Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Sidney Lumet (1924-2011)

American director Sidney Lumet passed away on Saturday, April 9, at the age of 86 leaving behind a significant body of work including some of the best films ever made. Roger Ebert's piece covers Lumet's talents better than I can describe them, but what's remarkable is that he made great films over the span of several decades. He worked in the vein of gritty dramas, and seemed to pull out incredible performances from his actors. His directorial style usually emphasized characters over action and that's what makes his films so resonant even today. He let's the actors do what they do best. In his honor, Turner Classic Movies is planning a marathon of Lumet's films on April 21st. Get your DVRs ready. My personal favorite films directed by Lumet:

12 Angry Men (1957)
Quintessential courtroom drama focusing on the jury deliberation. Intense, influential and the best of it's kind. Featuring Henry Fonda's brilliant work.

The Pawnbroker (1964)
Rod Steiger gives a great performance as a Holocaust survivor living in New York dealing with his past traumas.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Iconic heist film never lets up from the get-go. Al Pacino and Jim Cazale give career performances here.

Network (1976)
Media exploitation at it's most fervent, this film is highlighted by an outstanding cast, including Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall, and Ned Beatty. Ahead of it's time in many ways.

Running on Empty (1988)
Highly underrated in my opinion, this tale of a family on the lam for terrorism during Vietnam era protests, contains arguably River Phoenix's best performance.

Lumet leaves behind this exemplary collection of films and is definitely worthy of being called one of the greatest of all American directors.


Brian Vs. Movies said...

I completely agree on 12 Angry Men --- the only film (within the genre) that approaches it is Anatomy of a Murder, in my humble opinion.

I've been meaning to give Dog Day and Network another go, now that I'm older (I went through an Important Movies phase in my early teens). And how about Cazale? What a career!

Jon said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for commenting. Yes 12 Angry Men is quite amazing! Dog Day Afternoon and Network are also absolute classics. I hope you'll give them another try. I agree Cazale was quite the actor.