For Your Consideration: The "Altman Owes Us" Campaign

Pictured Above: Robert Altman, Propped Up By His Wife,

About to Pass Out on the Red Carpet at the Golden Globes

Altman Update by Jimmy O (3-10-02)

It seems as though the worst thing that could happen has happened: reports that Robert Altman has one more film in him. That's right , the end of 2002 will bring us Voltage, a film starring William H. Macy, Steve Buscemi, and Taye Diggs. The piece says nothing of the content of the film, but one can only guess that it might have something to do with class structure. Our plea: If Producer Alan Rudolph needs a director to sign the alternative clause of the insurance policy, we ask that it be Hardball director Brian Robbins. If anyone has proven that they can show up, it's Robbins.

Altman Update by Jimmy O (3-4-02)

It was reported this week by the AP that BAFTA-winning director Robert Altman posed too great a liability when producers attempted to insure the WGA-winning Gosford Park. The insurance company wanted a back-up director listed in case the 78-year-old director kicked the big one during production. The choice? Stephen Frears, great director of Dangerous Liassons and High Fidelity. Let's thanks Steve for making sure that this piece of garbage got made.

We're not going to deny that Robert Altman has made at least four great films: M*A*S*H, Nashville, The Player, and Short Cuts. We're not going to deny that Altman has made several other very good movies: McCabe and Mrs. Miller, A Wedding, Cookie's Fortune, among others. It's fair to say that Altman has had a long and distinguished career. It's fair to say that he is one of the greatest stylists in American cinema—when his films work, the flowing camera and overlapping conversations create an entirely organic storytelling experience, rare films that sluice across a cultural landscape of class customs and social structures.

The key phrase being "when his films work."

Aside from his signature style, Altman's socialist rhetoric usually so dominates his work that, rather than a portrait of a complex social milieu, he ends up with angry, Upton Sinclair-style leftist rants. He has such disdain for his upper-class characters that they become caricatures. His targets are so obvious that his protagonists become heroes merely by creating havoc in the social customs of the upper class. If there's a single image to define the Altman canon, it's got to be the blurry chandeliers of the rich, which often come crashing down in Marxist anger as collateral damage in Altman's war against the wealthy. It's not so much that we disagree with his leftist polemic, our objection is Altman's drug-blurred belief that he can turn any story, of any genre, of any setting, into a rant about oligarchic elitism. Sometimes he buries himself so far in his liberal rhetoric that the results are bizarre, especially when Altman becomes pretentious with bad material—resulting in cinematic atrocities like Roger Bannister's picture frozen on a cave wall during Earth's Final Ice Age or O.C. and Stiggs driving a hydraulic shock-ed black monster truck to Dennis Hopper's pot farm to the tune of "Sanford and Son." So yes, we will grant that Altman has made some great movies, but he's also made a lot of crap, too. We know that not every Hitchcock, Kurosawa, or Truffaut movie is a masterpiece, but they never made the consistent amount of unwatchable abominations Altman has. What will follow in the coming six weeks before the Oscars is our reminder to the Academy that, though it's true that Bob is going to die soon and it would be nice to award him the "lifetime achievement" pity Oscar, let's not screw Peter Jackson. Peter Jackson merely took on the most intimidating project in motion picture history and knocked it out of the park. Conversely, Altman rehashed all his old gimmicks in a film only slightly better than Buffalo Bill and the Indians. So please, join the filmsnobs as we celebrate the most abhorrent disasters of our hometown guy: Kansas City and Wentworth Military Academy's own Robert Altman.


O.C. and Stiggs: Altman's Marxist Lobsters Pinch the Fingers of Plutocracy

Tanner '88: All of My Political Heroes Are Dead

Beyond Therapy: Altman Sucks the Toes of Cinema

Ready to Wear: One Can Always Tell When Ralph Lauren Has Been Dropping Acid...

Popeye: A Barnacle on the Dinghy of Film

The Filmsnobs Final Plea to the Academy: Do You Really Want to Reward the Man Who Has Given Us This Much Crap? Please, We Don't Owe Altman Anything. Altman Owes Us.

For Popeye. For Ready to Wear.  For Beyond Therapy. For Tanner '88. For O.C. and Stiggs. For Quintet.