reason I felt compelled to do so immediately. As a child of the times, I admit I enjoyed reading anecdotes about his contemporaries like James Coburn and Steve McQueen, but I was spellbound by his recollections of the political climate. Vaughn was the first actor to speak out publicly against the Vietnam War, and was an activist who ran the gamut from stumping for candidates to debating William F Buckley on hostile ground (no small feat, Buckley regularly ate opponents for breakfast). 

His close relationship with Robert F. Kennedy and the subsequent tragedy brought back vivid memories for me, having lived through the times.  After JFK and Martin Luther King were felled by assassins, many felt RFK was the last hope for America, and his Presidential campaign radiated even more fervor, optimism and hope that Obama brought to the 2008 election. When he was gunned down after the California primary, the youth of America was numb. Vaughn has very strong opinions about what really happened that night.

I mentioned that Vaughn is whip-smart. Few know that his Doctoral thesis was written about Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare era in Hollywood, and later published under the title Only Victims. I read the book last year while reseaching the Hollywood Blacklist, as it’s considered one of the definitive works on the subject and is a staple at many law schools. Vaughn is thorough but never condescending, a trait echoed in his new book as well.

Vaughn has always been a “working actor”, which loosely translated means he’s got a few stinkers on his resume over the years. Television was exploding when he was breaking into the business, and like many actors of his generation he cut his teeth playing guest roles on dozens of shows. He has a short-lived series prior to UNCLE called The Lieutenant and most recently has come full circle playing a con artist in the British series Hustle. But he’s also etched several landmark film performances into history, from The Magnificent Seven to Bullitt to The Bridge at Remagen. I just grabbed the DVD of The Young Philadelphians so I can watch it tonight; a young Vaughn was nominated for Best Supporting Actor (he lost to Hugh Griffith from Ben Hur) playing opposite Paul Newman.

I’ve read a few interviews with Robert Vaughn over the years and he seems like a charming, witty and intelligent man. That’s what you’ll think, too, when you read this book. Enjoy!

Still the coolest dude in the room at 76 years young

Still the coolest dude in the room at 76 years young

A recent BBC interview to promote the book.

Robert Vaughn’s filmography at IMDB.com

Get your Man From U.N.C.L.E. fix with the complete DVD set and a book about the series.

Also check out Hustle The Avengers meets Oceans 11

man from uncle

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Up The Academy

Okay, I admit it – I’m an Oscar geek.

I have long given up on the Grammys, where the same music can be nominated as “Song of the Year” one year and “Record of the Year” the next. Hello, people…calendar?

And the Golden Globes are basically a hundred or so fawning writers eager to schmooze with celebrities, 98% of which will never set foot in their respective countries. Don’t blame them for taking advantage of their opportunistic position, but really…does that opinion extrapolate?

And the city critic groups – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and a handful of others vying for supremacy – well, that’s just a local segment of the National Critics…right?

Boy Oscar, my Oscar…right or wrong you are the pinnacle of self-congratulation, the don’t-we-love-each-other hugfest that separates the elite from the great unwashed. It’s where speeches launch (or save) careers, where catch-phrases tag an actor forever (“you like me…you really like me!”), and where for some reason who you wear is important.

But seriously, it’s where movie legacies are finalized. And frankly, where Las Vegas really ramps up the odds. So here are my “should win” and “will win” for some of the major categories, and if you followed my Golden Globes predictions, you’ll keep your wallet in your pants.

No Joke

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. We are tonight's entertainment!

 

Best Film: What, no Dark Knight? Fanboys, rage…rage against the light!

Should Win:  Milk, which blended flashbacks, voice overs, stock footage into the film seasmlessly.

Will Win:  Slumdog Millionaire, whose train is running too fast to stop.

click here to continue reading the full article…

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