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R.I.P. Curtis Hanson

Curtis Hanson
Last night, the cinematic world lost one of its own. Filmmaker Curtis Hanson passed away at the age of 71. The cause of death has been placed as natural causes. Hanson worked in the industry for well over 40 years, writing and directing movies that will stand the test of time. Oscar took notice in the late 90’s when Hanson made what most consider to be his masterpiece with L.A. Confidential, but he was a well known artist before then. He worked steadily on the big screen, also putting out the top notch HBO TV movie Too Big to Fail about five years ago. He will be missed in a big way.

Hanson was an Academy Award winner and three time nominee, all for L.A. Confidential back in 1997. That highly regarded crime drama was a tale of corruption in the 1950’s, looking at how very different policemen dealt with enforcing the law. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, and James Cromwell headed up the star studded cast. Hanson adapted the James Elroy novel along with scribe Brian Helgeland, winning Best Adapted Screenplay in the process. Basinger also won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, all part of a nine nomination haul for the film. As many have written about today, part of the pleasure inherent in seeing this movie do so well was getting to see Hanson honored.

The thing that set him apart, at least in my book, was how nimble he was with genre. He tended to work in drama, but when he went for something lighter, be it Wonder Boys, Lucky You, or In Her Shoes, the results were no less compelling or enjoyable. Hanson wasn’t especially flashy, but he was reliable. Just look at how he handled the aforementioned Too Big to Fail. The large cast of big name actors was something he managed brilliantly on more than one occasion, and that was again the case there. It’s hard not to look at Hanson’s work and not consider him at least a bit on the underrated side. I know that’s how I think, if nothing else.

Here’s how I would rank Hanson’s filmography, which is a severely underrated one, I might add:

1. Wonder Boys
2. L.A. Confidential
3. Losin’ It
4. Lucky You
5. In Her Shoes
6. The Hand that Rocks the Cradle
7. 8 Mile
8. The River Wild
9. Bad Influence
10. The Bedroom Window
11. Sweet Kill
12. Chasing Mavericks
13. The Little Dragons

Special Citation: Too Big to Fail

As you can see, my favorite film of his was Wonder Boys. I’d also like to point out that Lucky You is deeply underrated, while Losin’ It helped to make Tom Cruise into a star. Lucky You had a great soundtrack and a classic feel, while Wonder Boys is nearly perfect as a low key dramedy about writing and writers. There are certainly tons of fans of 8 Mile out there as well, along with The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild. I’ve even seen In Her Shoes mentioned a lot over the last 12 hours or so. He has a resume that was hard to argue with.

Again, Hanson was an underrated treasure in the industry. Sadly, he was just the sort of filmmaker that you never really appreciate until he’s gone. His work will live on forever, that’s for sure. With at least one classic under his belt and tale after tale of how nice he was, this was a huge loss, not just for Hollywood, but the world at large. Remember that as you look at the various tributes being done today. He deserves all that and more. Go watch a Hanson movie tonight. He made something for everyone, so you’ll undoubtedly find a film to enjoy.

Rest in Peace…

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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