Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dr. T and the Women (2000)

Dr. T and the Women is not one I was dying to see. In fact, I would most certainly have never watched it if I had not gotten into a sticky situation called "Cinema Stripped Down". Perhaps the reason I didn't want to see Dr. T and the Women is the fact that I'm not too crazy about seeing a film where Richard Gere examines wealthy (and often elderly) women's vagina. That said, Dr, T and the Women still has it's defenders. Whether I am among such people, you will have to wait and see.

Dr. T and the Women is filled with nudity. In fact, there is a scene when 70s and science fiction star, Farrah Fawcett strips down and takes a nice bath in the middle of a shopping mall. Altman figured she would not be comfortable doing the scene, so he got everyone off the set except for himself, a sound recorder and the director of photography.  To his surprise, Farrah Fawcett was perfectly fine performing this scene, in fact, she refused to do it without a crowd surrounding her. So, Altman brought all of the extras back in. Once she had finished the scene, she received a standing ovation from  everyone on the set.

I cannot say much of anything else about Dr. T and the Women, humanity has tried and evidently succeeded in forever removing any memento of it from their memory  There are however, a few reminders. I suppose this review will also be a reminder of such. I should mention, that Dr. T and the Women is a film that did receive some positive review. These include a review written by Roger Ebert, which interestingly pointed out the connections between Dr. T and Altman, himself. Ebert then proceeded to explain how Altman is alike many of his other character. I can't truly express an opinion on this situation do to the fact that unlike Roger Ebert, I was never acquainted with Robert Altman, but if I were to take a best guess, I would go ahead and say that I think that Dr. T is who Altman wishes he was. Dr. T is Richard Gere, a man several women are attracted to, he is wealthy, and he is a gynecologist, a job Altman would love to manage his inner sexual desires, that have become apparent through many of his films.

Where does Dr. T and the Women stand today? I somewhat covered this earlier, but if I must, I will again. Dr. T and the Women is a film few people know, because they surely don't want to know about it. That said, they film still does manage to hold a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, which isn't terrible... it just isn't particularly good. It also holds a 4.7 on IMDb, which is without a doubt terrible. I can't tell you not to see this movie, but chances are... you're not going to like it.

Dr. T is a gynecologist for in Dallas for very wealthy women. The normality of his life soon breaks apart once his way experience a nervous breakdown do to a rare affliction caused by the fact that she is loved too much. After his wife is submitted to a mental institution, he must continue his life. He then discovers that Dr. T's youngest daughter, Dee Dee is secretly a lesbian. That's not good, because Dee Dee is getting married! The woman Dee Dee is outing her inner most sexual desires in the maid of honour at her wedding.

It seems like everyone in Dr. T's family are experience some kind of personal crisis. We he be able to cope himself? And will he help everyone else in his family move on?

Meet Dr. T... who is this fascinating man, you ask? Well a few words to describe him are: irresponsible, narcissus, liar, snobby, ignorant, naive, annoying, hypocrite .. the words go on and on... and yet we're supposed to sympathize with him because his wife has gone insane, danced naked in a fountain, and then after she was submitted into a mental institution and we pretty much don't see her again, he falls in love with Helen Hunt. That poor man! Why did this have to happen to someone with so many great qualities... oh wait...

Wow, I had no Altman had the maturity of a six year old. The entire point of Dr. T and the Women is so he can sit behind the camera and point out nudity. If you listen very carefully, you can probably here Altman giggling and all of the film's naked women, like the little peeping tom he is. If you notice, it's never the character that focuses on this, it's Robert Altman behind the camera. So, basically, the way I see it, Robert Altman decided to make one of his many fantasies into a film and force everyone to have to sit through it.

Robert Altman could never have his film admit to being just nudity! No! That would be pretty much pornography, and Robert Altman's career is far beyond that. So Altman decides to put in messages and metaphor to give this near-porn meaning. Are these metaphor and such presented well? Hmmmm... how many words for un-subtle are there? Dr. T and the Women would have worked better if Altman hadn't even tried. Actually, the film would have worked better if Dr. T had died in the first few scenes, then I would have to sit through this awful film!

Alright, Altman has his pornography and he has his kind and loving message so people may not notice he's just making porn, what else does he need now? Evidently, nothing else. Because Altman pays literally no attention to cinematography and how he uses his camera. It's almost as though he edited the film drunk and blindfolded. We cut while people are in the middle of their lines during a few scene. This is directed by the same man who made 3 Women? Are you kidding me?

Of all the Altman films I have seen so far, none of them have had such an awful script. These characters speak their dialogue saying some of the most unnatural lines, I have ever heard. When they talk about their jobs, it seems they're in a film, because of the acting and because of the terrible dialogue.

Richard Gere is terrible in Dr .T and the Women. He is outright awful. To give you a quick example of how painful his acting is, is a scene in the end of the film. This I suppose is a spoiler, but quite frankly this film is not worth watching. After Dr. T ends up in a car crash (shown in a scene where he falls through the sky for five or so minutes) he wakes up in a Spanish town when a bunch of children find him and take him to their house where he finds a pregnant woman giving birth. He proceeds to say one word over and over again in Spanish to help this woman he's never seen before cope with having a child. Oh, and it works. After the child comes out, Dr. T lifts it into the air and yells "IT'S A BOY!". He then proceeds to overact and scream and rejoice. Yep... no thank you.

Dr. T and the Women is a painful experience filled with Robert Altman's sexual desires, poor editing and cinematography, an awful script and a terrible performance by Richard Gere. Yep, no thank you.

Dr. T and the Women,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Richard Gere, Helen Hunt and Laura Dern
3.5/10 (F)

1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Nashville
4. Brewster McCloud
5. Gosford Park
6. A Prairie Home Companion
7. Cookie's Fortune
8. Fool For Love
9. Dr. T and the Women

Friday, 29 March 2013

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

In 2006, Robert Altman's final film was released. We knew that it was not long before he would sadly, have to say goodbye, not only to the great world of film making but to the entire world. As I mentioned  more in depth in my review of Cookie's Fortune, Altman had cancer and he knew he didn't have long. That is the reason Paul Thomas Anderson was hired to backup for Robert Altman in case he wan't able to complete A Prairie Home Companion. However, Paul Thomas Anderson later claimed he knew that Altman wasn't about to die. He knew he had another film left in him. And so, Altman did. A Prairie Home Companion could be the greatest farewell a filmmaker has ever embedded into their film.

Being a great ensemble drama, it's hard to believe that cast could have been any different. However, George Clooney was original supposed to play Kevin Kline's character, Guy Noir. Michelle Pfeiffer was supposed to play Virginia Madsen's character, Dangerous Woman. Tom Waits and Lyle Lovett were also originally hired for the holes of Left and Dusty, but the roles ended up going to John C. Riley and Woody Harrelson.

A Prairie Home Companion began because Robert Altman's wife would constantly demand that he make a  film about "A Prairie Home Companion" (which was a live radio broadcast, the last radio live radio broadcast). Knowing he had very little time left, Altman decided to give into his wife's wishes. This resulted in A Prairie Home Companion. Garrison Keillor was to play himself, the real host of the show. Who better to write the film screenplay but Keillor? Apparently the original screenplay wasn't too good. Altman and Keillor were both in agreement, that the screenplay wasn't all too good. So they agreed that Keillor would have to write more drafts. Each draft that Keillor wrote would be turned back to Altman. Altman would read each of them, and his note to Keillor would always say the same thing "you're getting closer".

Robert Altman was on of the directors who never actually got to work with Meryl Streep, until his final film. Streep was a big fan of the films Altman produced, in fact, she had always dreamed of being directed by him. When she was offered the role, she accepted in as she claims "in a heartbeat". It appeared to be worth it, as after their first meeting, Altman said that she was"25% above anyone else". He later claimed he was a fool not to have worked with her earlier in his lifetime.

My favourite scene in the film is when Guy Noir, played by Kevin Klein, pulls out a bottle of champagne and fires the cork out of the frame. There is a sudden pause, followed by a very quiet "ow." This "ow," was coming from Robert Altman behind the camera. The cork had hit him right in the head. Kevin Kline said "sorry" and continued the scene. This is the take we see in the film, proving Robert Altman must have had some semblance of a sense of humour about himself.

Where does A Prairie Home Companion stand today? Well, some critics love it, and others don't. Roger Ebert put it into his "The Great Movies" list, where it currently stands today. A Prairie Home Companion holds an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.8 on IMDb. It is Altman's last work, and it currently works as a final film.

We open up on the last night of the live radio broadcast, A Prairie Home Companion. Guy Noir is a detective, acting as a security guard backstage of the show. As the film progresses, we get to meet the unique characters. There's GK, the show's host, there's the Johnson siblings who are two elderly singing women, there's Dusty and Lefty - two outrageous cowboys who use their guitar as their charm, The Axeman who is making sure that A Prairie Home Companion will come to and end, there's Lola, who is the daughter of one of the Johnson siblings, Molly, the stage manager making sure everything is nice and smooth, and finally, the Dangerous Woman, a young woman lurking around the stage in a white trench coat.

Will this be the final show? What will happen to our beloved character in the end?

When you start your film on the last show of something that has spanned the course of many people's lives, you're guaranteed a very nostalgic film. The fact that this was a real show certainly adds to that effects. I never listened to the real "A Prairie Home Companion", but the film still manages to make me feel a sad sense of an ending as the show meets it's tragic demise. Altman uses many techniques to bring this out. The first he uses, is very likable character we get to know and understand.

The acting in A Prairie Home Companion is nearly flawless. Kevin Kline powerfully takes on the role of the pulpy detective in all the good ol' film noir pictures. John C. Riley and Woody Harrelson don't have much material to work with, but they manage to give us a smile and a laugh. Meryl Streep gets to sing in a better film that Mama Mia!, and she has a far superior voice than many professional singers. Meryl Streep, like always, acts with power and emotion in her voice and her body. What can I say about her acting that has not been said millions of times before? Garrison Keillor is possibly the best of everyone, but that could be due to the fact that he's actually lived through this millions of times. Virginia Madsen's character is, however, slightly unnecessary, but she still embodies the rule to the best possible degree. Lily Tomlin delivers a fairly average performance. She leaves us with no doubt but to compare her to Meryl Streep. Once you've been to Meryl Streep, you're lucky to even be considered as average. Finally, Lindsay Lohan was actually not too bad. Her character seemed fake, not because of the acting, but because of the writing. Overall, Lohan was not quite as bad as we would have assumed, due to Altman fabulous direction on this film.

At times, A Prairie Home Companion dwells on the fourm of spirit and religious existence. Most of this aspect of the film emerges from Virginia Madsen's character, Dangerous Woman. As I mentioned earlier, I am not quite sure the film benefits from this in any way. To be a very good film, it does not need to suddenly supply us with superficial views on the human existence. I know that Madsen begged Altman to give her a bigger part, because Altman originally agreed with me in thinking that her character was unnecessary. The character of Dangerous Woman is Altman trying to let himself off the hook for not making his film 'artistic' enough. But this is a film that didn't need to artistic. And that aspect of the film just leaves us in a very confused manner. The execution of this is rather awkward, and I wish it had been removed from the final cut.

A Prairie Home Companion is a fun film, with some great performances, but it seems Robert Altman wasn't exactly sure when to bring the knife down on the film and cut it out.

A Prairie Home Companion,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Garrison Keillor, Kevin Kline and Meryl Streep
7/10 (B)

1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Nashville
4. Brewster McCloud
5. Gosford Park
6. A Prairie Home Companion
7. Cookie's Fortune
8. Fool For Love

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Nashville (1975)

Robert Altman's name suddenly was on everybody's tongue after he directed MASH in 1970. Since that point in time, he had taken to making a few films which include the clever, Brewster McCloud, the genius McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the underrated Images, the beloved The Long Goodbye, the under-appreciated Thieves Like Us and finally the also heavily-loved, California Split. Although he was not a guarantee of a film that would do great in the box office, or a film everyone liked, he would certainly give you an interesting film. That said, a script came around to Robert Altman. The screenplay had something to do with melodrama in Nashville, needless to say, Altman thought it was awful. So, he hired some friends of his to go down to Nashville and keep a diary of everything that happened to them. When Altman's friends returned from their voyage, he read through their diary, and that's where the film came from.

Altman is considered to have his greatest talent in the field of casting. In an interview with him, he explained that everything was perfect with the actors. He explained how nobody gave him a hard time. He also expressed his admiration towards Karen Black for her excellent portray of Connie White. He adored her understanding of her character and how she wrote her own songs for her character.

It was said that Altman filmed enough footage to make Nashville a four hour long film. However, he later stated that such statements were false. In fact, almost everything they shot winded up into the film.

At the Academy Awards, Nashville received several nominations. They include: Best Original Song (won), Best Picture (lost), Two Bet Supporting Actress Nominations (lost) and Best Director (lost).

Where does Nashville stand today? Well, shortly after it's release Nashville faded slightly. It was no longer the popular film it had been upon original release in 1975. Then, I'm not sure what started it exactly, but something brought Nashville back up to the top where it became considered one of the greatest films ever made. It currently holds a 7.6 on IMDb and a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. I, personally, would not consider it to be among the greatest films of all time. But one thing is for sure, Nashville contains a brilliant soundtrack that you will never forget.

Of the course of five days, we are introduced to 24 unique character who all have on thing in common. They're in Nashville. The first character is an elderly country icon, a middle-aged woman swarmed by adoring fans, a self obsessed womanizing rock-star, a middle aged woman trying to cope with her two deaf children, a sadly untalented waitress with high hopes, and no talent to get her there, a young woman who also dreams of being a country star, a female nightclub owner, a young groupie, a very energetic BBC documentary filmmaker, and a political campaign manager.

There is more than great music in the air as we watch Nashville. We slowly get to learn about these people and the the great city of Nashville.

As I mentioned above, what makes Nashville a beautiful film is the marvelous score. My personal favourite song from the film is "It Don't Worry Me" sung by Barbara Harris. This song does not appear in the film until the end when everything has escalated into an inferno of tragedy. Yet as she sings, she demonstrates hope in her voice. Yes, the song is repetitive and it lingers on for about four minutes, but that never stops it from being moving. Another great song in Nashville is "I'm Easy" sung by Keith Carradine. This sung did win an Oscar, even thought it is not as good as "It Don't Worry Me". The song is simple, but nice. What I admire about the song is that it has a unique context for me while watching the film than listening to it by itself. Nashville comes together in a blaze of beauty, but most all - great music.

When Nashville is not sucking us in with great music, it is either sucking us in or losing us with acting. Some actors, did a marvelous job... others... not so much. For example, Ronee Blakley is superb as Barbara Jean, the country music star adored by fans, but is struggling to keep herself upward. Her faces tells a million words that her voice never could. Henry Gibson delivered a very realistic performance for me. It seemed to me as if he had been a kind of Bob Dylan, who we used to love because of his music and now we love because of the music they used to make. A very accurate kind of performance. I felt that Lily Tomlin was also delivered a lot of power in her performance as a mother of two deaf children. She is a character who never sings, and she doesn't need to express herself. Now, who's ready to label the stale performances in Nashville? Gewn Welles who plays Sueleen Gay is much like her character: talent-less. Perhaps it's her acting or perhaps it's the writing, or maybe both, but I didn't believe how oblivious and relentless we were supposed to take this woman for being. Shelley Duvall is a waste of film. Her character adds nothing, and her performance is pointless as well. I see no reason to have had her character in the film since it contribute to nothing but a longer run time. Finally, there may be many who disagree with me, but I thought Geraldine Chaplin to be a similar kind of character. Her acting was very average, yet Altman missed a big benefit we could have had. She comes from a separate country to document the events in Nashville. She was much like Altman's friends who kept a five day diary of what happened to them in Nashville. Much like the audience coming into a film, she has no idea what she's in for. I think she should have been more of a protagonist since we could identify with her. However, all in all, when you make an ensemble drama, you're going to get a lot of great acting, and a lot of stale acting. Nashville is no exception.

We manage to witness a far bit of moments in Nashville that we don't quite need. They don't seem to benefit the film. As I mentioned earlier, Shelley Duvall's character was useless. In including these scenes, we dwell in a fair bit of melodrama, which makes this seem like a bit of a soap opera. Over dramatic does not suit Nashville well.

Overall, Nashville is a fair bit overrated. Yet, it is still a very moving film with some great performances  and some mediocre ones. It dwells in melodrama for a slightly extended amount of time, but we still receive lots of enjoyment from the film.

Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Henry Gibson, Ronee Blakely and Karen Black
7.5/10 (B+)

1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Nashville
4. Brewster McCloud
5. Gosford Park
6. Cookie's Fortune
7. Fool For Love

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Cookie's Fortune (1999)

Here we are, another ensemble drama by Robert Altman. That said, it can either be amazing, or terrible. This was Altman in the 1990s, a far better time than Altman in the 1980s... but still not Altman at his best. He was currently experiencing some health problems.

Robert Altman was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. He was told he didn't have too long to live. In retrospect, those most have been some pretty bad doctors, because Altman managed to survive for ten years. But Altman knew nothing about his future, whether he would survive or not. You'd think a man on his death bed was going to spend a lot of time trying to make his final swan song of a masterpiece  No, Altman made Kansas City and The Gingerbread Man. Although neither of those two films are absolutely terrible, neither of them measure up to Altman's full capacity.

Altman was in a worried state, he would never admit it... but he was. In 1996, the company that produced Kansas City found Roger Ebert and begged him to give Kansas City a good review in order to boost Altman's self esteem. Ebert did give it a good review, he gave it three stars, he also gave the same review to The Gingerbread Man. But in 1999, when Ebert saw Cookie's Fortune, he gave it a higher review, four stars, out of four stars. Cookie's Fortune was Altman trying to make every film he made count. With the exception of Dr. T & the Women, Altman never made a bad film again.

In 1999, at the premiere screening of Cookie's Fortune Altman was smoking marijuana. He made no attempt whatsoever to hide the fact, he was smoking it in the open. Everybody noticed, but nobody said anything. Altman had not admitted that he had cancer until long after.

Anne Rapp, the screenwriter of Cookie's Fortune was the husband of one of Altman's friends. Anne Rapp and Altman had worked on a miniseries called Gun before in the past. And so, Rapp and Altman got together to work on Cookie's Fortune. One year later, they re-joined to write another script, Dr. T & the Women. That was their final collaboration.

Patricia Neal stars in Cookie's Fortune. Her part is small, and she commits suicide in the beginning. Yet, this was Neal's first film in ten years. In the past she had starred in such films as Hud, The Day the Earth Stood Still, and Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd. Neal was superb in all those roles... but she was young then. Although she is also quite good for what her role demands in Cookie's Fortune, she was very difficult to work with. It took Robert Altman two weeks to shoot the few scenes she had. This is something that reminds me of a character in Truffaut's Day For Night. In Day For Night, there is an older actress who struggles to fit in with the new realm of cinema.

Where does Cookie's Fortune stand today? Well, it's not Altman's most talked about films, or his best. But it has the reputation of a straight-out good film. It currently holds an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.8 on IMDb.

It is Easter weekend in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Grumpy and middle-aged theatre director, Camille Dixon lives with her shy sister, Cora. It is then that Cora's estranged daughter arrives in town. All is difficult enough for the Dixons... until Cora and Camille's elderly aunt, "Cookie", commits suicide. Camille convinces Cora that this will destroy the family name, so before anyone finds out about Cookie's death, they eat her suicide note and trash the house to make it look like a robbery.

However, soon the cops begin to suspect a man named Willis Richland of robbing the house and killing Cookie. Willis was Cookie's best friend, and every considers him to be innocent except for the cops. As Easter Sunday arrives, the truth comes out, and Camille and Cora learn that they're not the only ones who think they know everything.

Robert Altman is amazingly versatility. His film, 3 Women, was more about visuals and atmosphere than the character within it. However, Cookie's Fortune is all about character, and once more, Altman manages to get great actors to deliver great performances in it.

To start off with, Glenn Close is good as always, however, this may be a flaw in the writing, but I found it unrealistic how utterly bitter she was. Of the four members of the Dickson family who we know of, there is Camille who is a very angry woman, her sister, who is very shy, her aunt, who is very sociable, and a little crazy, and her niece, who is rather depressed. I can't quite believe that such a family would exist where everyone is completely different, but for the sake of the comedy, it works.

Julianne Moore is very quiet in Cookie's Fortune. She was as perfect as the role could allow her to be, but it didn't give quite enough room to show off what what Moore demonstrate in such films as Magnolia and The Hours.

Robert Altman didn't like having Liv Tyler in Cookie's Fortune. He thought she was too glamorous. However, (this may not sound like a compliment) but she managed to not seem glamorous at all. Liv Tyler did take on her character, in appearance and through acting. Although I did not like the character, or feel that she would really exist, but for what Tyler did, it was perfectly suitable for the kind of role she was playing.

Some of the humour in Cookie's Fortune was a little too juvenile for my liking. Much like Brewster McCloud, the humour revolves around that of the crazy. However, at least Cookie's Fortune does not get into jokes about bird feces like Brewster McCloud.

Although there are many who would without a doubt disagree with me, I feel Cookie's Fortune would have worked better should it be more raw and less PG-13 rated. While watching Cookie's Fortune, it seemed to me that Altman was either not wanting to or not allowed to show what he wanted to. Cookie's Fortune seems suppressed, like it wants to say something, but for some reason it can't. I'm not sure if going for the R rating would have changed anything, but it certainly wouldn't have felt so fluffy and sugar coated. Cookie's Fortune tries to be so sweet and kind, and yet it deals with suicide, death and false murder accusations. Many thought it was impressive how Altman could deal with such disturbing topics in such a light innocent manner. To me it felt as though he were trying to deny reality. Like he wanted to hide beneath a rock and shield himself from the coldness of the truth. Cookie's Fortune, to me, seemed like it was Robert Altman dreaming. Dreaming of a world where he could embrace fantasy. Perhaps a world where death had an innocent toll on people. Perhaps Altman would like to die like Cookie did.

Cookie's Fortune,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Glenn Close, Julianne Moore and Liv Tyler,
6/10 (C)


1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Brewster McCloud
4. Gosford Park
5. Cookie's Fortune
6. Fool For Love

Friday, 15 March 2013

3 Women (1977)


Sometime before the production of 3 Women, Robert Altman had a dream. That night, genius was spawned in that man’s dream. The concept and story of 3 Women was created at that particular moment. The next morning he awoke, with a surprisingly vivid memory of the previous night’s dream. It felt too real and atmospheric to be just a dream. Altman decided to scrap the memory as he had to dash to the airport. As he was on his way driving to the airport he was still contemplating the eerie existence of his dream. He was not alone in his car when he was trying to get to the airport. He suddenly stopped his car at a film studio and pitched 3 Women. Five to ten minutes surpassed before Altman exited the studio’s premises with a next film in mind. Yes, he had unexpectedly entered the studio, pitched his film, was given the green light and left all in five to ten minutes. That’s how you pitch a film! Oh, and guess what? He caught his plane.

The next step in the pre-production of 3 Women was casting. I doubt much thought was given to who would play the character of Millie Lammoreaux. Shelley Duvall had participated in several of Altman’s previous films and would star in another of his later films (the ill-fated, live-action, big screen adaptation, Popeye.) Shelley Duvall was given the part immediately as it was thought up for her. Altman had not only imagined the film in his dreams, he imagined the casting. The other main character, Pinky Rose was played be Sissy Spacek. This was a daring decision on behalf of Robert Altman, but Altman was all about daring. At this point in her career, Spacek had only demonstrated her talent in Brian de Palma’s Carrie (a role she was directed to go over-the-top with). Carrie is the opposite of Pinky Rose. Pinky was written and envisioned with careful control, the opposite of Carrie. But Altman did as his dream appeared, and it worked for him.

3 Women appeared in the Cannes Film Festival, where Shelley Duvall won the best actress award. It is currently under the status of one of Altman’s greatest films. It currently has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.7 on IMDb. The most popular and the greatest manner in which one could experience 3 Women would be through The Criterion Collection, the near perfect restoration of a near perfect film.

Millie Lammoraeux works as a therapist for the elderly in an elderly care centre. She is socially isolated as her co-workers belittle her. However, Millie acts as though she is oblivious to this fact as she continues to inform people about her gourmet recipes. Then one day Pinky Rose arrives in the centre. She is young and has just been given a job in the centre. She seems to discover an immediate attachment between herself and Millie. After Millie's roommate moves out, Pinky moves in with her. As time goes by we notice Pinky seems to be slowly morphing with her personality into Millie's persona. After an argument, Pinky jumps off of her diving board into a pool.

When she wakes up in the hospital, she is an entirely different person. What's worse is, so is Millie. It is almost as though they have switched personalities... but even more sinister events await the women...

Robert Altman takes on a very visual experience with 3 Women. He uses so many cinematic aspects to out elicit his meaning. To start off, I should inform you that the idea of 3 Women is dreams. Everything comes back to dreams. To start off with, the colour schemes are perfectly selected to revolve around dreams. When I say the one word... dreams what colours do you see? I personally have always imagined white and blue as the colours of dreams, and I believe that Robert Altman had the same opinion. Everything is made out of those two colours. Water is another aspect of 3 Women. The film begins on the camera, and we spend a lot on the observing the water. What does the water symbolize? I have come to believe that it represents dreams. Water is made up of blues and white and it gently flows, relaxing us... like dreams. As well, when you look into the water, you see your refection. What are dreams, if not also reflections on yourself? Just another reason why 3 Women is a dream is because of the camera movement. Dreams are a time to recharge your energy, you are relaxed. The camera in 3 Women slowly floats around... relaxed... observing.

Everything about 3 Women helps us build the creepy and eerie atmosphere and style. To start us off, the repetitive piece of music that we hear over and over again, is sharp... and yet soothing. It frightens us... but on such a dark level. 3 Women gets off on atmosphere. There is something in the air of 3 Women, every scene is filled with the creepiest stylistic decisions imaginable. 3 Women has many scenes of where we see creepy paintings. The paintings are demonic resembling creature... at the end of the film it suddenly struck me, they're supposed to be three women.

3 Women takes off as a character drama, and ends on so much more. The actresses in the lead roles are just fabulous. They both show their versatility as they swap personas and demonstrate that there a more than one persona they can act as. Millie, played excellently by Shelley Duvall, nails it as she makes as cringe at her character's awkwardness. Although Sissy Spacek is not quite as good as Duvall, she is almost equally brilliant. 

The beginning of 3 Women is very slow. The point of this is to make the second half appear to be very unexpected. Surprise is what made 3 Women such a disturbing and unique experience for me the first time. 

It is time to examine 3 Women in an sharp eye. As I mentioned earlier, this film was based off of Altman's dream. Everyone's dreams as themselves as a character. Then who is Robert Altman in 3 Women? The only man in the film with a big role is Edgar, the third woman's husband. Or could Altman ever been a woman? I don't know, because I have never had a dream in which I was a woman, or anyone other than myself for that matter. There are moments in 3 Women where Edgar does get a little... physical with every single character. That said, in real life, was Altman involved with multiple women at the time?

3 Women,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Janice Rule
10/10 (A+)

1. 3 Women
2. The Player
3. Brewster McCloud
4. Gosford Park
5. Fool For Love

Brewster McCloud (1970)

In 1970, Robert Altman released what he considered to be his boldest film. No, I am not talking about MASH, I am talking about Brewster McCloud. It was originally dismissed due to the fact that it is extremely .. abstract.

Here's an example of how Altman likes to do scripts his way. In MASH Altman changed everything single word in the script. Interestingly, the original writer of MASH won an Oscar for his screenplay. Something similar happened with Brewster McCloud. Altman hated the screenplay so much that he threw away the script and he coached the actors on what their lines were to be directly before they were shot. However,  Brewster McCloud wasn't nominated for any Oscars like MASH was.

There are a lot of references in  Brewster McCloud that make it a more enjoyable experience. Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played The Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz stars in Brewster McCloud. In one scene she is feeding her birds, as she turns around you yells out at a big crow, "Get out, you nigger bird!". As she turns around the crow flies down and opens the bird cage. A flock of birds escape from the cage and murder on Margaret Hamilton. They then proceed to defecate upon her and fly away. As the camera moves backwards we can see that she is wearing ruby slippers - a clear reference to The Wizard of Oz.

As well, Altman seems to be referencing MASH at several times during the film. In Shelley Duvall's character's apartment, there is a poster for MASH on her wall. MASH of course, was a film directed by Robert Altman earlier in 1970. As well, there is a scene in which Sally Kellerman takes a bath in a fountain  She mimics the expression she did in MASH when she opened the shower curtain only to find twenty men staring at her.

This was Altman's favourite of his own films. Perhaps that is because it seemed like an experience full of fond memories. Actually, Altman originally didn't like the title Brewster McCloud. He wanted to call the film "Brewster McCloud's Amazing, Sexy Flying Machine". I personally think Brewster McCloud works a little more.

There are three stories in Brewster McCloud. Each story in the film uses birds as an underlining theme throughout. The first is of a man who spends the entire film talking about the biology of birds. As we frequently cut back to him we notice... he is slowly transforming into a bird.

Meanwhile, a group of dead bodies keep turning about - covered in bird droppings. This is a most puzzling enigma for the police, specifically a cop named Frank Shaft.

The final story, and most important one is about a young man named Brewster McCloud. Brewster is trying to create a pair of bird wings, because for some reason he is obsessed with flying. With the help of a woman named Louise, Brewster's dream does not seem like a very unrealistic one. It is then that Brewster meets Suzanne, who he slowly feels the urge to fornicate with. However, she will not leave her home to fly around the world with Brewster. This leaves him in a difficult situation. He must leave the woman he desires to fornicate with... or never fly again.

There is an ongoing joke in Brewster McCloud about bird feces. At the least opportune moments, a bird seems to fly by a character and defecate upon their head. Hilarious is not a word to describe this. I find absolutely no humour in bird feces. I felt pity for any character in the film who would have to experience the poor sensation of having a small creature defecate upon them. Yet this joke continues to last until I feel sick. But there is a lot more humour in Brewster McCloud, and a lot of it is actually funny.

As I mentioned earlier, there are a great deal of references in Brewster McCloud to several other films. That is but one of the kinds of humour in the film. We witness a little bit of slapstick, stoner humour, sex humour and just sheer randomness. I found myself to laugh at a few parts, just because they were so inane. It's pretty funny to see how fast Robert Altman would change from making complete comedies to very depressing human dramas (his next film was McCabe & Mrs. Miller.

I found the very strange parts of Brewster McCloud  not to be pointless as many critics commented, but to be very beautiful and thought provoking. There is nothing completely random in Brewster McCloud, although it does not select the most literal translation of what it wants to say, it says what it wants to say... and it says it well. Some people seem to love a film that is dramatic and strange, but hate a film that is comedic and strange. I can't understand why. There's nothing to hate about Brewster McCloud.

The Waldo-resembling Brewster McCloud is played marvelously by Bud Cort. He delivers a similar performance that he delivered in Harold and Maude as an awkward young man who everyone seems to think is crazy. Yet he acts with such humanity and humour that we can do nothing but find enjoyment in all of his scenes. Sally Kellerman is great as Louise. Although she is not in the film as much as I would have hoped. Michael Murphy plays super-detective Frank Shaft, who is a clear parody of the character Bullit in the film Bullit. I would also consider it foolish if I did not comment on Shelley Duvall. Although I have hated her in her role as Wendy Torrence in The Shining, I found her to be fabulous in Brewster McCloud. I can no longer hate as an actress because this film demonstrates her versatility  In 3 Women she plays a lonely middle-aged woman looking to find some friendship and romance in her gossip-filled life. In The Shining she plays the husband of a man who slowly goes insane and tries to kill his family. In Brewster McCloud, she plays a young woman many men seem to be sexually attracted to. Although, the cake would have to go to Rene Auberjonois, the bird researcher who slowly turns into a bird himself. He did not demonstrate great acting, but he was perfect for such a hilarious part.

Brewster McCloud says much more than you may think. The film is without a doubt a powerful satirical comment on human nature and habits. He does this through drawing comparisons to humans and birds. Robert Altman asks us to open our eyes and observe like any good bird-watcher would. I chose to let him show me what he wanted me to see... and it was worth it.

Brewster McCloud,
Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Bud Cort, Michael Murphy and Shelley Duvall
7.5/10 (B+)

1. The Player
2. Brewster McCloud
3. Gosford Park
4. Fool For Love

Fool For Love (1985)

Fool For Love is not one of Robert Altman's most popular films, nor is it among his most successful films (box office wise), nor is it considered to be among his greatest films period. It was submitted into the Cannes Film Festival, not because it was a great film, but because it had big names attached.

Fool For Love is based off of a play by Sam Shepard. Shepard is a great play-write, and a great actor. If you want to see a great film based off a play by Shepard, be sure to check out Wim Wenders' Paris, Texas. Both Fool For Love and Paris, Texas have performances from the great character actor, Harry Dean Stanton. I won't make any comparisons, I'll all of that for THE CRITICISM section, below.

At the time Fool For Love was released, Altman was on a binge. He was making several plays into films. This was his fourth in a row. It's predecessors include Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, Streamers and Secret Honor. Of those three films, all of them are considered to be better than Fool For Love.

I'll come right out and say that the general consensus of Fool For Love is that it's bad. Not terrible, just bad. One might speculate that something was lost in the transfer of actors and director. The original director was Sam Shepard, himself. The stars of the play were Ed Harris and Kathy Baker. Perhaps people couldn't imagine anyone else in the role? Well, changing directors and actors never harmed Elia Kazan's A Streetcar Named Desire!

I can't say too much about Fool For Love, because it's not a very popular film. Where does it stand today? Well, it still manages to hold a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, however, most of the critics who liked it did not love it, they just found mild appeal. Fool For Love also holds a contradictory 5.7 on IMDb at the moment. Fool For Love is not a classic, it is simply an Altman film.

May is an unhappily woman who is spoken for at the moment when she meets her long lost love, Eddie. He is a cowboy drifter who manages to fill her mind with sensual thoughts. The same can be said for Eddie, who misses May with a passion. As they re-encounter each other they decided to re-kindle their passionate romance. Between intense session of making love and bickering back and forth, there seems to be chemistry between May and Eddie.

All seems a little too perfect until a problem arises. As I mentioned earlier, May is currently spoken for. Her boyfriend, Martin doesn't seem to fond with the concept of his 'gal sleeping around with other men. Just when matters couldn't seem to get worse, in walks an old alcoholic man who seems to know some secrets than could be very hurtful to the couples romance if they are released to the public. Will May and Eddie manage to continue their affair... or will something put a stop to their everlasting love for each other?

When a film revolves around people exchanging dialogue for the entire film... they will tend to overact. In Fool For Love, there are two people who overact. Kim Basinger yells and screams the entire film. I cannot stand to see this in films, because the truth is nobody express themselves so audaciously. Sam Shepard has the same problem, in fact, he may even have a bigger problem with overacting in Fool For Love. This was fairly shocking since Sam Shepard and Kim Basinger are both great actors. One reason for this, could be do to the fact Fool For Love, being originally a play would be written for stage actors. When you're on the stage, you want your power and energy to be felt by everyone in the room. Therefore you do project your voice and you articulate words in a different manner than you would in both reality and on film. I can speculate all day why there is overacting in Fool For Love, but all I know is that they do overact.

There are also two good performances in Fool For Love. The first belongs to Harry Dean Stanton, who is quite good at the beginning slips a little in the end of the film when he joins Kim Basinger and Sam Shepard on the island of people who overact. Harry Dean Stanton's character is an alcoholic old man, so perhaps the alcohol in his bloodstream could be to blame for his overacting at the end of the film. Randy Quaid is also quite good in Fool For Love. He does not come into the film until there are only forty or so minutes left, which is unfortunate, because he is the only character I could stand. Perhaps the only reason I noticed Randy Quaid delivering a good performance may be because everything else is bad in comparison.

My biggest problem with the characters in Fool For Love were with May and Eddie (Kim Basinger and Sam Shepard). Over the course of the film, we get to know and understand all of the characters, and I really did not want to know any more about May and Eddie. I seriously could not stand them! The character to start off with are very cliche. Eddie is the cowboy drifter who has one woman... and only one. May is a woman trapped within a tragic dilemma! MY GOD! Could I care any less? The film opens at an interesting time in their relationship. However, their relationship seems as thought it was made solely for the sake of the film. I was long tired of watching how May would yell at Eddie and then he would walk away... and suddenly she'd fall in love with him again... and then she'd get angry and yell at him for awhile. We follow down this very aggravating cycle and I just would love for it to come to an end. I'm telling you, there's a scene when Eddie stomps out after May yells at him to leave. He then walks into his car, and for five minutes May circles his car, with a sad-puppy kind of face on. Eddie walks out of his car after five minutes of it, and he embraces her. She the swings her knee up and it collides with Eddie's genitalia. Ouch...! Then she walks off into the distance. After managing to get up he talks to Harry Dean Stanton... and then he goes back and bickers with May. Altman is not delicate with us, he make this plot points drag on and on... forever. Nothing really happens until the end of the film when Randy Quaid arrives (with the exception of a scene when a psycho lady drives up and shoots at them for a long time). And when we get to the point when something happens... oh boy... Fool For Love gets even worse.

Here we go, plot twists galore. Don't read on if you want to see Fool For Love. One of the plot twists tell us that May and Eddie... are really brother and sister! YEP. A whole lot of incest. However, it is told to us in that worst way imaginable.

EDDIE: I didn't find out she was my sister until it was too late.
MARTIN (Randy Quaid): Too late?
EDDIE: ...until we'd... fooled around...
MARTIN: (gasps as he almost chocks on his alcohol) NOOO!

There you go, totally realistic. There are a few more to follow, but I won't spoil any more. You can read on now, no more spoilers

Fool For Love is a very boring film, and a very stupid film. It seemed very unworthy of Altman at first, then I figured that he might be laughing at us. He was never one for terrible melodrama, this does not seem like something the great Robert Altman would release... was Robert Altman making a self-parody with Fool For Love? Did the actors now? Think about that if you watch the film, because I'd love to know what you think.

Fool For Love is a painful experience if I've ever been through one. Terrible acting and melodrama takes over this waste of camera film.

Fool For Love,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Sam Shepard, Kim Basinger, Randy Quaid
5/10 (D-)

1. The Player
2. Gosford Park
3. Fool For Love

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Gosford Park (2001)

Here we are, in 1999. Writer and producer, Bob Balaban approached Robert Altman and ask him if there was any film that they could create together. Altman responded saying that he would like to do a whodunnit that takes place in a small British country house. They agreed on letting British writer, Julian  Fellowes write the screenplay as he would be more familiar with they location than Altman and Balaban.

After the screenplay was complete the original title was "The Other Side of the Tapestry . Altman consider the title of be too awkward and changed it to Gosford Park. Nobody approved of that title and begged Altman to change it, be he was quite fond of it, and so he put his foot down.

For the casting, Altman developed a massive list of British actors he would like to see in the film. Very few actors on that list did not accept. Jude Law was a big name who was originally intended to star in the film, but he dropped out a short while before shooting and he was replaced by Ryan Philippe. Alan Rickman and Judi Dench are two other British actors considered for role is Gosford Park, and yet, neither of them accepted. Interestingly, the cast of Gosford Park consists of two knights, Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi and it all consists of two dames, Maggie Smith and Eileen Atkins.

In order to make Gosford Park into a film, only one set was required. However, that set was required to be a large mansion. And so, Gosford Park was filmed on Syon House. Altman decided he did not want the cameras to focus on much of anything. His plan was to have two camera float around the room in opposite directions, even while they don't focus on anything in the frame. This leaves the audience to decided who and what they want to focus their eye on.

Gosford Park premiered at London Film Festival where it received very high praise. Upon it's release, Gosford Park made approximately $88,000,000 ranking it as Altman's second most successful film since MASH.

Gosford Park was nominated for seven Academy Awards, these include: Best Original Screenplay (won), Two Best Actresses in a Supporting Roles (lost), Best Art Direction (lost), Best Costumes Design (lost), Best Director (lost), Best Picture (lost).

Where does Gosford Park stand today? It still stands in high esteem especially with the increase of British period pieces. Although it will not necessarily grab younger audience members as much as older ones, Gosford Park will remain a popular film. In the future, I can definitely see Gosford Park being considered a 'supplementary classic'. For example, Gosford Park (in my opinion) will become the next The Magnificent Ambersons. That said, the film currently holds a 7.3 on IMDb and a 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many critics consider Gosford Park to be among Altman's greatest films... but is it really? Read on to  find out.

Gosford Park is the story of a large group of upper-class people in the early 1930s, who come to stay at a country house-mansion. For the most hour and a half of the film we get to know the upper-class folks and their servants. All is dreadfully boring until murder occurs!

In enters a detective who seems to be a little confused with what he is doing. It is not long before it becomes evident that someone will get away with murder... unless the servants are able to pick something up.

Watching Gosford Park is like reading a Jane Austen novel. It is dubbed as high class literature solely for it's social commentary. In Gosford Park we witness a very clear class comparison. The story is told from the perspective of the servants and the upper-class. Here we see how people treat those who are above them or below them in the class spectrum. For example, there is a line in Gosford Park that is sure to give you a chuckle... and yet it sounds absolutely sincere. That line is said by Helen Mirren's character, Mrs. Wilson, "I am the perfect servant; I have no life."

What really drives Gosford Park is without a doubt the massive ensemble cast. I won't bother listing names because the cast will go on forever. In many Altman's films such as Nashville, Short Cuts and The Player, one trick Altman uses to get the audience to enjoy his film is to create a massive cast of actors you are sure to be familiar with. But unlike in The Player, Gosford Park is not all about seeing familiar faces, Altman manages to give every character an equal part. Therefore, we get to admire the realistic acting talent of every cast member. I was quite shocked to witness the truly realistic and believable acting that each and every cast member was able to deliver.

For the first hour and a half of Gosford Park, we sit back and watch the characters gossip about people we don't know. I understand that Altman was trying to have a little fun with us and that it was a manner in which he developed his characters, but surely he could have attempted a more unique style. Gosford Park plays out like a soap opera at times. However, there is certainly a benefit of character development in Gosford Park. I would like to say that there are about forty characters in the film. We recognize about twenty to thirty by the time the film has come to it's completion. In fact, we rely on recognizing the actors in order to remember who everyone is. I do not consider it a good strategy to rely on actors to remember characters because it sucks you out of the film and reminds you that you are watching a movie. To summarize, Gosford Park would have been smarter if it had eliminated a few characters, because by the time you find out who the murder is... you may think "wait... who is that?".

In my previous review of The Player, I mentioned that The Player was not Altman's best work using the camera. Neither is Gosford Park... but it is certainly one of his best jobs with the camera. He uses the camera to cleverly craft the story. I mentioned earlier about how the camera drift off into opposite directions; that is just one of the great techniques. I enjoyed noticing that Altman used several dull colours, for example, he used lots of blacks, whites, gray and browns. I would tend to believe he used these dull colours to symbolize the very boring and typical lives of the upper-class. Robert Altman proves in Gosford Park that he can never be predictable. In perhaps his greatest film, 3 Women, Altman uses very bright and dream-like cinematography. In The Player he made every frame very dark so it was difficult to see everything (why he did this I haven't the slightest idea). In Gosford Park, Altman takes on the time period using candles as a significant forum of lighting. The film's photography uses shadows to overtake the dark and moody feel of the film.

Altman seemed to be a little confused over how to execute the three separate genres, or at least that's how I interpreted Gosford Park. The film functions to a great degree as a drama, but not as a comedy or mystery film. It was advertised as being very light and silly. If you watched the trailer, (you can see it here), does it not look like a comedy? If you read the tagline "Tea at four. Dinner at eight. Murder at midnight," does it not sound like a comedy? If you read the end of the summary on the back of the DVD case "Gosford Park proves that murder can be such an inconvenience?", does it not sound like a comedy? Incorrect! There are very few laughs when you actually watch the film. Perhaps that was an attempt on the behalf of the advertising company to draw more people in. Finally, I have no clue why Altman decided to make Gosford Park into a murder mystery. What seems like a very slow and drawn out BBC-type drama suddenly turns into a murder mystery. The mystery aspect of the film, is not executed very well in my opinion. Allow me to present an example. When we finally get around to the murder scene, we get to see what 80% of the people are doing during the time in which the victim is killed. This eliminates most of the possible suspects, leaving us to have only 20% of the characters be in a possible position to have murdered someone in that time! All you need to do is pay attention, and you can crack Gosford Park. Murder comes out of nowhere in Gosford Park, and it adds nothing to the film.

All in all, Robert Altman creates a well crafted film with great performances despite the fact that their are too many characters and too many genres attached.

Gosford Park,
Directed by Robert Altman
Starring: Michael Gambon, Ryan Philippe and Kristin Scott Thomas
7.5/10 (B+)

1. The Player
2. Gosford Park

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Player (1992)

David Brown who would soon become the producer of Robert Altman's comeback film, The Player was reading newspaper one very ordinary morning. It was then that he skimmed through a short excerpt from a novel called "The Player", by Michael Tolkin. David Brown was immediately struck by the amount of film production knowledge Tolkin would have had to be familiar with to write such a novel. The novel seemed as though it were written by a film producer themselves! Brown attended a meeting with several writers, including Tolkin. It was then that Brown bought the rights from Tolkin's publisher to make "The Player" into a movie. The best part is, Brown bought the rights for the outrageously low price of $2,500. The publisher who solid was later fired for selling it so cheaply.

It was at that point Brown decided he needed a director. He sent the novel around to a few directors, including Robert Altman. Altman responded immediately, claiming that he absolutely adored it and he was dying to make it into a movie. At this point in Robert Altman's life, his career has certainly had it's share of ups and downs. It is sad but true that Altman had faded a little. However, Altman needed to make a commercial film in order to be given the privilege of making a film he wanted to make called, Short Cuts. However, since Altman had made some... well... terrible films recently, he also needed to get his name attached to some quality films. The Player was the vehicle that Altman required to get to where he needed to be. And so Brown hired him as the director.

Robert Altman put very little thought into who he wanted as his lead actor. Tim Robbins was without a doubt, the answer. However, at this time, Tim Robbins was a name nobody has heard of. In fact, Robbins was broke. He desperately needed employment to take care of his wife and children. Altman had planned for Tim Robbins to star in Short Cuts. Since Short Cuts had been delayed, and Robbins was in dire straits, Altman decided that the part was perfect for Robbins. However, as always, the studio didn't like that. They wanted a big name for the lead role. Altman fought back and he protested. However, it was not long before a genius idea dawned on him.Why not have the main characters been played by generally smaller names and have fifty or so cameos by big names? The studio agreed, and that's how The Player came to be.

Cut to a little bit later in time. The Player has just premiered at Cannes Film Festival. The amount of buzz the film has received at Cannes was unbelievable. In fact, it was right then everyone suddenly wanted to get their hands on Robert Altman again. Altman was able to sell three film ideas at Cannes: Short Cuts, Kansas City and some film he never actually got around to making.

If it weren't for The Player, Altman would have just faded and become forgotten. The Player pulled Altman back up to where he deserved to be. The film was a big success in the box office, and among the critics. Where does The Player stand today? It is certainly one of Altman's most popular films AND without a doubt, one of his best. The Player currently holds a VERY solid 7.7 on IMDb and a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, ranking it as his greatest film on Rotten Tomatoes.

One thing is for sure, nobody is going to forget The Player any time soon.

Griffin Mill is one of the few producers who can actually sniff out a good film. That said, it is probably the reason he is slowly losing his job. He lives a normal life, making a tremendous amount of money. All is ordinary until something strange happens out of the blew. Griffin receives a letter from someone claiming to be a writer Griffin never responded to. The worst part is: the letters are piling up... and they seem to have death threats.

Eventually snaps. He finds a writer he never called back, and Griffin murders the writer. Big mistake. Not only do the letters continue coming in, but Griffin has a mess on his hands. Not only is he suspected in murder, but he has fallen in love with the dead writer's girlfriend. Can Griffin remain innocent to the police while looking for the real writer of the mysterious notes before everything collapses?

I consider the number one attribute of The Player to be the massive array of actors and actress to cameo in the film. These cameos include: Karen Black, Michael Bown, Cher, James Coburn, John Cusack, Peter Falk, Louis Fletcher, Teri Garr, Scott Glen, Jeff Goldblum, Elliott Gould, Angelica Huston, Sally Kellerman, Jack Lemmon, Andie MacDowell, Malcom McDowell, Nick Nolte, Burt Reynolds, Julie Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Rod Steiger, Lily Tomlin, Ray Walston and Bruce Willis. Although all those actors have parts that are too small to appraise their acting, it is great fun to spot out all of the big names in The Player. This film compiles several film related thrills to keep the eager film fan with a smile on their face.

As I was saying, there are several constant film references; not only through recognizable actors, but The Player is filed with dialouge about classic cinema. The opening of The Player consists of utter chaos around a movie studio. At one point we follow two film producers debating about the greatest tracking shots ever. We also get a very enjoyable time noticing the several film posters up in Griffin's office.

In re-watching The Player I picked up on something I can't believe I originally missed. The Player is a complete parody of classic film-noir cinema. It takes the cliches of all the classic and piles them up. We witness snappy dialogue, murder, a femme fatale, a jazzy score and a whole lot of greed and jealousy. Film-noir, being my favourite genre, makes The Player impossible not to love.

Paul Thomas Anderson is a big fan of Robert Altman, and there's a great example of how Altman would have influenced Anderson in The Player. In watching Anderson's Magnolia you get a sense of the classic tracking shot that Altman does in the opening of The Player. Sometimes a tracking shot is used to be flashy and to say "Hey! LOOK WHAT WE CAN DO!". But that is not the case in The Player. The point of the tracking shot in the opening of The Player is to represent the havoc that occurs in a production studio.

In The Player, Tim Robbins combines intelligence along side with a great deal of paranoia in order to nail his performance as Griffin. This results in a fair bit of laughs and sympathy for Griffin. There is one other great performance in The Player. That performance is delivered by Greta Scacchi. She plays the writer's ex-girlfriend who Griffin falls in love with. It is difficult to accurately describe the appealing attributes of Scacchi's performance. She plays a creative and interesting women who is easy to like. All of the performances in The Player are good to a certain degree, but only two are remarkable.

It takes a good script and a great director to turn something as outrageous as The Player into something as believable as The Player. A big problem a film such as The Player can become a victim of is being ridiculous. If the film is too ridiculous, we don't believe it, it does suck us in -and then we don't like it. Yet Altman manages to let us follow along with The Player, never doubting it for a single moment.

Altman had some great shots in The Player. At one point we see in the foreground: two men talking. We cannot hear them however. We we can hear is the conversation between Tim Robbins and Brion James in the background. This leaves us bewildered since we would expect to hear the people in the foreground speaking.

However, I'm sorry to say this is not Altman's work with the camera. The main problem I had with The Player is the dim lighting. At times we try to look into the faces of the characters .. but we can't. We can't see it as we would like. In fact, we can't see anything in the frame as we would like to. This is due to the fact that The Player is constantly and pointlessly darkly lit. Sadly, Altman paid not attention to lighting for The Player.

As long as I am up the negative sides of The Player, I should add just on a side note that there is one scene where Griffin finds a snake in his car. The scene is fast-passed, loud and flashy. It seemed very out of place.

Another great part of The Player is how much it says about people. I'm going to spoil part of the ending here... so divert your eyes if you have not yet seen it. I love how The Player says something about how easily people will sell out. In the end, the film that two writers were going to make which was supposed to be an art film turns into a stupid Hollywood ending. It truly says so much about the human race.

The Player is one of the strongest films to come from Altman. It has mild flaws, but in the long run - it is great entertainment.

The Player,
Directed by Robert Altman,
Starring: Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi and Whoopi Goldberg
8.5/10 (A)

1. The Player