Robert Altman

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Robert Altman

#426 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:03 am

knives wrote:That actually never bothers me. My big problem with the movie is how much boys' club it is with Altman being all for it. The treatment of the nurse and Duvall in the film is just disgusting and then it wants me to get all sappy in the end. I'll certainly take the show instead any day.
I can see what you're getting at, there- the show wound up working really hard to be 'sensitive' in a way that wound up making a bit toothless in some ways but also meant that it gave much fuller life and characterization to a lot of people who were essentially cruel cartoons in Altman's movie. And I think the rowdy camaraderie thing that implied that it was ok to call a black man 'Spearchucker' because it was all in the spirit of fun feels very much like sort of a toxic frathouse thing, though I find the leads likable enough that it's sort of hard to view it that way.

I like the way M*A*S*H just sort of happens, with no feeling that it moves from scene to scene with any particular purpose- that's an aspect of Altman shagginess that's always appealed to me- but either because I don't really have the grasp on the genre it's working through the way I do with Long Goodbye and McCabe & Mrs. Miller or because it's just not as successful as his best work or for whatever other reason, it never really hits the perfect, poetic moments that make Altman fly for me.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#427 Post by knives » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:12 am

The thing with stuff like the spearchucker line or the funeral sequence is that it doesn't bother me, personally, because there is that camaraderie and sense that everyone present is ultimately equal, but with the two characters I mentioned plus a few others scattered throughout it just rings of being cruel and petty and approving of it as a fratboy type thing. Like with the famous shower scene I really wanted everyone to get sacked for that as it is one of the most horrible things I've ever seen a protagonist do not made any better by the honest reaction from the nurse of genuine pain. It's all played off as this cute little boys will be boys type thing though. That's an ugliness I just can't abide.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: Robert Altman

#428 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:25 am

I see those things as being fundamentally part of the same frat guy outlook- basically, the idea that we're going to go after everyone, and if you're tough enough to take it and laugh it off and give it back than you're one of us, and if you aren't we'll just continually harass you because you're a square or whatever. Which is a game that gets played a lot, but it's fundamentally inequal and has a really cruel streak hiding in it.

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knives
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Re: Robert Altman

#429 Post by knives » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:29 am

Exactly and with that as the fundamental logic of the film in regards to character, essentially making an us versus them dichotomy, I find the film cripplingly flawed on a fundamental level.

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Re: Robert Altman

#430 Post by Ishmael » Mon Apr 09, 2012 8:03 am

I think condemning the characters in MASH for behaving like frat boys, as if they’re really just having a grand old time fucking with everybody, is completely off. The characters are normal guys without any military training or combat experience stationed near the front lines of a war. Every day they see people physically and emotionally ripped apart, so sure, they revert to juvenile behavior because what else can they do to stop themselves going crazy? That’s why it’s so important that the operating-room scenes are graphic (a choice that otherwise wouldn’t fit with a comedy): to provide the only context against which the silliness or cruelty or pettiness of adults acting like this would make sense. Oh, and the main characters’ behavior should also be understood in the context of the film’s strong antimilitary sentiment. These two types of behavior are complete opposites, of course: Nothing could undermine the military way of life more than a complete lack of discipline.

Altman does tend to humanize everyone in his films, but I don’t think this film so much condones the protagonists’ behavior as it just portrays it. Again, the context is all-important here. Think of the film as a drama about people cracking under pressure (either cracking the way Duvall does or, uh, cracking jokes, like Hawkeye and Trapper); then it might work better for you, and the jokes may seem more organic to the material.

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warren oates
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Re: Robert Altman

#431 Post by warren oates » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:37 pm

I think there is something of a mean streak in some of Altman's work that gets confused or conflated with his self chosen mission to democratize satire for every character in every film. As knives writes, there is a real egalitarian feeling to the humor in most of his films where everyone seems equally fair game to be the butt of a joke (and, crucially, for me, I don't think he usually views himself as being outside of this). And there's also that frat boy thing mentioned above, which I suppose I see most clearly in O.C. And Stiggs, a film in which two angry young boys prank the whole rest of their world because they deem it to be so much more worthy of ridicule than, say, their more authentic lives. And I write that as a fan -- one of the few if not the only -- of O.C. And Stiggs.

For a long time I couldn't find a way into his films because I felt this attitude intensely in a number of his works, even Short Cuts. I think now that I was wrong, that even in most of the darkest satirical moments Altman isn't holding himself outside or above the joke the way O.C. and Stiggs do. And the work is funnier and more affecting because of it.

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Re: Robert Altman

#432 Post by beamish13 » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:54 pm

I enjoy O.C. & STIGGS immensely, too. They're deliberately grotesque creations (as are the Schwabs), and Altman was definitely commenting on the immature young males that were celebrated in many 80's teen films. The wedding sequence in particular is just wonderful.

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Re: Robert Altman

#433 Post by AnamorphicWidescreen » Tue Apr 16, 2013 4:52 pm

First time poster, though I've been a huge Robert Altman & film fan for years. I first got into Altman's films in the 2000's after I got my first DVD player (though, as a kid, I had seen Popeye in the theatre back in the day). I agree with other posters that he's one of the best American directors ever. Most of his films are amazing, and definitely require more than one viewing to fully appreciate. IMHO his '70's output is his best, though he has a lot of other great films (notably his '90's movies).

I'm now re-watching (or watching for the first time) most of Altman's films (available on DVD), in no particular order. Here are some reviews/comments:

That Cold Day in the Park (1969): Superb! Just saw this for the first time ever, since it just got released to DVD/Blu-ray this year (I saw the regular DVD). Great Anamorphic Widescreen print (I don't like seeing pan & scan or cropped films, since you lose much of the picture & the picture quality is usually sub-par - see my username ;) ), and just an amazing film in general. I thought this would be one of Altman's lesser films since it was an older one, but I actually prefer this to some of his more well known & critically acclaimed material. Well-done story, & acting - Sandy Dennis was particularly excellent. When I started watching the film, I thought she was much too attractive for the role, but as the movie progressed I saw how perfect the casting was; she definitely had a cold beauty that was spot-on for the part. Liked the "Altman touches", i.e. the background conversations, the close-ups of inanimate objects, the slow loss of focus as the scene fades, etc. The ending was a real shocker, though I won't ruin this for anyone who hasn't seen it yet. (I'm not sure what the protocol is for these boards - though it's a 40+ year old film, I'm guessing not everyone has seen this since it's seems to have been widely unavailable on home video until this year).

3 Women (1977): Just re-watched this, and am truly bowled over by the excellence of this film. Not sure if this is my favorite Altman movie, but it's in my top five. Excellent performances by Shelley Duvall & Sissy Spacek, and the artwork (the drawings done by the pregnant artist) and colors (Purple Sage Apartments, the clothes, etc.) are incredible. You get a real feeling of desolation/hopelessness in this movie (i.e. the stark desert, etc.), though this may just be my interpretation. The twins who worked at the senior rehabilitation facility were quite creepy. I thought it was depressing how Millie (Duvall) kept trying to get others to pay attention to her and they just ignored her; that being said, one of the funniest recurring sequences is when she kept trying to get that guy's attention (in the apartment complex) & whenever she spoke to him, he coughed as if he were sick (presumably to avoid talking to her) - LOL. I also thought the Mille character's obsession with food & the time it took to cook certain dishes both interesting & pathetic. The elderly couple who came to see the Pinky character in the hospital & claimed to be her parents seemed unlikely (Pinky said she didn't know who they were, but that may just have been a result of her fall).

Anyway, after watching the film several times, I had an opinion, and wanted to see what others thought:

- My interpretation of the film is that the whole movie was a dream, up until the very end; i.e., when you see the Pinky & Millie characters in the Desert bar (and they're revealed to be mother & daughter), and then you see the pregnant artist (as the grandmother?!) sitting on the porch, that's the reality. The grandmother mentions she just had a strange dream, and I believer all of the preceding story was the dream she just had. This is just my opinion, however.

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Re: Robert Altman

#434 Post by nolanoe » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:36 am

This is going to be painful...

So I just really "got into Altman" recently, and am watching his films slowly, but gradually. It doesn't help his most interesting ones are hard to find in a decent quality (hello there, IMAGES (also on a curious note: a well restored BREWSTER aired on german TV at around 2007, I think, where I watched some bits and pieces of it and thought it was hilarious and inspired - I need to give that DVD a try)). Either way, I basically grew up with Altman's "later phase". So, without further ado and in order...

THE GOOD ONES:
A Prairie Home Companion
McCabe & Mrs Miller
The Player
The Long Goodbye
3 Women

THE DECENT:
Gosford Park

THE BAD:
Short Cuts
Pret A Porter (I only remember bits and pieces, but what I remember... oh no...)
Cookies Fortune
Gingerbread Man (I forgot EVERYTHING)
Popeye (saw it as a child, hated it, checked it out on youtube, couldn't believe it)

I guess Nashville is next?

Brianruns10
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Re: Robert Altman

#435 Post by Brianruns10 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:54 am

Shortcuts? Really? Not even decent?

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hearthesilence
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Re: Robert Altman

#436 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:30 am

I don't think Short Cuts is completely successful, but I'd still say it's one of his better films. On second viewing, a few segments (i.e. storyline with its own set of characters) feel a bit thin compared to others, but the way Altman puts those segments together is still remarkable. It's pretty amazing how he keeps them all in play, you really understand why so many critics compared it to a really good juggling act.

I like Nashville quite a bit, but I know it has its prominent detractors. I think Kent Jones revisited it a few years ago and said it was unwatchable. I used to like it a lot more myself, but nowadays, it feels kind of simplistic and a bit nasty in the wrong ways. (I find myself feeling the same way about M*A*S*H - again, I still think it's a great film, but at its worst moments, it feels snide, cruel and misogynistic.) It's still remarkable how Nashville is put together, but it's no longer my favorite Altman film or the one I tell people to see. (That would be McCabe & Mrs. Miller.)

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repeat
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Re: Robert Altman

#437 Post by repeat » Wed Jul 03, 2013 10:36 am

I'm in the middle of a similar project, yet to see any of your bad ones (or any bad ones indeed), but The Long Goodbye, McCabe and the two final films rank among my favourites, along with the amazing California Split (see if you can find it) and Thieves Like Us. M*A*S*H and Brewster and Fool for Love are OK, the last one maybe more of a Sam Shepard film than an Altman one. Totally looking forward to Short Cuts and Nashville.

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Re: Robert Altman

#438 Post by albucat » Wed Jul 03, 2013 11:34 am

This may be of interest to those of you who, like me, didn't know this existed: http://antennafree.tv/2013/05/31/pilot- ... iller-app/.

Brianruns10
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Re: Robert Altman

#439 Post by Brianruns10 » Wed Jul 03, 2013 11:18 pm

It pleases me to no end how many people here pick McCabe & Mrs. Miller as their favorite Altman. I think it is, hands down, his greatest work, and I'll go one further..I think it's the best film of the decade, and the cinematography is rivaled only by Gordon Willis' output in terms of artistry and daring.

It is a remarkable film, and the way more and more people are reevaluating it, I hope that in a few decades time it may even find it's way into the Sight & Sound ranking.

For what my opinion's worth, I think it is THAT good.

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Re: Robert Altman

#440 Post by The Doogster » Thu Jul 04, 2013 2:49 am

McCabe & Mrs Miller would be my favourite Altman if they had hired someone who knew how to operate a tape recorder!

So 3 Women remains my favourite Altman. I've never quite seen anything like 3 Women - it's like an intoxicating, trippy fever dream. The Criterion Blu-Ray is fantastic.

Perhaps we could all start a petition to get Criterion to release M&MM on Blu-Ray.

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Re: Robert Altman

#441 Post by nolanoe » Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:22 am

hearthesilence wrote:I don't think Short Cuts is completely successful, but I'd still say it's one of his better films.
Meh... I don't like episodic films in general, and this one... I dunno, there's just something about it that really turns me off. :(

I think M&MM has flaws, for example the fake snow (really, what were they thinking...) and a few bits here and there that could have been trimmed. But it's certainly one of the most influential and unique films of the era, or even all time. I just prefer Prairie Home Companion for personal reasons, and because it really seems like his final statement, his long goodbye.

As for the misogynist remarks - I've yet to see MASH, but I think Altman is somebody who laughs ABOUT thinks, not with them. His films strike me as more satirist and deprecating than actually indulging.

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tojoed
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Re: Robert Altman

#442 Post by tojoed » Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:25 am

Here is a 1 hour interview with Elliot Gould on the making of The Long Goodbye, with Michael Connelly in 2012.

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Re: Robert Altman

#443 Post by j99 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:58 pm

I'm interested in "Images", but can only find this Italian import on Reg.2. Has anyone seen it by any chance, and if so, are the Italian subtitles removable?

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Images-Marcel-B ... rds=images" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Robert Altman

#444 Post by criterion10 » Fri Aug 02, 2013 3:18 pm

MGM released Images in the U.S. in an anamorphic transfer. Unfortunately, it's OOP and fetching high prices on Amazon.

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Re: Robert Altman

#445 Post by LavaLamp » Sat Dec 14, 2013 11:05 pm

I just re-watched Images for the first time in years. Definitely my second-favorite Altman film (my first being 3 women).

This was an extremely disturbing, disorienting film; you were basically seeing the film through the main character's eyes (S. York), and she was a non-reliable narrator. Though this was somewhat confusing at first, it all came together at the end. Also interesting were York's voice-overs in which she read from a book about unicorns, which enhanced the fantasy-like, unreal, and dream-like feel/vibe of the film. The natural scenery was also quite powerful & vivid.
SpoilerShow
The ending was quite freaky; she sees "herself" standing on the side of the road and then, terrified, she runs into her dopple-ganger with her car, who then tumbles over the cliff. When this person was revealed to be her husband it wasn't a shock (since I figured out what was happening all along) but still quite horrific none-the-less....

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Re: Robert Altman

#446 Post by d-less » Sun Dec 15, 2013 12:17 am

Images is definitely one of the under rated film of the 70s. I was lucky to see it on cable TV and bought the MGM DVD. Criterion really needs to rescue this film from the obscurity it's falling into.

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Re: Robert Altman

#447 Post by pzadvance » Wed Mar 26, 2014 8:02 pm

UCLA is starting an extensive, three-month Altman retrospective in April that looks really exciting--lots of rarities including The Delinquents, old industrial films and Color-Sonics scopitones that Altman directed, some of his TV stuff, and the premiere of a new feature-length documentary on Altman's life and work which is being produced for the Epix channel. Can't wait.

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Re: Robert Altman

#448 Post by Jgh8xxx » Thu Mar 27, 2014 2:17 am

Was just coming here to post about the UCLA Retrospective. It's a very exciting line-up, though I am INCREDIBLY disappointed that HealtH isn't being shown. I thought it would FINALLY be my chance to see it when this retro was announced. I have high hopes that I'll still be able to see it one day. A lot of fantastic programs, UCLA really did a great job with this line-up.

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Re: Robert Altman

#449 Post by Zumpano » Sat Mar 29, 2014 4:23 pm

Looks fantastic, but still no HEALTH...

beamish13
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Re: Robert Altman

#450 Post by beamish13 » Mon Mar 31, 2014 5:10 pm

The Archive responds:
Thanks for your interest in our Altman series. We weren't able to include HEALTH this time around due to the condition of our prints. But, it won't be the last time we screen Altman films, so perhaps in the future.

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