Monday, April 07, 2003

The Movie I Watched Last Night LXIII
Hooray for Robert Altman. Practically everything he touches, including this 1970 movie prevursor to the TV show by the same name, is golden. As a movie, this film is amazing. The idea alone -- following the foibles and follies of a medical unit three miles from the frontlines of the Korean War -- is interesting. But what Altman and the cast do with the concept, balancing seriousness and high silliness, is even more important. This movie shows people at their best and worst during wartime, showing that people can care for the wounded even if they don't always care for each other... or themselves. A couple of scenes stick out, but I was most affected by the last supper-like so long to the best-equipped dentist in the army, who wanted to commit suicide (the inspiration for the movie and TV show's theme song). Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould stand out as Hawkeye and Trapper John, but Tom Skerritt's Duke character is almost a throwaway. David Arkin's PA announcer riffs are hesitant and occasionally hilarious, especially the movie screening announcement at the end, an announcement for the film that just ended. A nice Altman meta moment. The movie is also interesting for its spillover effect. MASH the movie inspired MASH the TV show, one of the longest-running series on the air. I ran eight years longer than the Korean War itself. And MASH the TV show spun off Trapper John, M.D.. (We'll neglect another spin-off, AfterMASH.) Good to finally see where some of television's finest history started. And good to know that the original source is solid, silly, and serious, all at the same time.

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