From the master of independent cinema, Robert Altman, comes the blackest of satires, The Player. Postmodern, intelligent, suspenseful, funny, brilliant. All of these very useful adjectives apply to this film. There is no way around it: The Player is great.The Player, as I stated, is a black satire from the director of Short Cuts, M*A*S*H, and Nashville. It follows Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins), a villain we love to hate, and, ironically, our main character. Mills is getting postcards. Each one is a threat on his life, and telling others, due to the fact that his position as a studio exec is threatened by up-and-coming producer Larry Levy (Peter Gallagher), is a threat on his career.At the beginning, Mills is charismatic, even likable. But he's quickly shown for the snake that he is. In the words of Tim Robbins, who deserved but was not even nominated for an academy award for his role, "he's manipulative, he's a son of a bitch." It's true, it's all true.The threatening postcards lead him to believe that a writer is sending them. A rejected writer. However, in the cruel industry of movies which kills more ideas than WWII killed people, this does not narrow it down. What does narrow it down is one of the more bizarre moments of the film. He's in the hot tub with Bonnie, story editor and girlfriend (and, by, the way, the only moral character of the movie), when he asks her about his own life. However, unable to formulate it into his own life, he explains it through movies. He gives her a pitch, asks her how long it will be before the writer-in-question becomes dangerous, and she narrows the selection of writers down by providing a five-month time period before danger arrives.Using this, he selects David Kahayne, hack-writer of the bubonic plague of Hollywood: the unhappy ending. David's what movie people call "unproduced", a writer who's a member of the WGA (Writer's Guild of America, which holds a fairly good monopoly on writers in Hollywood) but who hasn't sold a script. He calls his girlfriend June Gudmundsdottir (Gretta Scacchi, pronounced good man's daughter) and finds out where to find him. The surprise there, of course, is that his nickname is, according to June is "the dead man".Kahayne is in Pasadena, enjoying himself at the Rialota watching The Bicycle Thief. Mills confronts him about the postcards, and, in a fit of rage, kills him in a parking lot. Of course, fitting with the Hollywood that it satires so well, he didn't kill the right person. And now, Griffen Mills is being investigated by the police, is falling in love with June, is trying to secure his position as head of the studio, and, on top of it all, fearing for his life.The movie is artistically brilliant and interestingly postmodern. In a very ironic way, the ending is the beginning: a pitch by the mysterious psychotic writer of a movie called The Player, about the events you have just seen. It references itself: naming the record for a tracking shot in an American motion picture (formerly held by Orson Wells' Touch of Evil) while breaking it. Having a main character from D.O.A. being asked if he remembers the film. Talking about eliminating the writers from the artistic process the day after Mills has murdered the writer.There normally isn't much I can say about a film. In my life, there are maybe ten films I could go on and on about, and you have the luck to hopefully see this one. It makes statements. It predicts things. It was ironic at the time it came out and is ironic now.For instance, Griffin Mills is quoted as saying "movies are art, now more than ever" while, at the very same time in the real world, movies were flocking back to the existence of the art film. It is sheltered in a unique ambiguity: June discovers the Mills killed her boyfriend and doesn't care. The good are punished, the bad survive: Bonnie is fired and left for proverbial dead while June and Mills live happily ever after.This is the film for movie buffs. It makes you stop and think about what speeds in front of your face at 24 frames a second. It states things about the industry in a uniquely detached manner, where people talk about all the dark things of the industry as if they were drinking cappuccinos.For instance, another quote by Griffin Mills, asshole producer but satiric god, addresses the elements needed in a modern studio film: "Suspense, laughter, violence. Hope, heart. Nudity, sex. Happy Endings."It is brilliant. It is one that you have to own. It is the movie to watch.