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The Films of Robert Altman

The Delinquents


That Cold Day in the Park


Brewster McCloud

McCabe & Mrs. Miller


The Long Goodbye

Thieves Like Us

California Split


Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson

3 Women

A Wedding


A Perfect Couple



Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean


Secret Honor

O.C. and Stiggs (November 29/05)

During the entirety of its far-too-long running time, O.C. and Stiggs comes off as nothing less than a colossal misfire of epic proportions. Director Robert Altman's signature style doesn't even remotely suit the material, though - to be fair - there's not a filmmaker alive that'd be able to make sense of Donald Cantrell and Ted Mann's disjointed and thoroughly incoherent screenplay. The movie revolves around the wacky misadventures of two high school students - the titular O.C. (Daniel Jenkins) and Stiggs (Neill Barry) - who spend their days pulling pranks and having fun, mostly at the expense of local racist/bigot Randall Schwab (Paul Dooley). Based on a series of articles that originally appeared in National Lampoon magazine, O.C. and Stiggs strikes a nonsensical vibe right from the get-go - a problem that's exacerbated by the complete and total lack of character development (something that's particularly true of O.C. and Stiggs themselves, who are relentlessly wacky without explanation). Altman's use of overlapping dialogue and slow-zooms has never been more irritating, and despite the presence of some familiar faces in supporting roles (including Dennis Hopper, in what amounts to a reprisal of his Apocalypse Now character), the film remains a massive failure on every single level and makes one long for the coherence of a straight-to-video Eric Roberts thriller.

no stars out of

Fool for Love

Beyond Therapy


The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial

Vincent & Theo

The Player

Short Cuts

Ready to Wear

Kansas City

The Gingerbread Man

Cookie's Fortune

Dr. T and the Women

Gosford Park

The Company (January 26/04)

Even by Robert Altman's standards, The Company is incredibly non-linear and meandering - and yet it somehow works. There's something oddly engaging about the majority of the film, which follows several characters as the navigate the arduous world of professional ballet. The film likely marks Altman's most obtuse and plotless effort in ages, but the lifestyle and natural skill of these ballet dancers is fairly compelling in itself. The Company stars Neve Campbell as Ry, a dancer with Chicago's famed Joffrey Ballet who's right on the precipice of becoming the lead performer in an upcoming production. We meet several other characters - including the company's tough director (played by Malcolm McDowell and Josh (James Franco), a chef that's started seeing Ry - but the film's emphasis is more on the various dance numbers that are either being performed publically or rehearsed privately. The Company's rhythm becomes apparent almost immediately - filmed ballet performance, several minutes of dialogue, repeat - which lends the movie a dreamy quality, assisted by Altman's expectedly fluid camerawork. The film gets off to a fantastic start, with a dance number that looks like something out of Tron. Presumably, this was done intentionally as a means of drawing in viewers that ordinarily have absolutely no interest in ballet (ie me). Remarkably, there's only one performance that features dancers wearing tutus (and it's one of the shorter pieces); it's as though Altman and crew wanted to prove that this isn't the stodgy art form most of us envision upon hearing the word ballet. But Altman (along with screenwriter Barbara Turner) shows no interest in appealing to an audience beyond the art house, even though the film contains a lot of elements with widespread appeal. Beyond the admittedly eye-catching dance sequences, there are some moments of drama that are unexpectedly involving. A dancer who breaks her Achilles tendon is clearly the most intriguing, as the woman has this look of pure dismay on her face the second the bone snaps. But Altman and Turner don't follow up on this, nor do they resolve any of the other plot strands (including the relationship between Ry and Josh). It's a frustrating but typically Altman-esque move. Still, The Company remains worthwhile primarily for those hypnotic dance sequences and the performances. Campbell, in particular, does a fantastic job of portraying both the glamour and grunge of this lifestyle (she famously spent months training with the actual Joffrey Ballet to get in shape for the movie). And Franco is very effective in a rare non-intense role. What it really comes down to is the fact that Altman has done the impossible: He's made ballet seem interesting. Though the movie never quite becomes anything more than a better-than-average time-waster, that alone is a major achievement.

out of

A Prairie Home Companion