Tag Archives: Robert Altman

A Punk-Rock Musical from Australia?

When I think about what kind of films would be made if the business were truly washed of its male bias, one filmmaker who always pops into my mind is Gillian Armstrong. Her films are all over the map in terms of periods, genres and scope, but what they have in common are strong female characters filtered through a strongly female-focused perspective.

After the international success of her debut film “My Brilliant Career,” Gillian could have done just about anything with her follow-up; she chose to use that currency to make a boldly different film—in fact, one so out of left field that it would seem she was challenging the very absurdity of being stereotyped as a certain type of director.  

“Starstruck,” Gillian’s Australian punk rock musical, was the first film acquired by Cinecom, a company that I co-founded with two partners in 1982. It had been less than a year since I had been involved with the French film, “Diva,” which–like “Starstruck”–was a major departure from the films that had traditionally come from those countries. And like “Diva,” Gillian’s film had a kind of pop sensibility that seemed perfect for the moment. It was, simply put, a ton of fun. (more…)

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TCFF Panel on the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville”

Here is a panel that was hosted at this year’s Traverse City Film Festival on the career of Robert Altman in honor of the 40th Anniversary of “Nashville.” Panelists include Kathryn Altman, Ron Mann, Geraldine Chaplin, Michael Murphy & yours truly. It was moderated by Phil Hallman of the University of Michigan. Enjoy!


Comments after the break. (more…)

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The Most Influential Indie Films of All Time, As Seen from 1996

John Cassavetes' "A Woman Under the Influence"I just stumbled across an old document on my computer, in which I was responding to a request from Filmmaker Magazine for a list of the “Top 10 American Indies.” The timestamp indicates that I wrote this in July of 1996, and I have no recollection of whether it actually ran in the magazine. However, I thought I would throw it up here and see if I can get a rise out of anyone.

I think the list holds up well, and the only film I would be tempted to add is “Pulp Fiction,” which I would characterize as the film that started the decline and eventual end to what we used to call American Independent Cinema.

For what it’s worth, here is the list. Feel free to comment with your own ideas.

These, in order, would be my choices for the top 10 most important (as in influential or breakthrough) American Independent Films:

1. “A Woman Under the Influence” While there are earlier, and arguably better Cassavetes films, this one is particularly significant in that Cassavetes mounted an ambitious and successful self-distribution effort, setting the stage for much of the independent distribution movement.  (more…)

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Altman’s Birthday

On the eve of Oscar weekend, I just want to make note of the fact that today would have been Robert Altman’s 89th Birthday. I don’t have the heart to take  this date out of my calendar. We all miss you, Bob.

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Altman Remembered

When word reached me this morning that Bob was gone, I was shocked. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been. His health has been an issue (and a topic of discussion) for a very long time. Back when I was at Fine Line and we were working on the release of “Short Cuts,” Bob would come to office looking so thin, so gaunt; everyone commented on the fact that he looked liked he was on his deathbed. Bob laughed and said he’d been told by his doctor to go on a diet, and he was proud of how much weight he had lost. We all took him at his word, only to find out more than a decade later that he had had a heart transplant. Bob somehow seemed indestructible.

Bob at Ira's 40th birthday partyI have so many memories…so many feelings. I can’t set them all out here… but I feel the need to spill some of it while the feelings are fresh.

I first met Bob when I was just out of college. I took a trip to Los Angeles to try and find work, and someone recommended that I look up a guy named Mike Kaplan, who was the marketing person at Altman’s production company. The company was called Lion’s Gate, but was not related to the current company of that name. I got an appointment, and while waiting in the reception area, could see and hear Bob talking on the phone in his office. He was describing a film he’d just finished shooting in Canada…a film called “Quintet.” I couldn’t have been more thrilled as Altman was already one of my idols, and this was my first close encounter with someone of his stature. (more…)

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