Friday, November 21, 2014

RIP Mike Nichols

I was saddened to learn Wednesday of the passing of Mike Nichols. Nichols had a long, esteemed career in the arts, becoming one of the few winners of the EGOT -- winning an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award. He's also responsible for two of my favorite films, 1967's The Graduate and 1996's The Birdcage.

The Graduate is one of the films that got me interested in film in the first place. It was the first film shown in my high school's film study class, and the first that I had to look at with a critical eye. The film's use of cinematic techniques to create thematic meaning is easy to spot, but never over-the-top or cheesy. The film also features perhaps the most iconic ending in American film, the now-famous bus sequence.

The film deserves its status as a classic, mainly due to Nichols' excellent directing (and Dustin Hoffman's performance as Benjamin). It stands as one of the great looks into the lives of young people, people who may be floating through life without anything to anchor them.

Nichols was best known for The Graduate, but continued to direct films and theatrical productions for the rest of his life (his last film was 2007's Charlie Wilson's War, starring Tom Hanks). He had several other major successes in both mediums. My favorite film later Nichols film, and one of my favorite comedies of all time, is 1996's The Birdcage. An adaptation of La Cage aux Folles, the film tells the story of a gay couple who must present as a husband-and-wife to ensure that their adopted son can marry the daughter of a conservative politician. Nathan Lane and Robin Williams turn in fantastic performances as the couple (the film is one of my favorites of Williams' career, and one that I re-watched following his death earlier this year), and Gene Hackman is hilarious as the politician. If you haven't seen the film before, I can't recommend it highly enough.

One of Nichols greatest works, and one that I've had on my to-watch list for a while, is his 2003 HBO miniseries Angels in America, about AIDS and homosexuality in 1980's New York City. I think that I'll take the time to watch it over Thanksgiving break as a tribute to Nichols. 

No comments: