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Robert Altman: MASH Director Next Honorary Oscar Recipient

Robert Altman, directed MASH, Thieves Like Us, Popeye, Short Cuts, The Player, Gosford Park, Brewster McCloudIconoclastic director-producer-writer Robert Altman, 80, will be the next recipient of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Honorary Award, to be presented at the the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony next March 5. The Honorary Award will be given to Altman for “a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike.”

Altman has never won an Oscar despite five Academy Award nominations for directing – for M*A*S*H (1970), Nashville (1975), The Player (1992), Short Cuts (1993), and Gosford Park (2001) – in addition to nominations as a producer of best picture nominees Nashville and Gosford Park.

In the last 55 years, he has directed nearly 90 features, made-for-TV movies, and episodes from televisions series, in addition to producing and/or writing nearly 40 of them. His latest effort, A Prairie Home Companion, set in the world of radio, and starring among others Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, and Lindsay Lohan, will open later this year.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Altman began his film career working on documentary, employee training, industrial and educational films. While still in Kansas City, he made his first feature, The Delinquents (1957), which was eventually distributed by United Artists.

Later on he moved to Hollywood, where he directed episodes of television series such as Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Bonanza. His film career took off in 1970 following the gigantic box office success of the military satire M*A*S*H, starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould.

Altman's career peak was in the early '70s, when he made a series of generally well-received offbeat films such as the unWestern Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), starring Warren Beatty and Julie Christie (above); the unnoir film noirish The Long Goodbye (1973), with Elliott Gould; and the unmusical country music pageant Nashville (1975) – Altman's best film of the ones I've seen and eons better than his other efforts of the period (with the exception of M*A*S*H and the weird Brewster McCloud).

Among Altman's other films are several critical and box office flops, including the mystifying Quintet (1979), with Paul Newman; the disastrous Popeye (1980), with Robin Williams; and the much-panned all-star extravaganza Prêt-à-Porter / Ready to Wear (1994).

Tim Robbins in The PlayerAmong Altman's well-received recent efforts are the caustic unHollywood Hollywood drama The Player, starring Tim Robbins (right), and the more than a little baffling (but entertaining) unmurder-mystery murder mystery Gosford Park, featuring a top-notch all-star cast that includes Maggie Smith, Alan Bates, Helen Mirren, and Clive Owen.

Photo: Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Robert Altman: MASH Director Next Honorary Oscar Recipient © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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