Making the Cut: Great Directors | Film Reviews, Oct. 2019

A wonderful biography of a memorable man, and a worthy addition to all libraries; though at times too congratulatory, an otherwise strong account of a talented and uncompromising director

Life Isn't EverythingLife Isn’t Everything: Mike Nichols as Remembered by 148 of His Closest Friends. Holt. Nov. 2019. 368p. ed. by Ash Carter & Sam Kashner. ISBN 9781250112873. $30. FILM
This is the first portrait of director Mike Nichols (1931–2014) to be published since his death, and it’s a marvelous oral biography with recollections from actors, filmmakers, and friends. The breadth of Nichols’s career in comedy, theater, and film is staggering, so Carter (senior editor, Esquire) and Kashner (contributing editor,Vanity Fair; When I Was Cool: My Life at the Jack Kerouac School) have wisely focused on key periods, such as Nichols’s early days with comedian and actor Elaine May, films ranging fromWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Silkwood to Working Girl and Angels in America, and the stage productions of Barefoot in the Park and Spamalot, among many others. As the thoughts recorded here are clearly from close friends, such as Meryl Streep, Wallace Shawn, Buck Henry, and Tony Walton, there is nary a negative word to be found. Yet many stories of Nichols’s personal life, his midcareer depression, and his internal struggles as an artist provide a well-rounded sense of a man who excelled in his field and was truly loved by those around him. ­
VERDICT A wonderful biography of a unique and memorable man, and a worthy addition to all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, 5/5/19.]—Peter ­Thornell, Hingham P.L., MA

Cover of Sidney LumetSpiegel, Maura. Sidney Lumet: A Life. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2019. 416p. filmog. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250030153. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250030146. FILM
Sidney Lumet (1924–2011) directed some of the most iconic films of the 1970s including Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, and Network. Known as an "actor’s director" who loved to collaborate with his cast and crew, he taught courses on filmmaking and wrote Making Movies, which detailed the technical aspects of filmmaking. With this biography, Spiegel (narrative medicine, Columbia Univ. Coll. of Physicians and Surgeons) uses passages from an unfinished memoir and interviews with friends, family, and actors to create a portrait of a strong, complicated, but compassionate man who created classics with a strong New York City atmosphere. Unlike Making Movies, this title does not dwell too much on the technical. Instead, Spiegel focuses on the humanity involved in each film, Lumet’s relationships, and the presence of Lumet’s home, New York City.
VERDICT Though some readers may find the book at times too congratulatory (there are no juicy tidbits), it does provide a strong perspective of a talented but uncompromising director. An insightful biography, perfect for film buffs.—Leah Huey, Dekalb P.L., IL

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