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Post-Holiday Notebook

By admin Published: May 27, 2008

Tonight I see the new "Sex and the City" movie. Some general thoughts about "SATC" are here.

Variety has a report on Media Rights Capital's plans for Sunday nights on The CW here. (Sorry, "Moonlight" fans.)

Some talk about "Dirty Harry" and Sydney Pollack after the jump.

Warner Home Video has a new collection of the five "Dirty Harry" movies due in stores on June 3, so I spent part of yesterday dipping into the oeuvre. Well, basically watching the first one, which I saw in a theater eons ago and have revisited from time to time since. (For those of you who keep track of Dirty Harry via catchphrases, this is "Do I feel lucky?"), and a bit of the second. "Dirty Harry" still holds up, grim and effective and well directed by Don Siegel. Even the Lalo Schifrin score is compelling, and I'm not usually so aware of movie music. The next film in the series, "Magnum Force," almost immediately feels like a lesser work.

"Dirty Harry" is in a lot of ways an origin story; Harry Callahan is already cynical, having gotten stuck with every dirty job the SFPD has. But by the end of the movie, he has been pushed into a much darker place -- there's no solution to society's ills (detailed in the gritty visuals of San Francisco's flesh pits and the ruthless madness of the villain) other than to fight on your own. The shot of Harry, alone, on the bridge as the bus approaches is one of the great iconic images, better in some ways than the "lucky" monologues bookending the movie.

The director Sydney Pollack has died, and the obituaries have an undercurrent of struggle because Pollack was such a commercial chameleon as a director. (He had a much more distinct persona as an actor.) He made some good to great movies, including "Tootsie," but there's not a Pollack style per se -- not scenes you can look at and go, yeah, Pollack, the way you might with Scorsese. And he worked so often on movies meant to be crowd-pleasers, with big-name stars and lots of sweep, that he ends up being capsuled -- as "The Film Encyclopedia" did many years ago -- as "effective if conventional."

Of course, someone has to make "effective if conventional" movies to keep people going to the multiplex. And his brand of convention was still reasonably literary -- a good number of book adaptations -- and intelligent. Pollack's legacy also rests on his ability to get actors to trust him. At least one obit noted that his own acting, which continued into "Michael Clayton" and "Made of Honor," gave him a special connection to actors that always-off-camera directors would not have. He certainly connected with Robert Redford, who knew what he wanted onscreen and off and whose trust of Pollack led to repeated collaborations.

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