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Drama Movies

August 6 2016 Drama Movies Newsletter

“Elaine May defines the phrase ‘smart and funny.’ From the Compass Players to Nichols & May to "A New Leaf" and "The Heartbreak Kid" and "Mikey and Nicky", she invented a strain of knowing, painful, ironic humor that quickly became central to what we now think of as comedy. She's received Oscar nominations and WGA nominations and Writers Guild Awards, all well-deserved; but it is time to recognize, plainly and simply, the debt that all of us owe to her brave, groundbreaking, fiercely intelligent, deeply human, relentlessly honest, scorchingly funny work.” Writers Guild of America,West President Howard A. Rodman.

On February 2nd of this year, Elaine May received the Laurel Award for Screenwriting Achievement from the WGA. At 84 years old, she has lost none of her biting wit, as evidenced by her acceptance speech. May's credited screenplays include "Heaven Can Wait" (1978), "The Birdcage" (1996), and "Primary Colors" (1998). She is also a script doctor, doing uncredited work on films like "Reds" (1981) and "Tootsie" (1982).

May's work as a director is overshadowed by the massive box-office failure of her 1987 film "Ishtar". Starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty, "Ishtar" was May's fourth feature film and unfortunately, her last. Since its release on Blu-Ray and DVD, however, the film has developed something of a cult following and a critical re-evaluation.

Having seen both "Ishtar" and "Mikey and Nicky", my opinion is that the latter film is superior. The on-screen relationship between John Cassavetes and Peter Falk in "Mikey and Nicky" is far more complex and believable than the pairing of Hoffman and Beatty in "Ishtar". As critic Jonathan Rosenbaum has stated, all of May's films center around the theme of friendship and betrayal. Although "Mikey and Nicky" has occasional flashes of May's trademark sardonic humor, the final sequence is emotionally devastating.

Warren Beatty, May's friend and frequent collaborator, will be honored on November 2nd by the Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Also in November, Beatty's Howard Hughes film "Rules Don't Apply", gets its release. The trailer emphasizes the film's comedic slant, so I would not be surprised if May did some behind-the-scenes work on this screenplay, as well.

Here's the latest article from the Drama Movies site at BellaOnline.com.

Mikey and Nicky Film Review
Elaine May, known for her comedic gifts, takes a detour into noir for her third feature film. Influenced by the maverick indie director John Cassavetes, and starring Cassavetes and Peter Falk, "Mikey and Nicky" is an unflinching look at friendship and betrayal in the urban jungle.


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Angela K. Peterson, Drama Movies Editor

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