Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"A good sheriff in a bad town"

I never feel sad when people who've led extraordinary lives die in old age. Yes, there's a feeling of loss, but it is mostly masked by a sense of awe over what they leave behind. The work, yes, but also the human character behind the work, the trailblazing they had to do in order to create the work. Few of us will be lucky enough to leave such a decisive brushstroke in the ever-shifting human painting.

Robert Altman was outspoken about many topics, but war and Hollywood were certainly favorites. CNN quotes Altman as saying, "Our mandate [on M*A*S*H] was bad taste. If anybody had a joke in the worst taste, it had a better chance of getting into the film, because nothing was in worse taste than that war itself." After the September 11 attacks, he said Hollywood served as a source of inspiration for the terrorists by making violent action movies that amounted to training films for such attacks. "Nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they'd seen it in a movie," Altman said.

Does it seem like there are fewer and fewer iconoclasts around? Does it seem like all the teeth have been filed, like all the scenery has been nailed in place, like the bubble has finally enveloped us in pickle juice? The future won't be kind to our age of comfort and consumption, people striving with all their might to make their lives look like what the plush ones they see in the movies and the magazines. Let's remember Robert Altman as someone who threw out templates and keeping up with the Jones's in favor of the jittery, sometimes hard to grasp, chaos that surrounds us.

("A good sheriff in a bad town" is a quote from Tom Waits talking about Altman)


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