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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FSLC Honors Rob Reiner at the 41st Annual Chaplin Gala

Rob Reiner
Photo courtesy of the Film Society of Lincoln Center
FSLC Honors Rob Reiner 
at the 
41st Annual Chaplin Gala

by Joshua Handler

Last night, April 28, the Film Society of Lincoln Center held the 41st annual Chaplin Gala to honor the career of Rob Reiner.  The gala was originally held to celebrate the career of Charlie Chaplin and has since honored the careers of Alfred Hitchcock, Catherine Deneuve, Meryl Streep, Martin Scorsese, and others.

Reiner is, I believe, one of the most underappreciated American directors.  Between 1984 and 1992, Reiner directed seven films, six of which are perennial favorites, beloved by critics and audiences alike.  Those six favorites are This is Spinal Tap, Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally…, Misery, and A Few Good Men.  He also directed such hits as The American President and The Bucket List later on.  These films are all imbued with a special touch that makes them infinitely rewatchable.  Their characters are vivid and Reiner's understated, unobtrusive direction makes them easy to simply put on any night of the week.

To honor Reiner, Michael McKean, Carol Kane, Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, Bruce Cohen, Michael Douglas, Barry Sonnenfeld, and James Caan gave speeches followed by film clips from Reiner's films. In addition, Tom Cruise, Mandy Patinkin, Morgan Freeman, and Rob Reiner's legendary father, Carl Reiner, recorded speeches.  While most of the above presenters discussed Reiner's directorial work, Bruce Cohen discussed Reiner's dedication to political activism, particularly his dedication to overturning Proposition 8 in California, and Douglas discussed Reiner's career as an actor (he is perhaps best remembered for playing the role of Michael 'Meathead' Stivic in All in the Family).

The presenters all told different stories about Reiner, most of which were hilarious, but they were all unified by their respect for him as a person.  Every presenter raved about what a kind man he is and how working with him was one of the best experiences of their respective careers.

Patinkin's story was particularly amusing.  When rehearsing for The Princess Bride, Billy Crystal would begin improving hours of 12th and 13th Century jokes.  Reiner would be laugh so hard that he had to leave the room and made Patinkin rehearse with Crystal because Reiner would ruin every take with his laughing.  Patinkin was (barely) able to hold in the laughs.

At the end of the evening, Martin Scorsese came up to present Reiner with his award.  Scorsese was Reiner's director for The Wolf of Wall Street in which Reiner played Jordan Belfort's short-tempered father.  While Reiner's role in that film was small, it was among the most memorable.

The gala was an incredibly enjoyable evening because, while it was held in the Lincoln Center's massive Avery Fisher Hall, it felt like sitting in on an evening of friends telling hilarious, moving stories about a shared friend, except for the fact that the storytellers were among the most recognizable actors in Hollywood.  This was an evening of celebration and love and it was an absolute pleasure to attend.  If anything, the evening made me just want to watch all of Reiner's films again.

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