From the Chicago Reader (October 22, 1993). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Altman and Frank Barhydt
With Anne Archer, Bruce Davison, Robert Downey Jr., Peter Gallagher, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Lemmon, Lyle Lovett, Andie MacDowell, Frances McDormand, Matthew Modine, Julianne Moore, Chris Penn, Tim Robbins, Annie Ross, Lori Singer, Madeleine Stowe, Lili Taylor, Lily Tomlin, Fred Ward, and Tom Waits.
Annie Ross — the tough and resourceful British-born jazz singer Kenneth Tynan once called “a carrot-head who moves us and then brushes off our sympathy with a shrug of her lips” — projects the kind of caustic soul that seems made for a Robert Altman film. And nothing in Altman’s 189-minute Short Cuts moves me quite as much as her rendition of “I’m Gonna Go Fishin’,” sung and swung over the final credits, which roll past a set of overlapping maps of Los Angeles.
The number meshes with the movie in unexpected and mysterious ways. Its trout-fishing motif sends us back to one of the film’s key episodes and its aftermath — a trout dinner for two couples on a terrace overlooking LA that expands into an all-night party, a recapitulation of many of this movie’s other motifs and themes: Jeopardy, clown costumes, makeup, marital infidelity, partying, unemployment.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (January 18, 2002). — J.R.
Directed by Robert Altman
Written by Julian Fellowes
With Eileen Atkins, Bob Balaban, Alan Bates, Charles Dance, Stephen Fry, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jacobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Jeremy Northam, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Emily Watson.
Critical consensus about any movie is impossible, but judging from end-of-the-year polls, Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is widely recognized as a masterpiece. Perhaps because the English period setting and the mainly English cast encouraged the septuagenarian Altman to curb many of his smart-alecky tendencies, he can finally be credited with something resembling a mature comedy-drama — that is to say, a measured and balanced one — for the first time since the 70s.
For all his many accomplishments, Altman sometimes doesn’t know when to stop underlining dramatic points, or exposing the silliness and vanity of his characters, or piling on miniplots. This makes it all the more impressive that he’s now given us a beautifully proportioned work in which 30 fairly well defined characters don’t seem excessive, most of the plot points aren’t hyped, and the director’s ridicule, while far from absent, isn’t allowed to dominate our own responses.… Read more »
From the Chicago Reader (October 1, 1992). — J.R.
A vast improvement on Edward Dmytryk’s 1954 The Caine Mutiny, directed by Robert Altman for TV in 1988. Both are adaptations by Stanley Roberts of Herman Wouk’s ultraconservative novel, but the Dmytryk essentially honors the promilitary message of the original (navy captains should be obeyed even if they’re insane) while the Altman version ridicules it. One of Altman’s best works of the 80s; with Eric Bogosian, Jeff Daniels, Brad Davis, Peter Gallagher, Michael Murphy, and Kevin J. O’Connor. (JR)
… Read more »