Pop Culture
Pop Culture: Articles for the Scripps Howard News Service & "Seen, Heard, Said"

Why the top-365-songs list isn't a stupid idea

Actors sink their teeth into vampire roles

Gregory Corso: My encounter with a Beat legend

Golden Globes: Sleazy and proud of it

In the offing, Clinton continent looms

"NYPD Blue" opener: The misery continues

 New movie genre: Reclusive authors anonymous

"West Wing," "Ally," et al.: Words, words, words

When TV shows outstay their welcome

Film critics dig their own graves with "Angels" review

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

Famous folk, next week in the arts, show business briefs

"Time regained": Proust in the multiplex

Glitterati is dead, long live Popfocus

Carl Barks: The man who put the ducks in Duckburg

"Almost Famous": Lester Bangs rises from the dead

Liz Hurley wins in war of words with Jane mag

Douglas poses with Zeta-Jones, and baby-makes three

Weddings that aren't: Douglas, Zeta-Jones, Madonna, Ritchie

The Emmy War: A half-century of coast-to-coast feuding

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the Iglesias odds

It's raining books by and about Trumps

What's in a mane? Blond woman in the news

Liz Hurley denies dissing ex-beau

Rock Hall of Infamy: Anti-heroes from Elvis to Eminem

Barbra tix bankrupt fans

Laurels for Kathie Lee to rest on

Hillary "In bed" with De Niro, Cruise, Kidman

How "Sopranos," "West Wing" will divvy up awards

This just in: Donald Trump is not a dope

Walter Matthau: A rumpled old dog in the heart of the city

Sampras to take a stroke at wedding bells

Who wants to host "Monday Night Football"?

Queen rewards Tina Brown for demoralizing American readers

How the Korean War cane to TV land 20 years late

Ivanka Trump: From catwalk to commencement line

Lester Bangs: The troublesome punk who wouldn't die

Rags clash over Ted Turner "romance"

With straight face, Trump deems Marla's move "tacky"

"Friends" re-up for another season of top ratings, top money

Madonna in denial, and rightly so

"Suburbia": The continental subdivide

Howard Stern, Sly Stallone in bizarre, apocryphal triangle

Easter video viewing: "Spartacus" to "Harvey"

Billy’s in the news: Bob, Joel in love but not with other

"Charles's Angels" movie: Dispiriting news for old-time fans

Innovative career move for 'NYPD Blue' co-star

Top model: Why I gave oldish rocker husband the heave-ho

Unpleasantville: The awful truth about old-time TV families

Tina Brown held captive in desert by demanding children

Anybody's Oscar: Unusually suspenseful awards show looms

Oscar telecast: Looking for a few good hosts

"Lambs," "Beauty": Oscar's love affair with unacceptable behavior

Brad Pitt, Oscar to be in same room at same time

Letterman bites guest-host bullet: Andrew "Dice" Clay, call your agent

Seinfeld eyes East Hampton manse: Where's the welcome wagon?

"Mod Squad" Immortal dishes couple du jour

Brad Pitt's second thoughts about Oscar

Mike McCurry praises "West Wing": It's not entirely demeaning,,,"

Memo to "Hannibal" producers: Get Najimy while the getting's good

Don't Invite Gwyneth and Oscar to the same party

True or false: Douglas, Zeta-Jones don't even know each other

Ex-Clinton honcho linked to ex-"Cheers" costar

Third party cited in Trump-Knauss breakup

 Gossip queen goes to bat for Talk mag

20th century's No. 1 hit: "Satisfaction" hits the spot

Statement: Spice girl's marital problems insoluble

Charlie Brown, Pogo and me

From Howdy to Charlie Brown, we hate to say goodbye

The Beatle George: While his guitar gently weeps

Jodie Foster's people in mild tiff with CBS

A Peanuts trivia Q&A

Publicist: Boyle still joined at hip

There's video in your future and future in your video

"The future is now": Hit rewind

Whitney Houston presides over confluence of talent

Jim Carrey's flack earns A "D," Cher's A "B-minus"

Geraldo: bye-bye, doghouse

Michael Douglas does nothing much, reporters go wild

Ricky Martin on Menudo: Look back in anger

How to outsmart Halloween crowds at the video store

Tom Cruise puts himself in harm's way, only not really

1800-1900: Steaming towards revolution

1700-1800: Liberty, equality and bloodshed

1600-1700: The earth moves; North America is settled

Trump mulls travel plans, from altar to White House

"Faces of Impressionism" Time machine made of canvas, paint

Major quakes aren't personal unless they happen to you

Brad Pitt gracious about character assassination

Director insists Harrison Ford is not a brainless hulk

Costner, Willis, Douglas. Branagh, Sting_ in that order

Streisand: Color her ready to plug her new album

Julia and Benjamin's rings devoid of significance, flack says

Literary mud wrestling, featuring Geri and The Spice Girls

Urgent news: Ford to replace Gibson on "GMA" eventually

She married a monster from outer space

Never mind Godzilla VS. Mothra, Here's Trump VS. Cronkite

Spurned by Pitt, Redford pays court to Damon

Celebrity coyness is bustin' out all over

"Detroit Rock City": Kiss of death

Talk is cheap? Not with Tina Brown at the helm

The Beats: Remembered, Lionized and Unread

Real estate beat, starring Woody Allen and Donald Trump

Mood Music, or how we learned to stop worrying

Sex in the cinema: From "Last Tango" to "Eyes Wide Shut"

Two easy steps to looking exactly like Ricky Martin

Close encounters of the Muppet kind

Upcoming Brad Pitt movie not garbage, insiders say

Kathie Lee's eyewear excites Islanders' ire

Back to the future, continued

"Wild Wild West": Buck Rogers in the 19th century

Sculptures by Roy Lichtenstein: Fun, Fun, Fun

An expert's verdict:" Austin Powers" is pretty neat

Click here for pointless celebrity gossip

P. Dempsey Tabler of the jungle: The many faces of Tarzan

Kirk Douglas' Ex tells all about Errol Flynn fling

New twist in TV programming: Ax profitable shows

Private jet fees spell the end for another celebrity union

Killer serials: "Flash," "Buck" and a boy named George Lucas

Top nonfiction books: A message from two old men

Celebrity Dream dreams: Monica, Donald, Barbara, Georgette

Two divas, publicist form bizarre show-biz triangle

Johnny Cash tribute: Ring of fire, ring of friends

Streisand employee really upset about rumors

Grande Dame Eyes MGM Grand Gig

Secretive celebs? Not by a long shot

NBC honcho bristles at notion that Brokaw is not a saint

Barbara Walters not keen on daily dose of Monica

"Seen, Heard, Said"

David Letterman, Donald Trump, Eddie Murphy, Elton John

Madonna, Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles, Maj, Ronald Ferguson, Fergie, Miranda Richardson, Brad Pitt, Juliette Lewis, Axl Rose, Stephanie Seymour

October 4, 2000

Great Robert Altman films you never
heard of

By ROGER ANDERSON Scripps Howard News Service

The film director Robert Altman breaks the first rule of his craft by letting his characters talk until their teeth are ready to fall out. But it works, because he lets them all talk at the same time. That way, you're never sure what any of them are saying - you just gather that everyone is headed for some kind of disaster.

The release of any Altman film - this week it's "Dr. T and the Women," with Richard Gere and Farrah Fawcett - is an occasion to look back at Altman's oeuvre and reflect that, for every "MASH," "Nashville" and "The Player," there are two or three extraordinarily interesting movies that didn't perform well at the box office, often were poorly received by critics and are, for the most part, almost completely forgotten today.

Herewith, in no particular order and just in time for your weekly visit to the video store, a brief catalogue of some unsung Altman gems.

CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1974): One thing younger filmgoers don't know is that George Segal - yes, the same George Segal who is third banana on the TV sitcom "Just Shoot Me" - once was one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Unfortunately for him, he managed to occupy that niche for a few years without making many movies that have stood the test of time. One happy exception was when Segal appeared with Elliot Gould in Altman's tale of two compulsive gamblers whose pursuit of the royal flush brings them together in a delicate and ill-fated friendship. Segal is well-cast as an inhibited loner who doesn't know how to deal with acceptance from another human being. Gould's performance is loose, sparkling and magnetic.

THE LONG GOODBYE (1973): Speaking of Elliot Gould, who, of course, was one of Altman's stars in "MASH," one of the most enjoyable screen performances you're ever likely to see is Gould in this adaptation of Raymond Chandler's noir novel, in which he plays a modern-day (i.e., 1970s) Philip Marlowe who chain-smokes and looks like he's been sleeping in his clothes for a few weeks. It's one of those movies you might never tire of. With Sterling Hayden as a beleaguered macho novelist whom Gould absently tries to save from the parasites (including a highly sinister Henry Gibson) who have fastened onto him.

POPEYE (1980): This is the movie that left the Hollywood establishment with little choice but to send Altman off for a long holiday producing film versions of plays for cable TV. Much anticipated at the time, with Robin Williams' in his first film role as the squinting protagonist and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl, the film had its weaknesses - but the odd though infectious score by Harry Nilsson wasn't one of them, nor were the dreamy sets and superb cinematography. Funding was withdrawn as filming entered its later stages, which is one reason the movie's ending is such a letdown - effects that seem about to materialize never do. After the movie bombed, it was predicted that Robin Williams' movie career was over.

McCABE & MRS. MILLER (1971): Dismissed by film critic Rex Reed as "that hippie Western,” this movie was a sort of cause celebre with hard-core moviegoers when it was released but a box-office bust nevertheless. The atmosphere - rainy and snowy 19th-century Washington State teeming with cowboys, stagecoaches and trains - plus Warren Beatty as a sharp operator and Julie Christie as the opium-smoking madam he can't get out of his mind make it a classic in spite of the weak story. Add a musical score consisting entirely of Leonard Cohen songs and you've got a real moody piece of filmmaking.

KANSAS CITY (1996): One of Altman's post-"Player" box-office duds, but one of the best pieces of period filmmaking of recent years. The gangland story is set in the 1930s jazz milieu of the title city, and Altman surpasses himself at weaving a '30s spell, filling old cafes and train stations with pitch-perfect re-creations of '30s swing by top present-day musicians. With Jennifer Jason Leigh as a desperate and pathetic kidnapper, Miranda Richardson as her hostage and Harry Belafonte in a scary turn as a mobster who doesn't give a damn and proves it.

THIEVES LIKE US (1974): One of Altman's finest achievements, a tale of the Depression with Keith Carradine as a down-on-his-luck petty criminal and Shelley Duvall as his not terribly bright love interest. Carradine teams with John Shuck and Bert Remsen to form a triangle of hapless thieves straight out of Beckett. Set in the South, the film comes far closer to reproducing the steamy, richly textured feeling of a William Faulkner novel than any films actually based on Faulkner's works ever did.

Roger Anderson is arts and entertainment editor at Scripps Howard News Service.

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