TRIBUTE TO ROBERT ALTMAN
Pity the poor members of AMPAS (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences). Every year at this time, when they get their new Oscar ballots, they not only have to decide on the best nominee in each category, they also have to ask themselves if someone especially deserving has been unjustly passed over too many times already.
As viewers, we know this scenario all too well. A wonderful accomplishment in the current year is overlooked so that someone else on the list can get what is really a “lifetime achievement award.” We know it happens and we all understand why. Someone who should have received an Oscar ages ago didn’t, and now the members of AMPAS decide to make the person whole while they still
And so, we will be standing and loudly applauding, if, as we expect, the Oscar for Best Director goes to Robert Altman this year, even though our own choice for 2001 would be Ron Howard.
Robert Altman has been nominated for Best Director four times. In 1970, he was nominated for
MASH. (He lost to Franklin J.
Schaffner, the director of
PATTON.) In 1975, he was nominated for
NASHVILLE. (He lost to Milos Forman, the director of
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST.) In 1992, he was nominated for
PLAYER. (He lost to Clint Eastwood, the director of
UNFORGIVEN.) In 1993, he was nominated for
SHORT CUTS. (He lost to Stephen Spielberg, the director of
Astute readers of this site will know that there is only one contest here that we would really disagree with: as the years go by, it becomes increasingly obvious that
ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST is more a “product of its time” than an enduring classic, whereas
NASHVILLE gets better & better every time you see it. (We have the advantage of having seen Gary Sinese’s terrific turn as Randall Patrick McMurphy in the recent Steppenwolf Theater Company’s revival of CUCKOO’S NEST, which cemented our view on this
All that said, Altman’s importance goes far beyond his own directorial efforts. Altman was and continues to be a true innovator who created a new whole style of ensemble filmmaking. Altman (& his collaborators) build complete cinematic worlds filled with huge casts of fascinating, interlocking characters. He is the godfather of all the films now appropriately called “Altmanesque,” such as
NIGHTS, CHOOSE ME, DINNER
RUSH, LONE STAR, & PULP
And so, even though GOSFORD PARK is not at the top of this master’s list, it’s much better than most of what was released in 2001, & therefore an appropriate occasion to celebrate Altman’s genuine
For the record, FILMS FOR TWO welcomes this opportunity to name our own all-time favorite Altman films, as