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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.

Out.

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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.

Pai

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 | www.ChristinaWarren.com - Gravatar

Paul New­man: Film Leg­end | www.ChristinaWarren.com 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