The Legacy of Lumet

The Legacy of Lumet

Apr 11, 2011
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Master of the silver screen!

Over the weekend, about it one of this generation’s great filmmakers passed away. Sidney Lumet had an illustrious career directing some of Hollywood’s most celebrated films. In fact, his first film, “12 Angry Men” is regarded as one of the great classics of all time (with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). Other exceptional films are “Dog Day Afternoon”, “Serpico”, “The Verdict” and my personal favourite, “Network”. In 2005 he was awarded the Academy’s “Lifetime Achievement” award because of his prolific contribution to the art of film. In his 50 yearlong directing career he made an average of one film per year. In case that doesn’t strike you as impressive, allow me to say, “it is”.

What made Lumet such an important director? Well, for starters, he focused completely on the story and the characters. This made for amazingly realistic and honest films. He was one of the first directors to be recognized as making movies that were socially realistic. He would often shoot on location, do only one or two takes for each shot and encouraged his actors to improvise. But the main reason he was able to make real and honest films was because he was so good with the actors. Sidney Lumet’s name is synonymous with “the actor’s director”. He would give incredible attention and respect to his cast and they delivered incredible performances because of it. Collectively, his films garnered 46 Oscar nods including 18 for the actor’s performances.

His stories typically centered around major moral/ethical problems (“12 Angry Men”, “The Hill”, “The Verdict”, “Daniel”). His hero was always the underdog with amazing courage to stand up against the system. Lumet was also fascinated by the human price paid for this courage and conviction, both for the hero and those around him/her. All his movies went beyond the basic quandary of philosophical problems and delved deep into the human spirit and the complexities of how people respond to injustice and corruption.

In light of Sidney Lumet’s passing, I thought it would be right to celebrate this man. So, I’ve decided to pick 5 of his films spanning his long career and review them in this blog over the next month. I’m going to start this week with 1976’s “Network”. This film garnered 10 Oscar nominations and won 4 statuettes. In fact, it is tied for most “performance” Oscars won by one movie (3; tied with “A Streetcar Named Desire”) and received 5 acting nominations in total–a rare accomplishment, indeed.

Mr. Lumet, thank you for your tireless passion and commitment to creating honest, thought-provoking films. You will be missed.

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Craig the Critic

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