Thursday, January 04, 2007


I consider myself a fairly smart cookie. But I have recently been confounded. When director Robert Altman died in Novemember NPR simply gushed with praise for his cinematic work. I was intrigued. I had been meaning to put Prairie Home Companion in my Netflix queue, simply because I like the radio program so much...and Meryl Streepe. I went one step further and put Altman's much touted Nashville in the queue as well.

I have now watched both films.

I am now very confused as to what the excitement is about.

Prairie Home Companion was palletable because I know the radio show and the cast was fantastic. How can you beat Kevin Klein as Guy Noir? Or Meryl Streepe and Lilly Tomlin as singing sisters? Or John C. Reilly and Woody Harrelson as Dusty & Lefty (or Lefty and Dusty, though it doesn't really matter, they come as a pair either way). There was music and sketches, which I enjoyed, but there was also the Angel of Death and plot that meandered but didn't go anywhere...and also Lindsay Lohan, who I enjoy on the pages of People Magazine, but not in a real movie. Paul watched half and was disinterested enough to leave off at that.

Last night we watched Nashville. Again, there was music, which I enjoy. I especially enjoy cheesey bad country music and there was plenty to go around. But there was also this cast of thousands whose stories intersected randomly and whose characters were half developed and a shred of a plot that left all questions half-asked and totally unanswered at the end. Two hours in (and ready for bed) we laughed that it might go on forever because the story wasn't building toward anything at all.

Someone please tell me what I'm missing here.


Carla said...

Missing? Sounds like a very insightful analysis to me. Really enjoyed reading it. Woke me up to a bunch of stuff I miss while meandering through the movies. I'm a self-professed movie wimp (easily entertained, have stress reactions to plots as intense as The Lion King, still deeply pondering HOW the penguin in Happy Feet suddenly got out of the zoo, etc.). The angel wandering around in PHC was weird, now that I think about it, but I was probably off in la la land enjoying the crass cowboy humor and waiting for the next time I would get to see Tommy Lee Jones on the screen! He's just....just....dreamy!

More importantly, I stopped here to say "extremely cool blog!" and thanks for the opportunity to discover Craftster among the other great links you have.

Nate said...

Yeah, Altman is kind of overrated. That said, you should check out "The Player." Great movie. "MASH" is also pretty good.

I agree about Lindsey Lohan with one exception - - have you seen "Mean Girls"? AWESOME movie.

Carey said...

Okay, I am going to try to make a stab at this one... I am also going to preface my comments on APHC: TM with the disclosure that I am a pathological fan of the show. Although, that might have made me a bigtime critic of the film, since it made me so nervous that they made it in the first place. I literally sat in the theater, gripping the armrests, and whispered frantically, "please don't suck..." over and over and then broke down in tears at the end when it didn't.

I had to think about my answer to the question because I just knew that I liked Altman's films, but couldn't really explain why I liked them. I think, part of the issue, is context. A Prairie Home Companion: The Movie (and to some extent, the radio show) speaks to something that doesn't really exist in our world anymore. Something primal. Something about the relationships between the people in our lives that are so mundane, yet so so important and beautiful. Maybe even profound against the way in which the Texas guy (how obvious was that symbol??) has cut himself off from appreciating life in it's mundane yet important and beautiful details. And that that is death. And even though we can't touch that existance everyday, it's always in our hearts. And we can get there via our imaginations. I think that Altman does a nice job of doing ensemble work. And I think the point of the film is to discover a truth about humanity. That's what I think. (I think that the same thing was true with Nashville and it's context -- 1976, post-Watergate, Nixon. Probably true with MASH, as well, as set against Vietnam).

Carey said...

I agree with Nate. Mean Girls is an awesome film. I just quoted it again today. I also showed it once in confirmation and accidentally played the word "shit." It pretty much made the kids year. Good to know there is some innocence left. Anyway, yeah, Mean Girls rulez.

emdunbar said...

Carla--I'm so glad I could introduce you to Crafter. I'm kind of obsessed with it--checking it constantly to see what people are making. It's also taught me a lot. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for checkning out the blog!

Carey & Nate--I will rescind my Lindsay Lohan slam in part because, you are right, Mean Girls is a fantastic movie. I watched it with my high school youth at church, too. Good stuff. It's no Herbie Fully Loaded...but they can't all be homeruns.