Films directed by
Sidney Lumet

Fail Safe (Henry Fonda and Larry Hagman)

Fail Safe

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It’s best to think of this movie as the estranged fraternal twin of Dr. Strangelove. Fail Safe is the sober, humorless one. Both films cover virtually the same territory, that of an inadvertent nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, but while Stanley Kubrick treated Armageddon as a subject worthy of absurdist gallows farce, Sidney Lumet takes it seriously for some reason. Continue reading

Network

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Sometime during the last thirty years, Network has gone from an outrageous, absurdist comedy to almost a documentary. Almost. While some of its points about reality television, media consolidation and news-as-entertainment seem eerily prescient, fortunately not all of it has come true. Dan Rather was not gunned down during his last broadcast and, to the best of my knowledge, the Communist Party never had its own network series.

Even after three decades, this movie is still one of the most intelligent, biting indictments of television excess ever produced. The sharp, literate, Oscar-winning script by Paddy Chayefsky still has the power to stoke your anger even while it sends you dashing off to find a thesaurus.

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Dog Day Afternoon

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In Sidney Lumet‘s gritty heist drama, Al Pacino hadn’t yet become a parody of himself. He’s still a great actor but in some of his recent films, like Heat and The Devil’s Advocate, his acting has taken on a broad, over-the-top quality not found in his earlier work. In Dog Day Afternoon, even standing on the sidewalk, chanting “Attica! Attica!” Pacino never oversells the performance, making Sonny a nuanced and sympathetic character.

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