Friday, May 30, 2008

Sydney Pollack RIP 1934-2008

Sydney Pollack was a commercial director with an artistic touch, a mainstream mover and shaker who willingly put his money and name behind a series of intriguing movie projects, and a one time acting teacher who found a middle-aged niche in some memorable character roles in both the movies and TV. Pollack’s most memorable directorial work began with They Shoot Horses Don’t They (1969) and lasted up to Out of Africa (1985), in between he helped jump start and burnish Robert Redford ‘s career (Jeremiah Johnson ’72, The Way We Where ’73, Three Days of the Condor ’75) and crafted one of the greatest American screen comedies (Tootsie ’82). ( He also gets credit for some major stinkers with some major players- Al Pacino and Bobby Deerfield in 1977, Redford and Havana in 1990, and Harrison Ford and Sabrina in 1995.) and As a producer he helped bring to the screen such diverse productions as The Fabulous Baker Boys (’89), Dead Again (’91), The Talented Mr. Ripley (’99), Michael Clayton (’08), and even the recent HBO political retelling Recount (’08). His most memorable on screen roles came as the incredulous agent in Tootsie, and the big timey mover and shaker in both Eyes Wide Shut (‘99) and Michael Clayton. Pollack was never quite a bonafide auteur, neither distinguishing himself with a distinctive style nor spinning a true thematic web throughout his efforts, but he could indeed deliver a well-made film, and oft times a film that sparked with the current zeitgeist. Rank him just beneath the often-similar Sidney Lumet and the vastly quirkier Hal Ashby.

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