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Robert Altman to receive honorary Oscar

The 80-year-old director has helmed films like ‘MASH’ and ‘Nashville’
/ Source: The Associated Press

Robert Altman, one of five directors who hold the record for most Academy Award nominations without winning, finally is getting an Oscar.

Altman, who had best-director nominations for “MASH,” “Nashville,” “The Player,” “Short Cuts” and “Gosford Park,” will receive an honorary Oscar at the March 5 awards.

In announcing the award Wednesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences cited Altman for a “career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike.”

Altman, 80, is tied with four other filmmakers for the record for Oscar futility, losing all five times they were nominated. The others: Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, Clarence Brown and King Vidor.

Yet Altman is considered one of modern Hollywood’s boldest innovators and iconoclasts, a caustic satirist who pioneered unconventional methods, including huge ensemble casts, overlapping dialogue and tracking shots lasting minutes at a time without cutting, with the camera on the move as it flits from one character to another.

Academy board members were “taken with Altman’s innovation, his redefinition of genres, his invention of new ways of using the film medium and his reinvigoration of old ones,” said Sid Ganis, academy president. “He is a master filmmaker and well deserves this honor.”

Altman began his career in documentary, industrial and educational movies, moving into feature films with the low-budget “The Delinquents” in 1957. After working in television, he shot to fame with “MASH,” an anti-Vietnam film thinly disguised as a tale set during the Korean War.

His other movies include “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Long Goodbye,” “Popeye” and the dark Hollywood satire “The Player.”

Altman’s latest film — “A Prairie Home Companion,” based on Garrison Keillor’s radio show — is due out June 9.