Mike Nichols’ films found humanity, compassion and humor — both bitingly satirical and viciously wry — in everything from dysfunctional marriage and empty affairs to personal tragedy and secret power-holders. The personal was always political in his work (“Heartburn,” “Working Girl,” “Charlie Wilson’s War”) even if the debate was inside a character’s head or the battleground in their heart. Here are his five best. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” (1966) A filmmaking debut that ranks up with the very best. Casting then-married Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Buron as Edward Albee’s bickering, mind-game-playing George and Martha was genius, and Nichols’ stage intuition served him well in turning a dark night of the soul into gripping, ultimately heartbreaking cinema. “The Graduate” (1967) The rare Hollywood hit that deserves it’s rep as a still-influential watershed. Nichols made Benjamin Braddock into a doubt-ridden generational symbol who transcended class and era, and by insisting on Dustin Hoffman (instead of Robert Redford, one runner-up for the role), Nichols made sure the film’s comedy would have bite. “Carnal Knowledge” (1971) As daring, incisive and uncomfortable today as it was at the height of Hollywood’s on-screen hedonism. Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel are cads who we see from… Read full this story
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