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Sydney Pollack 1934-2008

 

Because of his many, memorable appearances on screen, Sydney Pollack, who just died at the age of 73, might have the been the most familiar of contemporary directors to the average moviegoer. In most roles (but not Stanley  Kubrick’s "Eyes Wide Shut." Yikes!) he seemed that hardbitten, savvy guy with a heart of gold whom you wouldn’t mind having a beer with and whom you could rely on to help you out in a pinch. And so he was, according to the many tributes in print and on the internet.

As a filmmaker, Pollack made numerous passable films and the occasional gem. Some of my favorites include “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?,” “Three Days of the Condor,” “The Electric Horseman,” “Absence of Malice”  and “Tootsie.”  “Out of Africa,” his Oscar winner, not so much. If he had any distinctive stylistic trait it was coaxing the best performances out of the big name stars -- Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Dustin Hoffman, Nicole Kidman, Al Pacino -- he invariably worked with. What a Rolodex the man must have had. That, and the ineffable generosity of spirit that was part of his character. He was the quintessential Hollywood filmmaker, and probably better at that than anyone else.

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