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Sydney Pollack, Rip

The first-rate film director passed away earlier today from cancer. The NYT obit is here. He'll certainly be best remembered for the movies he directed in the 70s and early 80s, principally Tootsie, Three Days of the Condor, and The Way We Were. As is so often the case in Hollywood, he won his Oscars for what was his most bloated and over-rated movie, Out of Africa (which, it must be said, is one of the worst films ever to win Best Picture). Still, Pollack was a skilled storyteller and technician, and almost all of his movies are crisply made and well executed. It's true that he didn't make anything particularly good after 1993's The Firm, his excellent adaptation of the John Grisham novel, but he did sink his teeth into some juicy acting roles over the past 15 years. Especially memorable were his turns as sleazy mentor figures in such movies as Changing Lanes, Eyes Wide Shut, and last year's Michael Clayton. He also executived produced a number of fine films, among them Searching For Bobby Fischer and The Talented Mr. Ripley. He will be missed.

--Isaac Chotiner