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Rudolph vs. Schickel Over Altman

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 29, 2009 at 11:46AM

I was on a plane to London when I read ex-Time critic Richard Schickel's LAT attack on Robert Altman. I've disagreed with Schickel before; at his best he's a cranky curmudgeon who isn't interested in reading or hearing any point-of-view other than his own.
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Thompson on Hollywood

I was on a plane to London when I read ex-Time critic Richard Schickel's LAT attack on Robert Altman. I've disagreed with Schickel before; at his best he's a cranky curmudgeon who isn't interested in reading or hearing any point-of-view other than his own.

While he has written many graceful book reviews over the years for the LAT, this recent one on Mitchell Zuckoff's Robert Altman: The Oral Biography is less about the book than an angry diatribe against the late director of such films as M.A.S.H., The Player, Nashville and A Prairie Home Companion who Schickel considers to have been out of control. He maligns Altman's working methods without giving enough credit to the films themselves.

Thompson on Hollywood

I have always considered Altman to be a master auteur, one of the best independent filmmakers ever--in fact a model for many directors of how to get your way inside the Hollywood system. Yes, of course Altman was an ornery pain-in-the-ass to just about everyone he dealt with on the producing and distribution side. And he could be his own worst enemy. But actors loved working for him for a reason. He had a rare command of the form and many of his films stand the test of time, from A Wedding and Gosford Park to The Long Goodbye and Vincent and Theo.

Here's Patrick Goldstein's take on this, along with a rousing defense by Alan Rudolph (Choose Me) of his one-time mentor.

Maybe Schickel was railing against someone who was just as big a crank as he is.


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.