Cold Mountain

  • Directors: Anthony Minghella
  • Producers: Albert Berger, William Horberg, Sydney Pollack, Ron Yerxa
  • Writers: Anthony Minghella, Charles Frazier
  • Genres: Drama, Romance, War
  • Actors: Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, Eileen Atkins, Kathy Baker, Brendan Gleeson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Charlie Hunnam, Natalie Portman, Giovanni Ribisi, Donald Sutherland, James Gammon, Jack White, Ethan Suplee

At the film’s inception Jude Law plays a young man named W. P. Inman at a provincial North Carolina town. He meets Ada (Nicole Kidman) and is at the fledgling stages of a relationship with her when he marches off to war as a Confederate soldier.

The film opens early in the morning of July 30, 1864. Confederate troops are entrenched outside Petersburg during its siege. The teenaged Oakley (Lucas Black) is handing out clothes from a wheelbarrow while Inman reads letters from Ada. The soldiers are tired and bored. Most are seasoned veterans who have been fighting for over three years. But meanwhile Union engineers are filling a mine under the Confederate trenches with gunpowder barrels while above, hundreds Union troops are waiting to attack. Suddenly back at the Confederate siege works, a rabbit hops into the trench. Just as one of the men is about to capture it the ground rises from under him and there is a huge explosion. The Union lit the barrels and most of the trench exploded. As Inman and Oakley get up dazed from the blast they see Union troops charging at them. As the Union charge they run right into the crater where the trench used to be and are trapped in a kill zone. The Confederates fire down at them but the fighting becomes hand to hand and Oakley is pulled down in by a Union soldier and Inman goes after him. Before Inman can reach him Oakley is bayoneted but survives. Inman shoots the Union soldier with a LeMat revolver he finds and pulls Oakley out of the chaos. The battle ends with a huge Union defeat. As the Confederates are cleaning up after the battle, Inman comforts Oakley as he is pulled to the hospital on a cart. Later that day Oakley dies in the hospital with Inman and Stobrod Thewes (Brendan Gleeson) beside him.

The film ends several years later with Ada, Ruby and their families celebrating Easter. Ruby has married Georgia, and the two have an infant child. Her father Stobrod is revealed to have survived, and it is revealed that Ada’s night with Inman had given her a child, Grace Inman.

The Reader

  • Directors: Stephen Daldry
  • Producers: Anthony Minghella, Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: David Hare
  • Genres: Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross, Alexandra Maria Lara, Lena Olin, Bruno Ganz

The Reader begins in 1995 Berlin, where Michael Berg (Ralph Fiennes) is preparing breakfast for a woman who has spent the night with him. After she leaves, Michael watches a U-Bahn pass by, flashing back to a tram in 1958 Neustadt. A teenage Michael (David Kross) gets off because he is feeling sick and wanders around the streets afterwards, finally pausing in the entryway of a nearby apartment building where he vomits. Hanna Schmitz (Kate Winslet), the tram conductor, comes in and assists him in returning home.

Michael, diagnosed with scarlet fever, must rest at home for the next three months. After he recovers he visits Hanna. The 36 year old Hanna seduces and begins an affair with the 15 year old boy. During their liaisons, at her apartment, he reads to her literary works he is studying, such as The Odyssey, The Lady with the Little Dog, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Tintin. After a bicycling trip, Hanna learns she is being promoted to a clerical job at the tram company. She abruptly moves without leaving a trace.

After seeing the adult Michael, a lawyer, we see him (played again by David Kross) at Heidelberg University law school in 1966. As part of a special seminar taught by Professor Rohl (Bruno Ganz), a camp survivor, he observes a trial (similar to the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials) of several women who were accused of letting 300 Jewish women die in a burning church when they were SS guards on the death march following the 1944 evacuation of Auschwitz. Hanna is one of the defendants.

The film ends with Michael getting back together with his daughter, Julia, at Hanna’s grave and beginning to tell her the story.

Leatherheads

  • Directors: George Clooney
  • Producers: George Clooney, Barbara A Hall, Grant Heslov, Casey Silver, Jeffrey Silver, Sydney Pollack
  • Writers: George Clooney, Steven Soderbergh, Duncan Brantley, Rick Reilly, Stephen Schiff
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Sport
  • Actors: George Clooney, John Krasinski, Jonathan Pryce, Stephen Root, Wayne Duvall, Keith Loneker, Robert Baker

Clooney plays Jimmy “Dodge” Connelly, captain of a struggling professional American football team during the 1920s, the Duluth Bulldogs. Dodge is determined to save both his team and pro football in general when the players lose their sponsor and the league is on the brink of collapse. He convinces a college football star, Carter “the Bullet” Rutherford, to join the Bulldogs, hoping to capitalize on Carter’s fame as a decorated hero of the First World War (like Alvin York, he singlehandedly captured a large group of German soldiers).

In addition to his legendary tales of combat heroism, Carter has dashing good looks and unparalleled speed and skill on the field. As a result of his presence, both the Bulldogs and pro football in general begin to prosper.

Zellweger provides a romantic interest as Chicago newspaper reporter Lexie Littleton, who becomes the object of the affections of both Dodge and Carter. One knows but the other doesn’t that Lexie has been assigned to find proof that Carter’s war heroics are bogus. Indeed, Carter confesses that the surrender of the Germans was a lucky accident and in no way heroic.

Meanwhile, Dodge’s attempts to legitimize pro football start to backfire, as rules are formalized, taking away much of the improvisational antics that made the game fun for many of its players.

With his own playing career near an end, Dodge gets to play in one last big game. This time it will be against Carter, who has changed sides to the Chicago team. Their rivalry for Lexie’s affection spills over onto the football field for one last day.

Presumed Innocent

  • Directors: Alan J Pakula
  • Producers: Sydney Pollack, Mark Rosenberg
  • Writers: Scott Turow, Frank Pierson, Alan J Pakula
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
  • Actors: Harrison Ford, Brian Dennehy, Raul Julia, Bonnie Bedelia, Paul Winfield, Greta Scacchi

Rozat “Rusty” Sabich (Harrison Ford) is a prosecutor in Kindle County and the right-hand man of Kindle County Prosecuting Attorney Raymond Horgan (Brian Dennehy). Sabich is married with a young son. He arrives at work one day to learn that his colleague Carolyn Polhemus (Greta Scacchi) has been found tortured and murdered in her apartment. Horgan insists that Sabich take charge of the investigation, especially since the election for County PA is due in a few days’ time and that Tommy Molto (Joe Grifasi), the acting head of Homicide, has left to join the rival campaign of Nico Della Guardia (Tom Mardirosian).

Sabich faces a conflict of interest since he had an affair with Polhemus. She dumped him when he showed little in the way of ambition — such as taking over from Horgan — and would therefore be of little use to her and her own career. Sabich has since made up with his wife, Barbara (Bonnie Bedelia), though he is still obsessed with Polhemus and finds it hard to get her out of his mind.

Although Detective Harold Greer (Tucker Smallwood) is initially in charge of the case, Sabich instead calls in his friend Detective Lipranzer (John Spencer) and persuades him to narrow the enquiry in order that details of him and Polhemus are left out. Sabich soon realises that Molto is making enquiries into the case himself.

Sabich cannot bring himself to separate his son from his mother and destroys the evidence.

Out of Africa

  • Directors: Sydney Pollack
  • Producers: Sydney Pollack
  • Writers: Source books, Judith Thurman, Errol Trzebinski, Karen Blixen, Screenplay, Kurt Luedtke
  • Genres: Biography, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Klaus Maria Brandauer

The film opens in Denmark as an older Karen Blixen (Streep) briefly remembers hunting in Denmark, then the years she spent in Africa (1914–1931). Looming large in her memory is the figure of Denys Finch Hatton (Redford), a local big-game hunter she met when she arrived in Africa to start what she thought would be a dairy farm together with her husband, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke (Brandauer).

Things turn out differently for her than anticipated, as the blue-blooded but poor Baron has used her money to purchase a coffee plantation instead of a dairy farm. He also shows little inclination to put any work into it, preferring to hunt game instead. While from the beginning, their marriage is depicted as mostly symbiotic (her family has money, while the Baron has a title), Karen does eventually develop feelings for him and is distressed when she learns of his extramarital affairs.

To make matters worse, she contracts syphilis from her philandering husband, which at the time was a very dangerous condition, necessitating her return to Denmark for a possible cure using the (1910) medicine Salvarsan (before the advent of penicillin).

After she has recovered and returned to Africa, a relationship between her and Denys begins to develop. However, after many unsuccessful attempts at turning their affair into a lasting relationship, she realizes that Denys is as impossible to own or tame as Africa itself.

In the film Karen is forced to return to Denmark, following a catastrophic fire that destroys her entire crop of coffee. After more than 20 years, Karen has become an author, a storyteller, writing about her experiences and letters from Africa, and remembering.

The Firm

  • Directors: Sydney Pollack
  • Producers: John Davis, Sydney Pollack, Scott Rudin
  • Writers: John Grisham, David Rabe, Robert Towne, David Rayfiel
  • Genres: Thriller, Drama
  • Actors: Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris, Holly Hunter, Hal Holbrook, David Strathairn

A new attorney, Mitch McDeere, is drawn into a seductive law firm that seems to have many secrets. When he finds out who they are representing and what price has been paid by others who have come across the truth, he risks it all to escape with his law license and his life.

Tootsie

  • Directors: Sydney Pollack
  • Producers: Sydney Pollack, Dick Richards
  • Writers: Larry Gelbart, Murray Schisgal, Barry Levinson, Elaine May
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman

Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is a respected but perfectionist actor on the verge of turning forty. Nobody in New York wants to hire him anymore because he is so difficult to work with or he is either too old or too young for a role. Not having worked in four months, he eventually hears of an opening on the soap opera Southwest General (a parody of General Hospital) from his friend Sandy Lester (Teri Garr), who initially tries out for the role but doesn’t get it. In desperation, he cross-dresses, auditions as ”Dorothy Michaels” and eventually wins the part.

Michael thinks it is just a temporary job to pay the bills, but he proves to be so popular as a feisty hospital administrator that, to his dismay, the producers sign him to a long-term contract. Dorothy is such a hit that she is even featured on the covers of a number of well-known magazines.

The masquerade begins to fall to pieces when Michael is caught by Sandy while taking off his clothes and to try on hers (to get more ideas for Dorothy’s outfits). He tries to stall the moment by seducing Sandy and reluctantly starting a romantic relationship with her, which proves to be difficult because of Sandy’s neurotic personality and incredibly low self-esteem.

Some weeks later, Michael, having made amends with Julie’s father, waits for her outside the studio and touchingly confesses that “…I was a better man with you as a woman than I ever was with a woman as a man” and since he already became good friends as Dorothy he claims “I just gotta learn how to do it without the dress.” She forgives him and they have a cheerful argument over Julie wanting to wear one of Michael’s outfits.