Tag Archives: Sydney Pollack

The Set of 400: #219 – My Favorite Mud Bath

Today! Because if we could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something here –

The Player (1992)

Directed by Robert Altman (x3)

Starring Tim Robbins (x2), Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward (x2), Whoopi Goldberg (x4), Peter Gallagher (x2), Vincent D’Onofrio (x3), Dean Stockwell, Brion James (x3), Richard E. Grant (x2), Sydney Pollack, Lyle Lovett (x2), Cynthia Stevenson, Dina Merrill, Jeremy Piven (x2), Gina Gershon (x2), Angela Hall, Leah Ayres (x2), Paul Hewitt, Randall Batinkoff, Buck Henry (x2), Steve Allen, Richard Anderson, Rene Auberjonois (x2), Harry Belafonte, Karen Black (x2), Gary Busey (x2), Robert Carradine, Cher, James Coburn (x3), John Cusack (x2), Paul Dooley (x2), Brad Davis, Peter Falk (x3), Louise Fletcher (x2), Dennis Franz, Teri Garr, Leeza Gibbons (x2), Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum (x4), Elliott Gould (x3), Joel Grey, David Alan Grier, Anjelica Huston (x3), Sally Kellerman (x2), Sally Kirkland (x2), Jack Lemmon (x3), Marlee Matlin, Andie MacDowell (x2), Malcolm McDowell, Martin Mull, Jayne Meadows, Nick Nolte (x3), Bert Remsen, Burt Reynolds, Julia Roberts (x2), Mimi Rogers, Jill St. John, Susan Sarandon (x2), Rob Steiger (x2), Lily Tomlin, Robert Wagner (x2), Ray Walston (x3), Bruce Willis (x3)

Robert Altman’s brilliant movie-about-movies comeback, The Player purportedly features the most Oscar winners and nominees in one movie – and would advance by one if the Academy would just come around to the idea and hand David Alan Grier his statue already! Altman’s ’80s were a rough decade following his massive success in the ’70s, the only significant triumph being his spot-on political HBO mini-series Tanner ’88. But then came the glorious revival, featuring the likes of Short Cuts, Gosford Park, Ready to Wear I guess, and kicked off in ’92 with this epic Hollywood takedown. I think because of the size of the cast, and that insane opening tracking shot, I always think of this movie as being much longer than it is. Tight 124 minutes! I could’ve sworn I had this movie on VHS once upon a time, and it was spread over two tapes. Clearly not! What the hell am I thinking of? I had one of those weird standing plastic VHS racks that had a clearly defined plastic slot for each movie, so two-tapers wouldn’t fit. What movie was that??

My God, was it Magnolia?!

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The Set of 400: #288 – My Favorite Ice Bath

Today! Because I’m gonna get off this merry-go-round. I’m so sick of all sticky things –

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)

Directed by Sydney Pollack

Starring Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, Gig Young, Red Buttons, Susannah York (x2), Severn Darden, Bonnie Bedelia, Bruce Dern, Al Lewis, Michael Conrad, Art Metrano

Part of my favorite nonsensical sub-genre of films (movies with complete sentences as titles), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? is based on the very real practice of holding dance marathons during the Great Depression so that poor, hungry people could try to win money and prizes. These folks would have to remain on their feet virtually non-stop for days and weeks at a time, trying to outlast each other not unlike modern contests where people have to keep their hands on a car, or continuously ride a rollercoaster until everyone else quits. The difference, of course, was that these people were desperate, and often died from sheer exhaustion in striving to win. It’s a little talked about, shameful blip in history, with roots back in Roman times – straight-up peasant brutality used to entertain the better off.

Look at the great times these poor bastards are having!

So if that’s your idea of a fun movie, They Shoot Horses is 100% your jam. Gig Young won an Oscar as the fun-loving, heartless ringmaster of this nightmare carnival, but the on-screen suffering and deterioration of Fonda, Sarrazin, Buttons, and York is equally as impressive and shocking. Based on the effective Horace McCoy novel, the movie manages to round complete characters out of this depravity, improving on the source material by adding and/or enhancing the minor roles. The result is Sydney Pollack’s masterpiece (Out of Africa and Tootsie are both great, don’t get me wrong), holding down the odd distinction of being the most nominated movie in Oscar history that didn’t get a Best Picture nod, with nine! But, you know, thank God they saved that spot for Hello, Dolly! Continue reading

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