Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Robert Altman 1925 - 2006



This very weekend I sat and watched A Prairie Home Companion. It was a lovely thing – funny and sad and whimsical. Very much the sort of thing you’d expect from a collaboration of Garrison Keillor and Robert Altman. It’s got the sort of down-home, Mid-West low key charm you expect from Keillor and the rolling, dialogue over dialogue doesn’t really have a plot appeal of Altman.

Watching the documentaries about the movie I learned that the studio hired a secondary director just in case Altman died while making it. Now I’ve learned he really has died, and I’m suddenly inexplicably sad.

I can’t begin to say I’ve seen all of the director’s 87 films, nor can I pretend to have liked all the ones I watched (I’ve never found MASH to be all that funny, Nashville is snoresville to me, and I can’t seem to ever make it through McCabe and Mrs. Miller) but there are so many film that I love and cherish that the world’s loss, is my loss too.

Who can forget that night in Mullins dorm watching the endless, rambling and oh so entertaining Player, or Short Cuts? He managed to update The Long Goodbye to the 70’s making it relevant all over again, and almost out Bogied Bogie with Elliot Gould of all people.

He made a musical out of Popeye, and damn what the critics say, he made it great.

More recently he turned created a wonderful Upstairs/Downstairs murder mystery and forgot to tell us whodunit.

His style was more laid back than grilled cheese. He seemed to just let the camera roll and the actors do what they please. Sometimes this didn’t work and we go something more of a mess than a film. But when it worked it was pure gold.

Rest in Peace Robert Altman, you deserve it.

29 comments:

Jamison said...

PHC... i catch it occationally on NPR. Ive caught myself listening more and more to NPR. Not the news, i mean, how many times can I hear the same crap over and over again about Iraq or how stupid Bish is. But the music, and PHC, and the stories you hear is pretty good. Much better than the crap on the radio now days.

Didnt know the guy from adam, but prairie home companion is a good NR show...

Brewster said...

Public radio is great. NPR, PRI all of them do some great shows. PHC is fun, there's another folk show that's great (i forget the name) Car Talk, This American Life, the quiz show, Fresh Air. Good stuff, especially on weekends.

I dig the news too and would argue against your opinion of it, but what would be the point?

I'm not sure who "Bish" is or what he had to do with Iraq, but if Jamison thinks he's smart then he's ok in my book.

Jamison said...

i like fresh air, car talk, "wait wait, dont tell me", etc... ill admit fox news may lean to the right (which is why I dont watch it anymore) but to deny that NPR leans left would be hilarious (which, again, is why i dont listen to their news).

Same reason Ive dumped Hannity and Rush from my listening menu. Ive had it with hearing one sided stuff... and as for politics, they are all the same, both sides. I actually refused to vote this past election...

I wouldnt say Bush is all that bright, but the "bush is dumb" and the "Bush Lied!" retoric is so old and over used you have a better chance of selling me a 1992 corvette again than convincing me of those points.

Please, dont legitimize my political rant with a retort, otherwise these comments will go on for days... and I hate politics now.

Brewster said...

I wouldn't deny NPR leans to the left. I lean to the left. What I like about their news shows is they actually do report the news (whereas cable news shows tend to comment on the news but don't report it) they actually try to give both sides to every story, they give me a lot more news stories to think about (where again the cable networks comments on the same three stories over and over again) and even when they have commentary it is actual commentary (read one person gives a side then another person gives a side - where TV tends to have the two sides in one room yelling at each other)

I've also never heard anyone on NPR say that bush is stupid. But maybe that's just me.

Frankly you cant get news that isn't slanted one way or another, and personally I find I enjoy NPRs over most.

Jamison said...

Ill give you all that... however, there is something that makes me feel dirty about a radio station that is funded by our government telling me the news... when the news is primarilty political news...

bigsip said...

I love NPR. Don't listen to it much these days, though. I got tired of all news a ways back. Of all the news outlets I have ever sampled, NPR is probably the best. They take most of their stuff straight from Reuters and the Associated Press (AP). You can't get any more acurate news reeporting than those two services. They just tell what happened: no slant.

Programming-wise, the public radio stations are way to the left, but news-wise, they seem to be the best alternative these days, which ain't saying much.

Brewster said...

We have a local radio that runs the "real news" which is nothing but half hour of bush is stupid, the war is stupid and murderous and terrible, pro lifers are stupid, republicans are stupd, evil warmongers etc.

I certainly can't listen to that.

But yeah Prairie home is great, and Robert Altman was too. Why are we not talking about his movies.

bigsip said...

Um, I liked MASH. I never knew he did it. I don't know who he is, man. Sorry.

You know me, I don't really scratch the surface of entertainment. Maybe Mullins will pop on here and know something about Mr. Altman. I just don't really have anything to say.

Brewster said...

Geesum, its called culture people. Get some.

A few of his films:

Prairie Home Companion
Gosford Park
Kansas City
Short Cuts
the Player
Popeye
TheLong Goodbye
Nashville
MASH
Mcabe and Mrs. Miller


Surely you've seen some. And if not, I recommend them. You'd like Gosford Park, I think sip. Its a classic British upstairs/downstairs murder mystery that pays more attention to the characters and their "place" than it does the actual mystery.

And I know we all watched either Short Cuts or the Player in Mullins dorm room one night.

Where is mullins to back me up.

bigsip said...

I saw Gosford Park...it was pretty good.

I don't consider movies culture. But, some of them are fun to watch.

I saw Popeye and didn't care for it.

It's entertainment. There's just not much to say from my perspective.

Brewster said...

Explain to me again how the arts aren't a part of culture.

bigsip said...

I don't consider movies art...

This is all subjective, remember.

Perhaps there are some that could loosely be considered art, but an overwhelming number in the high 90s% are simply made for money and entertainment.

Anyway, I'm not into them, so I can't really carry on an in-depth conversation about them or their members. I didn't know this dude's name till you posted it here, after all.

Anyway, I'll leave the discussion to the guys who like movies and the stuff behind them. I just don't have anything to add, really.

Brewster said...

What a load of pompous crap.

Movies most certainly are art.

Show me a painter, writer, singer, dancer, playwright who doesn't make their art for money.

Just because a lot of movies are crap doesn't make the medium less of an art form. John Grisham writes mindless drivel, but that doesn't make Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, or Chandler less of an artist.

In fact in some ways movies are a more challenging art form than the rest because they have to use visual , written and aural forms to produce their art.

I understand that you don't study film, that you don't read the latest movie magazines, visit IMDB or memorize box office numbers. But you like movies, or you go to them and you talk about them, and own them. So why act like they are beneath you?

I also understand your opinion that only your christian walk matters in this world and all forms of art pale in comparison. but why single movies out as a non existent art form?

And movies are most certainly a part of our culture. An important one at that.

Go watch The Seventh Seal, Wild Strawberries, Jules and Jim, Casablanca, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Seven Samari, 2001, and Citizen Kane and then tell me movies aren't art.

I'm not quite as excited as all that sounds, but saying movies aren't art is just ludicrous. To say they aren't culture is to not pay attention.

Brewster said...

PS I'm heading out the door for the inlaws. I'll be back lateish on Thanksgiving day since the wife has to work at 6AM on the day after. Talk about needing prayers, working with the crazy shopping crowd will most definitely need help from above.

If the discussion furthers I'll follow up late thursday or Friday.

Happy Turkey day everybody.

bigsip said...

Dude, I said it was subjective. I don't think movies mean much. That's my opinion. If you don't like it then that's your opinion.

I grew up in a rich, cultural atmosphere where my family made beautiful things every day, made music together on a regular basis, wrote stories and read, interviewed family members and documented the interviews just to pass down the love and cultural heritage we hold dear.

Perhaps now you might have an inkling as to why movies are so meaningless to me. Trying to get me excited about the "artfulness of cinema" after experiencing the cultural heritage I hold dear amounts to the cliche of "trying to squeeze blood from a turnip".

There's really no point in getting excited about my opinion. I have one and that's it. I come from a cultural and familial background that makes it difficult and near impossible for me to think things like movies, pop music, and video games should have any bearing on my existence.

Perhaps that is a weakness, but I'm proud of my heritage, culture, and identity. I just can't really get excited about movies. I don't see why that's a big deal. This is all my OPINION. Don't take it personally.

Love you Brew. Have a great T-Day!

Brewster said...

Well like I said I definitely am not as upset as I'm sure that sounded. Not upset at all really.

The concept just bewilders me and the particulars confuse. Actually you're an odd man Mr. Sipper, and I like to try to figure you out.

Obviously some art forms are important to you. But they have more importance when they are created by you or your family.

I love to sing with my wife. Sometimes we'll sing a few devo songs on a road trip and its just magic.

Yet I also like the songs themselves. The words and the melodies have meaning to me. Even secular songs. And certain artists evoke special moments as well.

We've had this discussion before and I guess I never will understand your perspective.

The particulars confuse me too because you're saying movies are meaningless to you, but I don't really believe you. They have some meaning or you wouldn't watch them or own them.

You recently brought up Harry Potter of which you've only seen the movies. Why bring him up if it is meaningless?

See what I'm saying? I'm not saying that HP is as important to you as holding your child in your arms or the all night sing fests you have with your family. But HP holds some kind of meaning to you.

It really is the same to me. Pit any movie against my wife and Amy wins every time.

But show me the scene in casablanca where the resistence begins singing the French anthem and I'm quite literally moved every single time.

And I know I said I was leaving. The wife is still eating and I started to worry I sounded really harsh with that last post and wanted to make sure there are no hard feelings.

We're just yakking and opinionating as always.

Rachel said...

Interesting that to someone who didn't know you, Josh, it sounds like you grew up wealthy, frequenting art museums and opera houses.

Jamison said...

i think movies are art, but there is good art and bad art. Popeye was bad art. Lord of the rings was good art.

Honestly, I had heard the guys name before, but didnt know a thing he had ever done.

Try saying "movies arent art" to the guys working in the creature creation department, the miniatures department, the animation department, the computer graphics department, and the costume department. The people who painted the backdrops in the "Wizard of Oz" were artists, were they not? They created art, did they not? To say that they are not artists is to say that Rachel is no artist when she does things in PhotoShop...

I think those are art. The movie is just a collection of many hard working artists work.

Perhaps Sip is suggesting that the act of making a movie is art, but to call a movie "Art" is like calling an art museum "Art" when in fact it simply houses art peices. Much the same way a movie houses artists work...?

But then you have to say "The movie isnt art, but the scenes with gollum in it are art."

Of course, most would argue that acting, and drama is an art. So movies are art.

To say that only "Paintings" or scuptures done by 4 or 5 people 100 years ago is the only art on earth is incorrect (in my opinion). There are many "forms" of art, and painting is not the only form. Theatre is art, and movies are simply theatre, not live, and on a screen... some would argue.

Just my take. Of course, the opinions here vary. I think Robin WIlliams is a horrible comedian and has never made me laugh... yet he makes thousands laugh. However, he is still a comedian, whether I like him or not.

bigsip said...

HAHA! Funny Rachel.

Yes, movies aren't completely meaningless to me. I should modify that to say that they entertain me but don't afffect me much more than that overall.

I have been moved by cinema, but honestly I forget about most movies after I watch them, except for movie quote games Jamison likes to play.

I am an oddball. I just have a loyalty complex I think...

Rachel said...

We're getting into the whole broad definition of art v. high art thing again. What I do in Photoshop is an art form, yes. But it isn't fine art by any stretch.

I agree with Jamison about art within movies. Some performances are good art, some sets are, some photography is. A lot of it is really bad, though, and kind of brings down the rest.

I feel that way about a lot of modern painting personally- that it brings down the definition of art in general.

kellieja said...

all I can do is GASP. im off to eat turkey now.

Jamison said...

You said it Kellie J... enjoy your t-giving feast.. that goes for all! Stay safe and, rather than focus on what we dont have, look at how much you do have, and (as Hallmark-Channel-esque as this may sound) be thankful.

mmullinz8 said...

I can’t believe we’re talking about “what is art” again…

Altman was an excellent director and story teller. Putting a film together is a craft of the highest caliber and set. Putting it together in a way that works is where the art happens. Most of the movies that are released to the general public are not meant to be some sort of art, they are simply meant to entertain. Whether or not that happens is purely subjective.

What the Dir. Of Photography did on the LOTR was an art and skill, Jackson’s ability to transpose those books onto film is an art and skill that very few people have. There are a lot of smaller art forms that can work together or against each other to make a film or television show. The LOTR series may not be viewed as art but the individual elements that went into making the movie are. Whether or not you think the Motion Picture Academy is crap or not it did recognize those films for their respective crafts and they were finally right on the mark.

I liked MASH, Josh liked MASH, Brew didn’t like MASH, it’s an equal call either direction. Popeye was fun, Short Cuts was really good and many of his other movies were good.

Making a TV show isn’t art but if you’re watching a show and really enjoy it consider the script writer and his trade, the dir of photography, the editor, these are all skills and easy to judge side by side. Some shows suck, some shows are really good.

I don’t care for Dali (one of the worlds most regarded) as an artist I prefer Maxfield Parrish and Mucha, it’s a style thing. I like some modern art and I think it elevates the direction traditional art can move. I hate Andy Warhol and many of his contemporaries.

Sipper, what your family does in their singings or writings or what ever may not be an art because there are tons of people who do the exact same thing but it does allow you to appreciate like forms from a unique perspective. Baking bread for some can be an art too.

Rachel said...

Mucha's one of my faves, too.

bigsip said...

Hope everyone had a great T-Day!

I certainly don't want to get into the art definition thing again.

I'll just say that some movies are good. They're entertaining and fun. I'm glad we can all take enjoyment in them.

I'm sleepy...too...much...tur...key...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Jamison said...

i had a fine t-day as well. Documented in pictures on my webshots page should anyone find 10 minutes of bordum and nothing to do. The link is on the blog page, right hand side.

bigsip said...

Per our previous discussion about my postings...

I have an interview on Wednesday for an English teacher position at Lee High School.

I'm still hopeful about an interview at Dannelly as well, but haven't heard anything yet.

Y'all keep up the prayers, please. Hopefully I'll have a list of jobs to choose from!

Brewster said...

Thank you sipper. Good luck and prayers are continually being said.

I just had a bummer of a deal. I recently went to a temp place and it turns out a former coworker works there so she is busy looking for me as well. She thought she had something, but it fell through.

Darn.

bigsip said...

Thanks, Brew.

We hope and pray for you, too.

I'm so happy to have something to go on. I'm good in an interview, so I expect this to go well.

Like I said, I'm still hopeful about a couple of other opportunities, so keep praying about the broader picture. I know not yet God's plan.

We shall see!