How come TV actors so rarely get a break on the big screen? The general consensus seems to be that we’ve moved beyond the age of the Movie Star–just look at how little anyone cared about Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts’ Larry Crowne–so why is it still so hard for TV actors to make great movies? Take a look at Peep World. You’ve got Michael C. Hall, who’s given stunning performances on Six Feet Under and Dexter; this man should be working with A-list directors, but instead he makes stuff like Gamer. You’ve got the trifecta of Rainn Wilson, Judy Greer, and Sarah Silverman, all of whom have done very funny work on television. The closest any of them get to cinematic greatness is Wilson’s bit part in Juno. TV’s time-consuming, I know. But when you look at a mess like Peep World, you wonder how so many talented TV people got thrown into such a bad movie. In a way, it reminds me of The Great New Wonderful, an awful movie that inexplicably starred Edie Falco, Will Arnett, Jim Gaffigan, Tony Shalhoub, and Stephen Colbert. Peep World isn’t nearly as bad, but its story of an oh so dysfunctional family feels like an unpleasant tenth-generation copy of The Royal Tenenbaums. It has no style, little wit, and the narrative is all a-shambles. With this many talented actors involved, there are bound to be some effective moments, and there are. But if a filmmaker with respect for and knowledge of the medium had been given the same budget and the same cast, something special could have happened. Extras include deleted scenes and a theatrical trailer.
Sidney Lumet, the film director responsible for such classics as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and Serpico, among others, died today, April 9, 2011, of lymphoma at his Manhattan home. I couldn’t hope to better articulate Lumet’s achievements as a filmmaker than Roger Ebert already has, except to say that Lumet never slowed during his feature film directorial career, which spanned 50 years from 1957 to 2007. He directed so many films, in fact, that it comes as a surprise to me that I’ve only seen a fraction of them. 12 Angry Men is, I would say, one of the ten best movies ever made, with stunning uses of space and perspective which so effectively draw you into the drama onscreen that they’re almost impossible to notice the first time through. But when you go back and examine the film, what was already a great courtroom drama becomes a powerhouse piece of filmmaking.
Even late in his career, Lumet was crafting high-quality movies, like 2006’s Find Me Guilty, the first (and so far only) film to fully realize the dramatic potential Vin Diesel had teased in Saving Private Ryan. It’s another courtroom drama, but much different than 12 Angry Men; Diesel’s Jack DiNorsico is a colorful character, one Diesel and Lumet seem to effortlessly elevate from wiseguy stereotype. If you haven’t seen it–and from its dismal box office take, I’d wager many haven’t–I highly recommend it.
Lumet was nominated for four Best Director Academy Awards, for 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict. His screenplay for Prince of the City, co-written with Jay Presson Allen, was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay. Lumet won an honorary Oscar, richly deserved, in 2005.