Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Remembering Sydney Pollack

Robert Parry at Consortium News has published my tribute to Sydney Pollack, which includes a rundown on my favorite Pollack films, and examples of why his death is such a loss for those who want a little meat with our entertainment. Here's the start:

Sydney Pollack has died of cancer at 73. If you don't know his name, you should, as he's responsible for some of the best films from the last 40 years.

Pollack was a film director par excellence, a name you could take to the bank. If he was involved, you knew the film would be compelling, and possibly an award winner.

His last credit was as an executive producer of HBO's recent film "Recount," a tight, compelling presentation of the key events in that awful 2000 debacle that passed for an election.

One of the first films of his that I saw left a lasting impression on me. "The Way We Were" was much more than a love story. It was my first introduction to the irrational anti-Communist hysteria that destroyed so many good people's lives in the 1950s.

Then came "Three Days of the Condor," the movie that first sparked my interest in the CIA. In retrospect, the movie was downright prescient:
Turner: Do we have plans to invade the Middle East?

Higgins: Are you crazy?

Turner: Am I?

Higgins: Look, Turner…

Turner: Do we have plans?

Higgins: No. Absolutely not. We have games. That's all. We play games. What if? How many men? What would it take? Is there a cheaper way to destabilize a regime? That's what we're paid to do.

Turner: So Atwood just took the games too seriously. He was really going to do it, wasn't he?

Higgins: A renegade operation. Atwood knew 54/12 would never authorize it, not with the heat on the Company.

Turner: What if there hadn't been any heat? Suppose I hadn't stumbled on their plan?

Higgins: Different ballgame. Fact is, there was nothing wrong with the plan. Oh, the plan was all right, the plan would've worked.

Turner: Boy, what is it with you people? You think not getting caught in a lie is the same thing as telling the truth?

Higgins: No. It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In 10 or 15 years, food. Plutonium. And maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?

Turner: Ask them.

Higgins: Not now — then! Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!
Please read the rest here. Pollack was a rare light in the entertainment business, calling us always to our higher selves. I will miss his sensibilities greatly, and hope a worthy successor appears.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to see Sidney go. Thanks for reminding me of so many great films, Lisa.

Your review inspired me to go download "Scalphunters" (1968). I'll let you know how it is (I'm sure it will be great.)


2:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Talking about "playing games in the Middle East," your quotation from the film brings to mind the post I just read a few minutes ago on Juan Cole's excellent blog, Informed Comment, about the Middle East game Dick Cheney and Halliburton have been playing in their dealings with Iran since the 1990's. I recommend everyone read it to get a better understanding of the real goings on in that part of the world, as opposed to the propaganda and "spin" coming out of the White House and corrupt corporate-owned media dish out to us with contempt.

2:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Three Days of the Condor (1975) may have been the best of a very good crop of Watergate-Era films.

Speaking of Watergate, here's an excerpt of a story that reminded me of your excellent piece on the passing of Gerald Ford (albeit an inside the beltway puff piece by Thomas DeFrank that would sicken Scott McClellan;), Lisa. Here it is:

It was April 1974, the middle of Watergate. Vice President Gerald Ford had just come off a Palm Springs golf course and was tired and grumpy when he walked into the interview with Tom DeFrank.

Near the end of the interview, Ford asked DeFrank to put down his notebook and look at a recent column in The New York Times. He was furious because the article, headlined “Etu Jerry,” accused him of being disloyal to Nixon. Ford pressed DeFrank about his opinion. Finally, DeFrank said something like, “Guys around Nixon know he’s finished.”

Ford answered, “You’re right.” This admission would have been front-page news some three months before the Supreme Court ordered the release of the “Watergate Tapes.”

DeFrank said Ford immediately realized the enormity of his indiscretion, saying, “That’s off the record. You didn’t hear it, and it came out wrong.”

Compare to this excerpt from The Real History of Gerald Ford, Watergate, and the CIA:

“Like what?” asked the irrepressible Times managing editor, A. M. Rosenthal.

“Like assassinations!” President Ford shot back, quickly adding, “That’s off the record!”

5:29 AM  

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