Saturday, March 19, 2011


Robert Altman, 1970 (8.4*)
Palm d'Or, Cannes
Best Comedy or Musical Film (GG)

Though obviously not very intelligent, in the words of Major Hot Lips Hoolihan, "this is not a hospital, this is an insane asylum". Altman has conceived of a Korean war comedy meets the Marx Brothers in a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, MASH for short. Here the humor is used to literally cut through the fatal gravity of war and mutilating battle injuries, and mix in a little late 60's references as well (the football players pass a doobie during the game).

Primarily this is about little more than army officers trying to bed nurses in between rushed calls to emergency surgery, and various other ploys to get them undressed, such as concocting their own home brew in the officer's tent. There's also a few tidbits thrown in about the army's bureaucratic bungles, and other SNAFU's. As with most humor, some of it hits and some misses; this one at times becomes a little slapstick (such as an intra-army football game), but it's still full of some classic lines.

The film was nominated for five Oscars®, best picture as well, winning one for Ring Lardner Jr.'s screenplay. Sally Kellerman's hilarious performance as a straight-laced career army officer, 'Hot Lips' Hoolihan, a major in command of the nurses, was rewarded with a supporting actress nomination. Others are funny in different ways, Donald Sutherland and Eliott Gould play Hawkeye and Pierce, with tentmate Tom Skerritt, and Robert Duvall as Major Byrnes, the man they love to torment. Gary Burghoff as Radar was the only cast member to repeat his role on the tv show (the one bogged down by the moralizing of Alan Alda)

Both more insane and more literate than the tv show, this was a winner of 15 awards overall, including a Golden Globe and a Palm d'Or at Cannes.

Hoolihan: How does a man of such low moral character reach a position of rank in the U.S. army?
Father Mulkahey: He was drafted..


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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