The Long Goodbye: RIP, Mr. Altman

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They don't make 'em like Robert Altman anymore. Stubborn and brilliant, he spent his more than 50-year career building a rep as a maverick who did whatever he wanted to, the consequences -- and audience opinion -- be damned. Just look at the critical reception to what would be his last-ever film, A Prairie Home Companion, which ranged from lauds ("What a lovely film this is, so gentle and whimsical, so simple and profound," said eponymous critic Roger Ebert) to razzes from the likes of USA Today ("cloying, rambling and superficial").

When he passed away on Monday, he was working on a film adaptation of the 1997 documentary Hands on a Hardbody, about a strangely sadistic Texas endurance contest that graced the virtual pages of this blog not long ago. Here's wishing he'd had a chance to finish it.

Nevertheless, he's left us with plenty of great films -- from M-A-S-H to Nashville and Short Cuts -- and in that spirit, we leave you with what is easily his best-known scene, the genius eight-minute opening shot of 1992's The Player, which besides being hilarious, engrossing and full of Hollywood in-jokes and tongue-in-cheek celebrity cameos, turned out to be prescient, as well: they really did make The Graduate, Part II -- AKA last year's Rumor Has It.

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November 21, 2006 - 10:01am
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