Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Altman Forever (1925 - 2006)

UPDATED 11/22 w/ links to other tributes

As many of you have probably already heard Robert Altman passed away at 81 years young, last night. I just heard the news and sadness is welling up in me. He is easily one of my favorite directors. You'll see at least two of his movies in my personal canon as it progresses and I was looking forward to his next project Hands on a Hardbody too.

Now of course we know that A Prairie Home Companion will forever be his last film. Since it plays like a swansong, that's a sweet parting gift from the auteur to all of us. It's so wonderful that he never stopped working. The cinema needed this man and I'll miss him as a movie fan.

How are you feeling? Tell us your favorite Robert Altman memory in the comments.

Other Altman tributes around the web:
Cinemavistaramascope * Coping Mechanisms * ...Deep In Your Eyes * Life's a Bitch * popbytes * Stale Popcorn * or hey, Greencine Daily always comes through. They have a list of tributes.

There's also an excellent article from Stephanie Zacharek at Salon and did you know that me pal Susan P of Oscarwatch fame was one of the last people to interview the great auteur? You can read that piece here.


Sid said...

Terrible news. I'm still coming to terms with it.

RIP Mr. Altman, you will be missed.

mistyh92104 said...

Though it was somewhat expected, his death still surprised me and I'm feeling really sad about it. I guess I took him for granted a little bit in that I sort of thought he'd always be around. Thank God he lived as long as he did, though, so that he could give us those last few goodies, especially "Gosford Park".


my 5 favorites in no particular order:

three women, mccabe and mrs miller, gosford park, nashville, and m*a*s*h

Anonymous said...

my 4 favs in no particular order:

three women, gosford park, mccabe and mrs miller, m*a*s*h, and nashville

NicksFlickPicks said...

Well, you did quote me correctly about Nashville.

If all he'd ever made was the scene in Nashville when Keith Carradine sings "I'm Easy" and four different women, for four different reasons, think he's singing to them, and the final scene in the snow in McCabe and Mrs. Miller, I'm tempted to say he still would have been one of my faves. Add in the gleaming, immaculate totality of both of those movies, plus 3 Women, the race into the ocean in The Long Goodbye, the money and boredom in Gosford Park, Laura Dern drunk on the phone in Dr. T & the Women, the name "Seldom Seen" in Kansas City, the underrated performances by Kenneth Branagh and Embeth Davidtz in a disavowed project like The Gingerbread Man, Shelley Duvall in everything (who else could or would have made her a star?), Meryl's Yolanda not quite getting the nature of radio comedy in A Prairie Home Companion ("scimitar!"), the interesting toss-offs like The Room, the consistent sublimity of The Company.... I *love* this man.

Sid said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sid said...

Gosford Park was the first Altman film I saw and I realized he was a genius when I was terribly confused with SO MANY characters filling the screen but felt like I knew every one of them by the end. Pure brilliance!

Anonymous said...

My favorite Altman memory was not so much the films, but that he was always willing to do audio commentary on his DVDs. Many great directors of the 1970s, like Woody Allen, think they are above this but he was always willing to explain and he helped teach with his audio commentaries on the Nashville and Gosford Park DVD's. His lack of arrogance was much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

The first I heard of Altman was when Beyond Therapy (?) opened in Aus in 1987, the year I started following movies and the Oscars seriously. Of course it was trashed, and it wasn't until The Player in 1992 that I saw my first Altman, and it set my head spinning with delirious joy.

I've since seen all of his movies that were nominated for Pic, Directing or acting Oscars, and I look forward to delving into the treasure trove of what remains, especially from the 70s. I only saw Prairie a few weeks ago, and loved it, which brings home the loss even more.

Jason Adams said...

"There is no tragedy in the death of an old man. Forgive him his shortcomings, and thank him for all his love and care." (from APHC)

Vertigo's Psycho said...

Among a myriad of choices, my favorite Robert Altman moment: the closeup shot revealing a stunned Barbara Harris will be receiving the microphone, and with it the chance to finally make her dreams of country music stardom a reality (via her rousing rendition of "It Don't Worry Me"), during the brilliant conclusion of Nashville, one of the most shocking, tragic, funny, and satisfying scenes I've ever witnessed at the movies- Altman caps his finest work (IMO) in daring, original, and astounding fashion, and he also miraculously manages by the final fadeout to leave no loose strings untied in the complex storyline.

Anonymous said...

I was watching Short Cuts last night around the time he apparently died. He is my favorite director of all time:

5 Favorites in order:
1. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (my favorite movie ever)
2. Nashville
3. Short Cuts
4. 3 Women
5. The Player/Gosford Park

Anonymous said...

I was 16 when Short Cuts came out in theatres. I brought a date, but forgot all about her, and I still remember the strange, fantastic feeling that I had been a witness to something true, something extraordinary when the credits start rolling.

He made me love and belive in movies like noone else. He made movies that was like life. I will miss him and will forever be grateful.

And yes, my favorite Altman remains the sweet, cynical, horrifying and amusing masterpiece that is Short Cuts.

Anonymous said...

And I was working my way through Jan Stuart's The Nashville Chronicles about that same time. Today, I'm on page 132, where Stuart quotes Michael Murphy (John Triplette): "When the big events happen in your life, like when you think you're going to die or your mother's going to die, you want to discuss it with Bob. Because Bob's got the handle on it. Dad tellin' you not to worry. He knows how to hand it to you logically in a Kansas City kind of way. And why he's so good with actors is he can do it [snaps his fingers] in a sentence. Don't worry, you're not going to die. He can tell you that about a scene or when your mother's got cancer. He can sum it up for you quickly."

God bless you, Robert Altman, for Nashville. And Gosford Park. And Short Cuts. And M*A*S*H. And--oh, you get the idea. RIP.

StinkyLulu said...

I just will always love Short Cuts.

And Popeye.

Lucas Dantas said...

I posted something on my blog about him too.

I just feel sad for the world losing such brilliant man, especially the world of cinema. My first Altman was Gosford Park and I remember feeling dizzy with those overlapping dialogues and in the end understanding much less that I'd wished. Little I knew back then that was my first contact with a genius' work. Couple of years later I would watch Pret-a-Porter also not knowing it was his [did I ever live before?], but I remember loving its canny and fast/witty humor.

Still I feel ignorant about him and that is why his death saddened me today.

Anonymous said...

May he rest in peace. I have never seen any of his movies, yet, but I have too. I wanted to see APHC this summer but didn't have the time. I'm just glad that they gave him the Oscar in time, though. I wonder what will happen to the Directors race now..

Anonymous said...


I didn't know until I read it here.

I'm shocked. Altman...

Middento said...

I posted about this as well. Truly sad -- and yet, he had a great life and left us with a lot of great works.

My favorite is still Short Cuts, but I tend to always find something fun or interesting in an Altman film. (And you'll see that it's one of the horrible ones that I have the closest connection to.)

adam k. said...

Yeah, talk about great timing for that honorary oscar... I think if they had not given him that last year, he might win one for APHC posthumously. But as it is, I think the race will remain pretty much how it is.

In a way, I'm glad APHC was his last film... it is fitting. I just wish they'd kept the title "The Last Broadcast," as was originally planned. I think that was the more appropropriate name, especially now.

But how sad, and how sudden. My favorite Altman moment is unquestionably his lovely honorary oscar speech, which led me to believe he had many many years left in him... oh well.

Glenn Dunks said...

I posted about it too. I haven't seen that many Altman movies (a lot, like Nashville are criminally not even released on DVD in Australia), but I could tell how important he was. And it was good that I was able to see some of his films in cinemas, starting with Gosford Park then The Company and lastly A Prairie Home Companion.

It is eerily similar how Altman's death mirrored A Prairie Home Companion. Much loved program ends without much fanfare, but instead getting together old friends for a good time.

The first movie I ever saw of his was Pret-a-Porter and I didn't like it! I remember my mum was shocked that I made her hire a movie that had that catwalk scene at the end (I was obsessed with Julia Roberts in 1997 so that's why I wanted to see it). But luckily I then saw stuff like Short Cuts and started to like him. And yes, I even like Cookie's Fortune! Trust Altman to get a good comedy performance out of Julianne Moore.

Anonymous said...

This is no joke, but I happen to really like Altman's film adaptation of Popeye....Shelly Duvall is the perfect Olive Oyl. The other film I really like from Altman is Short Cuts, a collection of short stories or character sketches that have a common denominator as the film progresses. I really liked Gosford Park, too. But, I have to say Short Cuts, to me, was one of his best works.

Anonymous said...

Awful news indeed.

I only managed to hear about and watch Thieves Like Us a few weeks ago, and it may very well be his best film - certainly his most neglected. Very vivid and evocative depiction of the Depression Era, with lovely work as always from Shelley Duvall.

Otherwise - I wasn't too impressed with his recent output (I liked Cookie's Fortune and Gosford Park with minor reservations, wasn't too big on The Company, and loathed big portions out of Prairie Home Companion) but his string of near-masterpieces in the 70s as well as his personal preference for that most unlikely of goddesses Duvall ensures him a spot in my pantheon.

Aside from Thieves Like Us, my favourites would be
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
3 Women
Short Cuts.
But I'm yet to see Secret Ballot, California Split and The Long Goodbye, all of which I'm sure I'm gonna love when I finally manage to track them down

Anonymous said...

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

Just wanted to share. RIP.

Anonymous said...

McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Thieves Like Us
California Split

and a big soft spot for Popeye...

Gosford Park, The Player, etc. not so much.

You will be sorely missed as an agitating force, Mr. Altman.

sophomorecritic said...

i have a pretty good tribue of rob altman's last film prairie home companion on my website pelican56.blogspot.com

jbnyc said...

I'm happy to say that the first Altman film I saw in a theatre was "A Wedding". Not considered one of his best, but I loved it nonetheless. And I think I'm the only one who mentioned it. I can still remember almost the cast by heart. Carol Burnett in a great character role.

Although I can remember nothing about Short Cuts, save for the soundtrack, and Julianne's bold performance (well, I'm sure the extended full frontal in a most unexpected scene helped). It's the first thing I ever saw her in. She made such an impression on me. What a gutsy actress.

The Player was great. Gosford Park brought him back to his fine form. Cookie's Fortune a hoot with some really kooky characters. But for some reason I want to visit some of his early car crashes (does anyone even remember Health?). They fascinate me.

He'll really be missed. I guess Alan Rudolph is the closest director, genre wise, we have to the great Altman. I'm gonna rent all his films this year.