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November 21, 2006

Robert Altman Dies

Altman M-A-S-H. Nashville. Gosford Park. A Prairie Home Companion. Those were just a few of Robert Altman's films over the years. According to this article, it seemed he was never one to pine for the approval of others. A few of his candid remarks:

"No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have," Altman said while accepting the award. "I'm very fortunate in my career. I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose or develop. My love for filmmaking has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition." -- after receiving a lifetime achievement Oscar in 2006.

"This film is about death." -- on A Prairie Home Companion.

"Our mandate 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 [Vietnam] itself," Altman said. -- on M-A-S-H.

"They made millions and millions of dollars by bringing an Asian war into Americans' homes every Sunday night," Altman said in 2001. "I thought that was the worst taste." -- on the spinoff TV show M*A*S*H.

"Nobody would have thought to commit an atrocity like that unless they'd seen it in a movie," Altman said. -- criticism of Hollywood after September 11, 2001.

"I didn't make a big secret out of it, but I thought nobody would hire me again," he said after the ceremony. "You know, there's such a stigma about heart transplants, and there's a lot of us out there." -- on his heart transplant upon receiving an Oscar in 2006.

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Gina Dalfonzo

With all due respect to the dead, I truly don't see why the TV show's "bad taste" was any worse than his own proudly remembered "bad taste." From the full article, as you and I were discussing yesterday, Catherina, it seemed to be all about the "money" factor -- the show's making money off its depiction of war, that is.

So did Altman give all of HIS not insubstantial profits from the movie to an Old Soldiers' Home, or something?

(Now that I've said that, someone will probably write in to tell me that yes, he did, and then I'll look very silly. :-) )

All I can say is I grew up on "M*A*S*H" the show -- I kid you not, one of my very earliest memories is hearing that theme music playing in the living room. After many years of this, I finally saw the movie and was hugely disappointed. Though it defeinitely had its hilarious moments, there was a kind of mean-spiritedness about it that was missing from the show. It marred the film even worse than Alan Alda's everlasting preachiness (War is bad, Alan? No kidding? Wow, that's deep!) marred the last couple years of the show.

All the same, I must give Altman credit for two things: coming up with the concept behind what's still one of my favorite shows, and using Gary Burghoff as Radar -- the only actor, if I remember correctly, to make the jump from the movie to the show. I believe it was he who gave the show much of its heart, and he's always been my favorite character.

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