Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sydney Pollack-It is a poorer world without him

Sydney Pollack passed away the other day at the age of 73. Sydney Pollack seriously classed up the world of film in his capacity as director, actor, screenwriter and producer. As a director he made a number of classy human dramas including Out of Africa, The Way Were and They Shoot Horses Don't They (great, GREAT ending if you've never seen it). His two favorite films of mine as a director were Two Days of the Condor (a seminal spy thriller) and Tootsie (a film that battles Some Like It Hot for best drag comedy of all time). He was a solid technician and a marvelous director of actors. As a producer he was influential in pushing powerful adult dramas through studios. In a time when studios go for the sure thing (sequels, remakes and so on) and franchises Pollack pushed for an American cinema full of deep, thoughtful movies like Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Quiet American and the better every time I see it Michael Clayton. Most recently he produced the excellent HBO movie Recount and the forthcoming, long awaited Kenneth Lonergan project Margaret. His production company Mirage Enterprise, which he helped found with the late Anthony Minghella, helped bring to life films like The Fabulous Baker Boys, Sense and Sensibility, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain.

As an actor Pollack specialized in playing venal, harsh and direct corporate types who knew how to lay down a serious truth bomb or two. Most recently he played Michael Clayton's boss, but he also did some serious screen scorching in Eyes Wide Shut and Changing Lanes. For an abslutely devastating Pollack performance you can't do better than his adulterous turn in Woody Allen's Husbands & Wives. He also brought some enjoyable dramatic heft to Will & Grace as Will's adulterous uber-Waspy father. My younger readers may recall him for his pre-movie advertisement where he interrupts a phone-call with some well-placed direction. This commercial nicely characterizes Pollack as a man who cared about a refined, clever, adult movie-going experience and for that, we here at the Sickness Cinema salute him.

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