Mike Nichols

Who

The phrase “actor’s director” is thrown around a great deal, but there have been very few directors who knew how to work with actors quite like Mike Nichols. A former student of Lee Strasburg and a fervent believer in the revelatory power of improvisation, Nichols has directed some of the most notable performances in modern cinema. His debut alone was evidence of his gift. For his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, the theater performer and director took on the mammoth task of adapting one of the most raw and acerbic plays of the 1960s to a film starring the most powerful couple in Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It’s now remembered as the best role of Taylor’s career. His second film, The Graduate, showed an equal but opposite talent: his ability to get performances out of unknown actors that match their particular strengths. That film launched and defined Dustin Hoffman’s career. Since then, every Nichols film – from Carnal Knowledge to What Planet Are You From? – carried the promise that its cast would be used to the best of their talents. So here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from the only filmmaker we would trust to turn Jack Nicholson into a werewolf.

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The Graduate

This week the world lost a peerless filmmaker (and EGOT winner) who delivered a hot tub full of fantastic films. Mike Nichols put Dustin Hoffman in a compromising position, tortured Meryl Streep and found a grounding commonality even with his most extraordinary characters. We’ll celebrate his work with Professor John Whitehead, author of “Mike Nichols and the Cinema of Transformation,” and try to recapture what made his stories so moving. Plus, Geoff answers your screenwriting questions about third person expository openings (so to speak), the new trend in query letters and whether you should get a script consultant. Double plus, we’ll chat briefly about Bill Cosby and the question of enjoying good art from bad people. You should follow the show (@brokenprojector), Geoff (@drgmlatulippe) and Scott (@scottmbeggs) on Twitter for more on a daily basis. Please review us on iTunes Download Episode #77 Directly Or subscribe through iTunes

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Once: The Musical

Plenty of time on the film blogosphere is dedicated to talking about sci-fi operas and superheros, but one thing we don’t always get to is convergence between the world of film and other entertainment mediums. For instance, take the world of Broadway musicals. Did you know that at last night’s Tony Awards, cinema favorites such as Philip Seymour Hoffman, Frank Langella and even Spider-Man himself Andrew Garfield were nominated for their work on the stage? It goes well beyond the time South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker have spent on Broadway. Many a Hollywood name has spent time in New York, pouring out performances in front of live audiences. For a true film fan, it’s worth a bit of notice. This year especially, with the nominees for Best Musical including stage adaptations of Once and Newsies, two films that we’ve applauded over the years for not only their musical, but also dramatic chops. And as it turns out, Broadway’s got a thing for them, as well.

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Criterion Files

Part of me is in complete disbelief that the release date of Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums will have been a decade ago next month. It doesn’t feel so long ago that I was sixteen years old, seeing it for the first time in a movie theater and spending my subsequent Christmas with The Ramones, Elliot Smith, and Nico playing on repeat in my car (two years later, after hearing of Smith’s death, my friends and I gathered together and watched Richie Tenenbaums’s (Luke Wilson) attempted suicide with new, disturbing poignancy). And ten years on, even after having seen it at least a dozen times, and armed with the annoying ability to know every beat and predict every line, something about Tenenbaums feels ageless and fresh at the same time. But when you look at the movie culture that came after Tenenbaums, the film’s age begins to take on its inevitable weight. Tenenbaums was Anderson’s first (and arguably only) real financial success. Previously, Anderson was perceived as an overlooked critical darling following Rushmore, a promising director that a great deal of Hollywood talent wanted to work with (which explains Tenenbaums’ excellent cast and, probably, its corresponding financial success). With this degree of mass exposure, other filmmakers followed suit, establishing what has since been known as the “Wes Anderson style,” which permeated critical and casual assessment of mainstream indies for the following decade and established a visual approach that’s been echoed in anything from Napoleon Dynamite to Garden State to less […]

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Culture Warrior

Modern romance and the movies are arguably dependant on one another, as movies have a long history of affirming the idea(l) of the perfect relationship. Hollywood movies in particular have developed a mastery at the formula of bringing imperfect individuals together into perfect couplehood and framing marriage as the closure of all previous conflicts and difficulties. Many romance movies, thus, teach us what romance and couplehood are or, perhaps more dauntingly, what it should be. That romantic films are a staple in the box offices of commercial movie theaters to reparatory screenings or are marathon’d on television every Valentine’s Day is evidence of our ritual association of considering real-life romances in fictional terms. It is rare that movies, especially Hollywood, seem to do the opposite: reflect the distinction between ideal romance and the ostensible “reality” of relationships in all their complexity, grittiness, slow development, necessary problems, and (most of all) subtlety. Perhaps the most evident turns cinema makes in this direction is in the break-up movie, that rare narrative that situates itself as a disruption from the normal mode of portraying couplehood through representing its antithesis, the dissolution of a couple. The most recent example is Blue Valentine, the great Cassavetes-style, character-driven psychodrama about a couple who continue making the wrong turns and can’t make it work despite, or because, of themselves. Breakup movies from the light – (500) Days of Summer – to the heavy – Blue Valentine – often self-consciously (either by testament from the filmmaker like in […]

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Director Mike Nichols will receive AFI’s Life Achievement Award in a ceremony next summer. Here’s 7 good reasons why we’re not surprised.

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Unlike the talkative Lions for Lambs, you can come away with an entertaining message movie that’s a breezy hour-and-a-half.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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