Monday, April 30, 2012
Now More Than Ever
THE LONG GOODBYE in particular has always seemed distant, not in any way resembling the town as I know it. Now Altman’s Hollywood satire THE PLAYER, released in April 1992, is twenty years old and I’m forced into thinking of this film that I saw on opening night at the Beekman in New York in a similar way. It makes sense, I suppose, the way time just keeps moving forward. The industry as presented in THE PLAYER (even if it is a satirical, exaggerated representation of what it was then) isn’t quite the same anymore and it occurs to me that if the film had been made just a few years later some of the references that are dropped would have been substantially different. But in ’92 we hadn’t yet gotten to FRIENDS and PULP FICTION, the explosion of CGI and comic book movies. It really was a movie of its time—one reference to Scorsese’s CAPE FEAR was shot months before that film even opened making it seem all the more current and Rodney King even gets mentioned in dialogue which must have been a little surprising when the film hit theaters right around the time of the L.A. riots. Even the logo of the film’s nameless studio—“Movies. Now more than ever!”—feels like it comes from another era considering all that has changed in the multimedia landscape of today with pre-sold concepts of remakes and board games so much a part of the grand design. A substantial box office hit on the arthouse circuit THE PLAYER was officially deemed as Altman’s grand comeback after over a decade out of the limelight. Never mind that he had been working pretty steadily throughout the 80s (as far as I’m concerned, the HBO series TANNER ’88 remains one of his best works) suddenly he seemed relevant again and continued to work steadily right up to his death in 2006 after helming A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION. Now that he’s gone and we’ve been forced to get used to a world without him I wonder what else he could do with what the landscape has become out there. THE PLAYER, big a hit as it was, isn’t my favorite of the director’s (neither is his blockbuster MASH, for that matter) but considering that changes that are continuing to occur out there in Hollywood and beyond I feel like we still need him. Now more than ever.