What happened
Sydney Pollack, who directed the comedy Tootsie and the Oscar-winning Out of Africa, died of cancer on Monday. He was 73. Pollack earned recognition in Hollywood as a producer, writer, actor, and director. Recently, he appeared alongside George Clooney in Michael Clayton, which he also co-produced. "Sydney made the world a little better, movies a little better, and even dinner a little better," Clooney said. (AP)

What the commentators said
"A tall, handsome, immediately charismatic man, he was a director most actors loved to work with," said Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. Pollack himself once told me, "I haven’t broken any new ground in the form of a film. My strength is with actors." And he was right. As a director, bringing people together and getting the best out of his actors was his greatest strength.

As an actor or director, Pollack certainly earned himself a place of honor in Hollywood, said Micheal Cieply in The New York Times, but he was "self-critical and never quite at ease with Hollywood." He "voiced a constant yearning for creative prerogatives" that he managed to express in movies such as his 1970 They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, which received nine Oscar nominations.

Pollack certainly had an impressive body of work, but what's even more impressive is how long he remained relevant, said Xan Brooks in The Guardian's The Blog. "Cinema's aging bulls usually enjoy a period of gentle decline before the inevitable exit," but "not so Sydney Pollack." Even at the time of his death, he had two films in post-production—Margaret and The Reader. Pollack said that he never reinvented cinema, and maybe he didn't—but he was an "intelligent, versatile, and often brilliant film-maker. Cinema is poorer without him."