Monday, May 26, 2008

Sydney Pollack, R.I.P.

The fine producer and director Sydney Pollack, who won two Academy Awards and an Emmy, has died at age 73. I won't say too much more about his life and career; you can read his obituary here, which gives you all the details. Pollack was a dying breed: a master Hollywood craftsman who was capable of working in many different genres and telling an interesting story in an interesting manner. Pollack directed comedies (TOOTSIE), love stories (OUT OF AFRICA), political thrillers (THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR), period pieces (THEY SHOOT HORSES, DON'T THEY?) and so on.

Before he was a film director, Pollack had a steady, stellar career in television, and it's unfortunate that, because studios are slow to give old TV shows a second chance, most of Pollack's best TV work is unavailable on DVD and probably always will be (such is the case with THE BOB HOPE CHRYSLER THEATER, a dramatic anthology that earned Pollack an Emmy for directing).

It's also worth noting that Pollack was also an extremely good actor, who was most recently seen as George Clooney's boss in MICHAEL CLAYTON. He replaced the fired Harvey Keitel in EYES WIDE SHUT, and is hilarious as Dustin Hoffman's harried agent in TOOTSIE, which Pollack also directed.

If you're interested in Netflixing some of Pollack's best work, let me recommend the wonderful ABSENCE OF MALICE (Paul Newman was really at the top of his game with this and Sidney Lumet's THE VERDICT a year later), TOOTSIE, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR and--what the heck--THE FIRM, which is a solid thriller based on a John Grisham novel. It's not my cup o' tea, but THE WAY WE WERE has been known to leave audiences weeping. In a good way.

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