Today, the Sundance Channel is hosting a tribute to Robert Altman, the groundbreaking director who died this November. So next time you're reordering your Netflix queue, why not plan your own Altman tribute? It's hard to pick from so many masterpiece films—from Nashville to The Player—but here are three to get you started.
I've never seen a movie quite like Short Cuts, which follows dozens of quirky and tragic characters in Los Angeles. Based on Raymond Carver's short stories, the movie deviates from Altman's usual interconnected ensemble formula by offering about a dozen very distinct plots, each of which could be a movie in itself. Nearly everyone in the enormous cast—including Tim Robbins, Robert Downey Jr., Tom Waits, Matthew Modine, and many more—gives a stellar performance.
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Though not classic Altman, this entertaining and well-executed tribute to the longtime Minnesota radio show is a fitting last movie for the director. Kevin Kline is a riot as a throwback detective named Guy Noir, while Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly take the stage as singing cowboys. But most impressive are the scenes between Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin, which contain possibly some of the best dialogue Altman ever filmed.
This comedy set in a surgical ward during the Korean War is not only one of Altman's best but also one of the most impressive movies to come out of the 1970s. With quiet but uproarious performances by Donald Sutherland and Robert Duvall, the movie is groundbreaking in the way it presents a series of slice-of-life sketches, rather than one unified narrative. If your only contact with MASH was through the subsequent TV show, this movie is a must-see.