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Monday, May 26, 2008

RIP Sydney Pollack

Acclaimed director, producer, and actor Sydney Pollack has died of cancer. He was 73.

According to the AP, quoting Pollack's agent Leslee Dart, Pollack died Monday afternoon (5/26/08) at his home in Pacific Palisades, surrounded by family and friends.

Though Sydney Pollack started out as an actor and acting coach and later ended his career doubling producer duties with cameo and supporting roles, it was as a director that Pollack will probably best be remembered. His films had the sheen of the Golden Era of Hollywood, even though most were made in the `70s and `80s. They also spanned genres and included The Way We Were (`73), Three Days of the Condor (`75), The Electric Horseman (`79), Tootsie (`82), culminating in what was arguably his greatest success, Out of Africa (`85).

Sydney Irwin Pollack was born on July 1, 1934, in Lafayette and raised in South Bend, Indiana. He developed a love of acting at South Bend High School and went straight to New York and the Neighborhood Playhouse School for Theater. There Sanford Meisner took him under his wing, first as a student and then as his assistant. Pollack received favorable marks from his students, which included Robert Duvall and Rip Torn, and Claire Griswold, a former pupil whom Pollack married and remained married to for 50 years.

His time at the Neighborhood Playhouse was destined not to last as long and, under the encouragement of director John Frankheimer and nudging from Burt Lancaster Pollack began directing. He started out small, in television shows such as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and Ben Casey.

He soon branched out into feature filmmaking. His first was The Slender Thread starring Anne Bancroft and Sydney Poitier, about a desperate woman and the suicide hotline volunteer who attempts to keep her on the line while waiting for the police to find her.

The film fared poorly, both critically and financially, as, to a lesser extent, did Pollack's second feature, 1966's This Property Is Condemned, based upon a Tennessee Williams play (with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola). It featured Natalie Wood as a girl desperate to break out of her small town who sets her sights and hopes on a travelling railroad official and company hatchet man, played by Robert Redford.

Property was the start of a lifelong association and friendship with Redford; Pollack would direct Redford in seven films in total, including some of his most famous.

First success came, however, from the depression-era The Shoot Horses, Don't They, about the characters involved in a grueling dance marathon. It starred Jane Fonda and it shattered her American image as a comely ingénue or a sex kitten and established her as a serious actress once and for all. She received her first Oscar nomination for the part.

Most actors benefited from appearing in a Pollack film. 12 actors received Oscar nominations after being in one of his movies including Barbra Streisand, Meryl Streep, Jessica Lange, and Dustin Hoffman. He was no stranger to the Academy himself. He was nominated three times for Best Director (Horses and Tootsie, winning for Out of Africa). Oddly enough, Redford never received a nomination for any of the multiply-lauded films he starred in for Pollack.

Industry recognition was just part of his success. His films were also profitable at the box office. Hits included Horses, The Way We Were, Three Days of the Condor, The Electric Horseman and The Firm.

But it was Out of Africa were everything gelled. It had an enormous canvas, an epic scope, a glorious score, luscious cinematography and two superstars (Redford and Streep) in the leads. The film was nominated for 11 awards, picking up seven including Best Picture and Director.

He had misses too. Havana, Random Hearts and Sabrina were the rare examples of critical and commercial failures.

Producing became a passion for him after this string of misfires. Along with the late Anthony Mingella, who died earlier this year while having his throat operated on, Pollacke created Mirage Enterprises. The shop produced The Fabulous Baker Boys Sense and Sensibility, The Talented Mr. Ripley and Cold Mountain. But Mirage represented just a smattering of Pollack's producing duties, which also included Searching for Bobby Fischer, The Quiet American, Michael Clayton and the HBO film, Recount.

In recent years Pollack also specialized in the role of the powerful corporate or societal patriarch, one willing to lay down the law or to teach the hard truths of life to the protagonist. He played variations of it in Eyes Wide Shut, Changing Lanes and Michael Clayton and created what can only be described as avuncular malevolence, inspiring fear and awe while exuding a tinge of mercy.

It was the stature of Pollack in the industry itself and his commanding presence on and off the screen that lent the roles their gravitas. They sprang from the man himself

Pollack is survived by his wife, Claire; two daughters, Rebecca and Rachel; his brother Bernie; and six grandchildren He was preceded in death by his son, Steven, who died in 1993 in a plane crash in Santa Monica.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

da da dan ta, dun ta da. dun ta dun to, dun tun tun tun tun

So what am I gonna do. Wait for it. I can't. I'm nine years old, OK. Deal with it.

I am going to the first showing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at 12:01 at the Battery Park Cinema near my house.

Yes, its gonna be packed. And yes, its raining (though not too badly).

When I was a kid, I used to cut school to go see these movies when they came out. Indiana Jones is the closest thing I have to an inspiration for why I am in the movie business now (of course, its never just one thing), the root cause of all this.

So yeah, I am going. I just wish it started a little earlier. Gonna do the popcorn and the whole schmear I think. Might as well go all out.

This is the first time I've gone to a theater on opening night in forever, I think. Maybe my ex, Jeanne dragged me to one when we were dating. She also liked to shop for Christmas presents on the Friday after Thanksgiving. She doesn't mind crowds so much, not like me.

But I'm going, and I have pretty high expectations, despite mostly good but slightly mixed reviews.

Grumps

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Airplane Bloggin’: Saturday Morning Shuffle

Im on the Jet Blue flight, 1140 AM back to NYC, out of Burbank, and thank you very much. I wisely upgraded to the four more inches of space seat for an extra twenty bucks. My kneecaps have been thanking me since I sat down an hour and a half ago.

Heading back to the Apple for the final two weeks before this, the twelfth edition of NYC PictureStart. Bunch of work left to do before we’re ready to go, still picking last film entries, though the script finalists are done (yet to be posted), the venue, god willing, is locked in, and the dates are set (same as the venue, god willing).

Each go around seems like it should get easier, but to some degree, I feel like each time, to a certain degree I need to reinvent the wheel a bit. We’ll be returning to Retreat, thanks to the owner’s generosity but it first seemed like we weren’t heading back over cost issues. I still don’t have a third judge locked in, though I am sure I can find someone great quickly this week. Everything is just more complicated now, running a film festival in New York when I spend the vast majority of my time in California. It had seemed that I was going to spend all of May in NYC, but it ended up that I had to fly back to LA to interview for a production attorney gig for a movie shooting in LA. It’s a good project, and I got the gig, so it was worth the trip.

And now back to NY, to add the final icing to the cake that is the 12th NYC PictureStart Film Festival. Victor Garcia, director of the still-to-be-filmed Slaughter, is joining as a juror, as is Morris Levy, producer (shall I say co-conspirator) of The Ten. The third juror, well, I have my suspects in mind. A few calls and that will be set.

Over 160 movies this time around, for 15 spots. Its getting more and more competitive. I don’t know for sure, but I am guessing that we’ve grown into one of the bigger short film festivals, and we’re definitely among the more selective. The interest in filmmaking seems to grow exponentially, and the short format of a short film is well-attuned to the online, download, Youtubey internet promotion and distribution of much new media product. Yeah, so I am cutting edge. Can ya dig?

Details will be posted in full on the website in the next day or two. Come down one or both days and join us for some short film and some drinks and some networking, and get YOUR SHORT FILM SCENE (shameless plug, but it is my blog).

One thing about LA vs. NY.

The gym.

Let me draw some comparions. I’ve been working out five to six days a week for four or five months now to get back into shape. It had been too long, and I owed it to myself to get into better condition, and not to rely on pushups alone. It also helps me manage my stress, which was for various reasons, getting a workout all its own.

My gym in New York is the gym in my building. It has a view of the Hudson.

My gym in Los Angeles is on Hollywood Blvd. It has a view of the Hotties. Lots of em.

NY has a few cardio machines, one or two benches, and a few universal type machines. There is a pool and a hot tub as well.

LA has every machine you could possibly think of, cardio, weightlifting, cybex, life force, whichever. It also has a pool, hot tub, sauna, full court basketball, day care (not that I have kids), a tremendous free weight room, free parking on Hollywood Blvd., and a great grocery store with lots of healthy choices for after the gym. And a little juice bar with wonderful blended fruit drinks that I am sure taste better than they are truly healthy. It also has beautiful women using all of these things, providing that extra inspiration to proceed towards additional perspiration.

NY no such luck. Occasionally I get to use the gym alone in the afternoon, though, and they have free coffee. But it isn’t very good. Did I mention the view of the Hudson.

NY Price? 70 per month.

LA Price? 30 per month.

Are we noticing a trend here? A little more on that. My car insurance in LA is about the same as my motorcycle insurance in New York. Health insurance in CA is about 100 per month, maybe half of what it is in New York. And my place in LA, shitty as it may be, costs a fraction of what a similar place in New York would cost. Maybe 40 percent of what the NY cost of a small studio would cost, without the parking (included in LA) and the backyard (not available in NY, sorry, thanks for asking).

Did I mention the girls?

Anyway, for now I am still bicoastal, but the cash drain is well, a cash drain. Aalok, the NY roommate is supposed to be moving out shortly and hopefully whoever replaces him will be paying a far larger share of the rent, given how inexpensive the apartment is by current NY standards. That will make it easier to stomach paying for two places, even though I am in the one (far less nice one) like 75 percent of the time.

Still, I am looking forward to being back in NY for a bit. I had fun on my last stay, and people seem indeed very pleased to have me back when I am back. I think I must be very charming in small doses. Which means I should probably stop this entry. Now.

Ciao.

Grumps.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

S Bar

On Hollywood Blvd., right next to Katsuya on the corner of Vine. S Bar is one of the coolest looking places I've been in LA. Its really just a high ceilinged box, with some couches and chairs. However, bringing in Philippe Starck to design the place, where the "S" stands for Satan (no, not mike ovitz), was worthwhile.

Ended up there after a spot at dominicks by the beverly center, which was unusually quiet. I was with a friend from NYC, Inna, and we stopped by the Stone Rose, and I was incredulously turned away. I've been there Wednesday after Wednesday, but I didn't call ahead and Bret Gursky, who runs the party, was nowhere near the door. I didn't feel like waiting for him to show up, so i just moved on.

We met Katie, Ki-Moon, Hill and some other folks at this S Bar place, which I'd heard about but never been to. Dave Navarro was partying at the next table with a bevy of babes, presumably getting over Carmen. Each wall had a concept - over the bar was an Omen-ish four horsemen of the apocalypes photo, four white horses looking frothy and angry. The south wall had a Hotel California motif, endless hotel doors opening one after another, into infinity. All the lamps in the place hang from the ceiling, upside down. Its a very unnerving thing when you first realize it.

I liked it, what can i say. Doesn't make me a devil worshipper. Unfortunately, the cel phone camera doesn't have a very good flash, so the better pics of the murals are ripped offline. anyway, have a looksie.




HOTEL CALIFORNIA MURAL


KI MOON AND INNA
THE INDEFATIGABLE KATIE MATTHEWS

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Plans

Just got back from the gym, spot of dinner. A little work, and a little West Wing (upto season six on DVD now, almost through it, and onto the final season, seven).

I am flying back to New York Saturday morning, which means I get to NY saturday evening, around eight or so.

I've been working as production counsel on a movie, and its a good script and I like the director. The people who got me hired on the movie, unfortunately, are no longer with the project, so thats a little weird. I can't really say any more about it. It is, as I like to say, what it is.

California's been getting hot, Friday's supposed to top out at 100 or so. I don't have A/C in the hovel, but it's only a day or so in that heat, and supposedly, its a dry heat, like a blow torch or a dog humping your leg. Well, maybe not so much like a dog humping your leg.

Be good to be back in NY. NYC PictureStart Film Festival is coming up at the beginning of June, the team is almost done with prep, and final selections are forthcoming this week.

See y'all back in NY. Unless I do some Airplane Bloggin', a distinct possibility.

Oh, and dont forget, Indiana Jones returns on my birthday.

Grumps.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

PicPost

Dodger Stadium, a first for me, Monday night, from the front row in the "All you can eat - but not that you'd want to" bleachers.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Dark Knight

High def version of the dope trailer for "Dark Knight" which makes it clear what an artist the cinema lost in Heath Ledger

here


grumps

Just Along for the Ride.

Went out last night with some friends, Chase and Marie and Sha-hid. We were at the rapily declining Les Deux, it was very young and high school, maybe college aged. We had fun unto ourselves, but the place seems done.

Anyway, a friend, Ari was outside, trying to get in, so Chase went out to try to get him in. Things got confused and we thought Chase and Ari had rolled to Winstons. Chase’s phone was dead so we couldn’t reach him. Turns out that Ari had rolled to Winstons and that Chase ended up being left behind. I thought Ari told me that they were together but the club was loud and I must have misheard. So upon getting to Winston’s and seeing no Chase, we immediately left back to Les Deux to go look for him.

Now, Chase and crew had been out since 2PM (I joined them at 1030 or so) so they were, shall we say, well on their way. Chase went back in the club, couldn’t find us, got pissed off that we bounced on him and left him before we got back to Les Deux, perhaps forty minutes after we left. He had already gotten a cab home, was cranky, etc. I was the only sober one in the bunch, so I drove the others back to Chase’s place. We got there, squared stories, dealt with Chase’s crankiness with some herbicological assistance (is that a word) and then I want to go home. By this time, it was 4AM. I had no cash, but called a cab and requested one that could accept a credit card.

While I was in the cab, I found a purse of a young lady. A phone. A digital camera. Thirty dollars wadded in a corner. Nothing else. I called her entry “Home”, spoke to her mom, who much have tracked her down. The girl called me forty minutes later. Her name is Candice.

Candice thanked me for finding her purse and offering to return it. She then told me where she was and asked me to meet her at the Roosevelt hotel, where its clear she is drunk, again. In fact, on the phone of a friend, Ahmed, whose name she had to ask (so maybe they just met), I heard her say to a girlfriend, I cannot believe I am drunk again. It was perhaps 1:30PM.

I don’t know whether I was more taken aback by the fact that this girl was drunk again, with a strange dude, or that she was presumptuous enough to ask me to deliver her purse to her instead of coming to get it on her own. She did confide that none of her group was sober, which was why she asked me to deliver it to her. Fair enough, at least she is being responsible enough not to ask Ahmed to drive drunk.

Anyway, this is just a little slice of life, and while I like LA, this is so typically Los Angeles (the girl is from a suburb called Gardenia, her mother told me when we talked). Its one of the things that does annoy me about this town, and perhaps something that scares me about the generation that follows mine.

Of course, my generation was the one that had these folks drinking from 2PM on a Saturday through the nite, and they drove to the club. I was a sober participant, just along for the ride.

Grumps

UPDATE:
Went to drop off the wallet at the Roosevelt hotel, and Candice came out to meet me. She was in all respects very gracious and appreciative. Perhaps we're not all doomed to anything worse than being frequently inebriated.