The Set of 400: #219 – My Favorite Mud Bath

Today! Because if we could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we’ve got something here –

The Player (1992)

Directed by Robert Altman (x3)

Starring Tim Robbins (x2), Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward (x2), Whoopi Goldberg (x4), Peter Gallagher (x2), Vincent D’Onofrio (x3), Dean Stockwell, Brion James (x3), Richard E. Grant (x2), Sydney Pollack, Lyle Lovett (x2), Cynthia Stevenson, Dina Merrill, Jeremy Piven (x2), Gina Gershon (x2), Angela Hall, Leah Ayres (x2), Paul Hewitt, Randall Batinkoff, Buck Henry (x2), Steve Allen, Richard Anderson, Rene Auberjonois (x2), Harry Belafonte, Karen Black (x2), Gary Busey (x2), Robert Carradine, Cher, James Coburn (x3), John Cusack (x2), Paul Dooley (x2), Brad Davis, Peter Falk (x3), Louise Fletcher (x2), Dennis Franz, Teri Garr, Leeza Gibbons (x2), Scott Glenn, Jeff Goldblum (x4), Elliott Gould (x3), Joel Grey, David Alan Grier, Anjelica Huston (x3), Sally Kellerman (x2), Sally Kirkland (x2), Jack Lemmon (x3), Marlee Matlin, Andie MacDowell (x2), Malcolm McDowell, Martin Mull, Jayne Meadows, Nick Nolte (x3), Bert Remsen, Burt Reynolds, Julia Roberts (x2), Mimi Rogers, Jill St. John, Susan Sarandon (x2), Rob Steiger (x2), Lily Tomlin, Robert Wagner (x2), Ray Walston (x3), Bruce Willis (x3)

Robert Altman’s brilliant movie-about-movies comeback, The Player purportedly features the most Oscar winners and nominees in one movie – and would advance by one if the Academy would just come around to the idea and hand David Alan Grier his statue already! Altman’s ’80s were a rough decade following his massive success in the ’70s, the only significant triumph being his spot-on political HBO mini-series Tanner ’88. But then came the glorious revival, featuring the likes of Short Cuts, Gosford Park, Ready to Wear I guess, and kicked off in ’92 with this epic Hollywood takedown. I think because of the size of the cast, and that insane opening tracking shot, I always think of this movie as being much longer than it is. Tight 124 minutes! I could’ve sworn I had this movie on VHS once upon a time, and it was spread over two tapes. Clearly not! What the hell am I thinking of? I had one of those weird standing plastic VHS racks that had a clearly defined plastic slot for each movie, so two-tapers wouldn’t fit. What movie was that??

My God, was it Magnolia?!

But yeah, glance at that group above – most are celebrities cameoing as themselves, thus the crazy Oscar trivia connected to this film, but it is still pretty impressive to watch. It’s also impressive to see who was famous enough to qualify as a celebrity in 1992 but not so famous that they would turn down appearing in this movie. Really, with the exception of Julia Roberts and Bruce Willis appearing as the huge stars in the movie inside the movie that ends the film, nearly everyone else just sort of shows up at parties or premieres – Buck Henry pitches his sequel to The Graduate, Lily Tomlin and Scott Glenn are also in a movie-in-the-movie, Burt Reynolds hilariously was given no dialogue, but assumed Tim Robbins’ exec Griffin was an asshole on sight and calls him one.

The plot tends to get a little lost in discussing this movie, because it’s such a technical marvel and is overwhelmed with cameos, but that’s sort of the whole point. A satire about a film executive being threatened by a disgruntled writer would’ve lost a good deal of authenticity without a parade of stars, many former Altman players from past films. It grounds the proceedings in the very unreal reality of Hollywood, while also creating a bit of a tongue-in-cheek swipe at the whole process.

Altman’s third film on the list – after #396 MASH and #365 Popeye – is probably in his personal, what, top five? It’s apparently my third favorite – spoiler alert, see you March 12th for that second favorite! – but as far as strict quality, I might put it behind MASH, Nashville, Short Cuts, and…that might be it. McCabe & Mrs. Miller, maybe. Plus I haven’t seen Gosford Park in a long time. How do you think The Player lines up against Buffalo Bill and the Indians and Prairie Home Companion?

Hint: The Player is definitely better than Buffalo Bill

Holy God, is it even worth mentioning the nineteen new Two-Timers joining due to the massive cast? Seems excessive! Just take a gander at the (x2)s above, and we’ll just go with the advancing guild folks – which isn’t way better. Ten new Three-Timers – Brion James (#256 Fifth Element, #230 Blade Runner), Nolte (#360 Cape Fear, #317 Blue Chips), Willis (Fifth Element, #223 Die Hard), D’Onofrio (#376 Men in Black, #357 JFK), Falk (#273 Cheap Detective, #237 Princess Bride), Walston (#365 Popeye, #282 Johnny Dangerously), Gould (MASH, #249 Ocean’s Eleven), Lemmon (JFK, #301 Some Like it Hot), Coburn (#340 The Nutty Professor, #250 The Great Escape), and Huston (#319 The Darjeeling Limited, #267 The Life Aquatic), plus our two Four-Timers, #22 and #23, Whoopi Goldberg (#398 Ghost, #391 The Lion King, #259 Soapdish) and Jeff Goldblum (#318 Independence Day, #281 Buckaroo Banzai, The Life Aquatic)! Whew!

I’m not sure what this Fabio/Danny Glover/Debbie Allen/Laura Dern event is, or who won that glass bird, but here are our Four-Timers together!

Coming Monday! Despite millions of dollars of research, death continues to be our nation’s number one killer –

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