THE SQUID & THE WHALE and THE DYING GAUL
Before accepting his career-achievement prize at the Academy Awards this year, director Robert Altman - his voice-over accompanying clips from his works - explained his raison d'etre: "Stories don't interest me," he said. "Basically, I'm more interested in behavior." Considering his contributions to film, the admission made perfect sense - how do you adequately describe the story of M*A*S*H or Nashville or Short Cuts? But it also touched on something elemental about the movie-going experience, in terms of the emotional connections we often make with the characters on-screen. When these literally two-dimensional figures reveal themselves to be as complicated and unpredictable, as human, as we are - when we recognize their behavior with a laugh or a nod or a wince - "story" doesn't really matter a damn; the experience of watching characters just being can be its own spellbinding reward.