Robert Altman

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Jeff
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Robert Altman

#1 Post by Jeff » Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:00 pm

Robert Altman (1925-2006)

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"It's all just one film to me. Just different chapters."

Filmography

Altman began his career doing over 60 industrial shorts for clients of the Calvin Company beginning in 1948 with Honeymoon for Harriet.

Selected Episodic Television
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1957-1958): directed two episodes
M Squad (1958): directed one episode
The Millionaire (1958-1959): directed three episodes, wrote three episodes
Whirlybirds (1958-1959): directed 15 episodes
U.S. Marshall/Sheriff of Cochise (1959): directed between three and ten episodes
Troubleshooters (1959): directed 13 episodes
Hawaiian Eye (1959): directed one episode
Sugarfoot (1959–60): directed two episodes
Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1960): directed two episodes
The Gale Storm Show/Oh! Susanna (1960): directed one episode
Bronco (1960): directed one episode
Maverick (1960): directed one episode
The Roaring '20s (1960–61): directed eight episodes
Bonanza (1960–61): directed eight episodes
Lawman (1961): directed one episode
Surfside 6 (1961): directed one episode
Peter Gunn (1961): directed one episode
Bus Stop (1961–62): directed eight episodes
Route 66 (1961): directed two episodes
The Gallant Men (1962): directed pilot epidode
Combat! (1962–63): directed ten episodes
Kraft Suspense Theatre (1963): directed three episodes
The Long Hot Summer (1965): directed pilot episodes
Nightwatch (1968): directed pilot episode
Premiere (1968): directed one episode
Saturday Night Live (1977) directed segment "Sissy's Roles" (March 12, 1977)
Robert Altman's Gun (1997): directed one episode

Made-for-Television Movies and Miniseries
Precious Blood (1982)
Rattlesnake in a Cooler (1982)
The Laundromat (1985)
Basements (1987)
Tanner '88 (1988)
The Caine Mutiny Court Martial (1988)
Vincent & Theo (1990)
McTeague (1992)
The Real McTeague (1993)
Black and Blue (1993)
Robert Altman's Jazz '34 (1996)
Tanner on Tanner (2004)

Theatrical Features
The Delinquents (1957)
The James Dean Story (1957)
Countdown (1968)
That Cold Day in the Park (1969)
MASH (1970)
Brewster McCloud (1970)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Images (1972)
The Long Goodbye (1973)
Thieves Like Us (1974)
California Split (1974)
Nashville (1975)
Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976)
3 Women (1977)
A Wedding (1978)
Quintet (1979)
A Perfect Couple (1979)
HealtH (1980)
Popeye (1980)
Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean (1982)
Streamers (1983)
Secret Honor (1984)
Fool for Love (1985)
O.C. and Stiggs (1987)
Beyond Therapy (1987)
Aria: "Les Boréades" (1987)
The Player (1992)
Short Cuts (1993)
Prêt-à-Porter/Ready to Wear (1994)
Kansas City (1996)
The Gingerbread Man (1998)
Cookie's Fortune (1999)
Dr. T & the Women (2000)
Gosford Park (2001)
The Company (2003)
A Prairie Home Companion (2006)


Selected Print Resources
Altman, Kathryn R. Altman and D'Agnolo Vallan Giulia (2014)
Altman on Altman, David Thompson, ed. (2006)
Robert Altman's Subliminal Reality, Robert T. Self (2002)
Robert Altman: Interviews, David Sterritt, ed. (2000)
Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, Mitchell Zuckoff (2009)


Selected Web Resources
They Shoot Pictures Don't They
Senses of Cinema

Forum Discussion
230 3 Women
257 Secret Honor
265 Short Cuts
258 Tanner '88
683 Nashville
812 The Player
A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)
California Split
Popeye (Altman, 1980)
Altman's Gingerbread Man

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justeleblanc
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#2 Post by justeleblanc » Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:11 pm

Lino wrote:As a way of celebrating his upcoming 80th anniversary on the 20th of this month, I would like to start a thread that addressed his films that are still not out on DVD but are justly worthy of being recommended and revisited.

My pick is Brewster McCloud, a genuinely quirky, kooky movie who manages to suspend disbelief throughout its entire duration by way of sheer enthusiasm and savoir-faire.

Strangely, this avant-garde comedy was the next in line after the hugely successful M*A*S*H and we can only wonder the look of the executives when Altman handed them the final result...;)

I'm sure others would like to comment on this film in a more detailed way than mine but this was just to get you all started.

P.S. if you have another choice of film, be my guest! I'm dying to hear something about A Wedding and especially Quintet which both have been very elusive to locate!
My favorite film of his that still isn't on DVD is Vincent and Theo. I remember watching it on TV when I was about 10 years old thinking that there was going to be lots of nudity. I ended up being completely captivated by the characters and started recommending it to all of my 10 year old friends, who in turn never saw it.

I also wouldn't mine seeing a live version of his operas McTeague and A Wedding. I'm sure video recordings exist somewhere, and it would be great to see how his staging and sound techniques transfer over to the stage.

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Lino
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#3 Post by Lino » Mon Feb 14, 2005 12:17 pm

Technically absent on DVD in R1 but already out in the UK (although I seem to remember reading that the quality is not that good).
live version of his operas McTeague and A Wedding. I'm sure video recordings exist somewhere, and it would be great to see how his staging and sound techniques transfer over to the stage.
Those would make fantastic DVD extras!

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#4 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Feb 14, 2005 1:46 pm

Annie Mall wrote:As a way of celebrating his upcoming 80th anniversary on the 20th of this month, I would like to start a thread that addressed his films that are still not out on DVD but are justly worthy of being recommended and revisited.

My pick is Brewster McCloud, a genuinely quirky, kooky movie who manages to suspend disbelief throughout its entire duration by way of sheer enthusiasm and savoir-faire.

Strangely, this avant-garde comedy was the next in line after the hugely successful M*A*S*H and we can only wonder the look of the executives when Altman handed them the final result.
If I'm not mistaken, Altman touches upon this a little on one of the extras on the Short Cuts DVD - the conversation with Tim Robbins, I believe. He said something to the effect of how much freedom he enjoyed in the '70s and how the studio effectively gave him carte blanche on Brewster after the success of M*A*S*H. I too, would love to see this come out on DVD as well - preferably a Criterion release as I know they would give it the respect and attention it deserves.

Speaking of quirky, kooky movies of Altman's, I would also like to see O.C. & Stiggs get a proper DVD release. I know a lot of people aren't crazy about this one but it's a guilty pleasure. I really dig its irreverant and the gonzo attitude that permeates the entire film. And to think that this was Altman's attempt at an '80s teen sex comedy! Weird...
JusteLeblanc wrote:My favorite film of his that still isn't on DVD is Vincent and Theo. I remember watching it on TV when I was about 10 years old thinking that there was going to be lots of nudity. I ended up being completely captivated by the characters and started recommending it to all of my 10 year old friends, who in turn never saw it.
Yeah, I'd love to see this movie get a Region 1 DVD release as well. I was turned on to Vincent and Theo when I was first getting seriously into Altman's movies. Along, with Basquiat, I think that it is one of the best films about a painter and their creative process.

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Hrossa
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#5 Post by Hrossa » Mon Feb 14, 2005 2:11 pm

Annie Mall wrote: I'm dying to hear something about A Wedding and especially Quintet which both have been very elusive to locate!
I've seen Quintet on VHS and must say it's a departure from form for Altman (form? What form?), but I liked it a good deal. I'm sure it's much more enjoyable in its full aspect ratio, but that photography is pretty interesting. They must have used gallons of Vaseline over the course of the shoot, since it's smeared all over the lens throughout. It's a nice, little Altman movie about random murder and a surprisingly small scale giant conspiracy involving a game which ends up seeming more simple than it should be. The sets are magnificently dour and medieval. Rottweilers roam the streets eating corpses.

It's most definitely a movie for Altman converts. Like Brewster McCloud (which I haven't seen) it seems to be one of those movies you have to be an Altman fanatic to really appreciate. But if you are, there's a lot there.

Michael Strangeways
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#6 Post by Michael Strangeways » Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:01 pm

A Wedding is one of my favorite Altman films. It's not the masterpiece of Nashville certainly, but contains lots of small, great moments. It's got too large of a cast, (he doubled Nashville's 24 characters to 48!) and the whole, 'everyone's got a secret!' bit gets a little stretched, but there's so many memorable characters and bits of business and odd conversations that you overlook the weaknessess. A movie that features Lillian Gish as a corpse, Carol Burnett as the object of Pat McCormicks affections, Mia Farrow as a nearly mute, nymphomaniacal nut case who screwed the groom and yearns to screw her own daddy, (a part meant for Sissy Spacek, who bowed out), and Pam 'Mindy' Dawber as a high society bitch is a must own in my collection....oh, and you get the director of Algiers, Caged, and Of Human Bondage, John Cromwell in one of his last roles as an actor, as the extremely elderly Bishop presiding over the nuptials. Not to mention a tornado, born again Christians, the Mafia, drug addiction, homosexual misunderstandings, epilepsy and a sudden dramatic third act car crash which kills two characters....highly recommended, and if someone puts this out, I hope they include the Dinah Shore show episode where she visited the set and all the major stars of the cast were guests...

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Gregory
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#7 Post by Gregory » Mon Feb 14, 2005 4:26 pm

I'd like to see Come Back to the Five and Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean . Could Criterion license it? IMDB says the rights holder is the same as for Secret Honor.

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jorencain
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#8 Post by jorencain » Mon Feb 14, 2005 5:41 pm

Michael Strangeways wrote:A Wedding is one of my favorite Altman films.
Has anyone heard about the "A Wedding" opera? In December it was debuted by Chicago's Lyric Opera. Music by University of Michigan composer William Bolcom. I wish I could have been there. Here's an article (and the link: http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/ ... &cset=true ):
Chicago Tribune wrote:The blue-blooded Sloans of Lake Forest have just married off their son, a randy military-school cadet, to the bubbleheaded daughter of Snooks Brenner, the nouveau riche owner of a Louisville trucking company. The bride's people drip vulgarity. The groom's relatives are snooty hypocrites. It's only a matter of time before the families' dirty little secrets threaten the bonds of unholy matrimony.

That was the plot outline of director Robert Altman's satiric film, "A Wedding," which audiences found diffuse and chaotic when it was released in 1978. The prospects that a failed movie would succeed as an opera 26 years later did not appear good.

But composer William Bolcom recognized the material's potential as the basis for a modern "Marriage of Figaro," a grand comedy of manners that could capitalize on the resources of a major opera company.

With Altman back onboard as director, "A Wedding" has been greatly improved and exuberantly reborn as a two-act operatic entertainment. Outfitted with a smart and witty libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Altman, Bolcom's third commissioned opera from Lyric Opera of Chicago had its world premiere Saturday night at the Civic Opera House in a lavish production that honored the company's golden jubilee season.

The 16 principal roles were strongly filled by such stalwarts of the roster as Catherine Malfitano, Jerry Hadley, Patricia Risley, Timothy Nolen and Mark S. Doss. Conductor Dennis Russell Davies, a longtime champion of Bolcom's music, kept the orchestra perking along buoyantly. The performers and artistic team drew a prolonged ovation from a packed house that included some 30 members of the national and international press.

But it was Bolcom, looking bemused and elated, who emerged as the evening's conquering hero.

The opera, like the movie, piles plotlines and characters atop one another like the layers of the opera's outsize wedding cake. The first act threatens to bog down in exposition. But whereas the original "Wedding" skewered every character with mean-spirited disdain, the opera treats them more sympathetically and with greater depth. Working with a sharply observed libretto that's better focused than the improvised screenplay, Altman directs with a firmer hand than was evident in the film.

But it's the music that rescues the Sloans and Brenners from their foolish vanities. At 66, Bolcom is the great magpie of contemporary American music, never more himself than when he's borrowing from American popular song. He writes tuneful arias, duets and ensembles that show off the talents of individual singers. "A Wedding" is his best operatic score to date: accessible, singable, eclectic, consistently inventive and great fun.

The set, designed by Robin Wagner, is an elegant parody of North Shore conspicuous excess, full of garlands and tchotchkes, with a large, movable staircase and gossamer curtains allowing each scene to dissolve into the next. Dona Granata's sumptuous costumes reflect the social chasm separating the conjoined clans. Keeping the three-hour opera gliding along smoothly are Patricia Birch's choreography and Duane Schuler's lighting. The music takes its inspiration from a plethora of parallel plots.

The groom's mother, Victoria Corelli (Malfitano), has been addicted to morphine since giving birth to her son. The groom's father, Luigi (Hadley), is an ex-waiter who married above his station and is restless to return to his native Italy. The groom's aunt, Diana Sloan (Risley), is having an affair with the family's Caribbean butler, Randolph (Doss). The family matriarch, Nettie (Kathryn Harries), expires in an upstairs bedroom while the reception is in progress.

The focal point

Despite all that, it's Tulip Brenner, the bride's mother, wonderfully portrayed by Lauren Flanigan, who eventually emerges as the opera's focal character -- a sad middle-age woman whose repressed romantic longings are stirred by the sudden attentions of Jules Mackenzie Goddard, the groom's uncle, sung by Jake Gardner.

In a role created by Carol Burnett in the original, Flanigan stops the show with her big, bluesy aria, "I'm Just a Woman in Love." Bolcom and Weinstein gently mine the comic pathos of a scene in which the adulterous lovers plan to rendezvous at a motel near the Dairy Queen in Tallahassee.

Too bad about the Goddard character, however. Jules is not only Tulip's would-be lover, he's also the family doctor turned art dealer. (The guy administers painkillers to Victoria when he's not selling Pollocks, De Koonings and Klines to wealthy clients.) Gardner is an able performer, but there's only so much anyone could do to make this middle-age Romeo plausible.

Another baritone, the admirable Mark Delavan, is sensational as Snooks Brenner, Tulip's good-ol'-boy husband, the opera's other focal role, after Tulip. Delavan shakes his hips, Elvis style, in a twangy country-rock ballad about how Snooks gave up whoring and drinking for God and family. In a bitterly funny scene, he assails the "blueblood white trash" family into which his daughter has married.

Everyone gets something to sing. The callous groom Dino (Patrick Miller) swaggers through a Platters-style rhythm and blues number about how irresistible he is to women. Anna Christy, as the bride Muffin, gets to display her agile coloratura and a dazzling high F. Aunt Bea (Harries again), the self-styled "socialistic blight on the family crest," and the hired guest, William Williamson (Nolen), get cozy in a soft-shoe duet laden with sexual innuendo.

Malfitano makes the most of a non-showy role. Hadley's tenor is clear and ringing. Risley is as lithe a dancer as she is a singer. Other standouts are Kanyova as the officious wedding directrix, Rita Billingsley; Beth Clayton as Toni Goddard, the "take charge" sister; and David Cangelosi as Luigi's brother, Donato.

Combining sex farce and social satire, "A Wedding" will confound those listeners who would find it too light to be a contemporary opera, but too wed to traditional operatic manners to qualify as a Broadway musical. But that's their problem. "A Wedding" is what it is: a nifty musical entertainment that does the job and justifies the time and work Lyric invested in it.

The Lyric's blessing

Clearly the company believes in Bolcom: Lyric Opera already has commissioned him to write a fourth opera, which is scheduled to be performed before 2010.

Meanwhile, there is one vexing little problem, and that is the seemingly insuperable demands "A Wedding" will make on the casting departments of those opera companies that might want to produce the work later on. How many of them, at a time when budgets are tight, will be able to afford 16 principal singers? Ah well. Like Scarlett O'Hara, Bolcom can worry about that tomorrow.
[/quote]

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zedz
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#9 Post by zedz » Mon Feb 14, 2005 7:29 pm

My vote would go to A Wedding. It's almost like Altman to the nth degree, in constant danger of collapsing under its own weight (like a forty-storey wedding cake). It also contains one of my favourite dramatic moments in American cinema, the aforementioned car crash:
It stops the film dead in its tracks: the frivolous tone of the multiple subplots curdles, freezes and suddenly there's only one plotline that matters.
SpoilerShow
However, when it's revealed that the two victims aren't the bride and groom after all, everything reverts back to normal, and the two dead guests are just written off.
Devastating. I find this climax far more effective and disturbing than the structurally similar one of Short Cuts (or Magnolia, for that matter).

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#10 Post by KJB2 » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:00 am

I'll heartily second Annie M.'s vote for Brewster McCloud; I've been bemoaning its absence on disc for years now (luckily, they ran it letterboxed on one of the cable movie channels a few years back, so at least I've been able to watch it). Despite some rather juvenile guano humor, it's prime Altman; funny yet dark, and the ending may be Altman's best.

I was kind of hoping for a Bud Cort resurgence due to his role in The Life Aquatic, but I guess that's not going to happen . . .

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#11 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:06 am

KJB2 wrote:I was kind of hoping for a Bud Cort resurgence due to his role in The Life Aquatic, but I guess that's not going to happen . . .
Yeah, he pops up in the weirdest places... his cameo in Heat, his memorable role in But I'm A Cheerleader...

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#12 Post by Lino » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:15 am

Michael Strangeways wrote:A Wedding is one of my favorite Altman films. It's not the masterpiece of Nashville certainly, but contains lots of small, great moments. It's got too large of a cast, (he doubled Nashville's 24 characters to 48!) and the whole, 'everyone's got a secret!' bit gets a little stretched, but there's so many memorable characters and bits of business and odd conversations that you overlook the weaknessess. A movie that features Lillian Gish as a corpse, Carol Burnett as the object of Pat McCormicks affections, Mia Farrow as a nearly mute, nymphomaniacal nut case who screwed the groom and yearns to screw her own daddy, (a part meant for Sissy Spacek, who bowed out), and Pam 'Mindy' Dawber as a high society bitch is a must own in my collection....oh, and you get the director of Algiers, Caged, and Of Human Bondage, John Cromwell in one of his last roles as an actor, as the extremely elderly Bishop presiding over the nuptials. Not to mention a tornado, born again Christians, the Mafia, drug addiction, homosexual misunderstandings, epilepsy and a sudden dramatic third act car crash which kills two characters....highly recommended, and if someone puts this out, I hope they include the Dinah Shore show episode where she visited the set and all the major stars of the cast were guests...
That's the kind of answer I was hoping to get! It really sounds great and this is an area that old Bob Altman has specialized himself in - film as a tapestry of everyday lives and its dreams, desires, frustrations, misfortunes and coincidences.

I think he has a sort of God's view on our world (vertical in perspective) almost like he is weaving a sort of american quilt of the group of people he chooses to depict. I really like that.

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#13 Post by foofighters7 » Tue Feb 15, 2005 9:19 pm

Im just hoping that his next upcoming film,after Paint, A Prarie Home Companion, will be great, then have an excellent dvd. I have made it my most anticapated film of the next 2 years.
BOTH TOM WAITS, my man, the man,
AND
Lindsay Lohan, THE Woman of all women are susposed to be part of the cast, if only Tom sings and does the soundtrack, and if only Lindsay has a scene similar to another popular beautiful redheads scene in another classic Altman film, then I will be the happiest boy in the world!
But those things dont have to happen for me to still be waiting in loud anticipation over it.
mmmmmmm :D

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#14 Post by Michael Strangeways » Tue Feb 15, 2005 9:55 pm

Altman's Paint project doesn't excite me much, but the Prairie Home Companion project sounds interesting and potentially a rich and varied film. Both Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are thought to be involved as well; I'm a Tomlin fan, but Streep is such a great singer and a fantastic comedienne, I'm really looking forward to seeing how she works with Altman....I'm surprised it hasn't happened before.

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#15 Post by Polybius » Tue Feb 15, 2005 10:09 pm

Fletch F. Fletch wrote:Speaking of quirky, kooky movies of Altman's, I would also like to see O.C. & Stiggs get a proper DVD release. I know a lot of people aren't crazy about this one but it's a guilty pleasure. I really dig its irreverant and the gonzo attitude that permeates the entire film. And to think that this was Altman's attempt at an '80s teen sex comedy! Weird...
I had read Ted Mann's source stories in National Lampoon and loved them, so I was prepared for this and I wasn't disappointed. Altman knew exactly how to handle this material. It was damned cool to, for once, see teens who were actually smart, albeit Anarchists :lol:

Nobody does Middle Aged and Bewildered better than Paul Dooley.
foofighters7 wrote:Lindsay Lohan, THE Woman of all women are susposed to be part of the cast, if only Tom sings and does the soundtrack, and if only Lindsay has a scene similar to another popular beautiful redheads scene in another classic Altman film, then I will be the happiest boy in the world!
You will have many, many happy compatriots, dear sir.

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justeleblanc
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#16 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Feb 15, 2005 11:30 pm

As much as I would love to see LinLoh neked, I'd much rather see it as a home video, such as with the attractive Bush twin. But I guess it will do if it's an Altman film.

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#17 Post by Polybius » Wed Feb 16, 2005 2:50 am

^ That'd be Babs, who happily looks like her Mother.

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#18 Post by Martha » Wed Feb 16, 2005 7:06 am

The topic is Altman, guys. Not chicks you'd like to see naked.

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Polybius
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#19 Post by Polybius » Wed Feb 16, 2005 7:47 am

They're essentially inextricably entwined, thanks to him 8-)

Back on topic...I was a little surprised to see Mann's age when I looked up his name last night for the post above. For a guy as old as he was in the 80's, he wrote very convincing teen vernacular speech.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#20 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Feb 16, 2005 10:21 am

Polybius wrote:I had read Ted Mann's source stories in National Lampoon and loved them, so I was prepared for this and I wasn't disappointed. Altman knew exactly how to handle this material. It was damned cool to, for once, see teens who were actually smart, albeit Anarchists

Nobody does Middle Aged and Bewildered better than Paul Dooley.
True enough. I have never read Mann's stories. How do they compare to the film? Did Altman faithfully adapt them or tweak them to his own unique worldview?

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#21 Post by justeleblanc » Wed Feb 16, 2005 1:47 pm

So was O.C. and Stiggs formally more similar to Animal House or Short Cuts in terms of adapting many stories into one big one.

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Polybius
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#22 Post by Polybius » Thu Feb 17, 2005 2:49 am

He's pretty faithful. The stories (I've read a couple, IIRC) are about a couple of suburban kids who go far out of their way to cause their clueless bozo, but essentially harmless, neighbor trouble. They're both highly intelligent and very erudite but they're very, very warped, so they're endlessly hilarious.

At least to me...

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#23 Post by javelin » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:10 pm

BrightEyes23 wrote:I've never gotten into Robert Altman, and I think it's about time I start to explore his work. Can someone recommend some of the better titles for someone who's unfamiliar with his work? Right now I'm only looking R1. I was thinking maybe Tanner 88 as one of them? Obviously I'll pickup Gosford Park as it can be had for about $5 right now, but does anyone out there feel that for an Altman virgin there are some "MUST START" or "MUST OWN" titles?

Thanks!
For me personally, Short Cuts and Secret Honor. The latter is somewhat of an anomaly for Altman - no ensemble cast.Nashville is also fantastic, but if I remember right, a sub-par dvd. If you see one, make it Short Cuts.

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Elephant
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#24 Post by Elephant » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:10 pm

Tanner '88 probably isn't the best place to start, and Nashville is generally regarded as his masterpiece; if you don't like that one you'll probably not like much of his other major work. Also very good and available on RI DVD are Short Cuts, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Player, MASH, California Split, Gosford Park, and 3 Women.

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Michael
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#25 Post by Michael » Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:12 pm

Nashville! Yes, start with that one. If you likeNashville, then move on to Short Cuts.

My personal favorite is 3 Women.
Last edited by Michael on Mon Apr 04, 2005 3:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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