Movie Meme Thingy:
Altman’s “Popeye” is rarely mentioned on anyone’s best of, even if you adjust for some of the perceived critical shortcomings. It is certainly a cinematic force. All the pieces were in place: Soundtrack by Harry Nilsson, a beautiful set in an exotic location, excellent casting, and a powerhouse director tackling an incredibly popular property that had a built in audience. What could possibly go wrong? Altman made two major creative decisions that changed everything and gave us this strange visual delight: first, he choose to make the film a musical, AND second, he ignored nearly all of the cartoon versions of the character from Saturday Mornings, and instead focused on the 1930’s version of the Thimble Theater comic strip, in which Popeye himself was not exactly the focus but is merely a character. While the finished film is (at best) uneven, what is on the screen is strange, exciting, and compelling in the same way that many unusual things often are. There is a lot in common (in form and scrutibility) with “Dogs In Space”, but “Popeye” has a kind of strange humor to it that is contagious if you are willing to let it take you there. The songs are fantastic, and the few homages to later era cartoons are spare and well-placed. This is certainly a great film, but perhaps the amount of context required to see that way is a little much for most folks to consider. Nonetheless, the novelty of this film is worth at least one viewing, and hopefully that will be enough to draw you in.