Terrence Rafferty on Robert Altman‘s finally getting an honorary career achievement award from the Academy on March 5th, and how he “pretty emphatically qualifies as overdue…he has been overdue for 30 years.” Of course, Rafferty’s New York Times piece zeroes in on Altman’s great five-year period when he made M*A*S*H (’70), McCabe & Mrs. Miller (’71), The Long Goodbye (which was barely paid attention to when it opened in ’73), Thieves Like Us (’74), California Split (’74) and Nashville (’75), and says they “still look like the core of his achieve- ment…[films] we talk about when we talk about Robert Altman.” Rafferty trashes some others (Quintet, Health, Pret-a-Porter, The Company), and salutes Altman’s two later-in-life winners: The Player (’92) and Gosford Park (’02). The early ’70s worked well for the soon-to-be 81 year-old filmmaker because “the conditions were right for Altman’s loose-jointed, intuitive, risk-courting approach to making movies, and the planets over Hollywood haven’t aligned themselves in that way since. The wondrous opportunity those years afforded adventurous filmmakers like him was that studio executives, for once in their ignoble history, actually knew that they had no idea what they were doing.”