Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Requiem for Robert Altman

"Retirement? You're talking about death, right?" -
Robert Altman

I was saddened to hear that Robert Altman passed away at 81. He was one of my favorite directors. It's amazing that he was still working and even gave us a great film this year - A Prairie Home Companion. I hope Lindsay Lohan realizes how lucky she was to get to work with him, but somehow I doubt it. Here's a few thoughts on some of his best works - add them to your netflix queue if you havent seen them.

  • The Player - this was the first Altman movie I saw, and it's still probably my favorite. I loved the commentary on Hollywood, all the celebrity cameos, plus there's a good, suspenseful story.

  • Nashville - I've seen this one a few times, most memorably at Woodstock 99. When the crowd cheered when the country-singing sweetheart was assasinated while performing, I knew we were in for a bumpy festival.

  • Short Cuts - this was a dream combination for me - one of my favorite writers, Raymond Carver, and one of my favorite directors. I loved the way the stories were interwoven, how the characters lives intersected. That is my favorite quality of Altman's films - his focus on randomness, coincidence, and connections.

  • A Prairie Home Companion - I wasn't really familiar with Garrison Keillor's work, but I enjoyed the movie, mostly for the performances of Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrellson, and John C. Reilly. It seems fitting that it's his last film, with its meditations on the afterlife through the ghostly character played by Virginia Madsen.

  • 3 Women - I caught this at a revival house this year and was blown away. Shelley Duvall should have been nominated for an oscar. Her character is annoying yet endearing. Sissy Spacek is also excellent.

  • M*A*S*H - The film that spawned one of the longest running sitcoms in TV history. Not much happens, but it's still entertaining.

  • Pret a Porter - OK, this one was a bomb, but I still enjoyed it for its all-star cast, the chance it offered for Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni to work together again, and it's fun soundtrack. Here comes the hotstepper!

    It's a shame that Altman never won the Oscar for Best Director, but at least the Academy came through with a lifetime achievement award for him this year. Altman left us a legacy of films that will continue to inspire, and there are many I have yet to see. I know I have A Wedding and McCabe and Mrs. Miller on my Tivo right now, and I'm looking forward to watching them. The consolation in losing a great artist is that the work remains.

    Read my longer review of 3 Women

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