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Remembering Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack was one of the rare individuals who was an equally skilled actor and director. He never came across as an actor attempting to direct or a director attempting to act, he was just uniquely skilled at both. He will be missed.

Sydney Pollack, one of my favorite actors and directors, died yesterday at age of 73. Sydney Pollack was one of the rare individuals who was an equally skilled actor and director. He never came across as an actor attempting to direct or a director attempting to act, he was just uniquely skilled at both.

On Twitter, Mike Doe asked me to name my five favorite Pollack films. I had to look up his filmography to get a full perspective and I was taken aback at how many fantastic films he not only directed, but also starred in or produced. Pollack was truly an auteur and an artist.

So now, in no particular order, five Pollack films you should rent:

  1. Tootsie — Funny doesn’t begin to describe it. Dustin Hoffman is brilliant and the movie remains extremely watchable, even after 25 years. Pollack’s understated direction that allows Hoffman to shine without trying too hard is pitch-perfect.
  2. Out of Africa — Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. What more can you say? He won two Oscars for it (Director and Best Picture) and it’s just one of those great films.
  3. The Way We Were — God I love this film. One of the best and most heart-wrenching relationship movies of all time. Barbara Stresisand and Robert Redford are magical together. Love. love, LOVE.
  4. Husbands and Wives — This is one of my favorite Woody Allen films (it’s such an interesting character drama) and while Pollack has a supporting role, he is excellent.
  5. Michael Clayton — I saw this twice in the theater (when it came out, and then during the Oscar marathon) and even though it comes at the expense of Three Days of the Condor and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, I’m including it. The pacing was magnificent — and again, though his role was small — Pollack was excellent. The acting was uniformly fantastic in this film (Tilda Swinton was so good — geez!) and Pollack was a producer as well as an actor. As a producer, Pollack had an eye for good projects, and Clayton was no exception.

I’ll also add in a guilty pleasure: The Firm. I mean, yeah, it’s total popcorn — but it’s awesome. Tangentially — isn’t it great that Jeanne Tripplehorn is getting work again?

Anyway, I don’t have a lot of time — but I wanted to post something about Pollack’s death. He was a great artist and by all accounts, an excellent person. He will be missed.



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May 2008
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5 people have left comments

Sameer Vasta - Gravatar

Sameer Vasta said:

Pollack’s producing credits are just as (if not more) impressive than his acting and directing credits. The man knew film: knew how to pick good ones to be involved with, and his influence and wisdom has helped launch (or at least foster) the careers of many people in Hollywood. He will be missed.

Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 3:56 pmQuote this Comment
Paisano - Gravatar

Paisano said:

Perfect list! Many wouldn’t include the way we were but it holds up well. Too many confuse it with the inferior “Love Story” with Allie McGraw! The Way We Were was much better. In many ways the Barbara Streisand & Robert Redford relationship reminds me of the Meryl Streep-Redford relationship. Maybe cause its rare that the man is the prettiest one in a relationship? 🙂

Loved his work as actor and director. Especially in tootsie.


Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 4:00 pmQuote this Comment
Christina - Gravatar

Christina said:

Sameer — Agreed, he picked GREAT projects. Very, very attune to a good production — which is something many other actor/directors lack.

Pai — Exactly — Love Story is so far inferior, yet it always gets the kudos. Whatev. And I think you’re onto something with the prettiest party being Redford theory (though I think it is also that you have two strong actors in both roles — Meryl and Barbara both more than hold their own).

And yes, his role in Tootsie was so great. Such great chemistry with Hoffman.

I think what impresses me most about Pollack as an actor and a director is that he instinctively knew how to get the best from those around him — whether he was playing opposite them or directing them. And he did it in a way that never overshadowed the performances themselves. So many actors (and directors) are showy and try to grab the spotlight in every scene they are in — Pollack didn’t — but you never forgot him and he always made his films better. And as a director, he always kept the focus where it needed to be.

Posted on: May 27, 2008 at 4:16 pmQuote this Comment
Marv - Gravatar

Marv said:

TOTAL agreement on your Top5 Pollack flicks! Niiiice one!

Posted on: June 2, 2008 at 12:13 amQuote this Comment
Paul Newman: Film Legend | - Gravatar

Paul Newman: Film Legend | said:

[…] with Sydney Pollack and Tim Russert, this is one of those entries I really hate having to write. Paul Newman, died on […]

Posted on: September 27, 2008 at 1:12 pmQuote this Comment

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