Tag: Sandy Dennis

Movie Flashback: “The Four Seasons” (1981)

Screenshot The Four Seasons 1981

I’m not sure what possessed me to watch this film. I must have been pretty bored when I scrolled through the film options on Amazon Prime to land on this one. I do enjoy older films, and the cast here is fantastic so it seemed like a reasonable choice.

Sadly, I wasn’t too impressed. I came away thinking that a film like this probably derailed Alan Alda’s film career after his incredible run on M.A.S.H. It was very hard back then to make the jump from TV to film, and Alda was certainly typecast at this point. Unfortunately, his character here is just a less funny version of Hawkeye.

The movie isn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very funny, and wasn’t that the point? The cast featured Alda along with Carole Burnett. One would expect plenty of laughs. Rita Moreno, Jack Weston, Len Cariou, Sandy Dennis and Bess Armstrong rounded out the cast. Again, there’s plenty of talent here, but something’s missing.

The underlying story had promise (see the original trailer here). Three couples traditionally go on vacation with their friends every new season. They’re all very close. Jack (Alda) and Kate (Burnett) are a couple. We learn early on with the first vacation that Nick (Cariou) isn’t very happy with his wife , Anne (Dennis). Then on the next vacation he shows up with a much younger woman, Ginny (Bess Armstrong), and the others struggle to come to terms with this. We see these relationships evolve as they go through more vacations together with each new season.

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”  “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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