Sidney Lumet died Saturday morning at the age of 86, from lymphoma. He was not one of the flashiest directors in movie history, but he was one of the best, having directed more classics than the typical filmmaker could ever hope for, including 12 Angry Men, Long Day's Journey Into Night, Murder on the Orient Express, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, The Verdict and Running on Empty.
Lumet's focus on performances and understated camerawork often makes him an underappreciated filmmaker compared to such flashier contemporaries as Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. His movies practically seem to tell themselves, with hardly a virtuoso shot to be found. But that kind of seamless craftsmanship was in fact the result of painstaking work, much of it detailed in his book Making Movies, one of the finest examinations of a filmmaker's craft ever written. It's an insightful work that takes a harder look at the creative process involved in cinematic storytelling than the nuts and bolts, and should be required reading for anybody interested in the art of film.
Lumet was nominated for five Academy Awards in his career, and was perpetually snubbed until he received a much-deserved Honorary Award in 2005.
Sidney Lumet was an exceptional director, one of the finest in the history of the medium. And he will be dearly missed.