DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

BECOMING MIKE NICHOLS (director: Douglas McGrath; cinematographer: Tim Orr; editor: Camilla Toniolo; music: David Lawrence; cast:  Mike Nichols, Jack O'Brien; Runtime: 72; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Ellin Baumel; HBO Documentary Films; 2016)

"A short but sweet documentary on Mike Nichols."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A short but sweet documentary on Mike Nichols, who is interviewed onstage by his colleague, theater director,  Jack O'Brien. The interview for the playful 83-year-old was shot in 2014, months before his death, at Broadway’s John Golden Theater, for over two nights. Only one night had an audience. Director Douglas McGrath ("Infamous"/"His Way"/"Nicholas Nickleby") traces the life of the prolific filmmaker onward from the time he fled Nazi Germany in 1939 as a 7-year-old and landed in Manhattan, not speaking a word of English. We hear about his early improv comic days in Chicago collaborating with Elaine May. Besides talking about that experience, film clips are shown.  It then follows him on his move back to NYC and his days in the theater, as Nichols muses about how Lillian Hellman offered much needed help for “Barefoot in the Park,” the first play he directed on Broadway. Nichols goes on to say he started his directing career with a Warner Brothers film, and was clueless. Though he insisted to Jack Warner he wanted to film it in b/w and didn't budge until the mogul yielded. Fortunately before shooting his first film, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), his actor friend Tony Perkins taught him for three days about camera lenses and other basic skills he would need as a director. For trivia buffs, Nichols relates how Burton's superb "burgen" monologue almost was lost because of his technical screw-up. Later when talking about his much rewarded sophomore film, The Graduate (1967), Nichols tells how the Simon & Garfunkel album "Bridge Under Troubled Waters" became the soundtrack and his initial complaint about the song “Mrs. Robinson” for “The Graduate,” which was immediately altered by the folk duo who instead used the lyrics from the song they were working on called "Mrs. Roosevelt."

For Nichols, George Stevens’s 1951 film “A Place in the Sun” was his treasured discovery. He claims he saw it about 150 times.

The brief but enjoyable film only covers a few tidbits in the talented life of the artist, but it does it well and shows him as a likable and witty raconteur. His opus of films is for the most part a must-see, and this film should should wet your appetite to see his collection.

Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) was a rare bird. An immigrant, fleeing Nazi Germany as a small child, who would later become an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Winner. He was a groundbreaking improvisor, turned prolific director of stage and screen. He was a film director, theatre director, film producer, actor, and comedian. “Becoming Mike Nichols” covers, in Mike’s own words, his early life, leading up to his Oscar Winning work on The Graduate. The Documentary was shot over 3 days at the Golden Theatre in New York, where Nichols was interviewed by his long time friend, Jack O’Brien, on stage, with and without an audience. A Master Class for entertainers of all kinds, Nichols shares his insights as a director, performer and friend, recounting how he befriended Elizabeth Taylor in a Broadway alley. Filmed in 2014, and one of the last on camera interviews Nichols did before his death, months later, due to complications with his pacemaker, even at 83 years old, Mike Nichols was quick as a whip, and an amazing story teller. In the documentary, Nichols talks about his learning curve as a filmmaker and his “classic closing shot” which will surely be of interest to any budding filmmakers watching. Directed by Douglas McGrath, blending Jack O’Brien’s questions from one day, and Mike’s Answer from the next day, keeps the film visually interesting, which could otherwise just be a stale reminiscence between two oldboys talking about the glory days. McGrath also used footage of Nichols’s early career, because why tell, when you can show? For younger audiences who have only heard reference of the comedy duo “Nichols and May” its nice to see progenitor comedy like these early on-camera bits, that still very much hold up. Mike Nichols lived an amazingly full life, and as this documentary shows, he was an amazingly engaging presence.

Read more at: http://www.redcarpetreporttv.com/2016/02/21/reviewed-becoming-mike-nichols-premieres-on-hbo-as-a-inspirational-tribute-to-the-prolific-egot-winner-hbodocs-moviereview-trailer/
Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) was a rare bird. An immigrant, fleeing Nazi Germany as a small child, who would later become an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Winner. He was a groundbreaking improvisor, turned prolific director of stage and screen. He was a film director, theatre director, film producer, actor, and comedian. “Becoming Mike Nichols” covers, in Mike’s own words, his early life, leading up to his Oscar Winning work on The Graduate. The Documentary was shot over 3 days at the Golden Theatre in New York, where Nichols was interviewed by his long time friend, Jack O’Brien, on stage, with and without an audience. A Master Class for entertainers of all kinds, Nichols shares his insights as a director, performer and friend, recounting how he befriended Elizabeth Taylor in a Broadway alley. Filmed in 2014, and one of the last on camera interviews Nichols did before his death, months later, due to complications with his pacemaker, even at 83 years old, Mike Nichols was quick as a whip, and an amazing story teller. In the documentary, Nichols talks about his learning curve as a filmmaker and his “classic closing shot” which will surely be of interest to any budding filmmakers watching. Directed by Douglas McGrath, blending Jack O’Brien’s questions from one day, and Mike’s Answer from the next day, keeps the film visually interesting, which could otherwise just be a stale reminiscence between two oldboys talking about the glory days. McGrath also used footage of Nichols’s early career, because why tell, when you can show? For younger audiences who have only heard reference of the comedy duo “Nichols and May” its nice to see progenitor comedy like these early on-camera bits, that still very much hold up. Mike Nichols lived an amazingly full life, and as this documentary shows, he was an amazingly engaging presence.

Read more at: http://www.redcarpetreporttv.com/2016/02/21/reviewed-becoming-mike-nichols-premieres-on-hbo-as-a-inspirational-tribute-to-the-prolific-egot-winner-hbodocs-moviereview-trailer/
Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) was a rare bird. An immigrant, fleeing Nazi Germany as a small child, who would later become an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Winner. He was a groundbreaking improvisor, turned prolific director of stage and screen. He was a film director, theatre director, film producer, actor, and comedian. “Becoming Mike Nichols” covers, in Mike’s own words, his early life, leading up to his Oscar Winning work on The Graduate. The Documentary was shot over 3 days at the Golden Theatre in New York, where Nichols was interviewed by his long time friend, Jack O’Brien, on stage, with and without an audience. A Master Class for entertainers of all kinds, Nichols shares his insights as a director, performer and friend, recounting how he befriended Elizabeth Taylor in a Broadway alley. Filmed in 2014, and one of the last on camera interviews Nichols did before his death, months later, due to complications with his pacemaker, even at 83 years old, Mike Nichols was quick as a whip, and an amazing story teller. In the documentary, Nichols talks about his learning curve as a filmmaker and his “classic closing shot” which will surely be of interest to any budding filmmakers watching. Directed by Douglas McGrath, blending Jack O’Brien’s questions from one day, and Mike’s Answer from the next day, keeps the film visually interesting, which could otherwise just be a stale reminiscence between two oldboys talking about the glory days. McGrath also used footage of Nichols’s early career, because why tell, when you can show? For younger audiences who have only heard reference of the comedy duo “Nichols and May” its nice to see progenitor comedy like these early on-camera bits, that still very much hold up. Mike Nichols lived an amazingly full life, and as this documentary shows, he was an amazingly engaging presence.

Read more at: http://www.redcarpetreporttv.com/2016/02/21/reviewed-becoming-mike-nichols-premieres-on-hbo-as-a-inspirational-tribute-to-the-prolific-egot-winner-hbodocs-moviereview-trailer/
Mike Nichols (born Mikhail Igor Peschkowsky) was a rare bird. An immigrant, fleeing Nazi Germany as a small child, who would later become an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony) Winner. He was a groundbreaking improvisor, turned prolific director of stage and screen. He was a film director, theatre director, film producer, actor, and comedian. “Becoming Mike Nichols” covers, in Mike’s own words, his early life, leading up to his Oscar Winning work on The Graduate. The Documentary was shot over 3 days at the Golden Theatre in New York, where Nichols was interviewed by his long time friend, Jack O’Brien, on stage, with and without an audience. A Master Class for entertainers of all kinds, Nichols shares his insights as a director, performer and friend, recounting how he befriended Elizabeth Taylor in a Broadway alley. Filmed in 2014, and one of the last on camera interviews Nichols did before his death, months later, due to complications with his pacemaker, even at 83 years old, Mike Nichols was quick as a whip, and an amazing story teller. In the documentary, Nichols talks about his learning curve as a filmmaker and his “classic closing shot” which will surely be of interest to any budding filmmakers watching. Directed by Douglas McGrath, blending Jack O’Brien’s questions from one day, and Mike’s Answer from the next day, keeps the film visually interesting, which could otherwise just be a stale reminiscence between two oldboys talking about the glory days. McGrath also used footage of Nichols’s early career, because why tell, when you can show? For younger audiences who have only heard reference of the comedy duo “Nichols and May” its nice to see progenitor comedy like these early on-camera bits, that still very much hold up. Mike Nichols lived an amazingly full life, and as this documentary shows, he was an amazingly engaging presence.

Read more at: http://www.redcarpetreporttv.com/2016/02/21/reviewed-becoming-mike-nichols-premieres-on-hbo-as-a-inspirational-tribute-to-the-prolific-egot-winner-hbodocs-moviereview-trailer/

REVIEWED ON 2/25/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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