Here’s to You, Mr. Nichols

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18 Responses

  1. Pinky says:

    I remembered the name, but I couldn’t place it, so I just checked IMDB. And not to be a jerk, but in his movies, there was just something…missing. I can’t put my finger on it. It worked to his advantage in The Graduate. But some of the others, I think of them as movies that just sort of ran until they ended. I know that sounds like a complaint about writing, but there were so many cases of that. Silkwood, Working Girl, even The Birdcage and Primary Colors. There was a lack of tightness, of urgency in them. Biloxi Blues was fully satisfying, but that was as tight a script as you’ll ever find in Hollywood or Broadway. But like, Wolf – that should have had an immediacy about it, but it didn’t. It had some crisp scenes, but I should have been on the edge of my seat during that movie.

    If I have a bias on this, it’s because of a pet theory of mine that you can tell the quality of a director by the performance he gets out of Harrison Ford. The man can be totally alive or totally dead on camera. I haven’t seen Regarding Henry, but Working Girl struck me as one of his bad performances.Report

  2. ScarletNumbers says:

    1) Thoughts go out to his wife Diane Sawyer and his daughter-in-law Rachel Nichols.

    2) He won an Oscar for directing The Graduate.

    3) Elaine May is still alive at 82.

    4) It could be argued that Nichols is directly responsible for the breakup of Simon & Garfunkel.Report

  3. trizzlor says:

    I can’t think of another director starting out with such a strong and diverse streak of films (and in only five years): Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Graduate, Catch-22, and Carnal Knowledge are all masterworks. Catch-22 is often overlooked but it’s amazing what Nichols was able to do with a seemingly un-filmable book.

    I agree with @Pinky that there is some kind of hollowness to those films, but I think it’s a reflection of the main characters. These four films, in particular, are about individuals that are lost in a changing world and only know how to react in self-destructive (and I would add, typically male) ways – by lashing out at at those around them or shutting themselves off. The movies feel like they just run out because the characters are incapable of leaving the spirals they are in. Even in The Graduate, which has by far the happiest ending, Nichols lets the camera rest on Ben and Elaine as a visual ellipsis. It makes us realize that these two people continue to exist after the cameras stop rolling, and their lives still have to move somewhere – maybe forward, maybe not – with all the same hangups and conflicts they had that morning.

    Nichols may have relied on this ellipsis a little too much in his later films, but, man, in those first four he’s completely on fire.Report