#349. George Stevens

Modern audiences may not know about George Stevens or the films he directed from the 1930’s to 1970. Some of the names of his movies might not be familiar to them either, but many of these films are classics in their own rights. He worked with some of the best in the industry at the time. Cary Grant (Gunga Din (1930), Penny Serenade (1941)), Fred Astaire (Swing Time (1936), A Damsel in Distress (1937)), and Katharine Hepburn (Alice Adams (1935), Woman of the Year (1942)), just to name a few. By the end of his career, he even directed a film from his own production company, the Biblical epic, The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). Throughout his directing career, he earned many nominations and awards, but most people on the street probably couldn’t say why. This week’s two films highlight some of the greatest films directed by George Stevens.

A Place in the SunA Place in the Sun
Year: 1951
Rating: Passed
Length: 122 minutes / 2.03 hours

Throughout the early 1930’s George Stevens directed mostly short films and comedy sketches. By 1941, he had picked up his first nomination for Best Picture with The Talk of the Town. While he did not direct this film, he would earn two more nominations the following year, for Best Picture and Best Director for The More the Merrier (1943). His first win at the Oscars would come almost a decade later with A Place in the Sun (1951). This film was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director, but only garnered Stevens the golden statue for the latter category. The legacy of this film was recognized in 1997 as one of the American Film Institute’s top 100 films, being placed at #92. It is also included as one of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, for similar reasons, not the least of which was Stevens’ expert directing.

George Eastman (Montgomery Clift) has not had nearly the amount of success his uncle, Charles Eastman (Herbert Heyes), has enjoyed. When the two meet at random, Charles offers George a job in his factory as a way to help his struggling nephew. George takes to the work and finds himself being noticed by management for his good ideas. Consequently, Charles invites George to his estate for a dinner with high society. At the party, George is immediately enamored with Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). Unfortunately, George has already gotten himself involved with one of the factory girls, Alice Tripp (Shelly Winters). Alice senses George’s flightiness and informs him that she’ll expose him if he doesn’t marry her since she is carrying their bastard child. In a twist of fate, the courthouse is closed for Labor Day, so George suggests they take a boat out on the lake, knowing Alice cannot swim.

Year: 1956
Rating: Approved
Length: 201 minutes / 3.35 hours

After his Best Director win in 1951, George Stevens would have another set of Best Picture / Best Director nominations for the western, Shane (1953). He lost that year to From Here to Eternity (1953) but would be nominated for the set again with The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), losing to Ben-Hur (1959) in that year. His second win at the Oscars was for Best Director with Giant (1956), which itself lost Best Picture to Around the World in 80 Days (1956). One wonders if the inclusion of Elizabeth Taylor in Giant helped to earn Stevens his Best Director wins, except that his last film ever directed was The Only Game in Town (1970), which featured Taylor but did not earn him a nomination. Following his film career, he founded the American Film Institute. One does wonder if the two top 100 lists produced by AFI were biased, as four of his films have appeared on them over the years.

Yet again, Elizabeth Taylor portrays a socialite in Giant as Leslie Lynnton. She is swept off her feet by Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson) and brought back to his ranch in Texas as his bride. Now that she’s a part of the farm, she becomes involved in its operations, somewhat stepping on the toes of Bick’s sister, Luz (Mercedes McCambridge). In retaliation, Luz hurts Leslie’s horse and is bucked off to her death. As a result, the ranch’s handyman, Jett Rink (James Dean), inherits a small portion of the property. He has had feelings for Leslie since she first came to the ranch, but respected Bick enough to keep his distance. When Jett discovers oil on his patch of land, he becomes wealthier than the Benedicts, thus upending the social order between these two neighbors. His persistent requests to drill for oil on the rest of the Benedict ranch are eventually granted as Bick realizes his children will not continue his legacy.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stupendous George Stevens classics

Bacon #: 3 (Shane / Alan Ladd -> Paper Bullets / John Archer -> The Little Sister / Kevin Bacon)


#343. Jon Turteltaub

If you grew up in the 1990’s, it’s likely you’d recognize the work of director Jon Turteltaub, but not his name. While Turteltaub hasn’t been as prolific as say, Steven Spielberg, he had many hits that defined our childhood. Even as we grew up, we would eventually turn to films made in the timeframe of the 90’s and think, “Huh . . . that was pretty good.” I am sure there are other directors for other generations who made films that defined their formative years, but for the Xennials (the group between Generation X and the Millennials), Jon Turteltaub is certainly a strong candidate. Part of this was due to his connection to Disney at the time, directing many films aimed at the children of the 90’s. Even the less Disney-esque films he directed were still distributed via a Disney subsidiary. This week’s two films highlight two ends of Jon Turtletaub’s directing career.

National TreasureNational Treasure
Year: 2004
Rating: PG
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

While Turteltaub’s career has veered mostly toward television pilots recently, with shows like JerichoHarper’s IslandCommon Law, and Rush Hour holding his focus, he still occasionally directs films. With Disney’s The Kid (2000) capping off his 1990’s films, the rise of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise revealed that audiences had an appetite for action and adventure that Disney wanted to immediately grab hold of. Shortly after Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003), Disney tasked Jon Turteltaub to direct National Treasure (2004). A few years later, he would also helm the sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets(2007). While there was no third film in this franchise, Turteltaub and Nicholas Cage would eventually team up again for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (2010).

Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicholas Cage) has spent his life searching for a treasure allegedly hidden by the Founding Fathers of the United States. While his father, Patrick (Jon Voight), is skeptical that the treasure exists, he is surprised to find his son on his doorstep with the Declaration of Independence and Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) from the National Archives. Ben ended up stealing the original document when the search led his partner, Ian Howe (Sean Bean), to suggest that they steal the Declaration to find the next clue in the puzzle. Sensing Ian’s ulterior motives, Ben took the Declaration first and, with his father’s help, finds the next clue to locating the treasure. The ensuing cat and mouse chase lead the group across the east coast, eventually arriving at Trinity Church in New York City. With Patrick as Ian’s hostage, Ben has to decide: save his father, or give up the treasure?

Cool RunningsCool Runnings
Year: 1993
Rating: PG
Length: 98 minutes / 1.63 hours

Some people might have liked the campy 3 Ninjas (1992), Turteltaub really didn’t hit his stride until the next year, when Cool Runnings (1993) was released. Of course, that could just be my nostalgia talking. Either way, many people have considered it a good movie. Shortly afterward, Turteltaub directed such hits as While You Were Sleeping (1995) and Phenomenon (1996), showing that he could direct films that weren’t necessarily aimed at Disney’s target demographic. That being said, these films were still made under the wider “Walt Disney Studios” brand via Buena Vista Pictures. One does wonder if his association with Disney helped these films become the cult classics they are today. Some of his more recent, non-Disney films, like Last Vegas (2013), have done all right, but time will tell if his upcoming film, Meg (2018) will stand up over time like his work in the 1990’s has.

Failing to qualify for the 1988 Summer Olympics, Derice Bannock (Leon Robinson) is upset that he can’t compete as a runner for his home country of Jamaica. Not letting the incident get him down, he seeks out a different route to the Olympics: bobsledding. If Derice can’t make it to the Summer Olympics, he is committed to competing in the Winter Olympics instead. Finding former bobsled gold medalist, Irv Blitzer (John Candy), Derice gathers a team of runners and manages to scrape together the cash to sponsor their team. Once at Calgary, nobody takes the team from the Caribbean seriously, including some of the team members themselves. After a last-place showing on the first day of competition, the four Jamaican bobsledders find their groove and start to advance in the rankings. With the potential for a medal on the line, will their old and used bobsled hold up long enough to get them across the finish line?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 terrific Turteltaub movies

Bacon #: 2 (Cool Runnings (directed) / John Candy -> JFK / Kevin Bacon)

#340. Ridley Scott

While some directors have found success in a single genre, others have perfected their craft so well that they can find success in multiple genres. Ridley Scott has directed many successful and memorable films over the years, which is practically a testament to his prolific repertoire as much as it is his artistic vision. It can be difficult to nail down what his greatest successes are in order to pigeonhole him into a genre. His science fiction films have been iconic, but he’s also received critical acclaim for historical pieces. From dark fantasies (Legend (1985)) to modern heist comedies (Thelma & Louise (1991) and Matchstick Men (2003)), Ridley Scott has done them all. This week’s two films highlight some of the early successes in Ridley Scott’s directing career.

Year: 1979
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

After his directorial debut with The Duellists (1977), Scott transitioned from historical drama to sci-fi/horror. It is significant to note that, while Scott did not direct the direct sequels of Alien (1979) (a task given to James Cameron and David Fincher), he did retake the helm when it came time to reboot the series via the prequel films that started with Prometheus (2014). With the original director back in control, Alien: Covenant (2017) helped to continue the revitalization of the Alien franchise. Of course, with this much experience in directing plots set on alien worlds, it’s no wonder that his adaptation of The Martian (2015) also gained him a nomination for Best Picture. Sure, his historical epic, Gladiator (2000), actually won Best Picture, but since he didn’t also produce it, he only received a nomination for Best Director for his efforts.

On the distant planet of LV-426, the crew of the Nostromo finds themselves the unwitting victims of the greed of their corporate benefactors. They soon learn the distress signal from the planet was a trap and now one of their crew has been incapacitated by a face-hugging alien. After the alien falls off of its own accord, an alien burst out of the crew member’s chest and runs away to hide in the ship. Picking off each member of the squad, one-by-one, the rapidly matured alien is now on course to return to Earth, thanks to the android who was following the orders of the company that employs the Nostromo. As the only survivor, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) arms herself to confront the indestructible beast loose on her ship. Few options remain for Ripley as she tries to escape while at the same time destroying the horrific alien.

Blade RunnerBlade Runner
Year: 1982
Rating: R
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

A mere three years after Alien was released, Scott knocked it out of the park again with Blade Runner (1982). Many hold his “Director’s Cut” of the film to be the best version, clearly showing his vision for the movie was better than the one Warner Brothers wanted to sell. Much like Alien, he left the sequel to Blade Runner in another director’s (eventually) capable hands. Even so, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 (2017) is incredible, but still misses the spark of the Ridley Scott original. After all, Blade Runner was groundbreaking for its set design, a trend seen throughout Scott’s other films. Whether it’s Biblical Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014) or the streets of Somalia in Black Hawk Down (2001), Ridley Scott takes us to these locations and immerses us in the settings, even if they’re in a future not yet arrived, like in Blade Runner.

In the year 2019, android technology has become so advanced that it is near impossible to tell the difference between them and normal humans. Because these androids often act up, Blade Runners are employed to “retire” the robots and keep humanity safe. While many androids have a short lifespan, some of them are looking to extend their life. One such android is Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), who has assembled a team of androids and returned to Earth to “meet their maker,” so to speak. Consequently, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is put to the task of being the Blade Runner to take out these androids. He soon learns that the standard emotional tests to distinguish androids aren’t sufficient, and must use his skills as a former police officer to track down these androids and prevent them from killing any more people.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 superb Ridley Scott movies

Bacon #: 2 (Prometheus (directed) / Michael Fassbender -> X-Men: First Class / Kevin Bacon)

#329. George Lucas

For a director who has only directed six films in his career, George Lucas is one of the most recognizable names in the industry. Of course, this is also partly because of his film studio, Lucasfilm is responsible for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. When the main draw of a movie is the visuals and sounds involved with immersing the viewer in the world of the film, it’s no wonder that Industrial Light & Magic and Skywalker Sound are the great workhorses of Lucasfilm. What is almost ironic about George Lucas’ career is that, while he has written more films than he has directed, many actors and fans find the dialogue in these films to be clunky at best. Love him or hate him, George Lucas has made an indelible mark on film and on pop culture. This week’s two films highlight some of the best products of George Lucas’ career.

Star Wars: A New HopeStar Wars: A New Hope
Year: 1977
Rating: PG
Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours

The film that launched a thousand starships, Star Wars (1977) was an amazing, technical feat that we almost take for granted today. Most of the practical effects in this film, both on the ground and in space, have rarely been lived up to. While he didn’t direct The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or Return of the Jedi (1983), he did write each of them to maintain his vision of the Star Wars universe. George was back in the director’s chair for the prequel trilogy, writing and directing all three films in this less-than-exemplary follow-on to the cult hit he had created decades before. Despite not winning any Oscars from the original Star Wars, he was nominated for Best Director and Best Writing for his efforts. Strangely enough, both Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness did not like Lucas’ writing, especially for their dialogue.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) of the Rebel Alliance is trying to get the plans for the Death Star into her compatriots’ hands but is captured in the process. Fortunately, her droids manage to track down Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), who charters a spaceship to travel to Alderaan with his new compatriot, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Flying in the Millennium Falcon, piloted by Han Solo (Harrison Ford), the group arrive to find the planet destroyed by the Death Star. After being captured by the moon-like weapon, they manage to rescue the Princess and escape despite the loss of Kenobi at the hands of Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones).). Now that the Rebels know the weakness of the Death Star, they launch an assault on the weapon to destroy it for good.

American GraffitiAmerican Graffiti
Year: 1973
Rating: PG
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

It’s almost odd to think that the man who brought the world Star Wars was the same one who also wrote and directed American Graffiti (1973). Earning his first Best Director and Best Writing Oscar nominations for this film, American Graffiti was George Lucas’ breakout success, even if it wasn’t his first film. Distinctly different in genre and tone from his very first film, THX 1138 (1971), American Graffiti examined a coming-of-age story set in a time of transition between high school and college. Perhaps due to its relatability to anyone who has ever been a teenager, this film has managed to place as high as #62 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies list. Unfortunately, the sequel, More American Graffiti (1979) failed to live up to its original, much like the Star Wars prequels would in years to come.

After graduating high school earlier that year, a group of teens set out to have one last “hurrah” on the final day of summer vacation. Each of them has different destinations and dreams, many of them revolving around attending college in the next few days. In their last moments together before continuing their life elsewhere, these teens set out to drive around their hometown of Modesto, California looking for a good time. While some of them find missed opportunities, others take risks that have life-changing effects on their future plans. Each one of them realizes their childhood will soon be over, so they do the best they can to live it up in those final moments before flying away to attend college, get a job, or go to war. In the end, many of their decisions are based on love, which makes for a series of challenging goodbyes.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great George Lucas movies

Bacon #: 2 (Hook / Phil Collins -> Balto / Kevin Bacon)

#324. Guillermo del Toro

If there’s a monster under your bed, chances are it’s probably been directed by Guillermo del Toro. While his work isn’t outright horror based on the “slasher” or “gorenography” interpretations of the genre, many of his films feature some scary monsters. Perhaps what makes these monsters somewhat more palatable is their inclusion in a (mostly) fantasy world. It’s through these fanciful settings where del Toro’s visual and artistic style come to full fruition. Even the real-world settings feel safe through the heroic protagonists that inhabit these alternate realities. If anything, the monsters in his films are supposed to be powerful beings that the protagonists need to overcome in order to develop as characters. This week’s two films highlight some early and recent works directed by Guillermo del Toro.

Pacific RimPacific Rim
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 131 minutes / 2.18 hours

The types of films del Toro has directed can be pretty easily divided into two categories: action and horror. While his earlier career focused on the horror genre, when the new millennium rolled around he started creating action-focused films. Often, darker source material would be the source for these films, keeping in line with his predisposition toward the macabre. From Blade II (2002) to Hellboy (2004) and its sequel, Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008), Guillermo del Toro has had comics and graphic novels off of which he could directly base his films. With Pacific Rim (2013), no such source material existed, but plenty of genre pieces influenced this action film. From the huge monster movies of the Godzilla franchise to the sub-genre of mecha anime and manga, it’s easy to see where this movie’s origins lie.

For decades, humanity thought the alien invasion would come from above us. When enormous monsters known as Kaiju appeared from a cross-dimensional rift deep within the Pacific Ocean, humans soon found themselves fighting off this threat with giant robots called Jaegers. One of these Jaegers, the American Gipsy Danger, helped to defend the Pacific Rim, eventually losing to a Kaiju outside of Anchorage. Years later, after mothballing the Jaeger program and with the coastal wall proving to be insufficient to protect humanity, Gipsy Danger and the remaining functional Jaegers were called into service once again. With the size and frequency of the Kaijus increasing, the leader of the Jaeger program has but one final option left to stop the threat to humanity. Diving deep into the ocean, Gipsy Danger goes forth to detonate a nuclear device to close the portal between worlds for good.

Year: 1993
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

As you can probably tell by his name, Guillermo del Toro has a Spanish background (Mexican, to be specific). Consequently, many of his early films have Spanish as their spoken language. While he directed a few short films in the late 1980’s, his first feature-length piece was Cronos (1993). Compared to the “action” films mentioned above, his earlier films are definitely darker in tone. Movies like Mimic (1997) and The Devil’s Backbone (2001) were straight-up horror, but by Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), del Toro started to make the horror more fantasy-based, thus lessening some of its scariness. Even if he still has some chops when it comes to horror, like in Crimson Peak (2015), I feel his fantasy films really show off his creative potential. This potential was recently present in The Shape of Water (2017), this year’s Best Picture and somewhat of a follow-up to Pan’s Labyrinth in settings and themes.

Antique dealer, Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), through the course of his work, finds an archangel statue with a hollow base. He finds a mechanical, bug-like device inside the base, which latches onto him and injects him with a centuries-old serum that grants eternal life. In the following days, Gris finds that his old body is returning to its youthful state. Unfortunately, Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a well-connected businessman is also looking for this device to extend his own life. As Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman) searches for the Cronos device, Gris finds that he craves blood and that the sun burns his skin. Even though Angel kills Gris, the vampiric antique dealer is able to attend his own funeral before confronting Dieter with the Cronos device. It is in this exchange when Gris learns the real power of what he has become.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Guillermo del Toro movies

Bacon #: 2 (Puss in Boots / Billy Bob Thornton -> Jayne Mansfield’s Car / Kevin Bacon)

#318. James L. Brooks

Some people have the ability to bring out the greatness in others. Or, at least, they have the capacity to see the greatness in others and guide it into the spotlight. I would like to think that a producer has this ability, mostly due to the success of James L. Brooks. As the winner of several Emmy Awards, he clearly knows how to produce a television show, many of which have become a part of the popular culture fabric of our society (The Simpsons, for one). Regarding his films, he has only directed six of them, but they have been a little more hit-or-miss. When the right elements come together, his films are certainly successful, both critically and financially. Perhaps this is due to his ability to get to the humanity of a story and its characters. This week’s two films examine the successful directing of James L. Brooks.

Broadcast NewsBroadcast News
Year: 1987
Rating: R
Length: 133 minutes / 2.22 hours

With as much television experience as Brooks has, it is no wonder that he eventually decided to direct a film about it. The behind-the-scenes of the newsroom could only come from an intimate knowledge of the industry, of which James L. Brooks certainly has. Broadcast News (1987) was only one of a handful of Best Picture Oscar nominees he directed. Each time he made an Oscar-worthy film, it is interesting to note that he also obtained nominations for Best Writing as well. As Good as It Gets (1997) earned this distinction alongside Broadcast News and Terms of Endearment (1984). Of course, as a producer of films, he was also in the running for a Best Picture Oscar with Jerry Maguire (1996), a film he did not direct or write, but did produce. Unfortunately, most of these films left him without any Oscars for his effort.

Jane Craig (Holly Hunter) has boundless ambition when it comes to her job as a television producer. Her best friend, Aaron Altman (Albert Brooks), secretly has a crush on her but is unable to confess his feelings. Meanwhile, a promotion moved Tom Grunick (William Hurt) from sports to the main anchor chair, despite his only skill being a photogenic personality. Jane learns Tom is also attracted to her, but Aaron tries to warn her about him while at the same time finally confessing his own feelings. It turns out Tom has broken a few ethical rules during a heartfelt interview that he obtained from a woman who was sexually assaulted. In the end, all three of them have to disband and live their lives elsewhere when the network goes under. While each of them found their own individual success, they still managed to maintain their friendship through it all.

Terms of EndearmentTerms of Endearment
Year: 1983
Rating: R
Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours

Brooks’ breakout film was none other than the aforementioned Terms of Endearment. I’d hate to draw correlations to his work and the work of M. Night Shyamalan, but he seemed to peak with his first two films. Terms of Endearment won Brooks his only three Oscars for Best Picture, Best Writing, and Best Director, the latter of which was also his only nomination in that category. Lately, his films have not been quite successful at all. I’ll Do Anything (1994), Spanglish (2004), and How Do You Know? (2010) are all largely considered much weaker than his Best Picture-nominated work. Since he only seems to direct two films every decade, we probably can’t expect anything from him soon, but when he does return to the director’s chair, I certainly hope he can earn another Oscar for his work.

The mother-daughter relationship is perhaps one of the tightest relationships any two people can ever have. Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter, Emma Greenway-Horton (Debra Winger), have both wanted to find love in their lives. When Emma is married to Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), Aurora’s mothering nature fails to show how much she cares about Emma and instead strains their relationship. As Emma starts her own journey into motherhood, Aurora finds love with her next-door neighbor, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), a retired astronaut. While Emma’s marriage is threatened by an affair held between Flap and one of his students, a cancer diagnosis for Emma forces the family together. Flap and Aurora do their best to put their differences behind them to support Emma in her final months.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 of the best by James L. Brooks

Bacon #: 2 (Modern Romance / Jane Hallaren -> Hero at Large / Kevin Bacon)


#315. Sidney Lumet

Sidney Lumet is perhaps the best Director you’ve never even heard of. While his films have garnered almost fifty Oscar nominations, they’ve only earned six. None of these six were for Best Director, but he was nominated at least four times over his long and distinguished career. One of the reasons most people aren’t familiar with his work is that the heyday of Lumet’s best works was in the 1970’s. During this decade, his films garnered the vast majority of Oscar nominations, as well as all of the Oscar wins (in a three-year period). While his career has spanned six decades, most of his films aren’t recognizable, despite his prolific filmography. Many of these films are critically acclaimed, even to this day. This week’s two films highlight some of the best that Sidney Lumet’s directing had to offer.

                                                                          Dog Day Afternoon
Dog Day AfternoonYear: 1975
Rating: R
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours

In 1974, Lumet directed Murder on the Orient Express, a film that garnered the most Oscar nominations to date for one of his films. With six nominations, only Ingrid Bergman’s performance managed to snag a win, the first for a Lumet-directed film. One year later, Dog Day Afternoon would pull the same feat, with six nominations and one win for Best Original Screenplay. One of these nominations was for Lumet’s directing, which was his second overall at the time. Many will recognize that Al Pacino helped to cement this film in the history of popular culture. Perhaps his inclusion in this film was in part due to his iconic portrayal of the eponymous Serpico in the Lumet-directed film from two years prior. If anything, Serpico and Dog Day Afternoon show that Sidney Lumet can direct Al Pacino to be on either side of the law.

While Serpico has Al Pacino portray an honest cop of the same name, Dog Day Afternoon goes in the opposite direction, allowing him to portray bank robber Sonny Wortzik. Sonny is new to this crime game and botches his first robbery at the First Brooklyn Savings Bank. Soon the cops have been called and only two of the original three robbers are left to hold the bank hostage. Sonny is able to get the public on his side by letting a security guard go due to an asthma attack but also riling them up by yelling about the recent Attica Prison riot. It is eventually revealed that the reason for the failed robbery was to pay for Sonny’s girlfriend to finish gender reassignment surgery, earning him more sympathy points. Realizing that the whole fiasco is a bust, Sonny just wants to get him and his partner, Sal (John Cazale) out safely. The negotiators oblige, but Sonny and Sal end up getting a bad deal in the process.

Year: 1976
Rating: R
Length: 121 minutes / 2.02 hours

Right from the start, Sidney Lumet’s skill at directing was easily recognizable. His first film, 12 Angry Men (1957) is considered by many to be the epitome of the courtroom drama, even if the courtroom is rarely seen at all. Earning three nominations, this film garnered Lumet his first nod for Best Director. 25 years later, he would bookend with another courtroom drama and earn his fourth and final Best Director nomination for The Verdict (1982). His most-nominated film, however, was Network (1976), which racked up an impressive ten nominations. Lumet was nominated for Best Director, but it was the Original Screenplay and the acting talents of Peter Finch (Best Actor), Faye Dunaway (Best Actress) and Beatrice Straight (Best Supporting Actress) that brought home the gold that year.

Anger is front and center on Howard Beale’s (Peter Finch) Evening News segment after he learns that he will be fired due to poor ratings. As luck would have it, his un-anchor-like actions push the ratings of his show through the roof. Meanwhile, Diana Christensen (Faye Dunaway) realizes the potential to morph the “mad as hell” anchor into an entertainments show instead of a news-oriented one. Now that Beale has a new-found power as a prophet of the airways, he decides to take on the Saudi Arabian conglomerate who is poised to buy out his studio. This gains the attention of the head of the Communications Corporation of America, Arthur Jensen (Ned Beatty), who takes Beale aside and shows him the financial sense of the world. As a result, Beale is told to tone it down and this leads to a slide in the ratings for The Howard Beale Show. Only one option remains for the network, and it’s a win-win situation for them.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 stupendous Sidney Lumet movies

Bacon #: 2 (The Manchurian Candidate (2004) / Robert W. Castle -> Sleepers / Kevin Bacon)