Winner: National Society of Film Critics; New York Film Critics CircleNominated: BAFTAs; Chicago Film Critics Assn.; Golden Globes; WGA Awards On his collaboration with Altman: “Bob wanted a reference to the whole genre of the 1930s, British country house (whodunit), but more in a humorous way than anything else. I had invented the character of the American director, Weissman, who is so out of place but it was Bob who thought he should be producing ‘Charlie Chan in London’ which gave us a way of reminding the audience of the genre.” (OscarCentral.com) What we said: “Although this first produced screenplay by English actor and TV writer Julian Fellowes, working from an idea by Altman and thesp Bob Balaban, makes its share of barbed observations about Britain’s upper classes, the foreign setting effectively removes the sense of derisive condescension that has marred some of Altman’s studies of American social groups. At the same time, the literary straitjacket of the microcosmic aristocrats/servants format is cast off by the director’s loose and probing light-heartedness, just as the underlying sense of self-loathing that marks many such homegrown English ‘exposes’ of aristocratic excess is happily absent.” (Todd McCarthy, Nov. 8) What the rest said: “Is it primarily a comedy of manners, a mystery, a satire, a scrupulously authentic period drama, or some strange combination? But what is certain is that … it ranks among Robert Altman’s best work ever, and that its many satisfactions derive in large part from a superbly written screenplay by Julian Fellowes that has no equal this year.” (Jonathan Foreman, New York Post) This could be the night: Actors-turned-scribes Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won for their first script in 1997 for “Good Will Hunting.” Then comes the rub: The last time an Altman film was even nominated for a writing award was Michael Tolkin for “The Player” in 1993.
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