Tag Archives: Sidney Lumet

The Set of 400: #20 – My Favorite George Washington Bridge Joke

Today! Because the dollar buys a nickel’s worth, banks are going bust –

Network (1976)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (x4)

Starring William Holden (x2), Faye Dunaway, Peter Finch, Robert Duvall (x4), Ned Beatty (x5), Beatrice Straight (x2), Darryl Hickman, Wesley Addy, Arthur Burghardt, Marlene Warfield, Jordan Charney (x2), Conchata Ferrell, Ken Kercheval, William Prince

The most prescient movie of all time, Network manages to reflect modern television far better than the handful of channels existing in its day. Sure, the writing may have been on the wall that news could someday be weaponized and rolled into general entertainment, but the likes of CNN and FOX News was still years away when Paddy Chayefsky penned his masterpiece and Lumet so brilliantly brought it to life. You may come into Network for the acting – because those are some powerful, towering performances – but it stays with you for the depiction of the rabbit hole nightmare decades before its full impact was evident.

Now, despite winning three of the four acting Oscars in ’76 (the second and most recent movie to accomplish this feat, after A Streetcar Named Desire), this is not a group of particularly well-rounded characters. They more represent ideals than actual human beings, and so no one is very relatable, and the script goes bonkers with the monologuing. Beatrice Straight won Best Supporting Actress for basically one long scene where she yells at her philandering husband. Ned Beatty was similarly nominated for his apocalyptic speech breaking down corporate America in near biblical terms. The most famous sequence of the movie is an almost uninterrupted missive to the viewing audience as Finch’s cracked newsman Howard Beale gets mad as hell. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #85 – My Favorite Knife Surprise

Today! Because ever since you walked into this room, you’ve been acting like a self-appointed public avenger –

12 Angry Men (1957)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (x3)

Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb (x2), Martin Balsam (x4), Jack Klugman, E.G. Marshall (x4), Jack Warden (x3), Ed Begley, John Fiedler, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec, Robert Webber

And we’re back to play-based movies barely doing anything to update the setting! But really, what all could they’ve done? You can’t very well stick the jury on a train and have them debate the merits of the case over a hot dog at Coney Island, can you? (Or, could you? Maybe as some sort of commentary on the judicial system, its role as some manner of funhouse stacked against the little guy? It being a rollercoaster to no where except back where you started, under the boss’s heal, busting your hump for King Business? Jesus, who’s ready to produce my crazy new plan for 12 Angry Men: Keep Your Hands and Feet Inside the Jury??)

No, Lumet’s 12 Angry Men is locked-in, and that’s the way it works best. The jury nearly eats itself alive in their discussion of the case, revealing all their hidden prejudices, grappling with the facts of the case and each other’s motives for wrapping this deliberation up. Things are shouted and twists uncoiled and minds won over – or at least persuaded for the time being – until they finally arrive at a decision. It’s a marvelously acted tour-de-force by everyone involved, especially the leads, with Fonda’s curious, questioning Juror #8 and Cobb’s volcanic, passionate #3 locked in epic cross-table battle.

100% on Rotten Tomatoes

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #160 – My Favorite Wyoming as a Country

Today! Because I’m a fuck-up and I’m an outcast. If you get near me you’re gonna get it –

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Directed by Sidney Lumet (x2)

Starring Al Pacino (x2), John Cazale, Charles Durning (x2), Chris Sarandon (x3), James Broderick, Lance Henriksen (x2), Penelope Allen, Carol Kane (x4), Sully Boyar, Susan Peretz, Marcia Jean Kurtz, John Marriott, Dominic Chianese, Judith Malina

The bank robbery movie against which all others are forever judged, Dog Day Afternoon very basically serves as a template for how to sustain tension in a locked-in heist film where everything immediately goes wrong and negotiations drag on for hours. However, what Dog Day does different from nearly all similar films before or following is that it manages to continue throwing twists and bizarre surprises into the plot straight through to its sudden, stunning finish. Most bank hold-up films go for explosions and constant action to keep the audience engaged – here, it’s the wonderfully nuanced performances of Pacino, Cazale, Sarandon, and Durning, all masterfully guided by Lumet at his best.

It’s also a wonderfully sweaty, sloppily dressed film

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #374 – My Favorite Snowbound Train

Today! Because a repulsive murderer has himself been repulsively, and, perhaps deservedly, murdered –

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Ingrid Bergman, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave (x2), Martin Balsam, John Gielgud, Michael York, Wendy Hiller, Richard Widmark, Jacqueline Bisset, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Rachel Roberts, Colin Blakely, George Coulouris

Sidney Lumet’s all-star take on the Agatha Christie classic is still the definitive big screen take on her work. Most Christie novels are a little too uncinematic to make for really great movies, and thus there have been far more and better TV versions of her stories than films (the Branagh Orient Express from 2017 is also pretty good, so hopes are high for Death on the Nile). But this one has everything – all the stars as in the heavens turned out for this film, a terrific locked-in train set that heightens the tension and suspense one scene after the other, a script where basically every line is vital to fully telling the tale, and Finney’s masterful work as Poirot tying the whole thing together. Widmark allegedly signed on in the relatively brief role as the doomed villain Ratchett (The book’s been out for 80 years! No complaining!) just so he could meet the other stars of the picture. Ingrid Bergman won her third Oscar for essentially one scene of significant dialogue! Sean Connery’s epic mustache nearly trumps Poirot’s! Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Movies