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Entries in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (14)

Tuesday
Mar292016

Doc Corner: Nora Ephron and Mike Nichols Get Posthumous Tributes on HBO

Glenn here. Each Tuesday we bring you reviews and features on documentaries from theatres, festivals, and on demand. This week we’re looking at two biographical HBO documentaries about cinema legends.

Despite a resume that reads as limited, Nora Ephron's reputation over film and pop culture general looms large. Directed by her son, journalist Jacob Bernstein, there is likely little this new biographic documentary Everything is Copy that won’t be familiar to fans of the witty essayist/author/screenwriter/director’s work – not least of all when featuring old clips of Ephron narrating her own books directly the camera. But thankfully Bernstein’s film isn’t simply a rehash of his mother’s life, rather he occasionally finds minor nooks and crannies of her life that she herself hadn’t written about at length. Helped by words from her sisters and friends, an image of Ephron is formed that while no doubt glowing allows for us to learn even more about her than her famously candid words previously allowed.

Beyond all of that, first and foremost, Everything is Copy is an entertainment. A breezy and bright glimpse of a woman whose wit was matched by her scathing honesty and who left behind many works of cultural significance that are worth parsing over. 

New York movies, Nora's death, and a conversation with Mike Nichols after the jump...

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Sunday
Dec272015

Haskell Wexler, 1922 - 2015

David here. As time runs out on 2015, the world sees the loss of another cinematic great. Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, double Oscar winner, passed away today. [More...]

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Monday
Dec012014

Beauty vs Beast: Woody and His Sisters

Jason from MNPP here wishing a happy Monday afternoon to everybody -- tis the time for our weekly fix of "Beauty vs Beast." Today's the 79th birthday of Woody Allen so I figured we'd dive into his back-catalog of rich characters for today's face-off, but where should we head? Villains in his films aren't easy to come by - I considered ScarJo vs Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Match Point but I haven't seen that film in too long; I briefly wandered towards the marital-bloodbath of Husbands and Wives but, well, let's leave Woody versus Mia off the table for the time being. No, it's his most recent success (I don't think anybody can consider Magic in the Moonlight a success) that I think gives us a good cloudy bout of good versus not-so-good to tango with.

 

Both ladies were Oscar nominated but only one stormed away with the gold - you've got seven days to decide who gets your personal gold star.

PREVIOUSLY True story: After dinner this weekend my boyfriend wandered into a strange bar to grab a beer and it turned out to be a scary hole in the wall and we each got to trot out our "What a dump" impersonations; it was awesome. So it would seem that like the rest of you, our big drunken hearts belong to Team Martha. Said Rick:

"Oh, hell...Martha seems like she's having way more fun than anyone else!"

Monday
Nov242014

Beauty vs Beast: Guests Gotten, Hosts Humped

Howdy folks, it's Jason from MNPP here with a brand new round of "Beauty Vs Beast" and a brand new chance to pit the sorta-good against the sorta-bad, or the sorta in-between, and for us to choose our side with due diligence (at least with enough enough energy to click one way or the opposite). It was a slow creep realization when Mike Nichols died last week, what we'd lost - I'm not a Broadway person and as of late that's what I'd associated him with, so it was only once I started skimming back through his filmography, and once I read wonderful tributes like Nat's here, that my brain clicked into place that "Why yes, Jason, you've loved and been affected by a ton of this man's work for your entire life, duh." And so I've found myself going back and re-watching things I hadn't seen in many years - Working Girl (Sigourney MVP!) and Silkwood (probably my favorite Nichols film) and then today's piping hot dish of husband-wife combat for the ages...

 

 

If you're here in the US you'll probably spend sometime this week giving thanks to the turkey and stuffing for all the good stuff in your life, and I wouldn't blame anybody who placed these two performances on their Good Stuff Lists. Personally I'm Team George because 1) I've never been much of a Burton fan but I think he's phenomonal in this movie, and 2) I see way too much of myself in Martha, and that's the sort of thing you reflexively snap your eyes away from. You have one week to vote!

PREVIOUSLY Checking back in on the gorgeous ladies of 1870s society, last week's Age-of-Innocence Off ultimately sided with the poor unfortunate soul Countess Olenska (Michelle Pfieffer) over wily Winona's little Miss May; we do love a wounded bird. Said Murtada:

"Countess Olenska was way ahead of her time, a pioneer against vicious social mores. And she endured a false life despite getting a glimpse of a real one. Hasn't she suffered enough? She gets my vote."

Thursday
Nov202014

Mike Nichols (1931-2014)

Elaine May & Mike Nichols in the 50s"The Great Work begins..." that's a line from Angels in America but someone should've said it in the 1950s when one of the greatest figures in modern showbusiness began his career on Chicago stages as a university student. Mike Nichols, who died yesterday at 83, first gained fame as half of a celebrated comic duo "Nichols & May" with actress/director Elaine May but comedy sketches were only the beginning. He'd eventually conquer all realms of showbusiness winning a Grammy with May for a comedy album in 1961, the first of several Tony Awards for directing Barefoot in the Park on Broadway (1964), an Oscar for directing The Graduate (1967) which was only his second film, and in the last decade of his career, two Emmys for television triumphs with Wit and the aforementioned Angels.

Because I came of age in the 1980s, the Nichols collaboration that defined the director for me was with Meryl Streep who he directed four times for the camera. They were both Oscar winners before their first duet Silkwood (1983) which is, not coincidentally, my favorite Streep performance. Streep was worshipped and mythologized very early in her career but he brought her down to earth while still helping her ascend. Under his his guidance she was instantly more earthy and relatable, less the iconic mannered star than a goddamn amazing (and relaxed) genius of the craft. They made two more feature films together within a decade's span (Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge).

Gene Hackman as a director and Meryl Streep as an actress in Postcards from the Edge (1990)

In fact, whenever I watch Postcardsand marvel at that beautiful scene between director and actress that marks its emotional pivot point, it's easy to imagine Gene Hackman's patient benevolent director as the Nichols stand-in with Meryl representing for all actors struggling with inner demons, doubting their gift, or struggling with a particular performance. It's easy to imagine because Nichols was particularly great with actors directing several of them -- not just Streep -- to their all time best work.

As if aware that he directed three of Streep's least glamorous acting triumphs, his last gift to her was Angels in America (2003) in which they left the ground and transcended into the ghostly, the spiritual... the ecstatic.

Ectastic. That's a good work for his great work. Nichols left us with 22 films, three of which are largely undisputed masterpieces (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Angels in America), many of which are exemplary and perhaps still undervalued classics of their particular genres (Gilda Live, Silkwood, Postcards from the Edge) or just, you know, extremely popular entertainments (Working Girl, The Birdcage). Through it all, though this is not often true of mainstream-embraced prestigious entertainers, he rarely forgot the zeitgeist-capturing envelope-pushing us his handful of first films from Woolf through Carnal Knowledge and was still pushing movie stars into transcendence with newly revealing, riskier emotional terrain almost until the very end (Wit, Angels in America, Closer).

He will be missed but his work has more than earned its immortality.