Mike Nichols reported dead
When I was in high school, I took a film analysis class.
The movie that really made the subject work for me was director Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate.
That was a case where the deliberate symbology was effective, but not intrusive. It worked wonderfully well as a movie on the surface…which is where they should work. You can get completely caught up in it, pay no attention to the technique, and have an amazing experience.
If you do look at the technique, though, it gives it a deeper value. There is a repeated symbol used that, once pointed out to you, will be obvious. I don’t want to spoil the movie for you by telling it to you (that’s the danger of film analysis) because you’ll notice it every time it happens and be pulled out of the story.
Trust me, it’s there. :)
There are very few filmmakers who can pull that off: give you great story-telling without screaming about the font you used. ;)
While Nichols will always rightfully be known best as a mainstream director (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Silkwood), there are a few stand-out geek friendly works in the filmography.
One reason for that is that the biggest stars would go geek for Mike Nichols when that wasn’t cool. That’s changed over the decades: it’s possible (no jinx!) that Julianne Moore, a four-time nominee, will win an Oscar in 2015 while still having a movie which is the third in a Young Adult science fiction series in theatres. In fact, every acting Oscar winner from 2014 either has a significant geek-friendly movie out, announced, or rumored:
- Best Leading Actor Matthew McConaughey: Interstellar
- Best Leading Actress Cate Blanchett: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
- Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto: Suicide Squad (rumored as The Joker)
- Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o: Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens
Why would George C. Scott star in a talking dolphin movie in 1973 or Jack Nicholson topline a werewolf movie in 1994 for Mike Nichols? While not every auteur is seen as a strong actor’s director, Nichols was. This was a cinematic master with a background in being on stage…actors weren’t just a tool to use to achieve a vision.
- The Day of the Dolphin
- What Planet Are You From? (Gary Shandling alien comedy, 2000)
- Angels in America (TV mini-series, 2003)
Mike Nichols wasn’t just a director, as in the cases above. He was a significant movie producer, but also worked in comedy (Nichols and May) and on Broadway (Annie, Spamalot). He was one of those rare EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony) winners.
Good-bye, Mike Nichols: no one else has used more intelligence to produce more emotional response.
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