playerposterLast Heartthrob Chapter Nine:

What Kind of Person?

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Movie: The Player (1992)

This episode of Last Heartthrob shows how decisions made by Hollywood executives can disrupt people's lives.

No one knows that better than Robert Altman, who directed this satire.

The tagline for this film: "Making Movies Can Be Murder."

We've seen how loosely film noir can be plotted. The Player is one of the most tightly constructed puzzles there is.

It would be hard to choose between Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye and The Player if Raymond Chandler weren't already represented in the screenplay to Double Indemnity and misrepresented in The Big Lebowski.

"The Player opens with a very long continuous shot that is quite a technical achievement, yes, but also works in another way, to summarize Hollywood's state of mind in the early 1990s. Many names and periods are evoked: Silent pictures, foreign films, the great directors of the past. But these names are like the names of saints who no longer seem to have the power to perform miracles. The new gods are like Griffin Mill -- sleek, expensively dressed, noncommittal, protecting their backsides. Their careers are a study in crisis control. If they do nothing wrong, they can hardly be fired just because they never do anything right." – Roger Ebert

Discussion:

Pay very close attention to the opening shot or The Player. How many plot points and characters do screenwriter Michael Tolkin and Robert Altman introduce before the first cut? What does the shot tell you about the kind of movie you're watching?

The noir and neo-noir movies we've watched so far have either told the story from the perspective of the perpetrators of a given crime or from the perspective of professional or amateur sleuth trying to solve a crime. Which type of storytelling do you find more entertaining? Which type of storytelling do you find more memorable?

Roger Ebert also wrote, "This is material Altman knows from the inside and the outside. He owned Hollywood in the 1970s, when his films like 'MASH,' 'McCabe & Mrs. Miller' and 'Nashville' were the most audacious work in town. Hollywood cast him into the outer darkness in the 1980s, when his eclectic vision didn't fit with movies made by marketing studies. Now he is back in glorious vengeance, with a movie that is not simply about Hollywood, but about the way we live now, in which the top executives of many industries are cut off from the real work of their employees, and exist in a rarefied atmosphere of greedy competition with one another." In this post Hays Code movie, which crime do you think the filmmakers take more seriously, and why: murder, or changing the ending of a movie based on audience test scores?

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