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Entries in Robert Altman (13)

Wednesday
Jul032019

Soundtracking: Nashville

by Chris Feil

We don’t really think of Robert Altman’s Nashville as a musical. To be fair, it both is and it isn’t. As is trademark for the director, the film is focused on character first to reveal its themes, exposing a distinctly American disposition both in its specific social strata and in the grander national sense. But Nashville isn’t always interested in doing so through song. Even taking place in the country music world, music feels like an equal contributor to Altman’s portraiture as any of the ensemble members.

Viewers wanting Altman to languor in the thematic sway of a musical’s tunes will always have A Prairie Home Companion. Instead here he upends genre traditions much as he does general narrative ones. Musicals are a genre that even at its best can still feel the least spontaneous, and spontaneity is a definitive Altman trait...

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Thursday
Aug162018

Months of Meryl: A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

 

#33 —Yolanda Johnson, a Midwestern songstress and longtime staple of the titular radio show.

MATTHEW: Two of the most revered artists in American cinema history, Robert Altman and Meryl Streep each built their lauded careers by probing into characters from countless corners of the world, driven by an ardent and undiminished interest in the micro — but never minor — idiosyncrasies of collective human behavior. For those who believe in the supernatural forces of fate, there is something undeniably kismetic in Streep and Altman’s first collaboration, which would turn out to be this mighty auteur’s valedictory effort. A Prairie Home Companion, Altman’s final film, is a moving backstage comedy that sketches out the (fictional) final broadcast of the historic and beloved Minnesota radio variety show of the title, created and hosted by Garrison Keillor, who also scripted the picture. (Keillor was fired from his program in November of last year over allegations of sexual misconduct.) Brimming, like all of Altman’s work, with an abundance of people and all their peculiarities, A Prairie Home Companion relies on the character-inhabiting talents of an irresistible and excitingly-paired ensemble, whose every member gets ample opportunity to ingest spirit and specificity into a wide array of oddballs and straight-men, from Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly’s ribald cowboys to Maya Rudolph’s quietly panicked and heavily pregnant stage manager to the pair of aging songbirds brought to fanciful, rueful life by Streep and Lily Tomlin.

As Yolanda and Rhonda Johnson, the two surviving members of a four-sister singing act, Streep and Tomlin are, quite simply, a match made in acting heaven...

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Thursday
Sep142017

Robert Altman Chosen for First-Ever AFI Retrospective

by Ilich Mejía

American director Robert Altman has been selected by the American Film Institute as the focus of AFI Fest's first annual retrospective showcasing the works of an accomplished filmmaker. AFI Fest will run, this year, from November 9 to 16. Each of those days will feature screenings and special discussions of Altman's best work. 

Even though Altman passed over ten years ago, his films are constantly remembered by film fanatics around the globe. His haunting 3 Women recently screened as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's retrospective of 1977. Other Altman classics include Julie Christie's bursting curls in McCabe & Mrs. Miller, the fiery politics of Nashville, and Downton Abbey predecesor Gosford Park.

What film are you most excited to see as part of this retrospective? Share your favorite Altman scenes and moments!

Monday
Aug012016

Beauty vs Beast: Send in the You-Know-Whats

Howdy folks it's Jason from MNPP here wishing everybody a candy-colored start to a candy-colored week - that's right, today marks the first day of International Clown Week, held every year right at the start of August, aka the best time to make that make-up run right off your face and give you the time honored "Creepy Clown Effect." But while (in a weird but total coincidence) I may have just started re-reading Stephen King's It this week I'm not going to make you think about Scary Clowns today - oh I know for some of you there is no other kind, but I'm going to try to temper that with Auterism because...

... hey remember that scene in Robert Altman's 1993 masterpiece Short Cuts where Claire (Anne Archer), a professional clown, and her husband Stuart (Fred Ward) get blasted at dinner with new friends Marion (Julianne Moore) and Ralph (Matthew Modine), and instead of the partner-swapping you expect to happen they all just put on clown make-up and dance around instead? I sure do. It's one of the many right turns the film takes when you've braced yourself for a left. So let's face off these two couples for "Beauty vs Beast" this week...

If you need a refresher both couples are in the middle of personal crises -- Marion & Ralph (Moore & Modine) are the couple who have the long fight about her cheating whilst Juli proves she's a natural redhead, while Stuart has just told Claire (Ward & Archer) that he and his fishing buddies fished around a corpse all weekend long. In the grand tradition of Altman-esque character studies, they're all a bit beastly.

PREVIOUSLY Last week we ventured to Mortville with John Waters and his muses for a look at one of his most underappreciated efforts, Desperate Living (and the poll showed just how underappreciated the film remains, with one of our tiniest voting totals ever) - it was Queen Carlotta (Edith Massey) who was carried by her loyal litter of man-servants to the victory, taking 55% of the vote. Said Ken S:

"I'll teach you to arouse royalty! - Team Carlotta all the way!"

Thursday
Jun092016

From the Vaults: Meryl Streep in "A Prairie Home Companion"

Since today marks the 10th anniversary of the release of Robert Altman's swan song A Prairie Home Companion (2006), a gem excavated from that year's Oscar blogging for those who were not around in 2006. Though I know I've cooled on Meryl in the years since I wrote this (2006 was a major peak for Meryl but too many performances that didn't thrill followed and were automatically exalted and Oscar nominated anyway) I consider her past decade a valley rather than a downward trend. All performers have their peaks and valleys. I'm waiting for the next transcendent performance -- Impatiently, but I promise I'm hopeful.

It didn't take Meryl Streep long. By 1987 at the very latest, just ten years into her career, we knew that she could do everything. We'd already heard the accents, seen the funny, witnessed the sexy, fallen in love, had our hearts broken and heard the magnificent singing voice. If she were less endearing and emotionally attentive as a performer her technical range would be just hateful, a thing to curse as she popped up again and again in films. But this woman has it all. She is, put simply, the most consistent versatile actor in the movies.

So what is there left for Meryl Streep to do? It turns out quite a lot...

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Tuesday
Mar242015

Q&A Part 2: Guilty Pleasures, Boytoys, and Best Animated Feature

Yesterday I  answered reader questions about film sets worth living in and all time favorite actors and I hope that conversation keeps going because I haven't heard from too many of you what your choices are. There were so many good question this week let's keep the party going for an extra day. Here's the next six questions featuring Guilty Pleasures, Oscar's Best Animated Feature and Unseen Classics. One question will be answered in a forthcoming theme week that's already been planned and one final question is getting its own post. 

You can't say we've been slacking here at TFE.

LADY EDITH: Do you have a favorite Altman? 

I do. And it's no contest. I just shout Nashville (1975) as enthusiastically and loudly as I can when asked. Which is not to dismiss the rest of Robert Altman's always at least interesting filmography. My other two favorites are Three Women (1977) for its psychosexual actressing and Gosford Park (2001) for the sheer pleasure of it but I love his movies... well, maybe not Dr T and the Women but I love quite a few of his movies.

JEFF: What's your biggest guilty pleasure movie? Or a movie that most of the readers would be surprised that you happen to love.

After so many years writing online about movies I fear I have no secrets left. I love the usual guilty pleasures and probably talk about them too much (Xanadu and Showgirls chief among them). I suppose in terms of things I rarely write about the #1 guilty pleasure would be that I do kind of have a (small) thing for B grade action movies and affection for the sometimes limited actors that star in them like Jean Claude Van Damme, Jason Statham, and Schwarzenegger of course. This is not a blanket genre appreciation; I never was interested if the movie starred Steven Seagal or Sylvester Stallone. I've seen Highlander (1986) with Christopher Lambert several times because my brother and his friends loved it. I loved Universal Soldier (1992) for some reason. One truly terrible movie that I used to enjoy with an old friend was Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991) starring Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. This actually happens in it...

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