I was talking this weekend with some folks about film and, somehow, we started talking about people's last gigs -- and how often they don't really reflect the life that came before. I've always thought that Raul Julia probably woke up in what James Lipton would call 'Actor's Heaven' a little upset about his last appearance on the big screen: "You mean I go out on Street Fighter?" And I'm sure that Orson Welles is somewhere in the afterlife, grateful that Henry Jaglom kept his last ever big-screen credit from being the voice of Unicron in Transformers: The Movie. Talking with some other friends at a brunch, A Prairie Home Companion came up -- they'd rented it, and discovered that, as they said, "11:30 at night is not a good time to throw on A Prairie Home Companion." I actually suggested that there was never a good time to throw on A Prairie Home Companion -- which, to me, feels like the most expensive Hee Haw episode ever made, featuring multi-millionaires playing 'jes' folks' and the tiresome, soporific drone of Garrison Keillor, America's least funny humorist. And now, of course, Robert Altman is dead. And I hope to God that the Academy -- maudlin and mortal as they are -- don't choose to commemorate his passing by larding attention onto what may be one of Altman's least deserving films. I don't think that you do people any favors by turning them into saints; Implying that every film anyone's ever made was an unparalleled masterpiece denies their life the richness of struggle and effort and inspiration -- and really, is Quintet as good as M*A*S*H? Is Pret-a-Porter as good as Short Cuts? No, and I think that Altman would be the first to suggest that some of his films worked better than other; to me, that means he never quit trying -- and that, to me, is the measure of an artist, and a human. We don't get to pick the last thing we do, because we don't know what that'll be; we can choose what we do next, even in the face of death. And so that's what I'm going to think of today when I think of Robert Altman -- his choices, his efforts, his unceasing forward motion.

categories Cinematical