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The Siren

I'm here!

I love this movie and did from the first time I saw it. Hollywood movies about moviemaking are always a treat for a cinephile and he layers in so many references, and does it so well. I love the playfulness of this movie, as harsh as it is in spots.

Lance

Good to see you here, C. Hope all's well at your house. Do you have a favorite cameo in The Player?

Lance

What I got a kick out of is that Robbins' character, Griffin Mill, is said to be a writer's producer. Altman, of course, wasn't exactly a writer's director.

The Siren

Yes, absolutely. Malcolm McDowell. I like to imagine that scene getting played out in real life, with the actor changing to suit my moods.

The killing-the-writer angle is also very self-referentially funny.

Lance

McDowell is my favorite too! What I'd love is to find out that his line was a complete ad-lib that Robbins didn't know was coming.

The Siren

Where has McDowell been? such a great actor and I see him so seldom these days.

Lance

The way it comes across in Zuckoff's book, it sounds as though Michael Tolkin is still a little ticked off at what Altman did with his script.

The Siren

Well, it's a great movie but if I wrote a script and half of it got jettisoned I guess I'd be pissed too. Writers do not always know best in terms of what will play, though.

Lance

He's had a recurring role on Heroes. He looks pretty much the same as in The Player too. Jeremy Piven hasn't aged in 18 years either.

Lance

Fred Ward's another one who disappeared too fast and too completely.

Lance

I like Ward as the fixer. I also like Whoopi as the detective. One of her few good performances.

The Siren

Aha, serves me right for only watching What Not to Wear, and TCM of course. I think Peter Gallagher is great in The Player too; the "newspaper" meeting scene gets funnier every time I see it. In fact if we have another Newcritics meetup we should try it with blog posts.

Lance

Not if, when. I'm determined to get down there when the weather warms up.

Lance

Tim Robbins says he ad-libbed his line that scene about getting rid of actors and directors in. But I wonder if he'd heard what Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher thought was George Lucas' goal.

The Siren

So Lance, where does this movie stack up for you in the Altman pantheon? Major, Mid, or Minor with Compensations?

Lance

Although it wasn't Lucas I thought of when I was watching it tonight. It was James Cameron. Have you seen Avatar?

The Siren

Yes, I did. After that kerfuffle at Glenn's I kind of had to. Liked it very much. Where do you see Altman in it?

and what did they think was Lucas's goal?

Lance

Just below Nashville, tied with The Long Goodbye. MASH has its own special place in my heart, but I think it's a much better piece of movie-making than it or McCabe and Mrs Miller, which is my second favorite.

Lance

I mean The Player is better than MASH. Got to watch the pronouns.

Lance

Ford and Fisher thought Lucas wouldn't be happy until he could make movies without any actors.

I didn't see any of Altman's influence in Avatar. I think Cameron managed to make a movie that proved *he* didn't need actors or a scriptwriter anymore.

The Siren

I would rank it near the top too. It is one of Altman's most sheerly enjoyable movies.

The Siren

But Cameron's always written his own movies, no?

I am glad you didn't see any Altman in there because that was messing with my head. I think Avatar would have given Altman the shrieking blue fantods, if you'll excuse the expression.

Lance

What Alan Rudolph says about his proposed political thriller in his pitch to Griffin early in The Player? It has a heart and the heart is in the right place. I think The Player has the biggest heart in the rightest place of all Altman's movies. Dr T and the Women and Cookie's Fortune aren't as good but they are the other ones where Altman seems to have been in a good mood from beginning to end.

Lance

The first time I saw The Player, back when it came out, I didn't have much sympathy for Griffin. This time I felt sorry for him all the way through.

The Siren

Yes, it's funny, because it's about Hollywood, a place Robert Altman dissed all his life, but the movie does have heart. Actually I think Gosford Park does too, but it's much more melancholy heart.

Cassandra

A question for one or both: does the satire in this movie strike you as more bitter, or playful?

Cassandra

Now I see you already addressed my question, Lance.

Lance

If you call what Cameron does writing, yeah. Avatar is written as much as it's borrowed. I think the blue fantods is probably exactly what Altman would have suffered if he'd lived to see Avatar. Supposedly, though, he didn't see many movies because they made him jealous. So maybe he'd have skipped Avatar and saved himself the aggravation.

The Siren

I am going to have to turn in, but before I go, one query: Lance, should I go ahead and get the Altman book?

Lance

Hello Cassandra, glad you're here. Altman was definitely in a playful mood, but I think his criticism of the usual Hollywood by the numbers movie making was in angry earnest.

The Siren

I think the satire of the actors and their egos and personas is playful, but the satire of the suits is pretty savage.

Lance

Siren, get it but get it from the library. I don't think it's a book someone like you needs to own. Know what I'm saying?

The Siren

I believe I do. Will do. And so to bed...thanks for The Player talk Lance!

Lance

Goodnight, Siren. Thanks for stopping in.

Lance

Cassandra, the thing I found surprising about the satire this time around is how little of it was personal. Altman clearly doesn't like the way Hollywood works, but except for Peter Gallagher's character and the writer who speaks at the murdered writer's funeral, Altman doesn't seem to think any of his Hollywood types are malign of vicious people.

Lance

In fact, their main fault seems to be that they have allowed themselves to become too busy "working" to do any actual work.

Cassandra

Just removed from the consequences of their actions, with all the corruption that accompanies that.

Lance

Exactly, they keep themselves detached by keeping busy.

Lance

But the two characters with the most artistic integrity---or who seem to have the most---the writer Griffin murders and the British director who pitches the movie that saves Griffin's career are each in their way fakes.

Cassandra

I love the scenes in the Pasadena police station, the interaction of Griffin and these working-class stiffs. (And yes, I liked Goldberg too, first time I can remember being able to say that.)

Cassandra

Yes, they are fakes... no one really emerges unscathed. And that does seem very good-humored of Altman.

Lance

That director also spouts a lot of things about keeping things real and no happy endings that Altman really believed in. So he went after himself a bit too.

Cassandra

Last comment- I always enjoy seeing Lyle Lovett in any context. And with that, its time for bed. Thanks a lot, Lance, and good night.

Lance

I can't believe The Player is almost 20 years old. But it's interesting how my perception of the characters has changed. When I saw the movie in the theater, I was on the side of the murdered writer but since then I've gotten to know Vincent D'Onforio in a differnt light, and now I root for Griffin to win that fight

Lance

Goodnight, Cassandra.

Lance

I'm calling it a night too. But the discussion is ongoing. Anyone stopping by should feel free to add their thoughts, whenever.

Don't forget. Buffalo Bill and the Indians next week.

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