little-loved altman.

In this nine-part series, The Pink Smoke will be plumbing the murky depths of the filmography of legendary director Robert Altman, a master of le cinema who in his wildly inconsistent career created not only some legendarily awful movies, but at least a dozen films overlooked and half-remembered even by his admirers. We'll be skipping consensus "secret masterpieces" like California Split and Secret Honor in order to focus on his most polarizing, universally despised and simply forgotten films.

 

popeye by paul cooney

When I'm not busy ogling (appreciating?) high school girls, I'm occasionally called upon to peruse some films, cinema goddamnit, and to share my thoughts on them. Why do I do it? Maybe because my longtime stylist and all-around ingenue and muse Glendaly has gone and skipped town Wanderers-style and I have to find some consolation in art.

Which is a waste of time of course, unless by art you mean pornography, which is one of the greatest inventions ever. How so you ask? Cuz it works! How successful is smut? Is there another aspect of your life that consistently delivers a quality product and produces satisfactory results almost without fail? Your toaster perhaps, but it's only a matter of time before it goes on the fritz.

I digress. Robert Altman, that asshole. Now if you'll allow me to be profane for a moment.  Fuck that clown. I'm no cineaste. I gots better things to do than to watch foofy films and wax poetic about angles and prints. Jiminey Crickets, I live within 5 miles of several all girl academies I'll have you know! I have shit to do! Important shit! But I keep abreast of things enough to notice that Bobby Altman enjoys a quality reputation for some undeserved reason, when I can unreservedly say he's an overrated shitstain who isn't fit to direct my bowel movements into the bowl. How do you like them apples?

What am I basing this on? M*A*S*H! I saw that hyped-up piece of clap trap once and I've had sense enough to avoid every other thing that odious purveryor of pretentious gobbledy goo has put out since. The Player? F U.

So I was happily living in an Altman-free world and quietly enjoying the news of his death lo this many years when suddenly I'm asked to watch Popeye. As a gentleman I accepted this challenge. As a man of great sense and impeccable taste, I abandoned said task halfway through! The film was just that awful and I don't want to rise up on my deathbed and cause my nurse/prostitute to wince as I lament wasted moments on this earth watching crummy films when I could have been fondling her instead.

Even before the opening credits have finished rolling I'm saddened to see that the great Robert Evans* (who banged em all didn't he?) was involved in this, though I am heartened to learn that he reviled that asshole Altman and, were it not for "laws," would surely have murdered him.

Hmm hello what's this? Jules Feiffer wrote the script and although I know almost nothing about him I have an irrational hatred for him, much like my long-standing and baseless disdain for Spalding Grey and Randy Quaid. May that trio rot in hell.

The movie begins with singing, which is strike 1 through 33. Singing? In a movie? What the shit is this? Unless Chris Plummer or Natalie Wood is involved nobody should ever sing in a movie, and that goes double for Robin Williams. Shouldn't he be consoling Matt Damon anyway? You get him to cry once and you think you can abandon him to put on a sailor's suit and sing songs? It's like you want him to get molested all over again, you hairy monster!

I already hate this movie and it's barely 5 minutes old. Is there a chance the helicopter that killed Vic Morrow could make a cameo? The sad thing is I know it's going to get even worse cuz Shelley Duvall hasn't even shown up yet.

Oh no! Paul Dooley is involved! I imagine his perf as Wimpie came on the heels of his great showing as the dad in Breaking Away. Now there was a fine film! Ellis from Die Hard without his beard! Dennis Quaid before Meg Ryan turned him into a broken down drunk! Robyn Douglass in short shorts!

Linda Hunt! Linda Hunt playing a woman for once! I imagine she signed on for this picture cuz it was the rare opportunity for her to be more sexually attractive than the female lead. Ouch! Take that Shelley Duvall, you just got zinged!

Did you know that famed douchebag Roger Ebert raved about this atrocity? That just shows that although he lost his face only recently, his mind has been gone for a long time now. When he finally does kick it, take time out from reading the gushing obituaries to remember he praised Popeye. If there was justice in this world he would have been murdered 30 years ago. Siskel awaits you in hell you hack!

A rare bright spot in this uninteresting mess. Duvall calls Williams short. Burn! Williams has a retort, but since he's mumbling every line I have no idea what he said. I imagine it had something to do with her hideousness, or the fact that were she in Auschwitz the other inmates would have told her to eat something. How did she attain fame and fortune anyway? Rarely has anorexia been so rewarded. She's like a skeleton with a skirt! I think the actual animated cel of Olive Oyl outweighs Skelly Duvall! Yuk yuk yuk!

I'm somewhat fascinated by this movie in that it seems to prove just how fucking stupid the bulk of humanity is. Some clod with undeserved clout like Altman shows up and orders people to do these incredibly silly and stupid things and everyone complies cuz no one has the guts/sense to tell him that making a musical about Popeye is a fucking terrible idea.

It reminds me of Eyes Wide Shut. After seeing that piece of shit, I wished my eyes had in fact remained shut! LOL! (Except when they were showing boobies on screen, of course.)

Clearly if Johnny Anonymous or Mark Lester had directed Popeye or Eyes Wide Suck, and kept every single frame the same, those movies would have been vilified/ignored. But some pompous old douche puts his name on it and you have a bunch of ass clowns unwilling to admit that the shit they just sat through is poo. Well fuck them and fuck you!

Where was I? Skeleton Duvall sings about Bluto being large. Spoiler alert! We never do get a dong shot, so I'm not sure if she meant his ego or his wang. Maybe when Criterion finally gets around to putting out the definitive edition that mystery will be solved.

It's a terrible song in any case and poorly sung. I'm truly puzzled as to who exactly could ever find this entertaining. Do they not have high school girls in the part of the world where these movies are made?

Another song comes up...it appears to be dubbed, and as a Broadway purist I find that offensive. During the 90's, if you wanted to find me you had to come down to row 1 seat 7 at the Winter Garden theater, where I took in Cats nightly and twice on Sundays. It was my church, my temple, my pagoda, my whatever. And it would have been now and forever except those bureacrats in Washington shut it down! That's another story, but the point is those cats never lip synched! Never dubbed! When they warbled, it was from the heart and the loins! Omg those loins. People talk about horses being hung, but I'm telling you some of those tabby's could put Secretariat to shame, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

In any case musicals are fucking idiotic. Why the fuck are you singing? Shut up! And why Popeye? In the annals of cartoons he kind of sucked. A spinach-eating sailor who had the hots for a skinny broad. Boring! How about the Katzenjammer Kids? There is a pair of scamps I would follow around! I bet they got into all sorts of old timey knickers and hijinx. Maybe even lojinx! Lol!

I wish I had a slide whistle right now. That reminds me...Tintin? Who the fuck likes that style of animation? Polar Express sucked and Tintin looks like it do too. Either make a cartoon or don't, and whichever way you go leave Jamie Bell behind. Billy Elliot should have been strangled in the crib.

Yet another digression...where was I? Hmm I think that gargantuan fat fellow on screen now is Terror from the Fordham Baldies in The Wanderers.** You know the Baldies shaved their heads so their hair wouldn't get in their eyes while they fought? If they were forced to watch Popeye, they would lament their lack of bangs! O for some stray locks to block the view of this terrible terrible spectacle before me!

Skelly and Williams are engaging in a duet of some sort. Gross. I haven't seen a more repulsive pair since rape and pestilence hooked up. Or maybe Aids and crack without the Bernie Goetz. Is Billy Joel dead yet? Fingers crossed!

I've never deceived my loyal readers before and I'm not about to now...this movie is truly fucking awful and there ain't no fucking way I'm gonna make it to the end. Williams is singing "I Yam what I Yam" or some bullshit and I'm thinking there is probably a Jamie Chung straight to dvd picture I could be watching right now instead. I Yam a degenerate and I really shouldn't be watching Robin Williams in non "mentoring dreamy young boy" roles.

In summation: M*A*S*H glorified a bunch of derelict boozehounds who undoubtedly performed countless surgeries while drunk, thus killing some of our under-educated heroes who lacked the wherewithal to get out of going to a bullshit war/police action. Elliot Gould is gross and Donald Sutherland is an underrated treasure.

Nashville I know almost nothing about save it is named Nashville and thus associated with the South and thus stupid and gross. May Allah bless General Sherman and give him many divisions and combustibles in the afterlife.

Ready to Wear is similar to Eyes Wide Shut in that an old no-talent used his reputation to film a shitfest filled with pretty ladies wearing next to nothing, which I can almost respect.

Fuck you Robert Altman, you're tacky and I hate you.

 

* Evans' thoughts on Popeye: "From the costuming to the casting to the post-production, I loved the film. I think it was possibly his most ambitious undertaking. Because it was so different but not obscure. It's terribly entertaining. I think Bob was twenty years ahead of his time. I think the picture is terrific. I think he did a wonderful job on it that no one else could have done. I think they should re-release it today. I think the picture is a work of genius. And I've watched it recently. If you can see a film and sit there for two hours and laugh and cry during that two hours, and be entertained, I think you have a hit. But I was wrong. It was one of the biggest disappointments of my career. I think it was Bob's best work."

** Incorrect, Paul. Terror was played by the late, great Dutch export Erland van Lidth. An MIT graduate and former wrestler who would have made the Olympic team had the US not boycotted the 1980 Moscow games, Erland eventually made a splash as a bass-baritone on the New York opera scene. Like James Dean, he appeared in a mere four movies: as Terror in The Wanderers, Grossberger in Stir Crazy, "Fatty" Elster in Alone in the Dark and Dynamo in The Running Man, in which he was able to parlay his opera talents to portray a Wagner-belting, buggy-riding, Christmas light-wearing gladiator/rapist pursuing Schwarzenegger and Maria Conchita Alonso (he died of heart failure the year it was released.) Popeye's Oxblood Oxheart was played by Canadian Peter Bray, who usually worked for Altman behind the scenes (transportation coordinator on Quintet, production assistant on HealtH.) He later became a producer of TV movies such as Ted Kotcheff's Family of Cops, the first of a trilogy that would serve as Charles Bronson's swan song.

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