News broke this morning that legendary director Sidney Lumet passed away from lymphoma at the age of 86.
Lumet was best known as the director of films such as 12 Angry Men, Network, and Dog Day Afternoon. But he remained active later in life, too, directing Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) in 2007, which would become his last film.
Lumet was nominated four times for Best Director at the Oscars, but never won. He was awarded an Honorary Award at the 2005 ceremony. As well, Network (which lost Best Picture and Best Director to Rocky in 1977) became the second film after A Streetcar Named Desire to earn three acting awards at the Oscars (Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, and Beatrice Straight were all recognized).
Personally, the only two Lumet films I’ve seen are 12 Angry Men and Running On Empty, which earned River Phoenix his only Oscar nomination. I enjoyed both quite a bit, and 12 Angry Men has become one of my favourite films. Lumet has a great knack for getting down to the bottom of humanity and exposing his characters’ morals in a way that few directors can. Both Henry Fonda and Phoenix’s characters in their respective movies are highly memorable characters, even though neither are typically showy “leading men” characters.
Lumet may not be as well-known as some of his contemporaries, such as Scorsese, but he had a highly prolific career filled with highlights. His work has left an indelible mark on cinema.