November 09, 2005



First, an utterly embarrassing correction, which no one, remarkably, has demanded of me yet. In this week's Pop Note, I allege, incorrectly, that "Kerosene" quotes The Monkees' "I'm A Believer." Any dumbass—though apparently not this dumbass—will recognize the harmonica quote as a reference to the harmonica part from The Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better." This fits, thematically. And is incredibly fucking famous. There is no bigger and better word than "duh."

All kinds of feelings about this Robert Altman:

Jordan: "Popeye."

Joe Gross: "I'm a fan of even shitty Altman, and God knows there's plenty. Altman was a rite of passage in my amateur film buff household, along with 8 1/2, Godfather 1 and 2, and a whole mess more.

My mom is a HUGE Altman fan, and is fairly well convinced that Nashville and Three Women are among the most compelling films of all time.

My grandfather, God rest his soul, went to his grave thinking Popeye was one of the most slept-on surrealist films of the '80s. I even hold Short Cuts, Gosford Park, and Secret Honor close to my heart. Never could get through HEALTH, tho Clover's spot-on about McCabe. Amazing movie, one of the top five westerns ever made. Still can't stand Prêt-à-Porter and The Player, though.

What I go to Altman for is performance, frankly. Something about the guy can yank out the cold blue steel best in all sorts of personalities: Tim Robbins' nasty cop in Short Cuts is a masterpiece of everyday cruelty. Maggie Smith, the great Michael Gambon, Clive Owen and Helen Mirren in Gosford Park. Shelly Duval and Sissy Spacek in the deeply bizarre Three Women. Elliot Gould in Long Goodbye. Almost everyone in Nashville and MASH. Most of my friends find Philip Baker Hall's ranting Nixon in Secret Honor unwatchable and over the top, but if you look at it as a portrait of Nixon's id, rather than literally Nixon, it works better. Dr. T and the Women nailed aspects of Dallas right on the nose, and he squeezed a real-live decent performance out of Richard Gere, which was just amazing to witness (Shelly Long is always good, though.) Jesus, I even liked The Company.

Some pals and critic-pals find Altman's treatment of women problematic, to which I again defer to my mom, who always felt that a theme that Altman comes back to again and again is the cruelty that men can inflict on women. Now, does that come from a place of misogyny in Altman? I don't have a clue, but he makes it work, and we take from it what we do."

Alex: "Three words for Mr. Clover, on the handliing multiple plots: John Fucking Sayles."

Posted by Sasha at November 9, 2005 05:46 PM | TrackBack