Tuesday, November 21, 2006

come back, jimmy dean

I'm in Burlington now. Spent the afternoon downtown walking around. I wish I had remembered to bring my camera with me, the UVM campus looked particularly beautiful.

Driving home, I turned on NPR and caught the tail end of a Fresh Air interview with Robert Altman, only to hear Terry Gross say that Altman had died last night.

I gasped — the way I gasped when Paul Wellstone died — although I guess it didn't carry the same surprise. Altman was an old man who had undergone a heart transplant. But he was also one of my favorite filmmakers of all time. Just yesterday I had read a review of Babel and Fast Food Nation that pointed out that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
and Richard Linklater were trying to do what Altman did so well — weaving together seemingly disparate stories together — but they weren't doing it with his artistry.

Watch an Altman film over the weekend. My favorites are M*A*S*H, Nashville and Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean. Andrew was once able to explain the merits of O.C. and Stiggs, but I was young and impressionable and thought Andrew walked on water, so I'm not so sure the argument still stands.

You'll be missed, Mr. Altman.


John Bell said...

I am in Taos and have stayed away from the news (okay the satellite TV isn't working so we're forced...). I hadn't heard about Robert Altman. He was one of my favorite directors. When I was a wee youngster, I worked the venice Film Festival. He was there with Come back to the Five and Dime... We had a chance to interview him. What a guy. Sad. But his is a life to celebrate. He was a man who seemed to understand the joy of work. Even though we all consider him very successful, he made a conscious choice not to produce movies driven by box office "head of the tail" dynamics.

abf said...

Sorry to be the beater of bad news, Johnny B, but thanks for sharing.

The quote that I keep hearing from Altman this week -- in the Terry Gross interview and in today's New York Times -- is that Altman, when asked what he thought about being called a "cult" director, said that a cult means "not enough people to make a minority". He knew that the long tail was what mattered and what allowed him to keep doing what he wanted to do.

By the way, JB, many of us young people read our news online. You should try it.