Just a quick note to lament the passing of maverick director Robert Altman, director of such classics as M*A*S*H, Nashville, and The Player, as well as other respected films like Short Cuts, Thieves Like Us, Gosford Park and this year's A Prairie Home Companion. He was making films right into his 80's, which I hope to be lucky enough to do. Altman said of his life behind the camera, "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition." Of course, even an admired veteran like himself took his share of abuse from arrogant studio execs; his film The Gingerbread Man was taken away from him, cut badly, and flopped as a result, proving that even a filmmaker with a sterling track record and the admiration of all his peers isn't immune to being abused by the system like any wet-behind-the-ears first-timer. (The Player's very bitter tone was all too clearly informed by some of Altman's own worst experiences.) We've lost one of the great ones; hopefully we've got many more years of Scorsese to soften the blow.