Thursday, October 22, 2009

A hard case to crack

Having apparently nothing new to say about Gustavo Dudamel, the L.A. Times found space on the front page of Thursday's Calendar section to publish a review of a book about the late director Robert Altman, written by Richard Schickel, who knows a thing or two about film.

A more-than-casual Altman fan, I was drawn to the headline for the piece: "Altman lovers, read no further."

Schickel's first sentence was a grabber: "It appears that from the beginning of his career until almost its end (when illness slowed him), Robert Altman never passed an entirely sober day in his life." Schickel goes on to say many equally harsh things about the director —so many that I started to feel sorry for the guy, who of course is no longer able to defend himself.

So on the way home from work on Thursday, I pulled into the Amoeba Music parking lot and headed directly to the store's DVD section on the second level.

There I found a section of used DVDs of Altman's films. One of them, "A Wedding," was reasonably priced at $7.99 so I decided to buy it.

I brought the DVD to the counter, where a young lady named Lauren greeted me and rang up my purchase.

When I got home, I saw that Lauren had forgotten to remove the anti-theft plastic shell from the Altman DVD. Each cashier at Amoeba has a gadget at his or her station that strips the casing from the DVD so it can be used again.

I brought the DVD into my kitchen and dragged out my tool chest. First, I tried to pop open the case with my fingernail, but I couldn't pry its hinges apart. Next, I got screwdriver and started to stab the plastic to get it to break, but that didn't do any good, either. Then I used all of my strength to shatter the plastic with a hammer. That just created one unholy racket.

I thought about getting into my car and rolling my tires over the DVD a few times to see if that did the trick. That sounded a bit extreme, so I guess I'll just go back to Amoeba after work tomorrow and ask them to help me out.

If I could tell Richard Schickel about this situation and ask his advice, he might crack that slipping an anti-theft case around any Robert Altman DVD is a waste of good plastic. Just toss "A Wedding" in the garbage, he might say, and give the stinker the pauper's funeral that it barely merits.

In the hour so I was trying to crack open the DVD case, I peered through the smoky plastic and saw Desi Arnaz, Jr.'s name listed as a star of the film: an ominous sign. I guess Desi plays the groom, which leaves Mia Farrow, Carol Burnett or Lillian Gish as the woman Altman cast to play the bride.

Mr. Schickel, I just may owe you 125 minutes of my life.


  1. ok. now it's Friday, you have just arrived at work, how did the drive in go? Did you use the flash cards,or just the Sinatra thing? Did your friend chatter all the way in? Inquiring minds NEED to know. I say, on the way home, drop off the DVD, and hope they don't ask about the odd look of the case, just give them a halfway smirk, and look cross eyed. Love ya

  2. I didn't do my homework so I had no flash cards ready. Instead, I was the chatty one, scribbling notes to my co-worker on the back of gas station receipts, peppering him with questions about his move to New York. The car weaved a lot, but at least my handwriting was legible. I think I made him very nervous.

  3. You should have made him drive so that you would be able to write note. In fact, you should have given him a hat and you ride in the back seat (assuming it was clean) and pretend he was "driving ms daisy". Lisa enjoyed her trip. We will all be there for Christmas

    Mike ... the brother