Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sydney Pollack

I scanned the obituaries of Sydney Pollack and came across references to Tootsie (ugh), Out of Africa, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (which should be packaged with half a dozen Prozac) and the work for which he is best know, alas, an occasional role on Will & Grace. My favorite among Pollack's films is Absence of Malice, a forever-timely story of how government and news media use each other for their own ends, with no concern for mere individuals caught in the middle. (At this point I'm supposed to say SPOILER ALERT, even though it came out in 1981 and you should damn well have seen it by now.)

The strangest scene in the picture, and so naturally the one I wait for, comes halfway through, when the reporter, Megan Carter, is typing at night in the deserted city room. (This may be the last newspaper movie to feature typewriters.) The gruff but kindly editor, Mac, comes by with some liquor and says, "It might be time for you to come on the desk." At this point, her stories have driven one innocent person to suicide and caused another to lose his business. Is he trying to cheer her up, or does he seriously think she's editor material? It's never made clear. Is the screenwriter, Kurt Luedtke, also a reporter, that cynical? The little scene comes and goes, soon swept aside by Paul Newman's revenge and the showy performance of Wilford Brimley that everybody remembers. (Everybody but the Academy, which nominated Newman and Melinda Dillon but not Brimley -- I guess they didn't think he was as good as James Coco in Marsha Mason's Gay Best Friend or whatever it was called.)

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