Yeah, I also thought they had forgotten when I woke up on Monday and Google Reader was still around. Now, it’s a memorial, an ode to a forgotten time when there were things that mattered and those things could be discovered through a carefully arranged RSS reader offered free of charge. Now, onto the next thing, whatever that might be, I suppose. (I’m still deciding between Feedly and Digg right now.)
Director Blake Edwards died last night in Santa Monica. The man was an acclaimed comedic director, helming “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” “The Pink Panther” (the first, great one, as well as several sequels), “10” and “Victor/Victoria.” He also directed the Jack Lemmon alcoholism movie “Days of Wine and Roses.” Sadly, his final film was “Son of the Pink Panther,” a bad attempt to revive the franchise with Roberto Benigni in 1993. Edwards, who was an actor and writer before he was a director, was married to Julie Andrews. He was 88.
Irvin Kershner, most famous for directing “The Empire Strikes Back,” has died at age 87.
Kershner worked in television before making his way through the Roger Corman School of Hard Knocks. He directed the excellent Peter Finch-Charles Bronson movie “Raid on Entebbe,” and his most famous pre-“Star Wars” credit was probably the George. C. Scott comedy “The Flim-Flam Man.”
But “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 will remain the first-line-of-his-obituary high point of his career. The first sequel to “Star Wars” was a project that could have been screwed up any number of ways, chief among them being the obvious urge to just remake “Star Wars” with a bigger budget. Instead, he made a film that set the standard for modern blockbuster sequels: it’s different from the original, but not so different that it has no resemblance; it expands the universe and builds upon what came before; and everything is bigger, better and (as has become de rigueur for such things) darker.
(Oddly, despite being the best film in the series and the template for countless big-budget sequels, “Empire” was actually the worst-performing “Star Wars” film at the box office. [It earned nearly $100 million less in its initial run in the U.S. than its predecessor had made.] This set a weird standard that other franchises have followed: “The Godfather, Part II” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” both the creative apexes of their respective series, were also the low points at the box office.)
After “Empire,” Kershner went on to direct 1983’s “Never Say Never Again,” the redheaded stepchild of the James Bond series. (A remake of the prior Bond film “Thunderball,” it was the only Bond flick not made by the producers who ran the franchise.) Sean Connery, who had retired from the series in 1971, returned for this final go-round and was joined by Kim Basinger as the Bond Girl and Max von Sydow as Blofeld. Several years later, Kershner again dipped into the franchise well to far lesser results, helming the weak “RoboCop 2.”
(Of note: Kershner follows Leslie Nielsen, who died over the weekend and also had a career breakthrough in 1980. Kershner’s was “Empire,” Nielsen’s was “Airplane!” Both remain among my all-time favorite films, and both talents will be missed.)
The great Leslie Nielsen died yesterday in Fort Lauderdale at the age of 84. The actor got his start with serious dramatic work (in movies like sci-fi flick “Forbidden Planet” and oodles of TV) before pivoting to comedy with “Airplane!”, which remains one of the greatest movies ever made and one of the top 10 or 12 achievements in human history. His work on the 1982 show “Police Squad” gave way to “The Naked Gun” film series after that show’s quick cancellation. I think it’s safe to say that quoting Nielsen’s dialogue (or a line from one of his movies) accounted for a good 35 percent of my conversations with my siblings growing up.
The years since the final “Naked Gun” in 1994 weren’t particularly kind, mostly filled with spoof movies (“Dracula: Dead and Loving It,” “Spy Hard,” “2001: A Space Travesty”) that were seemingly sold around the idea that any spoof with Nielsen would work. We prefer to remember the Nielsen who so memorably gave voice to some golden comic bits.
From “Airplane!” (1980):
From “The Naked Gun” (1988):
The legendary Arthur Penn (and I do not say “legendary” lightly), director of “Bonnie and Clyde” among other films, died Tuesday at the age of 88.
Penn was best known for 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” which is widely regarded as a turning point in American cinema. It put sex and violence (especially violence) front and center and made the bad guys the heroes. It was also a terrific film with terrific editing; Dede Allen, who edited the film, died last month.
While “Bonnie and Clyde” will forever keep his name in the annals of cinematic history, Penn also directed films like “The Miracle Worker,” helmed Broadway productions (like the Mike Nichols/Elaine May production) and advised then-Sen. John F. Kennedy before his TV debates with Nixon in 1960.
Sally Meinke, the Oscar-nominated editor best known for her work on Quentin Tarantino’s movies, has died. Reports indicate that she went hiking in extreme heat on Monday and was discovered early Tuesday, but no cause of death has been reported yet.
Meinke was twice nominated for an Oscar (for “Pulp Fiction” and “Inglourious Basterds”). In addition to Tarantino’s movies, she also worked on “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Heaven & Earth” and “All the Pretty Horses.” She was, to say the least, among the best at what she did. She was 56.