POO: Altman films

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There's one shot in The Long Goodbye--where the Russian (?) girl is waiting outside in the car for her gangster boyfriend, and as she reaches up from the back seat to turn up the radio, the camera gently tracks with her. There's something slyly humorous about that moment, where Altman is teasingly highlighting that ridiculous motif of hearing "The Long Goodbye" performed by 1,000 different singers, in the middle of one of the tensest moments in the film. I like stuff like that.

amateurist (amateurist), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 15:28 (seventeen years ago) link

i need to sit down some day and have a "Lesser Films of Robert Altman" film festival. we'll watch Beyond Therapy and Cookie's Fortune.

j fail (cenotaph), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 15:41 (seventeen years ago) link

I found nothing "indie" in the least about Nashville -- the whole thing felt somewhat respectful, awed, honest. Of course we know its artifice -- and we love it anyway!

something like that, and I even saw it at the peak of my populist jihad.

Sterling Clover (s_clover), Wednesday, 7 May 2003 20:54 (seventeen years ago) link

The only person that "Nashville" respects is the character played by Barbara Harris--maybe the Tomlin character as well...but yes, I think it's an honest movie, honest in its contempt for the whole apparatus of "Nashville." Which is as it should be.

Jess Hill (jesshill), Friday, 9 May 2003 16:05 (seventeen years ago) link


PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 9 May 2003 20:07 (seventeen years ago) link

Long Goodbye would make a good double feature with Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia.... or maybe it'd be a bit much.

PVC (peeveecee), Friday, 9 May 2003 20:09 (seventeen years ago) link

QUINTET is far from unwatchable. I watched every frame and loved the better portion of them.

But since this is "pick only one," I'll throw my support out for 3 Women, which I've heard is finally coming to video (in the form of a DVD with muthafucking commentary by Altman).

Eric H. (Eric H.), Saturday, 17 May 2003 05:31 (seventeen years ago) link

Oh good, I've been waiting a while to see that movie.

slutsky (slutsky), Saturday, 17 May 2003 16:19 (seventeen years ago) link

Yeah. It's pretty amazing, though I can see some of the Altman fans in the MASH and Player school being indifferent-cum-hostile towards it.

Here's to hoping the disc release isn't held up (he's confirmed that he's actually recorded the commentary so it shouldn't be too much longer).

Eric H. (Eric H.), Saturday, 17 May 2003 17:59 (seventeen years ago) link

goddam it - i just ordered a bootleg vhs copy of three women based solely on what i've read in this thread. and now i find that the dvd is coming out.... great.

j fail (cenotaph), Monday, 19 May 2003 15:04 (seventeen years ago) link

j fail -- that's happened to me more than once.

PVC (peeveecee), Tuesday, 20 May 2003 06:15 (seventeen years ago) link

seven months pass...
Revive, 'cause I'm interested to know what people think of Brewster McCloud, which I just rented.

Chuck Tatum (Chuck Tatum), Tuesday, 30 December 2003 21:04 (sixteen years ago) link

California Split

@d@ml (nordicskilla), Tuesday, 30 December 2003 21:27 (sixteen years ago) link

OK. Criterion's seriously pissing me off for still not having released the DVD they're working on for 3 Women. Everyone blimmin' knows it's Criterion that's putting the disc out and what they're waiting on is beyond me. I've been waiting for over a year and a half to see it a second time and they can kiss my ass.

Brewster McCloud... I had to struggle to get through this one. I guess it sort of taught me what it feels like for other people who did the same with Popeye, Quintet, Images and Buffalo Bill and the Indians... all of which plenty have likened to having teeth pulled even though I found all four to be (if not in the same league as 3 Women, Goodbye or Nashville, still very much) worth investing serious time.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 07:06 (sixteen years ago) link

Brewster McCloud really fucked me up the first time I saw it. I was depressed for like 4 days afterward. I recently picked up the video and watched it a second time and it didn't hit me the same. It's flawed, but it's got a lot of cool stuff in it, with good turns by Rene Auberjonois, Sally Kellerman (I'm probably in the minority that prefers her work here to her role in MASH), and Shelley Duvall in her first role ever. And the credit sequences are genius too.

BTW, there's a good book about Brewster floating around that was published in 1971. It was consists of three parts: A day-by-day account of the shooting, a transcript of the film itself, and the original script by Doran William Cannon, which is very, very different from the finished product (for example: it was set in NYC instead of Houston, there was no detective subplot etc.)

Charles McCain (Charles McCain), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 18:10 (sixteen years ago) link

D'oh. I forgot about the credits and Margaret Hamilton. That is pretty essential. Brewster McCloud in NY instead of Houston would've been so much worse. Jeez, now I'm defending the thing, which suggests I should watch it again.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Wednesday, 31 December 2003 20:42 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
3 Women is awesome. I taped it off Bravo almost 20 years ago, and watched it over and over, but unfortunately lost it a couple years ago. I cannot wait for the Criterion DVD. BUT! Just a couple days ago I got off eBay a complete, mint condition set of lobby cards for the film! I was the only bidder! Actually, what I ended up getting wasn't lobby cards, but stills. But so what, it's still cool. Shelley Duvall won the NY Critics Circle award for best actress here, and really deserved it - and her role was mostly improvised! What a great character she created. I saw The Long Goodbye maybe in '85 in a revival theater in CT, and was *the only person in the theater*. Overall I'd probably pick Nashville, because of the sheer number of great, quirky performances.

Sean (Sean), Monday, 19 January 2004 20:53 (sixteen years ago) link



Eric H. (Eric H.), Friday, 30 January 2004 20:54 (sixteen years ago) link

April, supposedly.

Eric H. (Eric H.), Friday, 30 January 2004 20:54 (sixteen years ago) link


Eric you have just made my weekend! Thank you!

BabyBuddha (BabyBuddha), Friday, 30 January 2004 21:00 (sixteen years ago) link


jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 30 January 2004 21:20 (sixteen years ago) link


Sean (Sean), Friday, 30 January 2004 22:04 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
come on back to the five and dime, jimmy dean, jimmy dean. i saw this on late nite channel 31, the same place i first experienced helter skelter and teen witch. awesome.

esther (esther), Friday, 13 February 2004 23:57 (sixteen years ago) link

two weeks pass...
Arrr... I gotta read that Brewster McCloud book because after watching it again over the weekend I've got even more questions and not a lot of answers or even reference points to go with. Previously I just sorta soaked in the whole abstract surreality of it, but now I demand something concrete to chaw on for awhile.

I'm surprised that it was originally set in NYC, because Houston is the logical place for it. 1970 Houston is the home of NASA ("Space City" as the radio identifies at the beginning) - the maximization of the technological and bureaucratic form of flying that Brewster rejects.

The detective is a total transparent riff on Bullitt down to the name (Frank Shaft vs. Frank Bullitt), their home (San Francisco), their clothes, Steve McQueen's detached-acting, heck even the cars in the car chase (Shaft drives a Camaro - equivalent to Bullitt's Mustang. Brewster is in a Plymouth Road Runner - equivalent to the Dodge Charger in Bullitt. I've always found it hilarious that Altman has the detective off himself at the end of the chase rather than accept defeat.

In the end though, the Establishment wins - kinda like the ending of Vanishing Point but Brewster's end isn't transformative as Kowalski's.

It's also entirely possible that Altman and co. were just smoking a lot of weed and making stuff up on MGM's dime.

Elvis Telecom (Chris Barrus), Monday, 1 March 2004 20:35 (sixteen years ago) link

i have to say that nashville is my favorite. it is just so masterfully done. the long goodbye is number 2.

todd swiss (eliti), Tuesday, 2 March 2004 06:54 (sixteen years ago) link

five months pass...
ARRRGHHHH. Is thing on?

Brewster McCloud??

I just saw it for the first time. I'm baffled. I honestly HATED it for the first 3/4, kinda got more into it once the Brewster/Shelley Duval thing heated up. though the prolonged car chase was execrable, but maybe that was a relatively "new" device then?? Fuck if I know. I'm glad it ended so weirdly, though, that was kind of reassuring, somehow.

I don't normally have a problem with more abstruse films, but this one, honestly, just seemed bad. Real bad. Except for Shelley Duvall. Holy mackerel.

Monetizing Eyeballs (diamond), Thursday, 12 August 2004 04:19 (fifteen years ago) link

Brewster McCloud... I had to struggle to get through this one. I guess it sort of taught me what it feels like for other people who did the same with...

Actually, this comment from Eric H is interesting; that's precisely the thought process I had watching this thing. Like: now I know what it must feel like on those occasions when I drag some of my friends who aren't big cinephiles along to a more unconventional film. I think the fact that this film induced an uncomfortable feeling is probably a good thing, but I need to tease it out some more..

Monetizing Eyeballs (diamond), Thursday, 12 August 2004 04:26 (fifteen years ago) link

No you don't. I've seen it now either four or five times, and all of them I wish I had back. And for the record:

McCabe and Mrs. Miller WINS ALL!

and Short Cuts, Nashville come in close behind.

x j e r e m y (x Jeremy), Thursday, 12 August 2004 15:23 (fifteen years ago) link

The Player - This is one of my favourite films and my favourite Tim Robbins performance but I haven't seen much else by him despite best intentions. Very poor video shops around here.

holojames (holojames), Friday, 13 August 2004 11:20 (fifteen years ago) link

There is a copy of the Signet "Brewster McCloud" book on EBay right now.


I reccomend it to anybody interested in the film. It's also quite rare. (BTW, I'm not the merchant)

Doobie Keebler (Charles McCain), Saturday, 14 August 2004 16:13 (fifteen years ago) link

Tough call. The Long Goodbye, I think. Nashville a close second. After that, McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Thieves Like Us. I actually always liked Three Women. Brewster McCloud is interesting. The Player and Gosford Park are nice. Very, very weird and inconsistent filmmaker.

eddie hurt (ddduncan), Sunday, 15 August 2004 15:41 (fifteen years ago) link

six months pass...
going thru a big Altman phase at the moment. I've always enjoyed his stuff, and his hit-or-miss quality only makes him that much more loveable in my eyes (cf. Neil Young). After learning about him in college (Player, Short Cuts, Pret a Porter) and following him since, in the last couple weeks I've been diggin into the older stuff and I've been really blown away... here's what I've seen so far, recommend what I should see next:

M*A*S*H* (I thought these were both okay, w/Nashville having the higher high points, but neither prepared me for the unbelievable greatness of...)
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The Long Goodbye

I've seen almost all his post-Player stuff. So I'm trying to fill in the blanks in the 70s and 80s. Particularly curious about Brewster McCloud, the Buffalo Bill movie, the Nixon movie, and 3 Women.

Shakey Mo Collier, Wednesday, 23 February 2005 22:56 (fifteen years ago) link

california split is great fun and very sad on a level.

t0dd swiss, Thursday, 24 February 2005 01:26 (fifteen years ago) link

one month passes...
okay, so this month got through "Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean" and "3 Women". "3 Women" was far and away the more absorbing of the two, really great to see such a wonderful copy on the Criterion DVD, and definitely took several left turns I was not expecting that took the "identity-swapping" trope into territory I really enjoyed, particularly the dream-montage with all the multi-layered, watery imagery. Really beautiful... "Five and Dime" was assuredly a lesser, more predictable affair. Sorry to say I quickly tired of the cramped staging and saw through the plot-arc instantly. As enjoyable as the "tranny" Karen Black was there just wasn't enough movement driving the film for me... all the characters were enjoyable, but they had nowhere to go. I'm dreading the other Altman "play" movies if this is representative...

next on the plate are probably Brewster McCloud and Thieves Like Us, tho the wife anxiously wants to see Pret-a-Porter, which I do not have fond memories of...

Shakey Mo Collier, Friday, 22 April 2005 22:26 (fifteen years ago) link

oh yes - also saw California Split. Loved it, great little character study/buddy movie. I never knew I could actually enjoy Elliot Gould.

Shakey Mo Collier, Friday, 22 April 2005 22:33 (fifteen years ago) link

How about Altman POX? Or POIX, cuz I can only name 9 I really, really like?

1. Nashville (1975)
2. The Long Goodbye (1973)
3. Short Cuts (1993)
4. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
5. MASH (1970)
6. Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976)
7. Tanner '88 (1988)
8. Gosford Park (2001)
9. The Player (1992)

Frankly, the top 4 are all even in my book.

Remy (x Jeremy), Saturday, 23 April 2005 05:58 (fifteen years ago) link

Buffalo Bill... how is that, what's it like? I've almost rented it on several occasions, but it looks kinda silly...

Shakey Mo Collier, Monday, 25 April 2005 21:50 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...
Revive! for the Altman-a-thon going on at the IFC in NYC. Somebody convince me to go see Buffalo Bill And The Indians.

The Yellow Kid (The Yellow Kid), Friday, 12 January 2007 06:16 (thirteen years ago) link

It's quite underrated as showbiz satires go. Newman is pretty funny as a vainglorious, ummm, diva.

Should I go see That Cold Day in the Park? Sandy Dennis as a lead makes me wary.

Dr Morbius (Dr Morbius), Friday, 12 January 2007 14:32 (thirteen years ago) link

three years pass...

I've always found it hilarious that Altman has the detective off himself at the end of the chase rather than accept defeat.

It's also entirely possible that Altman and co. were just smoking a lot of weed and making stuff up on MGM's dime.

^yes to these thoughts^

johnny crunch, Monday, 19 July 2010 03:09 (ten years ago) link

re: brewster mccloud btw

johnny crunch, Monday, 19 July 2010 03:10 (ten years ago) link

It's also entirely possible that Altman and co. were just smoking a lot of weed and making stuff up on MGM's dime.

One of my professors was a camera loader on the film and he basically confirmed this.

Roomful of Moogs (C. Grisso/McCain), Tuesday, 20 July 2010 15:08 (ten years ago) link

so much hate indifference for Beyond Therapy.
Julie Hagerty is still my neurotic dreamgirl.

meisenfek, Friday, 23 July 2010 05:38 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

Wow I don't get the Brewster McCloud hate on this thread AT ALL...

i love it! it's perfect altman for ppl who hate 'nashville' (like me).

(The Other) J.D. (J.D.), Saturday, 19 May 2012 07:16 (eight years ago) link

two months pass...

Was watching "Short Cuts" for the first time in years. I'm not sure how I feel about the fact that I think every female star (even Frances McDormand) is given a nude scene, or at least an underwear scene, including a suicide attempt and the dead body in the river. Something about it just seemed so ... gratuitous in their casualness. Like, if this were a stage play, one of the actresses would have a casual nude scene, just in passing, matter of fact. Or just Julianne Moore's famous scene. I wonder, if this movie were made a few years later, if Altman would have had more of his male stars get naked, too, beyond Huey Lewis flashing his wiener.

Josh in Chicago, Monday, 13 August 2012 17:31 (seven years ago) link

five years pass...

NASHVILLE tho Short Cuts a close second

flappy bird, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 07:45 (two years ago) link


finally watched 3 women the other day, rly natural+confident homegrown u.s. surrealism-- made me think of persona of course but not because it felt made after studying it. (also so deeply a california movie, without having to openly stress it as much as the long goodbye or the player or p.t. anderson.) duvall rly great, as pretty much always. maybe too much of the murals shot thru water i guess.

difficult listening hour, Tuesday, 20 February 2018 08:59 (two years ago) link

Check out Images (out on blu soon via Arrow) for more of Altman in a similar mode.

Animal Bag's Greatest Hits Vol. 5 (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 20 February 2018 13:04 (two years ago) link

Images, out 3/20 on blu-ray---good?


The early seventies were a period of remarkable activity for Robert Altman, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. At the time he came to make Images, MASH and McCabe & Mrs. Miller were behind him, with The Long Goodbye, California Split and Nashville still to come. Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, Images concerns a pregnant children's author (Susannah York, who won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival) whose husband (Rene Auberjonois) may or may not be having an affair. While on vacation in Ireland, her mental state becomes increasingly unstable resulting in paranoia, hallucinations and visions of a doppelgänger. Scored by an Oscar-nominated John Williams, with "sounds" by Stomu Yamash'ta (The Man Who Fell to Earth), Images also boasts the remarkable cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

more info:

dow, Wednesday, 28 February 2018 19:41 (two years ago) link

That says a lot for 3 Women, which I saw when it first came out, and remains the clearest and most compelling--scenes still still roll in memory with no known cue, the swimming pool murals appeared as I was waking up a couple mornings ago---- more recently, "Wellll, you two have a lot in common." "Lak whut?" "Oh, I don't know! Aren't you both from Texas or something?" kept coming up while I was trying to wait patiently for the doctor.

(I'd like to see Buffalo Bill especially). He's never struck me as having anything particularly trenchant to say about any sort of social or historical concern, and seems more interesting as a weaver of tall tales with sometimes-interesting character portraits. He seems most interesting, however, as an at least semifictional observer and to some extent participant in what he really knows - the popular or semi popular performing arts world he inhabits -
Which is why you might like Buffalo Bill, on a night when he's ramblin' around, gassin' about previous events and what he made of them, with the travelling Wild West Shows, Indian actors/re-enactors and all---Lester Bangs connected this to Dylan's theatrical self-presentation in his '74 reunion tour with The Band: a battered Americana legend-merchant in "full scraggle" (the raspy rattle of "It's Alright Ma" on that year's live Before The Flood is a good example).

dow, Sunday, 4 March 2018 17:10 (two years ago) link

That is, Bangs specifically cited this movie as a thematic link to Dylan's self-presentation, whether D. was thinking of or had seen this movie or not.

dow, Sunday, 4 March 2018 17:32 (two years ago) link

one month passes...

Watched OC & Stiggs again this weekend and yah I still think it's aged well and gets a bad rep. It's really fun seeing the Altman-isms translated for an 80s teen comedy. I don't get the hate for this.

kurt schwitterz, Monday, 23 April 2018 22:23 (two years ago) link

FYI..."Images" is free to watch if you have Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/B07578H9YR/
Susannah York is very good in it, and the score works well (never would have guessed John Williams and avant-garde Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta would team up), but its variations on a theme get a little tiresome (ok, she's schizophrenic, this isn't real, I get it). Cathryn Harrison, who was the lead in Malle's "Black Moon," is also in it. Altman fans should check it out, but don't expect a masterpiece.

ernestp, Sunday, 29 April 2018 19:34 (two years ago) link

nine months pass...

1. California Split
2. Nashville
3. The Long Goodbye
4. Brewster McCloud
5. 3 Women
6. The Player
7. Short Cuts
8. A Wedding
9. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
10. Secret Honor

not my thing: Thieves Like Us
Dud: Images, Buffalo Bill, MASH

haven't seen the rest
but I have Kansas City and Streamers waiting

flappy bird, Sunday, 10 February 2019 08:12 (one year ago) link

McCabe below Short Cuts and A Wedding is completely looney tunes but at least you're in the ballpark. I wouldn't put California Split first but I def rate it higher than most.

Musts to see if you haven't yet: Gosford Park, The Company, Tanner '88 (probably in my top five Altman projects)

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:48 (one year ago) link

Thieves Like Us might be as high as #3 for me

never liked Brewster

a Mets fan who gave up on everything in the mid '80s (Dr Morbius), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:52 (one year ago) link

Also Vincent & Theo and Prairie Home Companion were quite good iirc but it's been a while since I saw either.

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Sunday, 10 February 2019 14:54 (one year ago) link

01. Nashville
02. 3 Women
03. Short Cuts
04. McCabe & Mrs. Miller
05. The Company
06. The Long Goodbye

Those six are his undying masterpieces. The rest is a great jumble of movies I like a great deal more than most (Popeye) and a great deal less than most (California Split).

zama roma ding dong (Eric H.), Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:48 (one year ago) link

1. The Long Goodbye
2. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
3. Thieves Like Us
4. The Player
5. 3 Women
6. Nashville
7. Vincent and Theo
8. Gosford Park
9. Secret Honor
10. The Company

Your sweetie-pie-coo-coo I love ya (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Sunday, 10 February 2019 18:50 (one year ago) link

1. California Split
2. The Long Goodbye
3. McCabe & Mrs Miller
4. Nashville
5. Brewster McCloud
6. Short Cuts
7. The Player
8. Gosford Park

I havent seen 3 Women, Thieves Like Us (well ive seen bits of it), A Wedding, The Company, Tanner '88

. (Michael B), Tuesday, 12 February 2019 11:45 (one year ago) link

Cannot believe the disrespect being shown to O.C. & Stiggs itt rn.

Shaved Cyborg (Old Lunch), Tuesday, 12 February 2019 12:48 (one year ago) link

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