Mad as Hell
April 9, 2011 9:35 AM   Subscribe

I'll never forget the day that I realized that over half of the movies I truly loved were all directed by one guy. To name just a few of his brilliant films: 12 Angry Men, Anderson Tapes, Dog Day Afternoon (NSFW), Serpico and of course, the grand-daddy of conspiracy love stories Network. Sidney Lumet. RIP (prev)
posted by victors (87 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Verdict, man.

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posted by Iridic at 9:40 AM on April 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


. indeed. I can't tell you how many people I've made watch 12 Angry Men.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 9:42 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a brilliant artist. What fantastic films.

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posted by cavalier at 9:44 AM on April 9, 2011


When I saw the news, I almost couldn't believe it. Lumet was an institution, and I hadn't heard he was ailing or anything. His incredible body of work will speak for itself.
posted by Bromius at 9:44 AM on April 9, 2011


what a fantastic wonderful legacy. thank you sidney lumet!
posted by noway at 9:45 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by HumanComplex at 9:46 AM on April 9, 2011


Miss you, Sidney. Say hello to John Frankenheimer for us...
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:49 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh no.

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Dog Day Afternoon, one of the best
posted by fire&wings at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


One of the true, great artists of our age, his passing is a milestone: between 12 Angry Men - which shows what can be accomplished with the combination of superb writing, cinematography, direction and the sheer force of 12 superb actors, to the bravery and intensity of Network, perhaps the most important political film of my lifetime, Lumet proved himself to be a Master of his craft, as well as someone who didn't look for the easy path. I bow my head to him, and will watch those two films this weekend, and think of how his work has informed and influenced my own life.


posted by dbiedny at 9:55 AM on April 9, 2011


The Verdict just showed up on Netflix Instant a week or two ago. I think I might have to give it a go.

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posted by JauntyFedora at 10:00 AM on April 9, 2011


He has a c.v. which few have ever equaled. And he was making films well into his 80s. We may not see many more like him again, ever.

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posted by hippybear at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2011


I should have also mention that in a recent "Most under appreciated films of the last 10 years" thread many folks mentioned his most recent film Before the Devil Knows You're Dead which was yet another brilliant film, showing a master at work and what we now know to be a prescient send off.
posted by victors at 10:01 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aw, dammit.

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As victors pointed out, he went out at the top of his game. And no discussion of his game is complete without mentioning Fail-Safe.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:03 AM on April 9, 2011


I wonder what it's like to watch your prophecy unfold. Network is tragically as relevant as ever. How fortunate are we that Sidney Lumet came to be and shared his delicious gray matter with us?

Thank you, Mr. Lumet, thank you.

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posted by black rainbows at 10:03 AM on April 9, 2011


>:(     >:(     >:(      >:(     >:(     >:(


>:(     >:(     >:(     >:(     >:(     >:(



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posted by tzikeh at 10:05 AM on April 9, 2011 [13 favorites]


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posted by doctor_negative at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by thinkpiece at 10:18 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by roll truck roll at 10:23 AM on April 9, 2011


Dropping in to say Prince of the City deserves to be mentioned as one of his best and one of the best films of all time. RIP
posted by pasici at 10:27 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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I'm sad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more.
posted by Elsa at 10:28 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


He directed a star strewn "Murder on the Orient Express" that I like. On the DVD extras, he come across as a pretty nice guy. Didn't seem to have to bully and torture his actors to get what he wanted. Someone said what he learned doing Orient Express enabled him to do Network.
posted by Trochanter at 10:32 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by gubo at 10:33 AM on April 9, 2011


Wow, no Oscar, that's a crime.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:36 AM on April 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


I worked as an archivist for a year for Phyllis Newman; actress, writer, widow of Adolph Green. The Greens were great friends of the Lumets and I can't tell you how many photos and stories about that wonderful man I cataloged and heard over the space of twelve months. I consider myself very lucky to have had a window into his life, and in the photos of him on vacation, or working with Phyllis, or at family events, I always felt that he looked like someone very full of life and passion.

One day, for the life of me, I couldn't identify a person in one picture so I took it to Phyllis. The name of the person was on the tip of her tongue but she just couldn't come up with it. So she said, "Hold on, I'll ring Sidney, he'd, know." He lived just downstairs. So despite my protests to not bother him, suddenly Sidney Lumet was on the line answering my stupid little archival question. He knew exactly who it was by description, too.

Phyllis is probably devastated today. In many ways, she's becoming the last of an era. I really need to send her a note. I still can't believe I got to be in a position where the one person who could answer my question happened to be Sidney Lumet, and he took the time to do so.

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posted by ilana at 10:37 AM on April 9, 2011 [19 favorites]


I second the love for Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. It's a modest but brilliantly crafted crime thriller, and a hell of a movie to end a career with. Lumet was still clearly firing on all cylinders even at the end of a very long and distinguished run.
posted by Rangeboy at 10:41 AM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


One of the best things I ever did on a whim in college was take a film class where the instructor was clearly obsessed with Lumet's work and made us watch Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and Network all right in a row.

Dude was one hell of an artist.

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posted by brennen at 10:43 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is fantastic - "It's a mom and pop operation."

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posted by porn in the woods at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by Thorzdad at 10:45 AM on April 9, 2011


Lumet also made the criminally underrated Fail-Safe. One of the greatest endings of any film.
posted by NoMich at 10:46 AM on April 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Others he directed that are great and haven't been mentioned yet:

Long Day's Journey Into Night
Fail-Safe
The Pawnbroker

and the good but not great:

Equus
Daniel
Deathtrap
posted by dobbs at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by brundlefly at 10:50 AM on April 9, 2011


JauntyFedora: "The Verdict just showed up on Netflix Instant a week or two ago."

I just checked, and it looks like there are quite a few of his films on Instant, including Dog Day Afternoon and Network.
posted by brundlefly at 10:53 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by Bushmiller at 10:56 AM on April 9, 2011


Q&A is not a great movie but it's a guilty pleasure for me (one of the worst soundtracks of all time). Nolte's performance is great.

Lumet also wrote one of the best books on filmmaking.

It should be noted that his daughter, Jenny Lumet, is a screenwriter. She wrote Rachel Getting Married a couple years ago. She talks about doing that job with Lumet as her dad on her interview with Creative Screenwriting mag (free podcast on iTunes).
posted by dobbs at 10:56 AM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Damn, I loved his films. Me and my dad were just talking the other day about how underrated he was as a director.

I still think that maybe the best film he made was The Offence, a grindingly bleak and unsettling little policier starring Sean Connery as a disturbed misogynist cop and Ian Bannen as a teeth-scrapingly creepy pederast. Both Connery and Bannen turn in career-best performances. Lumet, I think, was maybe the one director who manage to coax out fo Connery the performances he was truly able to give but so seldom bothered to (see The Hill for another example of Lumet working Connery to the bone and it really paying off).

Anyway, you can watch Network again, or Serpico, or you can thrill as you wait for the moment where Fonda stabs that flick-knife into the jury room table. But leave that for later; go buy, beg, borrow, steal, torrent, what have you, a copy of The Offence, because it captures the grim, grey-beige desolation of 1970s suburban England better than anything else, on film or on the page. It's that fucking good.
posted by Len at 11:04 AM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by minkll at 11:10 AM on April 9, 2011


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#11: I beg pardon—
#10: "I beg pardon?" What are you so polite about?
#11: For the same reason you are not: it's the way I was brought up.
posted by Fizz at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Dr-Baa at 11:49 AM on April 9, 2011


Shit.

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posted by jquinby at 11:50 AM on April 9, 2011


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posted by trip and a half at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2011


A quintessential New Yorker. As long as New York exists, he will find resonance in its expression.

He was part of the fabric of my life in so many ways. I knew a number of the people in his life, friends, a couple of his ex-wives without knowing him, except through his movies. Wow, what an amazingly rich, accomplished creative life.

The director of photography of Lumet's film, Fail -Safe, Gerald Hirschfeld, was the father of my first boyfriend and in 1966, when I was 12, I got to watch a private screening of the film in Mr. Hirschfeld's home. It was the first inkling I got in childhood how fragile the world was in face of a nuclear bomb crisis; how the president of the United States and all the other heads of government were just human beings, like any human being, not gods or perfect or invincible; how important transparent communication is, especially in any military operation; how significant trust is in everybody's life.

It was a frightening film in so many ways and life-shaping. It was one of the pivotal pieces in my knowing how important it is to be a political and social activist, how that is meaningful in whatever way a person is able to contribute.

It contributed to the international nuclear disarmament movement in constructive ways. Possibly because of that created more peace in the world. Just that alone is a tremendous achievement.

Condolences to his family and many, many friends.
posted by nickyskye at 11:58 AM on April 9, 2011 [8 favorites]


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posted by vibrotronica at 12:09 PM on April 9, 2011


I vow to watch all his films I can. I loved Network and Before the Devil knows you're dead. I just realized those are the only two I've seen. A sad day indeed.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 12:14 PM on April 9, 2011


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posted by shakespeherian at 12:17 PM on April 9, 2011


I vow to watch all his films I can. I loved Network and Before the Devil knows you're dead. I just realized those are the only two I've seen. A sad day indeed.

Or a great day, you've got some incredible films to watch in tribute.
posted by fullerine at 12:36 PM on April 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


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posted by lapolla at 12:41 PM on April 9, 2011


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posted by Wemmick at 1:00 PM on April 9, 2011


I still think that maybe the best film he made was The Offence, a grindingly bleak and unsettling little policier starring Sean Connery as a disturbed misogynist cop and Ian Bannen as a teeth-scrapingly creepy pederast. Both Connery and Bannen turn in career-best performances. Lumet, I think, was maybe the one director who manage to coax out fo Connery the performances he was truly able to give but so seldom bothered to (see The Hill for another example of Lumet working Connery to the bone and it really paying off).

Quoted for utter and absolute agreement. For me, The Offence is also a film about place, that these terrible, destroyed men are perverse ghosts of their environment. Middle Britain (in this case Slough) is portrayed brilliantly, as it actually is - an open, filthy concrete arena, assembled for the most limited and stunted of lives. By contrast, the police station is a masterpiece of production design, gleaming and unfinished, like some futuristic medieval keep towering over the barbarian horde. Gerry Fisher's photography is extraordinary, as is Birtwistle's score. It's an important film and all too ignored.

Lumet was astonishingly brave, all the way.
posted by specialbrew at 1:17 PM on April 9, 2011


I'll have to watch a few of these that have been on my "someday" list, like the two Connery films.

another example of Lumet working Connery to the bone and it really paying off

There are a number of ostensibly talented but habitually lazy actors that can be brilliant if pushed by a great director. Bruce Willis is a current-ish example (e.g. Twelve Monkeys). I love to see it done.

The Verdict is definitely worth an afternoon, especially if you can still go out into the light afterward. I can't watch its courtroom drama about the Catholic Church protecting itself against a hospital malpractice lawsuit (although weren't most of them separately incorporated or owned by orders rather than dioceses?) without thinking of an identical response by the church to the pedophilia scandals. And it has Charlotte. Rampling. in a terrific, mainstream turn, and a fine, dark Newman performance, of the sort that shows how someone as good-looking as he could just get away with things, until he couldn't anymore.
posted by dhartung at 1:29 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by scody at 1:50 PM on April 9, 2011


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I'll have more to say when I compose it.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:00 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


fucking god damnit
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posted by churl at 2:02 PM on April 9, 2011


I'll have to watch a few of these that have been on my "someday" list, like the two Connery films.

not sure what "two" you mean: there were actually four (PDF)

The Hill (1965); The Anderson Tapes (1971); The Offence (1972); Family Business (1989)
posted by victors at 2:29 PM on April 9, 2011


Five, including Murder on the Orient Express.
posted by Iridic at 2:36 PM on April 9, 2011


I don't get why people are so upset when someone who lived a very long life filled with prodigious quality output. What a great run!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:49 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:51 PM on April 9, 2011


It may not be a great movie, but damn, I love Deathtrap. Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve are both in top form and having so much fun.
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:59 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


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posted by Tacodog at 3:07 PM on April 9, 2011


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posted by fizzix at 3:14 PM on April 9, 2011


Dog Day Afternoon was probably one of the best films ever made. It was a pitch perfect and unsurpassed drama, a heroic achievement in film-making. It was unusual, absurd, funny and terrifying - all at the same time. Sidney Lumet was probably the most talented director ever at getting great performances out of actors and John Cazale, probably the best actor who ever lived. He was an actor who added a depth of humanity unlike any other.

Some directors talents seem get drowned in their mania, but Lumet was a joy. Perhaps his secret was that he loved and trusted his actors more than any other director. He wasn't afraid of telling an important truth about human beings in his stories, often a difficult thing.

Lumet never won the Oscar for best director, which to me is proof that his talent is hard to fathom at first. His films have a lasting impact that evolves over time.

You should watch this documentary (Lumet and others describing Cazale):
http://www.fandango.com/iknewitwasyou_v478315/castandcrew

I'm surprised to the extent that Lumet's passing has affected me.

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posted by thebestusernameever at 3:40 PM on April 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


The two referenced Connery films. Referenced.
posted by dhartung at 4:23 PM on April 9, 2011


Lumet was one of a handful of directors whom stars would do just about anything to work. His book, referenced up thread, was one of my early reads on film making. It taught me a great deal about watching film

He was a master craftsman. Hollywood will be a touch darker without him.

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posted by zerobyproxy at 4:44 PM on April 9, 2011


You know how sometimes you see a(n old) film and you think, How did I not KNOW about this before?? I'd put Chinatown or 2001 in that category for sure, but I'd make Network the flag-waving poster-child for that category. It was made before I was even born -- but in the GWB era it left me with my mouth hanging open, and I've watched it at least ten times in the past couple of years. It's easily one of my favorite films, anywhere, ever.

Mr. Lumet: Huge talent, huge balls, great loss...

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posted by polly_dactyl at 4:59 PM on April 9, 2011


Wow. I had never seen any of his movies until last night, when I watched Network for the first time.

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posted by netd at 5:35 PM on April 9, 2011


I had wanted to watch all of his films before he died but realized months ago that it wouldn't be possible. Too many are just not available. I got a Deadly Affair DVD in a different zone off Amazon about a year ago before giving up on the task. It's a shame. Dog Day Afternoon is probably my favorite of his.

I watched 12 Angry Men so many times that I finally realized Henry Fonda's character was an egotistical asshole playing a game with the other jurors. He didn't care about justice; he just wanted to get his way. Watch it with that in mind and it will become a totally different film.
posted by perhapses at 5:41 PM on April 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Lumet was, IMO, one of the very best directors America has ever produced. If he had made Network alone, he'd have already been an immortal. But my god, add to that Dog Day Afternoon and many of the others mentioned here, and... well, this is the passing of one of the greats.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:02 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lumet made movies for six decades.
He started in the golden age of television in 1951 and made a first feature film in 1957, which was at the tale end of old Hollywood. He made movies amid so many different eras of film it is rather remarkable.

When he made his last film in 2007 he could actually say that he had started making movies when Raoul Walsh, Rene Clair, King Vidor and Leo McCarey were still making movies. Not to mention many other greats from the 1930's and 40's.
Few filmmakers have had as long a run.

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posted by Rashomon at 6:03 PM on April 9, 2011


By the way, for those who don't already know about the Kubrick/Dr. Strangelove vs. Lumet/Fail-Safe story:

"Kubrick had the rights to Red Alert, but Lumet had the rights to Fail-Safe; both projects were in production at the same time. Kubrick was so concerned by the Lumet movie that he pressured Columbia Pictures to delay the release of their other property (Columbia owned the distribution rights to both). With the overriding legal issues of plagiarized ideas a key sticking point, Columbia agreed, delaying Fail-Safe until October 7, 1964."

IMDB page for Fail-Safe
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:16 PM on April 9, 2011


The problem with Network is that no one who sees it today can truly appreciate it. When Paddy Chayefsky wrote it, it was satire. Now, it's a freaking documentary.
posted by SPrintF at 6:36 PM on April 9, 2011 [9 favorites]


Before the devil knows you're dead is possibly the best film of 2007. Fail-safe is jaw dropping. 12 angry men is part of the canon.

But it's hard to understand how the guy who gave us these movies managed to also give us the magnum opus of double standards: strip search. I guess it's proof of how poorly art mixes with politics.
posted by falameufilho at 6:39 PM on April 9, 2011


The problem with Network is that no one who sees it today can truly appreciate it. When Paddy Chayefsky wrote it, it was satire. Now, it's a freaking documentary.

Exactly. Chayefsky could see the future. It was really pretty astonishing, when you think about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:45 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Is there any special country you wanna go to?"

"Wyoming"
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:52 PM on April 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dog Day Afternoon, a masterful film, yet one I couldn't even imagine being made today, at least not outside the indie circuit. They would have to strip out all the humanity and ratchet up the tension to find a major distributor, which would ruin it. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead is shown quite often on IFC lately, which reflects that his films are still revered but nowhere near as popular as they once were. Too bad, but his work lives and resonates.

I guess it's proof of how poorly art mixes with politics.

People who make this claim only do so if they disagree with the politics in question.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:23 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw Dog Day Afternoon when it first came out and loved it at the time, but hadn't seen it since, until I got it from the library just a few months ago. A great film. Fantastic performances. Every part played so well, even in the tiniest roles and Pacino's intensity wouldn't let you take your eyes off the screen for a second.

A MeFi post about the Life magazine article that inspired the movie.
posted by marsha56 at 7:40 PM on April 9, 2011


Wow, what a life's work. There are a few clunkers (The Wiz is terrible) in there but at least ten of his movies are essential viewing. It sort of blows one's mind that so many amazing movies could have come from one artist.
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 PM on April 9, 2011


His book Making Movies is excellent.
posted by starman at 8:15 PM on April 9, 2011


Salon has a nice tribute:
Lumet was also a political filmmaker -- a committed liberal, obsessed with social justice (and injustice) and the ways in which the powerful conspired to oppress, exploit and distract the powerless, and the tendency of institutions to flout rules and laws they were supposed to uphold. But these subjects were always embedded in the stories themselves and carried by the characters and the narrative. The movies rarely became straightforward polemics because Lumet was always positioning the morality of his characters in relation to the world and showing where they diverged, and he was more likely to observe than to judge or sneer.
posted by octothorpe at 8:24 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Wiz is terrible

I find it difficult to defend this film too much, but it was my introduction to... sinister psychedelia?... as a child, and it frightened me, but it stuck in my mind and kept me coming back. It's not his best work, but there's something about this retelling of the story I find compelling, socially and visually- the art direction and costumes are outstanding. Includes Michael Jackson at his best, and I say this as someone who's not a fan. To this day I love the factory liberation scene.
posted by krinklyfig at 9:36 PM on April 9, 2011


Roger Ebert's tribute
posted by krinklyfig at 9:46 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good man. Will be watching movies of his this week I haven't seen before.
posted by goalyeehah at 11:08 PM on April 9, 2011


This thread is great for discovering more of Lumet's gems. Last night I watched Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Wow, Darkly brilliant and unforgettable. Really enjoyed it.
posted by nickyskye at 11:08 AM on April 10, 2011


The two referenced Connery films. Referenced.
posted by dhartung at 4:23 PM on April 9


ah, then you should enjoy The Hill - one its themes is how small minded men have a need to try to make others around them feel small.

I personally loved The Anderson Tapes which was referenced (as in: referenced) in the OP which touches on getting back at perceived wrongs and not taking responsibility for one's behavior in public.

god, I'm going to miss him.
posted by victors at 12:55 PM on April 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig: "People who make this claim only do so if they disagree with the politics in question."

Normally true. Not the case here. This movie is truly shit. Which is really unfortunate.
posted by falameufilho at 8:12 PM on April 10, 2011


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posted by joedan at 9:05 PM on April 10, 2011


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posted by heatvision at 6:28 AM on April 11, 2011


I was 12 when Dog Day Afternoon came out. It was the film that fueled my life-long interest in and appreciation of the craft & art of film-making. In my sheltered life up until then, I had had no prior exposure to people in desperate circumstances or whose lifestyles were considered to be on the fringe. Not only was the film eye-opening for me in that respect, the excellent writing (screenplay by Frank Pierson) & directing instructed me in the commonality of the human anguish, something for which I will be ever grateful.

Mr. Lumet's life & work is truly inspiring, & I am sad to hear of his passing.
posted by PepperMax at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 11:43 AM on April 11, 2011


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