UPDATE: The Master has now been added to the TIFF lineup as well.

Whether Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master would go to Venice or not seemed to be in dispute over the past few days but now it looks like The Master and Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder will take a bow at la Biennale between August 29 and September 8.  It really is a smart move for both because the Venice lineup was looking very very weak in terms of finding “Oscar movies.”  The Master, and maybe To the Wonder (but you just never know) will likely dazzle the crowd there and make a big publicity over here. Since no one has seen The Master, at least no one who will talk about it, all eyes will now be on Venice where one of the year’s most anticipated films will be seen.

Writes Anne Thompson:

Harvey Weinstein is playing games. The marketing maestro didn’t want Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” announced with the rest of the pack for The Venice Film Festival, which unveiled its competition line-up last week.  Now “The Master,” which opens a month earlier than originally planned on September 14, along with Terrence Malick’s fervently-anticipated “To The Wonder,” will suck up the publicity oxygen in the run-up to and during the La Biennale.

It remains to be seen which fests the film will wind up playing: Venice yes, but what about Telluride, Toronto and Fantastic Fest?  This fall Harvey Weinstein has plenty of high-profile projects to juggle as well, from David O. Russell’s “The Silver Linings Playbook” to December 25 opener “Django Unchained,” written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

I’m still hoping The Master will go to Telluride.  But yes, Venice is a very very smart move.


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  • James

    Nice. The marketing for this flick has given me goosebumps. Regardless of whatever the Academy chooses as their best picture winner, I have a feeling The Master will be my favorite.

  • This also means it’s likely to be at Toronto, too. Though perhaps not Telluride as they are playing at almost exactly the same time. Also almost all the world’s press, well North American anyway, will be at TIFF. And therefore NOT be able to get back to NYC or wherever for “The Master”s Press Days. But they’ll ALLLL be in Toronto. As I will.

  • Steve Holt!

    Steve Holt!

  • Mattoc

    ^ Matt Damon

  • steve50

    Unless he’s trying to break new ground – again – I hope Harvey can get The Master into a film festival somewhere because I think, since 2006, only The Departed managed an Oscar win without making a splash at a festival first.

    Of course, he may have other goals this year. Last year was “break the Meryl curse” and “first foreign film to win BP.” This year, I guessing that he wants at least two fast horses on the track (a “master” critical darling and an “unchained” crowd pleaser), then hopes that Les Mis breaks a leg on the last turn.

  • rufussondheim

    And, I’m guessing, he could assassinate Lincoln. But can he do it in time to win the war?

  • Rufus, EXACTLY!

  • steve50

    Maybe I’m being naive, but I think Spielberg’s Lincoln diorama will pass away from self-inflicted wounds.

  • julian the emperor

    To paraphrase Stephen Holt: Steve50, EXACTLY!

  • Bryce Forestieri

    There Will Be Blood was my favorite that year and one of my faves of the decade so I’m far from a PTA hater, but if Lincoln is truly good nothing will stop it, and by good I mean “Schindler’s List/Saving Private Ryan good”. Yupp ain’t nothing. Rather unlikely tho it’s been 14 years since Spielberg has been THAT good. Unfortunately something tells me if Lincoln is “Munich good” it’s still unstoppable…

  • And y’know, he may have done it again. Although. Maybe not. This isn’t a rousing feel-good drama like “The King’s Speech” or a feel-good comedy like “The Artist.” So it’s a horse of a different color Harvey is riding this time. Risky, serious, dark, difficult, these are the words that come to mind when I think of “There Will Be Blood”. Is this film going to be LIGHTER? I don’t think so.

    It sounds like it’s in the same TONE, IMHO. But there’s also the caveat and clue that the wise men at TIFF put “The Master” down as a Special Presentation. NOT a Gala. For TIFF=goers this is a significant difference.

    Harvey’s planted his Oscar flag in “The Master” but will the Academy like it? IDK.

  • steve50

    Harvey has backed some edgier fare before, gotten noms, but never pulled nabbed a win. If it’s true that he’s planted his flag with PTA and The Master, then that would be his goal. He backs what he likes, so he must see something here.

  • Bryce, if you email me can explain to you what happened. Automatic filter issue.

  • Rufussondheim

    Yes, steve50, I too think Lincoln’s hype will be greater than the film.

    Lincoln will be this year’s Dreamgirls.

    Oh, wait, I have a better example.

    Lincoln will be this year’s War Horse.

  • Reform the Academy

    From the sounds of it this will be yet another film in which acting talent is thrown to waste by Terrence Malick…

    “Malick and his crew adopted an experimental approach. Actors described working without a screenplay or the use of lights.[7][9] Emmanuel Lubezki called the film ‘abstract’ and described it as being less tied to theatrical conventions and more purely cinematic than any prior film directed by Malick”

    Lol, since when are his films not experimental? Failed experiments that is…

  • rufussondheim

    Well, working without lights isn’t that experimental. Can’t recall what the movement was called from 10 to 15 years ago that was spearheaded by Lars von Trier that pursued a more natural surrounding for filming, but that produced some good stuff (even though many films produced within that movement followed all of those rules.

    As for working without a script, that as well has been done quite a bit. Improv is as old as Greek Theater, I’m quite sure. My actor friends, or at least the more serious ones, would freely admit that it’s a great challenge and a use of all of their skills to work without a script. I think only the most talented of actors could put forth a riveting performance in such a situation (see Gosling and Williams in Blue Valentine)

    Oh wait, I’m guessing you haven’t seen Blue Valentine and probably not even an von Trier.

    Ryan, you can probably delete this post because Reform the Academy will completely ignore it, I’m sure.

  • Reform the Academy

    So now, watching the trailer for The Master, is it weird that I feel like it’s a film I’ve already seen? Is this just a mark of how similar PTA’s shit is?

  • Reform the Academy

    Sure rufus, but working without a script for a Malick film likely just means there is little to no dialogue…as usual a waste of A list actors. Why even have actors in his films when nature is the star? And when they are needed surely B listers would suffice…

  • Reform the Academy

    Sorry to rain on your guy’s parade but I despise these directors more than other but perhaps Tarantino. Lucky me all 3 have films being released this year. Well, at least there’s Nolan, Mendes, and Spielberg to wash away the bitterness. The Coens film could be good too even though they have a history of inconsistency. Lurhmann and Wright I’m on the fence about…

  • the movement from 10 to 15 years ago that was spearheaded by Lars von Trier

    Dogme 95

  • Mel

    Sorry to rain on your guy’s parade but I despise these directors more than other but perhaps Tarantino. Lucky me all 3 have films being released this year.

    Why do you give a shit? Is someone forcing you to buy tickets and go see them?

    I love PTA and QT, Malick divides me. His films are beautiful to look at but leave me wanting more than that often. You either love him or hate him or eventually love him.

  • Reform the Academy

    Why do you give a shit? Is someone forcing you to buy tickets and go see them?

    No, but I will probably see them once they hit dvd, particular if they factor into the awards race at all. I won’t completely dismiss them without at least giving a chance to impress me. So far though those aforementioned directors have been striking out…

  • Beth Stevens

    I’m a big Malick fan. To the Wonder sounds intriguing and like something a bit different for him.

    Not so big a fan of PT Anderson (though I love Boogie Nights and admire Magnolia). But the prospect of an L. Ron Hubbard expose is just too delicious… can’t wait. And that trailer for The Master really whetted my appetite… gorgeously intense.

  • @Mel: I feel the same way about Malick. Days of Heaven was exceptional in all its aspects, but The Tree of Life veered wildly between wondrous explorations of familial tension and (to me at least) uncertain movements toward spiritual diversions. But he’s an INTERESTING director who will hold my anticipation until the end.

    PT Anderson is a genius who reached maturity with TWBB, and seems to have produced a nasty little gem once again.

    One thing about ol’ Scott, though: I do appreciate his Mendes love.

  • Craig Z

    Oh god, Scott/reform is getting started on Malick again. Also don’t pretend you won’t go see them. You went to Tree of Life. It gives you something to bitch about.

  • Reform the Academy

    PTA’s Report Card

    Punch Drunk Love: B-
    Boogie Nights: C+
    Magnolia: C-
    There Will Be Blood: D

    Terrence Malick’s Report Card

    Days of Heaven: B-
    Badlands: C
    Tree of Life- F

    Quentin Tarantino’s Report Card

    Reservoir Dogs: B-
    Pulp Fiction: C+
    Kill Bill: C
    Jackie Brown: C-
    Inglorious Basterds: D
    Sin City: F

    Craig I wasn’t pretending…I will most likely see them on dvd, same as I did with Tree of Life. Now let’s look at the other mentioned director’s films…

    The Coen Bros.

    True Grit: A
    No Country For Old Men: B
    Miller’s Crossing: B
    The Lady Killers: B
    The Big Lebowski: B-
    Fargo: B-
    Burn After Reading: D
    O’ Brother Where Art Thou: D
    A Serious Man: F

    Baz Lurhmann

    Strictly Ballroom: B
    Romeo + Juliet: B-
    Moulin Rouge: C+

    Joe Wright

    Atonement: B
    Pride and Prejudice: C+

    Sam Mendes

    American Beauty: A
    Road to Perdition: A
    Revolutionary Road: B+
    Jarhead: B-

    Christopher Nolan

    Memento: A+
    Inception: A+
    The Dark Knight: A-
    The Dark Knight Rises: A-
    The Prestige: B+
    Batman Begins: B
    Following: B
    Insomnia: B-

    Steven Spielberg

    too many to list, but Saving Private Ryan and Raiders are among my top favs of all time and given these and other masterpieces he’s given a pass on the mediocrity such as War of The Worlds, Indy 4 and War Horse.

  • Jesus, Scott. Your last post was like the Springfield tire fire.

  • Sorry, Scott, I really don’t want to be an asshole, but it’s strange that you couldn’t find ANY value out of, say, Inglourious Basterds or A Serious Man. I mean, the latter is funny as hell, to say nothing of some pretty dramatic camera work, like making those suburban streets and lawns have the daunting scope of Monument Valley. Cool stuff. If you’d given A Serious Man a B-, okay, understandable, it’s an odd flick that might not gel with everyone’s humor. But in no universe is it a D. It just…isn’t.

    We all SHOULD have odd tastes (I think Rumble Fish is better than Apocalypse Now for instance) but something obviously bothered you about a lot of these acclaimed films and you’d be well-advised to really think about why. It would probably help you dig a wider array of films in the future.

  • Mattoc

    It would have been great timing for Malick and for Bale if he finished and released Lawless instead. Check this out.


  • Craig Z

    Scott is always there to answer the questions nobody asked….
    It wouldn’t be so bad except he acts like his grades are indisputable fact and he is proving some kind of point.

  • Alec

    Far from being a waste of A-list talent, Malick often pushes actors to deliver their best work. There was certainly no shortage of critics/viewers that felt The Tree of Life contained Brad Pitt’s finest performance to date, whilst Jessica Chastain was significantly more impressive than her nominated turn in The Help. Similarly, Martin Sheen’s best film role outside of Apocalypse Now remains Badlands, Richard Gere has never been better than in Days of Heaven, whilst there are career-best performances from Jim Caviezel, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin and an absolutely thunderous turn from Nick Nolte in The Thin Red Line. Q’Orianka Kilcher is mesmerising in The New World, which also featured Colin Farrell’s best work to date.

    Great actors line up around the block to work with Malick because they know they will get to go places they haven’t before. Too bad their work – like the films themselves to a degree – are too subtle and nuanced to be fully appreciated by those that aren’t looking properly.

  • steve50

    Good lord, Scott. Judging from those grades, thank god you’re not a teacher – the education system is in enough trouble as it is!

    Seriously, Malick, PTA and Tarantino probably get more work from their actors, not less, than the directors of over-storybooked, pre-digested, unchallenging works to which you assign high grades (with a couple of exceptions).

    Expand your comfort zone – there’s more to film than predictable story arcs and paint by number performances. It’s a beautiful world if you loosen up.

  • Reform the Academy

    “Expand your comfort zone – there’s more to film than predictable story arcs and paint by number performances. It’s a beautiful world if you loosen up.”

    I’m aware of that…I’ve seen many such films which I’ve enjoyed…just none by those 3 pretentious directors, lol :p

    Now, I can see why one might called Spielberg’s work “predictable”, “paint by number”, etc but Nolan and Mendes? Give me a break…

  • Reform the Academy

    “Alec / July 31, 2012
    Far from being a waste of A-list talent, Malick often pushes actors to deliver their best work.”

    Only out of necessity perhaps. You see, they must find a way to salvage the train-wreck they signed on for, lol. Poor Sean Penn wasn’t able to do a thing about it though…go ahead and ask him, he will tell you what a waste of talent Malick’s films are :p

  • Reform the Academy

    “Richard Gere has never been better than in Days of Heaven”

    Bullshit, lol…Days of Heaven is notable for nothing more then a feast for the eyes and the ears (though could have certainly done without the vioceover narrative) I was surprised to find that I enjoyed that style over substance film as much as I did, but the performances were utterly forgettable. Were there even actors in that film? All I remember is endless nature and landscape shots…


    “Good lord, Scott. Judging from those grades, thank god you’re not a teacher – the education system is in enough trouble as it is!”

    The low grades you see are exceptions really…the average grade I give for any particular film is probably in the B range.


    In fact, the number of films I dislike is so few that when I do friends heed my advice and avoid them.

  • steve50

    Agree about much of Nolan’s and Mendes’ stuff (not all of it, though), but the three who seem to bother you the most are never, ever predictable, and that seems to be the issue.

    Look carefully at your list of grades. In nearly every case, the more the performance was controlled by director or script, the higher the grade. For example, the zany performances by Pitt and McDormand in Burn After Reading entertain me more than the very good work in True Grit. You know that PTA had a tighter rein on Adam Sandler than DDL (probably used a taser). Same with Reservoir Dogs vs Inglorious Basterds – both script driven, but I’ll bet far more improv in the latter. Your senses seem to pick this up, but you just don’t care for it, so that’s fine.

    With the exception of the western (and Road to Perdition), period/dialect takes a hit. Modern settings with 20th century English demands less of the eyes and ears.

    Most of all, the tighter the script, the higher the grade. That’s your taste, which is great, but it doesn’t make the outsiders “pretentious”, just not your preference.

  • I am ashamed to be a member of the same species as Scott.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I want to defend these three directors that Scott hates so much (I have to use numbers from 1-10, cause those letters from A-F don’t make any sense to me):

    PTA’s Report Card

    Punch Drunk Love: 8
    Boogie Nights: 9
    Magnolia: 10
    There Will Be Blood: 10
    Hard Eight: 7

    Terrence Malick’s Report Card

    Days of Heaven: 9
    Badlands: 9
    The Tree of Life: 10
    The New World: 6
    The Thin Red Line: 9

    Quentin Tarantino’s Report Card

    Reservoir Dogs: 9
    Pulp Fiction: 10
    Kill Bill vol 1: 8
    Kill Bill vol 2: 8
    Jackie Brown: 7
    Death Proof: 3
    Inglourious Basterds: 8

  • rufussondheim

    You should see Blood Simple by the Coen Brothers, I assume you haven’t since it’s not on your list. I’m sure you’ll hate it since I loved it, especially at the time it was released, there was simply nothing like it. It’s been so copied as of late (watch Memento just after) so it won’t seem as fresh as it did when it was released.

    Yeah, I know, when you look at movie history it’s not as original as I seem to make it (yeah, Double Indemnity and so forth) but what the Coens did was update the noir genre into something fresh, modern, and I thought a lot creepier than any of the classic films of that genre.


    I think Nolan is getting entirely too predicable. I might not be able to predict how his movies end, but I know going in that they are going to be plotted in a way that the only thing that matters is the final few minutes. WHen I saw the latest Batman movie, after a few scenes I was completely indifferent to what was happening as I knew it was hurdling to some conclusion that was meant to astound and amaze us. He is so inorganic, probably the most static and boring widely-respected director working today, nothing in his last two movies seemed to progress naturally. It was like spending two hours watching someone put a Rubik’s Cube together.

    I think Nolan’s problem is that his movies contain terrible dialogue. The dialogue doesn’t serve the characters at all but it serves the plot. And this is why the majority of characters in his movies are one-dimensional.

    One thing in his favor though is that he does give his actors a lot of freedom, and that’s why we got a great performance by Ledger and good performances from Hathaway and Gordon-Leavitt in this film. These are quality actors who took the time to flesh out their characters in ways the script never did.

  • Mikhail Shurygin



  • steve50

    The Master has been confirmed for TIFF. (sorry if I missed someone mentioning it previously)

  • steve50

    ^ Ha! Just opened my eyes and read the update

  • julian the emperor

    Rufus: I couldn’t agree more when it comes to your assessment of Nolan. On a surface level, boring might be an inappropriate adjective to use about his work, but if you dig a lot below the high octane spectacle and sensual overload of his movies, there really isn’t that much to keep you mind preoccupied. No sense of wonder, really. Just bad scripts, senseless plots and half-baked sentiments.

    Hell, let me add my own defense-via-numbers for Scott’s trifecta of pet hates:

    Punch Drunk Love: 7
    Boogie Nights: 9
    Magnolia: 9
    There Will Be Blood: 9
    Hard Eight: 7

    Terrence Malick:
    Days of Heaven: 9
    Badlands: 9
    The Tree of Life: 9
    The New World: 6
    The Thin Red Line: 8

    Quentin Tarantino:
    Reservoir Dogs: 10
    Pulp Fiction: 10
    Kill Bill vol 1: 7
    Kill Bill vol 2: 8
    Jackie Brown: 9
    Death Proof: 4
    Inglourious Basterds: 8

    And, my assessment of Nolan and Mendes:

    Sam Mendes:
    American Beauty: 5
    Road to Perdition: 5
    Revolutionary Road: 7
    Jarhead: 6

    Christopher Nolan:

    Memento: 8
    Inception: 4
    The Dark Knight: 7
    The Dark Knight Rises: 5
    The Prestige: 6
    Batman Begins: 6
    Insomnia: 7

    Please, don’t hate me, Scott…:)

  • Bryce Forestieri

    @Ryan Adams

    you fine

  • Fun game.

    Hard Eight: A-
    Boogie Nights: A-
    Magnolia: C+ *ducks*
    Punch Drunk Love: B-/B
    There Will Be Blood: A- (I saw it on my tv. A big screen viewing would probably push it into “A” range

    Terrence Malick:
    Badlands: A-
    Days of Heaven: A
    The Thin Red Line: B-
    The New World: Haven’t seen it 🙁
    The Tree of Life: C+

    Quentin Tarantino:
    Reservoir Dogs: A-
    Pulp Fiction: A+
    Jackie Brown: A-
    Kill Bill 1-2: A
    Death Proof: Haven’t seen it. Missed it in theatres and I’m waiting for a revival house to screen it
    Inglourious Basterds: A-

    Sam Mendes:
    American Beauty: A+
    Road to Perdition: A-
    Jarhead: Eh, I haven’t seen since high school. Hated it then, but I might feel different now,
    Revolutionary Road: A/A+
    Away We Go: C+

    Christopher Nolan:
    Memento: B+
    Insomnia: B+
    The Prestige: Haven’t seen it 🙁
    Inception: B+
    Batman Begins: B+ (notice a trend?)
    TDK: A-
    TDKR: B+

    For international readers, C is mediocre, B is good, A is excellent. On my scale, an A+ film combines perfect execution with a high level of ambition.

  • Reform the Academy

    “Most of all, the tighter the script, the higher the grade.”

    Precisely. For instance I much prefer Howard Hawk’s original version of Scarface to Brian De Palma’s gratuitous version (even if Pacino is better in the lead)

  • Reform the Academy

    Oh yeah, for those not familiar with the school system of Western civilization, the grades are typically 90-100 = A, 80-89= B, 70-79=C, 60-69=D, and anything less than 60 = F. There’s no E for whatever reason, but each grade can be further broken down into + or -. For instance 97-100=A+ and 90-93=A-. Hope that helps for those not in the know…

  • julian the emperor

    Er…the school grades of Western civilization, Scott!?

    Except in much of Europe, I guess…??

    I mean, sure, there is the ECTS system that is a kind of approximation of the many different scales around the world, but, no, we are not using the A-F grades scale over here. Besides there are many local variations that make the ECTS scale problematic and only partially useful.

  • steve50

    Yeah. School grades of civilizations ‘n westerns ‘n stuff.

    See recent link here – international ranking of countries by education


  • Tero Heikkinen

    ^that link. I agree with it, because I’m a genius 😀

  • steve50

    Most of us are, Tero, when compared…oh never mind, what’s the point?

  • That chart makes me laugh at the all counties ranked lower than the United States. haha, dumb bunny Uzbekibekibekistanstanians.

  • Yeah, but we’re good at lotsa other stuff! Like frying desserts and training our dogs to kill!

  • steve50

    I feel guilty (Canadian, eh) and would like to temper this a bit: the US is brilliant at making movies – movies from Terence Malick, PT Anderson, and Q Tarantino, just to name a few.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Some of the best film directors are American. An undeniable fact. If I listed 10 best directors ever (impossible task, I know), I bet 7-8 would be American.

  • stop tryin to make me feel gud

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Oh, well. At least 5 (Kubrick, Scorsese, Spielberg come to mind immediately), but many of the European ones have made great films in Hollywood still, and Kubrick in UK in his later years. Spielberg shot almost half of his productions in UK. Some of these great Americans have been influenced by European Cinema, so it’s a two-way street, I think.

    Not to say, all the best are from these two continents – just my TOP 10 would.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    “Spielberg shot almost half of his productions in UK.”

    A bit exaggerated, but you know what I meant. He was knighted for that.

  • steve50

    “He was knighted for that.”

    Are you certain that wasn’t a failed attempt at beheading?

    Kubrick bailed on the homeland, so while he was American born, almost all of his mature filmmaking (and residence) was in Britain. I wouldn’t classify him as an American director.

    Same with Losey, Ivory, and Gilliam – they couldn’t handle the grading system.

  • rufussondheim

    I miss Robert Altman.

  • Reform the Academy

    Top 10 American Directors

    Howard Hawks
    Frank Capra
    Billy Wilder
    Martin Scorsese
    Steven Spielberg
    Elia Kazan
    Sydney Lumet
    Stanley Donen
    Clint Eastwood
    Michael Bay

    That last one is a joke obviously lol…replace with Fincher or Nolan (if he can considered since he has dual citizenship)

  • Reform the Academy

    *though I do quite enjoy a number of Bay’s movies…

  • steve50

    “I miss Robert Altman.”

    I was thinking the exact same thing when the topic of greatest American directors came up.

  • Mattoc

    David Lynch, Joel & Ethan, Cassavettes & ZAZ…

    I like some Michael Bay movies. I wish he would hurry up and make them!!!

  • This reminds me of two PTA films that I really DID like. “Hard 8” and “Boogie Nights”

    Gwyneth gave one of her best performances in the former as a f–ked up teenage prostitute. Ahhh! Yes! She was young once, too. And the lead guy in it was terrific, too. Character actor who never had a part like that before or since. Can’t remember his name. I’m sure someone will remind me.

    And of course, “Boogie Nights” was just grand.

    I HOPE this film, “The Master” which is the topic of this thread, isn’t it? Is more like those films than his others.

    I’m sure though that “The Master” is not a triumph-of-good over evil, which is what the Academy likes…oh wait, maybe that is JUST what it is.

    But something else bothers me about this bait-and-switch HW release tactic.

    TKS didn’t open RIGHT after Toronto. We all had to wait til Thanksgiving to see it. It built up momentutum and didn’t peak too early which is something that could happen here with a Sept.15 opening RIGHT after TIFF. Or while TIFF is still going on actually.

    “Up in the Air”, anyone?

    If he RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREALLY had that much confidence in it, he’d be opening it in November.

    Although he’s got “Django” at Christmas. A really Christmas-y kind of guy, QT.

    Methinks something is Denton in the State of Rottmark.

  • steve50

    “Can’t remember his name. I’m sure someone will remind me.”

    Do you mean the young John C Reilly, Stephen? He did OK with his Oscar nom a few years later, but he’ll never top the job he did in Boogie Nights – also my favourite PTA film.

  • bait-and-switch HW release tactic.

    what bait? what switch?

  • opening RIGHT after TIFF. Or while TIFF is still going on actually.
    “Up in the Air”, anyone?

    ah yes, the lessons we learned from the botched release of Up in the Air .
    Up in the Air — which opened on a dozen screens Dec 3 and got its wide release Dec 23.

    Stephen, Do you know about a site called IMDb? All sorts of facts there.

  • rufussondheim

    Every time I think of the best American directors I want to say Robert Altman, but then I pull back. I know Altman isn’t the best. Yes, he has a singular style. No, no one copies him, no one would dare. Yes, he’s created some amazing moments and even more amazing films. No, no one has done certain things better than he has. But I question his versatility, he has such a distinctive style, but if you look back on his career, he’s copied himself too many times and he’s just had too many misses to be considered one of the truly greatest.

    But then I think about McCabe and Mrs. Miller. I don’t think it’s Altman’s best film, he’s certainly got more iconic films with MASH and Nashville and The Player and Short Cuts that will be seen and admired for years to come. But if I had to put forth one movie to argue Altman’s greatness, it would be this film.

    You see, Altman’s all about dialogue and characters and, to be honest, can be a little dull at times if you don’t latch onto a particular performance or character or storyline, especially in his multi-story ensemble pieces. He’s all about satire, whether it be obvious or subtle, whether it be of easy targets or sympathetic targets. He’s an observationist, he’s not obvious, his judgments are often surprisingly subtle. He often has great compassion for his subjects. More than any director I know, his films are mirrors, forcing the viewer to examine himself. His films inspire one to slow down, to think, to be.

    If you’d study his iconic films, you’d say to yourself “He could never create a western suspense thriller. And that’s why McCabe is so career defining for Altman, it shows how completely versatile he is. There’s no mistaking it’s an Altman film, but it’s as tense and exciting as anything by Scorcese or Spielberg. And he does it without resorting to any of the technical virtuosity those directors rely on.

    What he does is let the actors do their thing. He gives them the template and lets them succeed or fail. And let’s be honest, if you cast the right people, you will get far more successes than failures.

    What he does is he challenges his audiences, he doesn’t make it easy for them. Altman knows his movies will alienate large numbers of people, but he doesn’t direct for them. He directs for himself and for people who don’t want to be pandered to.

    Altman is an American treasure and I’m grateful he left behind many beautiful films (some of which I haven’t yet seen) I don’t know about you, but he’s my favorite director.

  • @rufussondheim: You’re right about Altman “challenging” audiences. Sometimes, we throw that around too often just to describe a good film that has some brains, but Altman was more deliberate than other talents when it came to skewing the audiences perspective to leave a narrative or character relationship a little askew. McCabe was so great. From Beatty’s “Turd in your pocket” lines to Michael Murphy doing his nervous prick thing to perfection to Christie bursting in and taking care of business to Carradine on the bridge to the Cohen soundtrack. Such a beautiful film. I think that and The Long Goodbye were “A” movies, and he had plenty more near that level. California Split was a great one. Oh, and Three Women. Bizarre bizarre bizarre, with three of the spookiest actresses of the 70’s enhancing their off-kilter qualities amidst steamy spas and the near empty desert, littered with little more than beer cans, bullets, and the occasional apartment sticking up like an aberration rather than a home.

    If Altman isn’t one of the 10 GREATEST directors in American film history, he’d certainly rank amongst my favorites.

    OH and The Long Goodbye. How could I forget? Total “A” as well, from that 1st scene which ranks as the greatest in HISTORY centered around a cat. Gould owned that film and it was great seeing former pitcher and author Jim Bouton cameo as the perma-tanned killer Terry Lennox.

  • Steve50

    You nailed it, rufoussondheim!

    The best thing about Altman was that he never repeated himself. He always found a new genre to turn inside out. The PI film, The Long Goodbye, where every radio or source or music onscreen, including the doorbell, played the movie’s theme; the psyche drama, Images, dust bowl gangsters in Thieves Like Us, that gave us a brilliant Shelly Duvall and Louise Fletcher. Nashville was his musical, Gosford Park his drawing room mystery..the list goes on.

    But you are right, his western, McCabe and Mrs Miller, may not be his best work, but it is his most endearing, from the cinematography to the sets being constructed during the filming – just as the town was in the story – to the genius choice of using Leonard Cohen on the soundtrack. I can still picture Julie Christie having that dreaded moment of realization, hairpin in her mouth and she fixes her hair, saying the word “Zinc”.

  • Reform the Academy

    Altman *rolleyes*

  • Mattoc

    ^ you’re thinking of Marty Feldman.

  • Reform the Academy

    No, I haven’t seen anything worth writing home about from Altman.

  • Jake G!!!

    Im goin out on a limb here and gunna predict that Django and Pi dont make BP this year! I just dont see it in them, i hope I’m wrong. Right now I see:

    Lincoln(I dont know if it can top War Horse, one of my favorites of last year)
    The Dark Knight Rises(its one of the best films ever made)
    Les Miserables(Hooper, costume musical)
    The Great Gatsby(Baz gets lucky)
    To the Wonder(Malicks a genius)
    The Master(it will be really good)
    The Hobbit(C’mon, Academy cant avoid LOTR)

    Im missing some but whatevr.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    I was talking about my WORLD’s top ten where I wouldn’t have room for Altman, cause to me it’s about versatility quite a bit – and you have to look at the whole filmography. Same with Allen and Tarantino, who are better writers than directors. So, no.

    Even the greatest directors can have their missteps (and I refer to the director everybody likes to hate nowadays), but once you’ve made Jaws, Raiders, E.T., Close Encounters, A.I. and Schindler – you are automatically in.

  • Reform the Academy

    I wouldn’t make room for him in the universe even :p

  • Tero Heikkinen

    Wrong direction. Would Altman make it to your ‘Top Ten Directors Born in Kansas City’?

  • Reform the Academy

    I was just prompted by an article on FilmMisery to take a closer look at my Top 200 Films and in terms of director frequencies at least this is what I’ve got…

    Alfred Hitchcock- 9 Films (Highest is Rear Window at #1)
    Steven Spielberg- 7 Films (Highest is Saving Private Ryan at #4)
    Christopher Nolan- 5 Films (Highest is Memento at #6)
    David Fincher- 5 Films (Highest is The Game at #49)
    Howard Hawks- 5 Films (Highest is Bringing Up Baby at #99)
    Clint Eastwood- 4 Films (Highest is Unforgiven at #80)
    Frank Capra- 4 Films (Highest is It Happened One Night at #11)
    Martin Scorsese- 4 Films (Highest is Raging Bull at #33)
    Billy Wilder- 3 Films (Highest is Some Like It Hot at #18)
    Ridley Scott- 3 Films (Highest is Gladiator at #13)
    Rob Reiner- 3 Films (Highest is A Few Good Men at #46)
    Stanley Donen- 3 Films (Highest is Charade at #57)
    Ron Howard- 3 Films (Highest is A Beautiful Mind at #68)
    Sam Mendes- 3 Films (Highest is American Beauty at #79)
    James Cameron- 3 Films (Highest is Titanic at #115)

  • rufussondheim

    I made a top 100 once upon a time. It was back when the AFI first came out and many of us message board posters over at Salon.com decided to make our own top 100 list.

    Most of them hated my list because I didn’t favor films anyone seemed to like, not the audience and definitely not the intellectual crowd either. Most of my top 10 films weren’t directed by anyone considered great (with the exception of Robert Altman and Short Cuts.)

    Only a couple of new films probably entered the top 10 if I were to spend a ton of time on the list, but the films I’d include would most likely come from the following list.

    Longtime Companion
    Latter Days
    Field of Dreams
    Chariots of Fire
    The Joy Luck Club
    Vanya on 42nd Street
    Once Were Warriors
    Short Cuts
    Children of Men
    Priest (1994-Antonia Bird)
    The Insider

  • steve50

    So refreshing to see an honest list made up of genuine “likes” instead of “shoulds”. So many best lists reflect what people think should be on the list, not what actually moved them.

  • rufussondheim

    Thanks, Steve

    And I forgot to include Half Nelson, which would probably be top 5. And then maybe even The Slaughter Rule.

  • keifer

    Off topic a little here, but I think one of the best directed scenes I’ve seen in any film in the last 20 years is the “drug” scene with Alfred Molina throwing firecrackers around the house during the drug deal in “Boogie Nights”. So intense. It still creeps me out.

  • Reform the Academy

    “steve50 / August 1, 2012

    So refreshing to see an honest list made up of genuine “likes” instead of “shoulds”. So many best lists reflect what people think should be on the list, not what actually moved them.”

    Err, my list is completely honest. As I’ve said before, I freely admit to having some guilty pleasures that would be scoffed at by “cinephiles” and I don’t care. The Top 200 list posted on FilmMisery however doesn’t seem honest at all…

  • Reform the Academy

    rufus, I love the mentions for Field of Dreams, Children of Men, and the Insider.

  • Tero Heikkinen

    My order of preference for these titles (an easy task):

    Field of Dreams
    Short Cuts
    Once Were Warriors
    Children of Men
    The Insider
    Longtime Companion
    The Joy Luck Club
    Latter Days
    Chariots of Fire
    Vanya on 42nd Street (*have not seen)

  • Thank you very much, and I like it.

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