I won’t go along with the idea of Ben Affleck‘s The Town deserving a Best Picture nomination, and neither, I suspect, will a certain percentage of Academy members. (I spoke to a top-tier director-screenwriter at last night’s Social Network party who said The Town is “really not very good.”) But Anne Thompson‘s idea (voiced during yesterday’s Oscar Talk podcast with In Contention‘s Kris Tapley) about Affleck being the new Sydney Pollack is perfect.
What she meant, I think, is that Affeck has shown he has the chops to be the industry’s leading dispenser of smart, upscale, money-making MOR films that aren’t too twitchy or problematical. The kind of movie that has name actors and feisty dialogue and a highly professional sheen but with a earnest romantic element. Not one that necessarily ends with a kiss (Pollack’s romances mostly ended with the relationship in question not working out) but which has a straight, deeply felt quality.
I knew Pollack slightly (a few interviews, several social occasions) and he would have been the first to tell you he was in the business of making movies that people wanted to see. But his films always had a classy veneer, and were always adult-minded and about a theme or arc that Pollack had worked out in his head before shooting. Pollack knew his stuff and then some. He wasn’t Jean-Luc Godard (and he would have been the first to tell you he didn’t have that kind of DNA), but he was one of the best MOR behind-the-camera guys for the better part of four decades.
If Affleck can live up to Pollack’s standards and level of caring and concentration over the next two or three decades, he’ll have reason to be proud.