Tuesday, November 25, 2014

the Directors: Mike Nichols

Mike Nichols was beyond spectacle. Beyond visual effects and Hollywood glitz, beyond cheap laughs and marketability. First and foremost, Mike Nichols’ films were about story. Strength of material. The power of the word. Many of his films were based on other works – best-selling books, Pulitzer-prize winning plays, notable foreign films. Mike Nichols was a guy who believed in the written word, and finding the best possible actor to say those words. All of his best films are dominated by long scenes of people sitting around and talking. Arguing about love, life, sex, death. Infidelity was a major theme throughout his work, as was self-importance (or a lack thereof). He was one of the finest filmmakers of his era, and although his recent passing was met with shock and sadness, his best work will remain forever iconic.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
For me, there’s every film Mike Nichols ever made, then there’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which is as fine a debut film as I’ve ever seen. Every single minute of this movie flies off the screen. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, both never better, are sensational as Martha and George, the married couple from hell. The film is essentially a two hour and 15 minute long argument that more or less takes place in real time. Martha (perpetually drunk and lewd) and George (consistently resentful and angry) are hosting a small party for a young couple, Nick and Honey. Everything that can go wrong, does. And by the end of the movie, the lives of the four people involved are irreversibly altered.

There’s nothing about Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? that doesn’t work. The script and performances are the most prominent showstoppers, but it’s all at the helm of Nichols’ reserved direction. This is the kind of movie I watch and think, how in the hell did something this emotionally vulgar get made in America in 1966? Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is funny, brutal, and, in a word, perfect. A+

The Graduate (1967)
In what will always be considered one of the greatest one-two punches in American cinema history, Nichols’ followed up his first flawless film with an arguably more iconic masterpiece, The Graduate. Though the scope of The Graduate is far more expansive than Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, it is similar to Nichols’ first film in that everything in The Graduate works even better than it intends do. Dustin Hoffman delivers a performance that epitomizes the sexual awkwardness of young men, while Anne Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson is, well, Mrs. Robinson. There’s so much of The Graduate in our modern pop culture. The film was released nearly 50 years ago, but its impact is timeless. A+

Catch-22 (1970)
The best and worst part about Nichols’ Catch-22 is that the movie itself is a catch-22. The film is a paradoxical farce that succeeds at times, but is too cleaver for its own good. The editing speaks best to the film’s overall tone. Many of the scenes are quick and do not appear in any sort of coherent order. We’re often shown the same scene multiple times, though they tend to make slightly more sense every time we see them. The film is a nonsensical circus show that has a blast being a nonsensical circus show. That’s part of what makes the movie so much fun. But the jig is up far before its two hours have concluded. While I appreciate its unique humor and superb who’s-who of a cast, I “got” what the film was doing far before it was done. B-

Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Carnal Knowledge is a great film, one that combines the best aspects of Nichols’ most accomplished work. The name of the game here is sex, specifically, what men will do to get it, and what they’ll do to drive it away. This is a deeply funny, terribly vicious, and shockingly fearless portrayal of sex in the mind of man. The film begins with an off-screen conversation between best friends and college roommates, Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Arthur Garfunkel). By the end of their lengthy chat, we gather that both men are virgins, more or less willing to do and say anything to get laid. From there, the film gently spans 25 years, from lost virginities to marriages, courtships to infidelities.

It’s funny, as I watched Carnal Knowledge for the first time this weekend, I was puzzled that some of it reminded me of my upcoming film, Wait. How can this be? How can a movie I’ve never seen influence a film I’ve already made? Easy, because Carnal Knowledge is so significant, it has influenced other films that have influenced my career. To watch this film is to go back to the source, and revisit the pain of love in all its bitter glory. A+

The Day of the Dolphin (1973)
The Day of the Dolphin has a few things going for it, namely the greatest movie tagline of all time. Seriously, what could possibly go wrong when your film is backed with the description: “Unwittingly, he trained a dolphin to kill the President of the United States”? But really, this was written by Buck Henry, the same man who penned The Graduate, so it can’t be that bad, right? Well, it’s said that New Yorker critic Pauline Kael suggested that if the best subject Nichols and Henry could think of was talking dolphins, then they should quit making movies altogether. Thankfully they didn’t, but the final point is that this film is a mess, one plagued by what Nichols described as the worst production of his career. It shows. D+

The Fortune (1975)
A movie about Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty as ‘20s-era scam artists who are both after a pre-Grease Stockard Channing should work, but very little of The Fortune does. I’ve only seen this purposeful farce once, a few years ago in college. And because it is difficult to get ahold of today, I saw no point in seeking it out for a rewatch. Ultimately, given the talent involved, The Fortune should’ve worked out a lot better than it did. C-

Gilda Live (1980)
Gilda Live is a filmed stage play of actress Gilda Radner recreating her most famous Saturday Night Live characters for a Boston crowd. At 96 minutes long, the film runs entirely too long and makes us thankful for those briskly paced sketches we find on SNL. Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly a few laughs to be had from Gilda Live, but if you’re interested in the comedy, I suggest you check out some of Radner’s SNL highlights on YouTube instead. C-

Silkwood (1983)
Silkwood is the type of completely decent, totally safe whistle blower film that we saw a lot of in the late-‘70s and ‘80s. Like most of these films, Silkwood is based on a true story and features a strong female lead character fighting for justice. Meryl Streep plays Karen Silkwood, a factory worker who made plutonium fuel rods, and became increasingly vocal about the levels of radiation she and her fellow employees were exposed to on a daily basis. The movie itself is just okay. It feels like it could’ve been made by most anyone, which is another way of saying that it lacks Nichols’ trademark charm and wit. The cast is uniformly excellent, namely Streep, who wisely doesn’t paint Karen out to be a saint, and Cher, who plays Karen’s best friend with more restraint than she ever played anyone. The performances alone make Silkwood worth it. B

Heartburn (1986)
If nothing else, Heartburn is a great example of how adept Mike Nichols is at conveying the passage of time. Never a director to rely on timestamps, if you want to know how much time passes in Heartburn (or Carnal Knowledge, or Closer), you have to pay attention to the details – listen intently to the dialogue, make note of the production design. It’s actually a rather difficult thing to pull off well.

The main problem with the film, however, is that we’ve all seen movies that capture a marriage in disarray, and Heartburn isn’t nearly as compelling as the bottom half of all the others. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep (as thinly vailed surrogates for reporter Carl Bernstein and writer Nora Ephron) are solid, but the film essentially carries no weight. Ephron wrote the script based on her divorce from Bernstein, and while I give her credit for candidly sharing her story with the world, Heartburn is simply too plain to standout. C+

Biloxi Blues (1988)
My feelings on Biloxi Blues are rested firmly between the opinions of New York Times film critic Vincent Canby (who loved it), and Roger Ebert (who detested it). I see where both of those critics were coming from. Biloxi Blues is an at times concise and intelligent comedy, anchored by Matthew Broderick’s ‘80s innocence and Christopher Walken’s boundless oddity. But I also have trouble buying what the film is selling, especially toward the end, when Walken’s drill instructor character appears to go insane and threaten his men at gunpoint. I see the humor in that extended sequence, but for me, it never fully lands. Before writing this post, I had only seen Biloxi Blues once, several years ago. I rewatched it this weekend with hopes of finishing the film with a changed perspective. Sadly, I remained underwhelmed. C-

Working Girl (1988)
Working Girl is one of the funnest movies Mike Nichols ever made. This is partly because Nichols cast every significant role to utter perfection. Melanie Griffith has arguably never been better. She uses her big blonde hair and stunning good looks to fool the audience into thinking her Tess McGill is a floozy. But she’s not. She’s business savvy, determined and educated. She nails everything that is required of the role. Sigourney Weaver, as Tess’ cutthroat boss, proves exceptional at playing a grade-A bitch. Keep in mind, Working Girl was Weaver’s first film after Aliens and Gorillas in the Mist, two movies in which Weaver earned Oscar nominations for playing women everyone can root for. Harrison Ford as a hot shit executive, Alec Baldwin as a Staten Island douchebag, Joan Cusack as a zany friend – everyone in Working Girl performs at their peak, resulting in Nichols’ best film since Carnal Knowledge. B+

Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Postcards from the Edge is similar to Heartburn in that it is based on a semi-autobiographical novel about a famous woman struggling through a relationship. In Postcards, Meryl Streep plays a surrogate for the film’s writer, Carrie Fisher, while Shirley MacLaine steps in for Debbie Reynolds. The film is about an actress named Suzanne Vale trying to refocus her career following a stint in rehab. But, if Suzanne wants to work again, she must temporally live with a responsible adult, which, after some hesitation, ends up being Suzanne’s overbearing mother, Doris.

Streep and MacLaine are great in the film; both have a ball relishing in their characters’ eccentricities. But overall, Postcards from the Edge is lacking a much-needed bite. It never pushes as hard as it aims to, leaving its exceptional cast undervalued. B-

Regarding Henry (1991)
Ruthless attorney and lousy husband/father, Henry Turner, is shot during a robbery and wakes up not remembering anything. He has to restart his life, first learning how to walk and talk, before getting acclimated with his family and job. It’s not a terribly unique concept, and ultimately, Regarding Henry does exactly what you think it’s going to do. Within days, the kinder Henry is questioning his practices as a lawyer, spending more time with the daughter he previously neglected, loving his wife (Annette Bening) in all the right ways, and, you get it. Harrison Ford is good as the “new” Henry, but the performance is essentially Tom Hanks’ adolescent charm in Big mixed with Robert De Niro’s self-discovery in Awakenings. Regarding Henry is a generic feel good movie that has nothing new to offer the generic feel good movie. C+

Wolf (1994)
Wolf is a traffic accident of a film that I can’t take my eyes off of. To his credit, Mike Nichols may be the only guy who would create a horror film set around inner office politics. But the film’s thrilling first half is tarnished greatly by its increasingly baffling conclusion. After Will Randall (a surprisingly restrained Jack Nicholson) is bitten by a wolf, we watch with joy as the most famous actor in the world slowly transforms into a wolf himself. His senses are drastically heightened, which provokes Will to issue gems like, “How the fuck can you drink tequila this early in the morning?” to his co-workers. But as Will’s transformation becomes more apparent, the film grows more mindless. Its climatic slow motion showdown (set to Ennio Morricone’s puzzlingly ill-fitting music), for example, is a laughable misfire. Few actors play corporate slime better than James Spader, and Michelle Pfeiffer enjoys her mild femme fatale, but everyone involved here was let down by the material. Still, I fully admit that I have more fun with that film than not. B-

The Birdcage (1996)
Like many people, I spent much of this past August making (read: crying) my way through the bulk of Robin Williams’ filmography. Rewatching The Birdcage days after his death was a bittersweet experience, because I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. And laughing hard. It was my first time watching the film in years, and I was thrilled that, as I have gotten older, the film has gotten wiser. It’s the other way around, of course, but what I mean is that the humor in The Birdcage is so significant, that I’m certain its laughs will always land. Every time Williams was on screen, my heart sank a little, knowing that he’s gone. But then I was reminded that his work will live on. “He made us laugh,” Billy Crystal said of Williams during his Emmy tribute. He did, certainly. Did, and does, and will. A-

Primary Colors (1998)
My only real criticism of Primary Colors is that it runs a little too long. It tends to get weighed down with sub plots that aren’t nearly as compelling as its main figure, the Bill Clinton-esque Jack Stanton (John Travolta). That quibble aside, Primary Colors is a funny, engaging, and intelligent political satire (though, at the same time, not a satire at all) about Clinton’s first campaign for President. Leave it to Mike Nichols to refuse to pull punches. And although names were changed and details were smudged, Travolta inhabits “Clinton” with such unapologetic candor that you can’t help but love him. Kathy Bates is also on fire in the film. Her final showdown with Travolta and Emma Thompson is one of the finest scenes each actor has been involved in. That scene is Mike Nichols at his best: a few actors, one room, little camera movement, and the words. The verbose and devilishly precise words that Nichols loves so much. B

What Planet Are You From? (2000)
What Planet Are You From? is the worst film Mike Nichols ever made. It’s as simple as that. The movie, about an alien sent to Earth to impregnate a woman and bring the child back to his planet, is a miss at most every turn. Not even the talented cast can save it. It’s almost as if most everyone involved was eager to work with Nichols for the first time (save Nichols vet Annette Bening), and didn’t really care how good or bad the final film turned out. Look, any movie about an alien whose crotch vibrates violently whenever he’s aroused is bound to have some faults, right? It’s best that we just pretend What Planet Are You From? never happened. D+

Wit (2001)
Nichols followed his career low the best way you can follow a career low, by delivering three modern masterworks. First up was Wit, which Nichols made with writer/star Emma Thompson for HBO. The film is about an English professor with ovarian cancer, but, in an interesting twist, instead of getting increasingly frail by her affliction, Vivian Bearing gets more humorous and insightful as she gets sicker. It’s the kind of role only Emma Thompson could play so well. Honestly, I’m not sure the actress has ever been better. And her teleplay (co-written with Nichols, which marks the sole writing credit of his career) is thoroughly engaging. As I said on my list of the best HBO films, Wit is a film for people who love watching other people talk, and talk well. A

Angels in America (2003)
Mike Nichols’ Angels in America is a masterpiece. Fully and truly, an uncontested masterpiece. If it somehow played theatrically (which would admittedly be impossible, as the HBO miniseries ran nearly six hours), it would’ve been in serious contention for every Oscar it was nominated for. Instead, it rightfully swept the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Guild Awards. In recreating the 1980s AIDS epidemic, Nichols and writer Tony Kushner crafted an epic tale, one that’s massive in scope, but brutally personal in execution. This is a very big miniseries, but compassion and personality bleed through every frame.

Choosing a highlight from the cast is impossible. Al Pacino (delivering what could be his last truly great performance), Meryl Streep, Jeffrey Wright, and Mary-Louise Parker justly reaped much of the awards attention, but everyone here is perfect. Similar to the stage experience, many of the performers in the film played multiple roles, some more obvious than others. Doesn’t matter whether you notice or not, everything and everyone works to service the material impeccably. If you haven’t seen Angels in America, do seek it out immediately. I enjoyed Nichols’ final two films, but Angels in America is his real swan song. A+

Closer (2004)
I am an unapologetic fan of Closer. Patrick Marber’s script is the prominent reason for this. His words roll off the vicious, resentful tongues of his characters, cutting through each scene like a razor blade. The film is a deeply pessimistic, fiercely cruel take on love in the modern world. Two couples whose lives are perpetually intertwined, because none of them understand the value of fidelity.

Julia Roberts, as the seemingly innocent, but deeply cold Anna; Jude Law as slimy rat Dan; and Clive Owen as ferocious caveman Larry, have never been better. I can’t say that Natalie Portman is better here than in Black Swan, but I would offer another, more suitable comparison. If you’re up for it, watch Garden State and Closer back to back, then try to fathom how in the hell those movies came out in the same year. In Zach Braff’s film, Portman plays a girl, young and in love. In Closer, she’s a woman, street wise and ready for whatever comes at her. It’s a startling transformation, one that, like Closer itself, I remain in awe of. A

Charlie Wilson’s War (2007)
I suppose Charlie Wilson’s War escaped me when I first saw it in theaters. I wasn’t hip to Aaron Sorkin’s writing style, Nichols’ penchant for subtlety, or Philip Seymour Hoffman’s deeply intelligent humor. I mean, I was aware of all of those things, but not as much as I am today. In short, I watched the film two days ago and was pleased by how much I enjoyed it. Hoffman is the clear winner here, as the film ignites with fury whenever his character, CIA agent Gust Avrakotos, appears on screen. Tom Hanks has a ball as the title character, but it’s really Hoffman’s show. It’s as if Sorkin’s words were written specifically for Hoffman’s sensibilities. Nichols was adamant about finding the proper material to work with Hoffman again. They found it, with their Tony-winning production of Death of a Salesmen in 2012. Charlie Wilson’s War, however, represents their sole film work together. And that’s certainly all right by me. B

In Summation
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Graduate
Carnal Knowledge
Angels in America

Working Girl
The Birdcage

Postcards from the Edge
Primary Colors
Charlie Wilson’s War

The Fortune
Gilda Live
Biloxi Blues
Regarding Henry

Just Plain Bad
The Day of the Dolphin
What Planet Are You From?


  1. What a tremendous filmmaker. He will be missed, but luckily posts like yours pay such a loving and honest tribute to his incredible body of work. The Graduate is is without any question my absolute favorite film of his. But I really loved his films on the whole. Closer was such a chilling portrait of the human condition. I remember even having so much fun as a kid with the enjoyable mess that Wolf is. I love how daring he was as a filmmaker to approach so many genres, always with honesty and style. Great filmmaker, great post!

    1. Thanks Stergios, love hearing that you're a fan of Closer. I agree, it is such a chilling film. I love the courage of everyone involved in that film.

  2. He is totally missed. I'm fortunate to have seen 2 of his films in the theaters. The first was The Birdcage with my mother and my sister because my mom is a big Robin Williams fan and we laughed our asses off in that film. Eight years later on my 24th birthday, I saw Closer by myself as I was just in awe of how dark it was. If Natalie had gone full-frontal and showed everything. I would've gone to jail on my birthday.

    I haven't seen a lot of his work but here's a ranking of my favorite films by Mike Nichols:

    1. The Birdcage
    2. Closer
    3. Working Girl (don't forget Kevin Spacey as a porn-loving stock broker)
    4. Wit
    5. Angels in America
    6. The Graduate
    7. Charlie Wilson's War
    8. Primary Colors
    9. Wolf
    10. Postcards from the Edge
    11. Biloxi Blues
    12. Regarding Henry
    13. What Planet are You From? (man, that was so fucking awful)

    He will be missed as he was very funny but also a cool dude.

    1. I love that The Birdcage comes in first for you. It's such a priceless comedy film. Everyone is perfect in it. I'd love to know what you think about Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? It's so fucking brutal.

      Oh, and Spacey as a porn-lover stock broker is The. Best.

    2. I hope to see Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf as I'm going to have that and Carnal Knowledge in my 2015 watchlist. Oh, here is something I read years ago from John Leguizamo about doing Regarding Henry.

      During the production, Mike Nichols had a cappucino machine nearby him as it annoyed the crew member so Leguizamo and the crew decided to piss in the cappucino and Nichols dranked it. I admit, that wasn't nice but it is pretty funny.

    3. I read that too, wonder if it's true haha. If so, that's fucked up man.

  3. What a master. This post is really such a heartfelt tribute to his long body of work, I will miss him. So many directors are afraid of doing something not in their comfort zone, but I can truly say that Mike Nichols tried everything, and whether or not he succeeded, I'm glad he did. My own personal ranking of his films (so far):

    1. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    2. Angels in America
    3. Wit
    4. The Graduate
    5. The Birdcage
    6. Working Girl
    7. Closer
    8. Charlie Wilson's War
    9. Postcards from the Edge

    1. I cannot believe I forgot to put Carnal Knowledge on here! Definitely one of his best, I'd put it right after The Graduate.

    2. Thanks Aditya. So glad that my "masterful" picks are all at the top! Virginia Woolf is a stunner. One of my all-time favorite films. And I agree, Nichols actively sought to pursue films out of his comfort zone, and I love it.

  4. He really has a hell of a filmography. This makes me want to watch Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf again.

    1. Oh indeed. I rewatched it two nights ago. It still hits hard. Such a great film.

  5. I love his films. I read your comment and saw that he is dead. I cried. He was so great. He was a truly great director. Masterful post.

    Now do you still think Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is his greatest film

    1. I do. I love a lot of his films, but Virginia Woolf will always be my favorite.

    2. I saw just Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Closer, but I'd give A+ for each. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is my favorite too. It's fantastic acted, well paced, brutal and fantastic write. I LOVE it! The Graduate was great too. Is very funny and Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft are fantastic. I'd say is my third favorite.
      Closer. Genial, a film about love that grabs me. So great. I'd might agree with Julia Roberts and Jude Law, they never got me but not with Clive Owen. The Knick, Trust, Shoot 'Em Up, Children of Men, Sin City, this man is fantastic in so many films. (But Julia Roberts isn't so good. I can't recall her last good film, maybe August: Osage County. But with shit like Mirror Mirror, Eat Pray Love and Larry Crowne is hard too say if is a good actress anymore.) The film is so great in so many ways: the acting is flawless, the writing is near perfect, the pacing is good I love every second of it. And the twist is really good. This come very close to Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to me.
      I might check out Working Girl, The Birdcage, Catch-22, Primary Colors, Charlie Wilson’s War when are on tv.

    3. I really love those three films as well. And I agree, Roberts is not an actress I love in everything, but I loved her humility in Closer. It was great to see America's Sweetheart playing such a quietly disgusting character.

  6. I have not seen a lot of his filmography, just The Graduate, Closer and Charlie Wilson’s War, but i loved all of those. So it's sad to see he has passed away. Definitely need to check out some more of his work.

    1. It is quite sad. Definitely check out Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf when you can. It's vicious shit.

  7. It's great to see your A grade for Wit, which is just a well-made film. I'm not sure that I've ever seen Emma Thompson give a better performance, and that's saying quite a lot. Nice job with this post! I still need to see some of the big ones.

    1. Thanks Dan! Love hearing some additional praise for Wit. I wish it was more easily accessible for people to find. Such a great film, and Thompson is flawless in it.

  8. My list would look something like this (it does appear as though we disagree on several of these quite a bit, could make for an interesting discussion lol):
    1. The Graduate
    2. Closer
    3. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
    4. Primary Colors
    5. Carnal Knowledge
    6. Silkwood
    7. Biloxi Blues
    8. The Day of The Dolphin (Yes, I like this movie - yes, it's a stupid premise - yes, I don't give a fuck lol)
    9. The Birdcage
    10. Wit
    11. Postcards From The Edge
    12. Charlie Wilson's War
    13. Working Girl
    14. Regarding Henry
    15. Heartburn
    16. The Fortune
    17. Wolf
    18. What Planet Are You From?
    19. Catch 22

    I have yet to actually watch Angels In America (though I have heard/read absolutely nothing but good things about it). A terrible loss from a man who gave us so many cinematic wonders and masterpieces. RIP good sir!

    1. Funny that you say we disagree, because you're rankings are more or less on point with mine. But I guess you mean you disagree with a lot of what I wrote, which is totally cool. I tried to rewatch Day of the Dolphin for this post, but I couldn't find it anywhere. I saw that years ago, and I just didn't remember liking it. The only film that really stands out to me on your list is Wit, only because I adore that movie. But hey, all good.

  9. The Graduate is one of my all time favorite films. As is Virginia Woolf. Catch-22 is a film I want to love but I still haven't cracked it. As you said, the cast is fabulous. I've watched it a few times including the commentary from Nichols & Soderbergh. That is a major treat on the DVD as well as Graduate & Virginia Woolf's DVD editions. So many great little anecdotes. Like in Catch-22 about the one portraot in that room always changing every time it cuts. It's something I would have never noticed had it not been pointed out by Nichols.

    His later work I still need to dig into. I love Closer and fully agree about the razor sharp dialogue. I haven't seen another romantic drama quite like it since. One of the things I will miss most about Nichols is his ability to take on projects that are so vicious in their dialogues and their portrayal of relationships, flings and affairs. They don't fuck around.

    Of the films I have yet to see, Angels In America is at the top of the list.

    1. I LOVE those commentaries on The Graduate and Virginia Woolf. Listening to those makes me a better filmmaker, honestly. I haven't listened to the Catch-22 one, but I probably should, even if I don't fully dig the film. Angels in America, man. It's so damn good.

  10. Brilliant post. My favourite films of his are The Graduate and Closer. Really glad you love Closer as much as me. Closer shows us the struggle and sadness of love. There isn’t a pretty area of life on this film, it’s just brutally honest about everything, and it doesn’t hold back

    1. Thanks buddy! Yeah man, I love how Closer doesn't hold anything back. In a way, it's really Nichols' "fuck it all" movie. He put everything into that flick. Love it.

  11. Oh wow, I didn't know Nichols was behind Angels In America. I keep passing over it while browsing HBO Go -- now I'm going to make sure I get to it sooner rather than later.

    Sadly, the only film I have seen from him is The Graduate (which I loved). Carnal Knowledge sounds especially interesting.

    1. Definitely crack Angels in America. It's just THAT good, you know? Everything about it. Carnal Knowledge was such a surprise to me. It's so damn brutal.

  12. This post brings back memories -- I saw many of these movies ages ago. Now I need to watch The Closer.

    1. Ohhh I think you'd really appreciate Closer. It's so real and raw.

    2. I requested the first disk from Netflix. Actually, you the second person who's recommended it. So the universe is clearly trying to tell me something.

    3. Hey, I tried to leave a comment on your blog, don't know if it went through. I think you're confusing the TV show, The Closer, with the Mike Nichols film, Closer. Nichols' film was released in 2004 and stars Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owner. The Closer is a TV show that ran on TNT from 2005-2012. Nichols didn't have anything to do with the show - just wanted you to know!

  13. Nichols was an icon, for sure. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of my all-time favorites, and The Graduate and Closer are close behind it. Glad you dug Carnal Knowledge, which I watched earlier this year for the CinSpecs. It's a very underrated flick. Wit and Angels in America are major blind spots for me, so I need to check them out.

    1. Carnal Knowledge really floored me. I absolutely loved it. Definitely check out Angels in America when you can. It's splendid.

  14. A couple of those you rated A+ I'm going to try and check out next year, Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Angels in America (2003). Thanks for the heads-up!
    Just rewatched Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? this week, and it really is a knock-out. I agree it's emotionally vulgar and daring for the time it was made. An interesting depiction of a destructive
    relationship. Of course adds to the fascination that Burton-Taylor had a turbulent marriage in real life.

    1. I'll be really excited to hear your thoughts on Carnal Knowledge and Angels. They're both so good. And I'm thrilled that you're a fan of Virginia Woolf. What a classic.