RIP Robert Altman
I'm a little late on this, but I have to pay my respects to one of the great American filmmakers (and one of my personal artists, period) Robert Altman, who passed away Tuesday at 81. His most recent film, A Prairie Home Companion, was released earlier this year, and it was among his most popular films at the box office. (Can't say I was a fan, mainly because I can't stand "Gary' Kellior.) If you don't know movies like McCabe & Mrs. Miller, MASH, The Long Goodbye, Nashville and Short Cuts, do yourself a favor and check them out. Few filmmakers were smarter, funnier, or more humane.
When Altman won an honorary Oscar earlier this year (no one was nominated for best director more times without winning), I wrote the following:
The fact that Altman doesn't already have an Oscar, despite being nominated for best director five times, speaks volumes about his mainstream appeal. He's too cynical, too subversive, too difficult, too rebellious, too artsy fartsy for the discerning tastes of Joe and Jane Sixpack.
Not that this has anything to do with what's really important, which is that Robert Altman is one of the best filmmakers this country has ever produced.
Altman's lack of box office success, even during his 1970s heyday, can be blamed almost entirely on Altman, who has exhibited a willful disregard for audience expectations throughout his career. His films almost never have plots or stars, and seem to ramble along with little in the way of conventional movie structure. Altman likes to replicate the messiness of real life on screen, so he often uses large ensemble casts and has his characters talk over instead of at each other.
P.S. Look for something else from me about this in the near future. I need time to write!