From the Archive: Charlie Wilson’s War

There was no question about which director should be represented in this space this week. Sadly, my options were somewhat limited. I would have loved to pull something from my days on The Reel Thing radio show in the early nineteen-nineties, but the only review of a Nichols film I could find tore into Regarding Henry. It’s the height of unkindness to dwell on something that may very well be the nadir of his filmography. (During the span of the radio show, I swear I also wrote about the very fine Postcards from the Edge, but that script seems lost … Continue reading From the Archive: Charlie Wilson’s War

Mike Nichols, 1931-2014

I regret that I know the work of Mike Nichols primarily — almost entirely — from the movies he made. That’s no slight on his cinematic output. Nichols signed his name to a multitude of classic films, consistently bringing a distinctive sense of style to his efforts, one paradoxically defined most by its tricky invisibility. Nichols didn’t really have a signature, at least not one beyond a crisp mastery of the visual language of film. There was a spacial airiness to his compositions that made the films feel as though they’d been shorn of clutter. He had the efficiency of … Continue reading Mike Nichols, 1931-2014

Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Forty

#40 — Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971) One of the things that I can never quite get over when considering the general cinema of the seventies is the mad rush of mature content, not just in terms of bouncing nudity off of curse words and leaning back to watch the audience revel in or recoil from the freedom in creating content that still incredibly new. It’s also in the simple but profound act of considering the furtive messiness of adult lives. Movies could now veer further away from cops and gangsters and detectives and wealthy doyennes submerged in melodrama. They … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 70s — Number Forty

Epstein, Greno and Howard, Nichols, Penn, Rush

Carnal Knowledge (Mike Nichols, 1971). Working from a script by by the great cartoonist Jules Feiffer, Mike Nichols explores the fraught, shifting dynamics of sexual relationship by following a few characters over the course of several years, putting special focus on a randy, rambunctious, sharp-edged man played by Jack Nicholson. The movie may have been most noted for it’s frankness about sexual matters, still remarkable for the time, but it remains engaging because of an even bolder willingness to plumb the emotional rigors of the various characters. Nicholson is especially strong, shrewdly carrying his character from an impetuous, greedy youth … Continue reading Epstein, Greno and Howard, Nichols, Penn, Rush

Spectrum Check

It was another fairly busy week for me over at Spectrum Culture. I contribute my first offering to the Film Dunce feature, which invites writers to watch and consider seminal movies that had previously eluded them. I confessed to having neglected the debut feature from Mike Nichols, the film adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Then I proceeded to rave about it to such a degree that it made it doubly embarrassing that I’d avoided it for so long. Then there are new movies, which led me to When We Leave, which was Germany’s official entry for … Continue reading Spectrum Check

Top Fifty Films of the 90s — Number Twenty-Seven

  #27 — Primary Colors (Mike Nichols, 1998) Politics is a circus. It’s a bizarre mix of showmanship and exaggerated danger with every effort made to prop up the most artificial spectacles as if they’re the realest things in the world. It’s populated by people with outsized personalities projecting ingratiating joy, but there always seems to be a lurking hint of menace about them. It is controlled lunacy. About the only place the comparison breaks down is when P.T. Barnum’s famous evaluation of the susceptibility of the audience is invoked. A sucker born every minute? In politics, that seems a drastic … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 90s — Number Twenty-Seven