Monday, May 26, 2008

Sydney Pollack

Sydney Pollack has shuffled off this mortal coil, finally succumbing to gastric cancer. He’s perhaps not as widely admired as his 1970s contemporaries since he really didn’t have a signature style. He started out as an actor and turned up in many of his own movies, taking other acting jobs occasionally. Click below for a rundown of his best directorial efforts:

The Interpreter – (2005)
United Nations interpreter Nicole Kidman overhears a plot to assassinate a dictator and Secret Service Agent Sean Penn is assigned to help her and figure out what’s going on. Pollack paces the movie well, creating tension and action honestly. Solid film. B

Sabrina – (1995)
Of course it doesn’t compare to the Billy Wilder original, but I found it likable enough with good chemistry between brothers Harrison Ford and Greg Kinnear. Julia Ormond struggles to connect well with either, however. At least it’s better than that other 1995 Ormond movie. B-

The Firm – (1993)
The best John Grisham movie by far has great supporting performances from Holly Hunter and David Strathairn. Tom Cruise does his great movie star thing as a new lawyer in a firm he slowly discovers has mob ties. Well-paced and exciting – with an excellent piano-based score. B

Out of Africa – (1985)
Pollock won the Oscar for this epic story where Meryl Streep and Robert Redford romance in Africa. Streep’s Danish accent is great, but Redford doesn’t even try an English accent. The movie is over 2 ½ hours long – too long and all the pretty pictures in the world can’t create dramatic intensity. Like most Best Picture winners in the 80s, it feels like an education. Great score by John Barry. B

Tootsie – (1982)
Pollack’s masterpiece is decades ahead of its time dealing with male-female relationships, homosexuality, equality, respect, and love. Dustin Hoffman is an unemployed actor who dresses up as a woman to land a job on a soap opera. Second only to Raising Arizona and This is Spinal Tap for 1980s laughs, Tootsie has uncommon depth those other 2 barely try. A must-see for Bill Murray's hilarious deadpan line delivery. A

Three Days of the Condor – (1975)
A near-perfect mid-70s thriller with CIA agent Robert Redford trying to figure out who killed his team. Faye Dunaway is great as his love interest, but would hit her peak the following year in Network. This is the movie Clooney and Jennifer Lopez talked about in the trunk in Out of Sight. Noted on this blog before since the bad guys hang out in the World Trade Center. A-

Jeremiah Johnson – (1972)
Mountain man Robert Redford fights with the Indians. Great scenery and action. B

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? – (1969)
Pollack’s first Oscar Nomination was for this story about a Depression era all-night dance-a-thon (the couple who dances the longest wins the money). Not as crappy as it sounds due to great performances by Jane Fonda and Gig Young. The movie’s as cynical and harsh as they come and the dance marathon as a metaphor for life itself resonates. B+


As Actor:
Michael Clayton (2007) – A-
Big-time lawyer who tries to keep his law firm together.

Changing Lanes (2002) – B
Another lawyer laying it all out for novice Ben Affleck.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – A
A businessman with a penchant for whores and heroin. Two great scenes with Tom Cruise.

Husbands and Wives (1992) – B
Woody Allen’s most interesting post-Crimes and Misdemeanors film.

Death Becomes Her (1992) - B
Finally, a doctor (!) who can’t understand how Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are behaving so life-like without vital signs.

The Player (1992) - A
He’s barely in it, but it’s a great movie.

2 comments:

Lawyer said...

Great post. He is also great in a brief appearance during the second to last season of the sopranos as a nurse that used to be a doctor.

priest said...

great post. i loved michael clayton as much for him as clooney. a true loss.