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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.



Alltop, all the cool kids (and me)


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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