They shoot movies, don't they?

Sydney Pollack does -- and his reliable, sturdy movies earn him this year's Great Director Award

His other greatest achievement isn't even for directing; it's for his performance in Woody Allen's 1992 film Husbands & Wives. While probably no one was surprised to see Pollack acting in a film, the depth and power of his performance was astonishing. Playing a man going through a midlife crisis, Pollack--then 57--captured his character's confused and petulant vulnerability with clarity and pathos. He won the New York Film Critics' award for best supporting actor that year; he deserved it. When he was not nominated for an acting Oscar, a brief, minor outrage was expressed in some circles.

Maybe 30 years from now, historians and critics will be discovering the inner turmoil and thematic complexity of The Scalphunters and last year's Sabrina, and Pollack will be hailed as a latter-day Sturges, a pioneer of the outer limits of film grammar, while Kubrick fades into distant memory. But I doubt it. At his best, Pollack has refined, and even improved upon, the conventions of established genres; at his worst, he's made indifferent, underachieving films. Pollack probably is now what he always will be: an exemplar of the life force that keeps the machine of Hollywood churning out good movies, one of the noblest and least respected of professionals--the entertainer. His epitaph could be written today: "He sure made a lot of good movies." And I'll bet--as with Cukor--future generations will agree.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, The Way We Were, Tootsie, and Out of Africa are all screening at the Festival, as is Woody Allen's Husbands & Wives, in which Pollack stars. Actress Teri Garr will present Pollack with the Great Director award on Saturday night after the screening of Tootsie, in which Garr co-stars with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange.

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