erik lundegaard

Monday March 18, 2024

Norman Jewison (1926-2024)

Yeah, I thought he was Jewish, too. It was the name, the fact that he directed “Fiddler on the Roof,” the kindly disposition. Go know.

He was nominated best director three times without winning, though one of his films won best picture: “In the Heat of the Night.” Jewison lost out to Mike Nichols, who'd directed “The Graduate.” Did that make it better for Jewison ... or worse? I assume the former but it's got to stick a little, particularly since that was a rare schism back then. The last time it had happened was 1956, I think: George Stevens got it for “Giant,” but “Around the World in 80 Days” won best picture. The Academy gave it to the old hand and the new tech. In 1967, they gave it to the new kid and the traditional fare.

His three nominations were in three different decades: 1967 for “Heat,” “Fiddler” in 1971, “Moonstruck” in 1987. What's his best? “Fiddler” is his highest-rated on IMDb (8.0), followed by “In the Heat” (7.9), then “The Hurricane” (7.6) and, oddly, “And Justice for All” (7.4). I say oddly because the day Jewison died, January 20, before we'd heard the news, we were watching “And Justice” and couldn't finish. We got halfway through. It just seemed too over-the-top to be interesting. 

I should see “Moonstruck” again. It's a helluva oeuvre. He started out doing '50s TV, and not even the television playhouses. More musicals and glitz. Then he graduated to romcoms with a '50s veneer (“Send Me No Flowers”) before breaking bigger, or more serious, with Steve McQueen in “The Cincinnati Kid.” His mid-70s outpout is all over the place: from “Jesus Christ Superstar” to “F.I.S.T.” Meanwhile, Hollywood kept going to him, a Canadian, for movies about race in America: “In the Heat of the Night,” “A Soldier's Story,” “The Hurricane.” He was tapped for Malcolm X's story, too, but Spike Lee said nuh-uh. He kept getting entrusted with new stars: Stallone in '78, Nic Cage in '87, Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei in '94. Sometimes it worked.

Posted at 07:27 AM on Monday March 18, 2024 in category Movies  
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