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Gosford Park and A Prairie Home Companion

Bill Altreuter

Brewster McCloud? Popeye? I like The Player a great deal. I've never seen HealtH, and that might be interesting....

Ellen Smith

Loved M.A.S.H., liked Gosford Park, did not care for A Prairie Home Companion. Nashville, however, affected me deeply. I could not stop thinking about that movie for days. That was when I first saw it. A couple of years ago, I recommended it to my son and daughter-in-law. They hated it and didn't even watch the whole movie.


Brewster McCloud
Kansas City
The Player


Bill, I'd have Health right at the top of the list except that it's still not available on DVD.

Ellen, your son and daughter in law are banned from this blog FOREVER!

Mike Schilling

James Thurber was from all account a consciously malevolent asshole, never happier, as one wag said, then when he could cause two old friends to have a falling-out. "Walter Mitty" is nevertheless a great story.


"Three Women" is deeply odd and haunting, 70's indie with Sissy Spacek and Shelly Duvall and a Lynchian strangeness.

"Come Back To The 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean" is hugely underrated I think. Sandy Dennis, Cher, Karen Black and Kathy Bates, it's a - again, haunting- adaptation of a stage play, I found it moving when I was young. Alas, I see it's not available on Netflix yet.

Gosford Park and Prairie Home Companion would probably round out my favorite Altman movies.
Especially the latter.

Michael Bartley

Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sitting Bull's History Lesson.


the player is a must.

short cuts might be good because a lot of people seem to feel its a classic example of his style. Analyzing how well he adapted Carver's stories, which didn't seem well suited to a movie adaption could be interesting. hell you might even get me to think he did a good job and that the movie wasn't overly long and boring.

Chris Quinones

I'd go for Nashville or The Player...I loathed Gosford Park, though - I found it interminable.

One I'd love to see but never have is Secret Honor, because of my fascination with Richard Nixon.

Of course, the canonical example of impossible-to-live-with artistic genius was Richard Wagner. I suspect the people who hero-worshipped him had to approach him as a god because gods are free to behave like that, and it's not like he'd lay off if you asked him nicely.


Gosford Park and The Player.


You think you don't like Altman? Go with O.C. and Stiggs. If you liked the original National Lampoon story it's based on, you'll want to STAB Altman.

Theodore Kaczynski

Didn't Altman do Short Cuts?

When Julianne Moore did her bottomless ironing scene, I finally understood what goes through a cat's mind when he sees a laser pointer dot.

ZOOMFOCUSZOOM! Sorry? What just happened in that scene? I was concentrating on the bouncing splash of red.

I can't remember any reason to recommend Short Cuts beyond Julianna's short red cuts.

Then again I'm one of six people on the planet who liked Popeye, so there's no accounting for taste.


If you think you got it bad, Ted, I think M.A.S.H. is a thoroughly unfunny bit of work. It has a few broad, almost slapstick laughs, but I can't get past the smug, arrogant, self-righteous attitude that pulses throught the whole thing.

And if you're going to do Altman, you've got to do DR. T AND THE WOMEN.



The Player, Short Cuts, Gosford Park, Dr T, Three Women...


Gosford Park
Dr. T And The Women
A Wedding

I am one of those people who has a visceral refusal to watch Short Cuts because people act as if it's The Bible (at least The Bible of Altman), but the description of the film (amazing short stories by Raymond Carver!) always makes me flinch. So that should probably be in there - otherwise, I'll never watch it.

We should also put in a good word for Cookie's Fortune, which sneaks up on you and is full of smart performances. And if you hate Altman, the best example of him at his worst is probably Pret a Porter.

Gosford Park seems essential; but I recommend A Wedding because next to Gosford it shows how he can get it really right... or get it kind of wrong. A Wedding is a fascinating failure. Dr. T is a mess, but it's one of Gere's better performances - like a number of underappreciated film stars, he seems to lift his game with Altman.

PS Mannion, I still dream of reviving newcritics. Don't give up on me - or it - yet. :)

- weboy

Buffalo Savage

Hey, Popeye is a hoot. The song "Everything is Food" is on YouTube in all its daffy glory. Think of the fun (i.e., disgraceful substance and alcohol abuse) Altman and then party animal Robin Williams must've had on that set....

Check out The Wedding (1978). Carol Burnett skillfully plays Tulip, a long suffering wife. Geraldine Chaplin is a silly wedding planner. Italian guest Vittorio Gassman marvels at how evil, irresponsible, and dysfunctional an American family can be. Pam Dawber (Mindy of "Mork and ...") has a small but memorable part. Though the higher part of my brain doubts it, I have burned into my retina Mia Farrow topless in that movie - but that can't be right, can it?

Doze whacki Seventies.

Dave G.

I think Popeye is a must as a weirdo change-of-pace from all of the acclaimed films of his. And Dr. T and the Women is notable if only for the loopy supporting performance by Shelley Long...


Jeesh, is that Soul of Middlebrow Richard Schickel still alive? He's been dumb and uninteresting in print since at least the 1970s.

I actually met Altman a couple of times, once at a sneak preview of "A Wedding" and then at a San Francisco Film Festival event where he was doing a Q&A with the audience. He was smart, funny and agreeable both times. At the film festival, I asked him about working on the TV show "Combat," and he went into a beautiful reverie about being at a festival tribute to him in Austin where they were showing some episodes from the series. "I hadn't seen any of them since I worked on them, and what surprised me was that they were such good work. I haven't really learned anything substantial about the craft since then."

Glad you're starting with "California Split," which is also my favorite after "Nashville." You might also want to consider "Vincent and Theo" if you can find it in the unabridged made-for-European-television version. Love "A Wedding" and "Three Women" and "Come Back to the Five and Dime..." and a host of others. He made a lot of messy films but that's part of their greatness.


"Peckinpah is a prick but Altman is a cunt." From a cinematographer who knew them both.

The Siren

The Player
A Wedding
Short Cuts

Chris The Cop

Weboy - that is an absolutely perfect description of A Wedding: "A fascinating failure." But I did like Ready To Wear, though I admit it doesn't go anywhere; it just kinda goes.

I've often marveled at how many stone geniuses have turned out to be absolute shits as persons Picasso and Bing Crosby come to mind. I guess Altman falls into that category also because...that's the way it goes,

PS - For me, The Player is a must for inclusion because it pulled me so strongly in two directions at once (as did Oliver Stone's JFK albeit in different directions.)

Brian Block

I'd love to see Brewster McCloud included, because it's so near-unanimously considered a failure, yet it's my favorite Altman film. Which isn't to say I'm sure the consensus is wrong, but the contrast makes me want to know more.


For your consideration:

Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Brewster McCloud
The Player (essential)
Short Cuts
Gosford Park


The HBO series, Tanner 88, was his, mostly.

The Long Goodbye, anyone? I like THieves Like Us, as well.

Michael Bartley

I'm still picking Buffalo Bill and the Indians or Sittting Bull's History Lesson because it fits so well with the era of American film so deeply infuenced by Vietnam and, in the case of American Indians the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Compare Old Lodge Skins from Little Big Man to Altman's Sitting Bull. Etc.

Phil Nugent

"Secret Honor" is my favorite of his filmed-plays phase. It's also the ultimate Nixon cartoon, it gave Philip Baker Hall a career, and it shows what Mr. Improvising Ensemble Cast could do with one actor housed in a single set demonstrating absolute adherence the the text. I think that "Vincent & Theo" is his most underappreciated film. And "Cookie's Fortune" is the only thing in the world that's ever made me come close to wondering if I was wrong to leave Mississippi.

There's a great description in that oral biography of the sixtyish Altmans sitting in the front row at the Oscars show the year that he was nominated for "The Player", getting giggly on pot brownies and mock-cheering as Clint Eastwood won everything that night for "Unforgiven". I myself find it hard to not like a man like that, though i'll bet that when Schickel read it, his face reddened and bubbled like flowing lava and the top of his head came to a point. (Schickel's greatest desire before he dies is to see Dirty Harry's face carved onto Mount Rushmore.)

max demon

Buffalo Bill & the Indians - chock full of goody bits
3 Women
Streamers - this is finally being released on dvd in January, and is one of his theatrical adaptations. It's fantastic, starring matthew modine and david alan grier, and takes on race and sexuality in the military.
Secret Honor

max demon

I saw 'HealtH' some years ago when it aired on Cinemax or something. It's quite marginal and fluffy, like 'Pret A Porter'. McCabe & Mrs.Miller, Mash, Nashville, California Split, The Player, Short Cuts are all great, but the below have been seen by fewer people and shouldn't be missed by fans.

Altman's lesser-seen powerful and resonant pieces, juicy for a blog discussion, are:

buffalo bill & the indians - just as definitive as 'nashville' a statement on show business and america. this is a must for any Altman discussion

3 Women - comprehensive and powerful art piece

Streamers - great play adaptation with Matthew Modine examining issues of masculinity, race and sexuality in the military

Secret Honor - awesome one-man show

Kansas City - musical, hilarious, and rich, it keeps on giving on subsequent viewings

'Dr. T' and 'Gingerbread Man' are also excellent and fun.


Max, that's great news about Streamers. Thanks for the heads up.

Buffalo Bill is on the schedule, which I'll be posting in the next few days.

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