Along with Martin Scorsese, Alfred Hitchcock, King Vidor, and Clarence Brown, Robert Altman holds the dubious record for most best director Oscar nominations without a win: all five men have been "just happy to be here" five times. Now, though, Altman, whose nominations have been for MASH, The Player, Nashville, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park, is going to get his well-deserved statuette, even if it is just honorary.

It's hard to overstate what Altman has meant to American movies. Always unconventional, his improvisational techniques, innovative use of sound, long takes, and broad, rambling stories have, over the years, given Hollywood entirely new ways too look at filmmaking. Though they can never like the man enough to just vote for him already, Academy members decided Altman deserves a lifetime award because of his "innovation, his redefinition of genres, his invention of new ways of using the film medium and his reinvigoration of old ones." Amen.

I think it's safe to assume that Altman will not be spending the next two months carefully revising his acceptance speech. Whatever he says, we'll get to hear it on March 5, during the thirteen hour Oscar ceremony.