I honestly can't believe that Robert Altman has been dead for 7 years, this man was a genius, and his imprint is missed on films. Altman's cannon of films is beyond impressive with MASH (1970), McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Nashville (1975), Short Cuts (1993), Cookie's Fortune (1999), Gosford Park (2001), and of course the subject of this post The Player (1992). Altman's directorial style preferred large style casts which have an over lapping dialogue, which sets up an incredibly layered film experience. Film critic Pauline Kael stated Altman "can make fireworks out of next to nothing."
My first Altman experience was with Cookie's Fortune (1999), while at that point in my life I did not understand Altman's style, after a few years later after loving Gosford Park, I went back to this film and fell in love with and explored this man's films even further. Up until this past weekend my favorite Altman was Nashville, but now I have to give it up to The Player, but both are amazing films.
The Player is one of the films people need to talk about more. The film centers around Hollywood executive Griffin Mill played Tim Robbins who is blackmailed by a writer who he spurned. The film takes a dark twist and explores the darkest aspects of the emerging studio model, and the modern day star system.
Without giving much of the plot away this film is a scathing indictment of the Hollywood manufacturing system, which still exists today, but has come to become more a sequel system as opposed to the star system. The running joke throughout The Player is the use of Julia Roberts, who shows up in the end of the film, great to see her in on the joke. A year prior to The Player, Roberts was launched into stardom with Pretty Woman; she was the "it girl" and the highest paid movie star of the time. Numerous celebrities appear throughout the film from John Cusack to Andie McDowell, Bruce Willis, Susan Sarandon, and many more. Bringing in the these celebrities only adds to the experience of this film.
The Player is brilliant because of the way it shows the dark, and dangerous path with which executives have manipulated the system to push out the creative types. Peter Gallagher's character Larry Levy argues to cut out the writer because they waster time. The movie itself makes a "killing" of a writer seemingly showing the power of the executive and the role with which writer is kept down.
You have to applaud Altman for his bravery in putting together this film with and producer David Brown (Jaws, The Sting). While Altman himself is quoted as saying this was "a mild satire meant to offend no one" there was no direct offensive nature to any one person, but merely the modern day Hollywood executive.
The film had 3 Oscar nominations, including Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Editing, but no Best Picture, and Tim Robbins was criminally snubbed. The film won the Golden Globe for Best Picture Musical/Comedy, and Robbins won Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. Altman also won Best Director at Cannes. While this film has seemed to be lost in the pantheon of classics, this is a classic film that should be explored, and will forever be known as re-launching Altman's career.