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New Meetup: Robert Altman double feature...."Brewster McCloud" & "Nashville"

From: tom
Sent on: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 10:56 PM
Announcing a new Meetup for Classic Movie Fans!

What: Robert Altman double feature...."Brewster McCloud" & "Nashville"

When: Saturday, November 6,[masked]:30 PM

Where: Nancy's House
near Lake Ridge and England Parkway
Grand Prairie, TX 75054

Of all the cinematic rebels to come out of the 70s renaissance, Robert Altman was probably the most experimental. He's also one of my very favorite directors, especially what he did during that initial decade. He started directing television ( look at his Wikipedia page below for an extensive, totally complete listing ) in the late 50s, and was often in hot water over some of his unorthodox styles. In particular for one of his pioneering trademarks, overlapping dialog.

One title that Altman freaks and connoisseurs of cult cinema have been coveting forever to come out on DVD is his tripped out Houston based head movie, "Brewster McCloud" 70. This was the one he did between "M.A.S.H.", his anti-war/anti-establishment message film set not in Vietnam, but the Korean war and his sepia toned, minimalist western with Leonard Cohen songs, "McCabe and Mrs Miller". These 3 showed Altman was someone to watch. Unique and definitely different.

"Brewster McCloud" was a great example of early Altman and the off the wall style that defined much of his output in that initial 70s peak and beyond. This type of madcap huge cast/multi-storyline extravaganza was just one kind of movie he did. He also did more quiet, introspective films like "3 Women", "Images" and the aforementioned "McCabe". Yet they were just as off the wall in their own way.

Anyway, "Brewster McCloud" stars Bud Cort as a dreamy, passive lad who lived in a secret room in the then fairly new Astrodome in Houston. It was still the landmark largest indoor stadium ever built at that point, and has since been torn down. His whole mission in life was to construct wings to fly. This was the same year Cort was in that other weird, but hugely popular cult film, "Harold and Maude". This was more of an obscurity that got lost in the shuffle.

This starred a great many of Altman regulars including Shelley Duvall with pop art eyelashes in her first role, whom he discovered in Houston ( Waltrip high, class of 68 ). Michael Murphy played a perfect Steve McQueen like super detective sendup Lt. det. Frank Shaft. Rene Auberjonois played a crazed bird professor. And so many more. One odd casting choice was having Margaret Hamilton ( The wicked witch in "The Wizard of Oz" ) as socialite Daphane Heap. Her death in the movie was with the winking nod to her glittering red shoes she had in Oz.

Many of these same Altman regulars were back 5 years later in his political/country music satire, "Nashville" 75. It's amazing that this movie became so popular as it did because it's every bit as flipped out as "Brewster McCloud". Yet it's looked back as one of THE films of the 70s, and rightly so. Altman at his creative peak ( well, one of his many peaks ), and a great example of his distinctive style.

The next Altman obscurity I hope will come out soon is another political satire, "HealtH". It was set at a health food convention, but was cleverly mocking of all things the Eisenhower/Stevenson presidential races of the 50s. Glenda Jackson, who was a takeoff of Adlai Stevenson even had a shot where it was revealed there was a hole in the soles of her shoes. Clever! This was made during the presidential year of 1980, but was delayed/shelved until 82.

Perhaps it will come out on Criterion, but I seriously doubt it. It barely came out on a regular run. A few of his titles did come out on that classic movie boutique label. Among them, the aforementioned "3 Women", a mysterious story that partly came to Altman in a dream. It was one of the very few screenplays he wrote himself, and you really wish he would've wrote more. It was partly influenced by Bergman's similar themed "Persona". Also on Criterion was his superb political satire he co-wrote with Garry Trudeau called "Tanner 88: The Dark Horse". It was an 11 or 12 part series on HBO that had Michael Murphy as Jack Tanner on the campaign trail interacting with Bob Dole and Gary Hart in Iowa, etc. It was like Altman directing a Doonesbury strip, and one of the coolest things he ever attempted. Really recommended.

Don't get me started on Robert Altman. His movies are wildly eclectic and one of a kind. But he's not necessarily for everyone. I would imagine maybe a few here who are strictly into standard, traditional Hollywood fare from the 40s and 50s might find his movies a bit strange, but they are interesting to say the least. One more thing I'll say about "Brewster McCloud" is something that would be instantly indelible to anyone who lived in Houston in the late 60s is what Brewster often listens to on the radio while cruising around in the limousine he drives......the sing songy jingle to the Hudson and Harrigan show which was on a popular top 40 am station KILT. It's on the trailer below, and guaranteed to bring back memories if you were there.

These 2 Altman gems 4:30 Saturday the 13th at Nancy's place. See ya there.....,default,pd.html

****************** <--Ebert all the cinematic rebels that came out of the 70s renaissance, the late Robert Altman was probably

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