5 December 1970: Brewster McCloud

Anna and Ben convene in a fallout shelter under the Houston Astrodome to discuss the fiftieth anniversary of Robert Altman’s dark fable. They discuss whether commercial art can be “High Art”, whether fairy tales need to make sense, and the great Marshmallow Test of all our lives.

Sources and References:

Pauline Kael’s New Yorker review where she takes issue with Frank Shaft’s profanity and Altman’s lack of a finished script appeared in the 9 Jan. 1971 issue. For those of you with a New Yorker login, the full column can be read here, but no free versions seem to appear online. A contemporary review by Andrew Sarris can be found for free in the Village Voice, which, while not featured in the podcast, does seem to accurately nail the successful tone Ben experienced.

Mitchell Zuckoff’s oral histories of Robert Altman’s filmography provides the anecdote where Michael Murphy recalls being told that his character will die the next day, as well as details about Shelley Duvall’s unconventional auditions with the director.

The New York Times profile of David Fincher, where Jake Gyllenhaal is quoted that Fincher “paints with people” and he finds it “tough to be a color.” appeared on 19 Nov. 2020. The Times interview with Sally Kellerman from 1970 has a facsimile on TimesMachine and a transcription here. And Ben incorrectly claimed that Victor Canby’s assessment was that Altman was a poseur, but he does say that the film reminds him of millionaire film producers who are falsely riding a populist wave.

Robert Altman: Critical Essays (2011) states that Altman told Bud Cort that the screenplay was a commentary about social issues and “a whole reaction to how sick society is right now”, even though they then go on to demonstrate that the film fails to construct a solid argument for itself as a vehicle for satirical comment.

Ben Russell holds an eagle own in a falconry exhibit in Stratford-on-Avon.
Despite Ben’s description of being scared of the eagle owl, he seems to be quite brazenly chatting it up, Sally Kellerman-stylee, while it either remains stoically unimpressed or is evaluating the tastiness of the cameraperson’s eyeballs.

Christopher Langley’s chapter about the desert production of Star Wars included details about the Bantha costumes designed by Leon Erickson, who also designed Brewster’s wing harness.

The Marvel Wikia summary of Captain America #121, as read by Officer Thompson can be found here.

The quiz was sourced by articles from the Audubon society, National Geographic, and an NPR summary of an article from the journal Animal Behaviour. The information about cockatiels mourning a cage partner was found here.

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