Michael Powell's Peeping Tom is one of the most troubling and beautiful films I have ever seen in my life. For those who've not seen it - its a story of a young man who murders women while photographing them for reasons unrevealed here. I would recommend the picture for anyone who can handle a well-crafted film that is disturbing. While talking about the art of film direction Martin Scorsese said that "there are two films that a person needs to watch to understand directing. Fellini's 8 1/2 and Powell's Peeping Tom because it really shows how you must be willing to alter a person's will to the artistic vision."
Sometimes in the midst of being a movie snob we forget the things that made us love the medium in the first place. The Back to the Future Trilogy was one of the first DVDs I bought when my family got our first DVD player. I had seen the movies when I was a kid and I loved them. That never really changed, but I watched them so many times that when I watched them I would quote or even preempt a character's statement with the statement myself. I couldn't get a soul to watch the movies (especially the first one) with me. It was time to put the trilogy on the shelf for a while.
Last week, I decided it was time to take it back off the shelf and give her another watch. It had been a while and my taste in movies isn't as "80's teen comedy" as it was at one point. I must admit, however, that Back to the Future still made me laugh and smile with the joy that it did four and a half years ago.
So what? What does this have to do with any of you? I suggest that you go out and watch a movie that you used to love and that you stopped watching for a while for any number of reasons. Does it still have the mystique? Does it bring you the same joy? Why or why not? Its the same movie after all.
I know that I have been a little preoccupied on one person as of late. He died two years ago on Thursday. I cannot avoid the tributes on Roger Ebert's page. The man made some of the finest American Films of the 1970s rendering them some of the finest American films ever made - period. Rest in Peace Mr. Altman and thanks for the wonderful films - and DVD commentaries.
This man ran for the highest office in the United States of America. His platform? Well...He's a Maverick. Or, at least that's what we're told. In any case, I think that John McCain is a true American hero, I think he has done wonderful things as a senator for the nation that he loves, but I think its good that the nation chose to go in a different direction.
Anyway, I know what you are all thinking. Aaron done and lost his mind because this here is a movie blog. Well, give me a moment I needed to give you the set up to what is on my mind before I go and drop some thoughts on you.
The thing is that the John McCain campaign did one thing incredibly well...it inspired me to think on all things "Maverick". That's right all this talk about "Maverick" of course lead to way too many bad jokes about Tony Scott's 2986 film, Top Gun, but more than that it made me miss the true American Maverick: Robert Altman.
Mr. Altman has been gone from us for nearly two years now and there is not a week that passes that I don't at least allow myself to stop and reflect on at least one of this master's major pieces of art. Robert Altman made his best films in the 1970's, as did most American filmmakers, but he did not stop there. In the 1980's, regarded as his lost decade, he brought us the revisionist memoirs of Richard M. Nixon in the powerhouse, one man show, known as Secret Honor. He did not stop there, though, he came back as good as ever in the 1990's with the back-to-back masterpieces The Player and Short Cuts. He then left us with a bang, his last two films were as good as anything he had delivered up until that point: Gosford Park, which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards (they were his 6th and 7th nominations) and A Prairie Home Companion, a wonderful ensemble piece about the world of variety radio that hearkened back to his 1975 film, Nashville.
Robert Altman, as mentioned before, was nominated for seven Academy Awards. He never won an Oscar in competition, though it 2006 he received an honorary Lifetime achievement award for always breaking the mold and pushing the medium to new and better heights.
Robert Altman made a ton of movies, many good ones, a few great ones and two perfect films, Nashville and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. This post reflects some of that sentiment though not all of it. Robert Altman was a great American filmmaker that lived up to his title of Maverick and never made a film just because someone else wanted him to. More than a great filmmaker and a maverick of his form, he was a great artist and visionary of his period. He may not be the greatest artist in American film, but he is one of the most important because he finished the handbook on American Independent Film making that John Cassavetes started.
So, on this last evening before Veterans Day we salute a veteran of two kinds. The war heroes represented by Arizona Senator, John McCain; and, the fallen artists represented by Robert Altman.
1. The Fall of the House of Usher by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber 2. City Lights by Charlie Chaplin 3. The General by Buster Keaton 4. Nosferatu by F.W. Murnau 5. The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Dreyer 6. Battleship Potemkin by Sergei Eisenstien 7. Broken Blossoms by D.W. Griffith 8. Modern Times by Charlie Chaplin 9. Un Chien Andalou 10. Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith