Film & Water #160 – Brewster McCloud



Rob welcomes back podcaster extraordinaire Daniel Budnik, to discuss one of Dan's favorite movies, Robert Altman's oddball comedy-fantasy Brewster McCloud!

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8 responses to “Film & Water #160 – Brewster McCloud

  1. I’m a fan of Twin Peaks, and to a much lesser degree, David Lynch. After the TV show ended, I explored his filmography, and none of it engaged me the way Peaks had. In fact, a lot of it made me think that he was full of shit. I watched all 18 hours of Twin Peaks: The Return, and it reignited my old love of the show, plus led me to finally embrace Fire Walk With Me (after dismissing it as a poor adaptation of The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer for a couple of decades.) I’m glad Lynch refuses to interpret his (and of course Mark Frost’s) work, because it gives me great pleasure to allow his images to marinate in my mind as I derive my personal meaning from what is presented to me. The Return was at times absolutely transcendent and spellbinding. But also, Lynch is kind of a hick who tortured me by getting his yucks over Kyle MacLachlan putzing around like an idiot for interminable lengths of time. Lynch can be simultaneously brilliant and full of shit.

    My father dubbed me a copy of Brewster McCloud on VHS in the late 90s or early 00s as a cinematic tour of my hometown, and it shares the distinction with Urban Cowboy of perfectly capturing the Bayou City of my youth. Houston’s Medical Center is the largest such complex in the world and has pioneered many procedures, including heart transplants performed by luminaries like Dr. Michael DeBakey. Hearing Houston featured so prominently in McCloud’s trailer and the feature itself makes me proud. A friend of my mother’s that used to babysit me reminded me somewhat of local girl Shelly Duvall, though she was nowhere near as alluring as the actress. It’s awesome to see the Astrodome in its full glory. But also, the movie’s a total piece of shit, and the more the presumed subtext as totality of text is explored, the more aggravatingly full of shit the movie seems to be. Altman was an indulgent asshole for dumping this load on audiences and flushing investors’ money down the toilet. Even if the offered interpretation was intended, it still sounds like The Artiste was climbing up his own asshole, and the philosophies Altman may have been espousing sounds like toxic, abusive crap. I don’t want to dwell on it, because it stinks and I’m already accused enough of having shit for brains. Regardless, I need to watch it with Mac & Fixit just for the nostalgia factor.

  2. One of the good things about this show is that it often points me to movies that I should see.

    One of the *great* things about this show is when it points out a movie that I definitely should not seek out. Brewster McCloud is not a movie I think I would enjoy so I will no longer try to run across it. This is not a comment on the passionate and fascinating discussion.

    I just think I would rather watch The Player again.

    1. Thanks for listening Anj. Yes, “Brewster” is an acquired taste for sure. But I will mostly watch anything if it means I can have Dan back on the show.

      Altman is one of those guys who enthralls me and baffles me in equal measure when it comes to his films. Some of his “bigger” movies don’t work for me, and some of his “lesser” ones do. I’m still not sold on this one, but I definitely appreciate more after the discussion.

  3. I can’t say that this sounds like my cup of tea (it honestly doesn’t at all), but there’s a part of me that wouldn’t mind watching it just on “train wreck” level, and to see just how Shelly Duvall is so alluring in it. No offense to Miss Duvall, who I enjoy in several films, but I just can’t ever see her in my head in that light. But I’ll take your word for it!

    Much like Anj, despite my not really being into these types of films, the discussion was top notch and very engaging. I love Dan’s stream-of-conscious approach on his shows!


    1. Thanks for listening Chris! While I’d be willing to try “McCloud” again, based on Dan’s reading of the material, there are still a number of Altman films I haven’t seen at all (the aforementioned “H.E.A.L.T.H.” and some others), so I think I will get to those first.

      And yes, one of the things I like about Dan as a podcaster is that it is definitely stream of consciousness. Check out his Happy Days podcast, where he interrupts his own riffs for other riffs!

  4. I saw “Brewster McCloud” once a year or some ago. Seeing Margaret Hamilton’s and Stacey Keach’s characters being portrayed as such hateful people before being killed, only to grease the wheels of Brewster’s flying machine left me with the impression that Louise was also manipulating Brewster for her own unknown purposes. Thank Dan for an alternate reading that gives it somewhat wider application. I’m still not ready to let go of my first thought. Could Louise be some specific muse as well as a guardian angel? She carries quite a bit of a flying theme, herself. Meanwhile, Shaft and Suzanne seem to have had life falling their way up until now. Who says all the guardian angels pull together for a common purpose? No, I won’t bother looking for guardian angels in their background, there is room (even in something plotted, written, rewritten, improvised, directed and edited) for coincidence. Although… could Suzanne be an alternative muse? There was something about her breaking up with another artist…

    I’d mostly just dismissed this as somebody else’s script Altman got distracted from into satirizing cops and cop movies, but I think I’ll give this a rewatch someday.

    P.S. A list from Dan about “blank check” movies sounds interesting. My mind went to Spielberg, too, but not “Close Encounters.” Does this mean “1941” is a double blank check movie?

  5. Well, I admit that Dan’s interpretation has me intrigued! I think I’d like to watch this with that analytical eye. However, as much as I enjoy listening to you talk about Italian zombie films, I will leave those to others!

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