Saturday, December 27, 2014

517. M*A*S*H

Directed by Robert Altman

We go from Patton to this nasty piece of work and what a horrible transition it is.  I can't understand why anyone would find this film funny.  I found it to be completely upsetting and the fact that it got a television spin off is baffling to me.  Maybe we can make a sitcom based on Birth of a Nation next.

There isn't much of a plot here; it is more like a series of unpleasant vignettes that take place in a mobile hospital unit during the Korean War. The kind of systematic bullying, which borders on sexual assault, that Major Margaret Houlihan has to endure is upsetting in itself.  Although this pissed me off, it was not enough to make me hate the film.  After all, if you couldn't take watching people be mistreated in films, you would be stuck watching Fantasia on a loop.  What upset me the most is the intended audience reaction for this character.  We were supposed to cheer for the soldiers as they sexually humiliated this woman, supposedly because she represented the bureaucracy?  I don't really care why they said they did it; it clearly revealed this malevolence towards women that can't be explained away.  I don't want to reveal what happens to this character, but just know that the outcome drives me completely insane.

Some people may be able to look past this (or simply not care at all; which is unsettling in itself).  But I cannot and for that reason, it is one of the worst movies I have ever seen.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould went to the studio in hopes of getting Robert Altman removed from the project.  You are all just terrible.

Much of the dialogue was improvised.

#54 in AFI's Top 100.  Ugh.


  1. Hello Amanda, and what a delight to see you again..

    I've just realised this is the second of today's post.. but as this was top of the pile, I will start here.

    What a delight to find someone to agree with on this one.

    I find myself so much on my own finding this - generally speaking - objectionable that I sometimes wonder if I'm taking things too much to heart.
    Even a very good film friend, who is very radical feminist won't side with me as she sees the radical anti war / anti establishment aspect of it as the stronger point.

    But we have a collection of 'heros'.. all male, who are - and lets be honest about this, straight of of a recent years teen / collage kids sexist romp. Constantly drunk and chasing and seducing characterless nurses with big boobs.
    Sorry, but these guys are obnoxious ass holes - other than the fact they work damn hard at saving peoples lives.
    They get away with being that way because, hey man, it's all a deep condemnation of Vietnam.

    SPOILER ALERT contained that Amands decided not to reveal ahead...

    So, you throw in in the occasional anti- military jibe, and that excuses humiliating the female authority figure my revealing what colour her pubes are.
    Oh roll about laughing.. that is so funny. (how do you type 'dripping with sarcasm'?)

    But, I hear someone say.. she represents military stupidity.. she is there to be taken down a peg or two because she is .. the establishment, she is the Nixon whitehouse..

    Really? Excuse me if I strongly suspect she is.. a woman with authority over men.. and they (our lead male characters).. and I don't want to believe this but it looks like.. Robert Altman, don't like that.

    OK, there are SOME good bits, some funny bits.. but it gets drowned by the juvenile antics.
    I remember I mostly liked the TV series I must admit.. but maybe I've forgotten they too were just as bad?

    Ok, let's go and see what you made of a big war films about the sort of person this film is SUPPOSED to be targeting..

  2. Yeah--not good. I did not like her being humiliated, and found some of the other parts only mildly amusing. I liked the tv show better, but I am with Ray---I may be forgetting some things about that,al though Alan Alda was a Feminist and as the show was on for a really long time, that probably influenced it.

  3. Diana .. You reckon Altman was a feminist? I've not much to go on, but I've seen several comments on IMDb that he had a poor record on female characters. I'd not especially noticed it myself .. but if this is much to go by..

    1. She said Alan Alda (Who would go on to play Hawkeye Pierce in the TV series), not Robert Altman

    2. Dessie, so she did, I stand corrected, with apologies.

  4. I totally agree with what you all say. This was just like "Benny Hill goes to Korean War". But I am not that amazed that certain people find funny to humiliate women, gays and other cultures. I am not amazed at all. And I think it's due time to start making noise in the net against this kind of "classic films".

  5. Nice comment.. comparing it to Benny Hill.

  6. Go Alex! Most people are just like "oh yes it is dreadful but it was a different time blah blah blah." But yeah this was awful.

  7. Yes, they are old movies but that shouldn't prevent us to point out the bad attitudes for the new generations. Otherwise we will perpetuate them.

    You know, there's a lot of criticism against the Birth of a Nation - which is a much older film - for being racist but those same critics rarely attack misogyny with the same enthusiasm.

  8. "...but it was a different time" may not totally excuse the moral attitudes of older films, but it's still an important point.

    Every era has different socially-acceptable standards. We like to think that this represents improvement over time and maybe this is right, but it also just represents getting closer to what we have and know today. In a hundred years time people will look back on now and disapprove just as we would disapprove of them if we could see them. Let's not be too hasty to condemn.

    I find even the sexist attitudes in Fred Astaire movies quite off by today's standards, but what are we going to do about it? These films exist and represent their time. Do we ban them? Are we supposed to mount an internet campaign to shame anyone who likes these old films with questionable morals? Do we really think that we are changing the mindset of anyone today by lecturing extra loudly on the subject and shouting everyone else down? See recent elections for how successfully that works out.

    It's OK and, as you say, probably important in some cases to pass comment upon attitudes that have thankfully fallen out of fashion. And it's fine to express our personal feelings about watching those films today. But, equally, as students of cinema and cinema history we're not going to get anywhere by letting our moral crusade drown out our appreciation of other aspects of these films. There's a difference between taking personal responsibility to think about what we're seeing and assuming that the world is a better place every time we loudly pass our judgement.

    All that said, my memory of seeing this 25yrs ago was that the characters weren't half as likeable as the cuddly gang I knew so well from the TV series.

  9. I just think saying "It was a different time" shuts down the conversation. Especially since things clearly haven't improved as much as I thought. But I don't think that means you have to ignore other positive aspects about the films.

  10. There is no need to ban anything. Obviously, the movies are like they are and you can't change that. However, it's important to point out those attitudes when you are reviewing them. Otherwise, some people would think that you are condoning those attitudes and that they are still valid today.

    Simple as that, I still have to read a review commenting on the shameful abuse on "hot lips", for instance. Instead, I read over and over how laughable is that. Seriously, if you still laugh on that in 2016, that means those attitudes have not "fallen so out of fashion".

    I am no student of cinema and I have no intention of devoiding the film of any other artistic merit. They have been widely covered during all these years. I am just pointing out what I miss from those reviews.

    Artworks are eternal and as such should be subject to constant re-evaluation.

  11. Okay, I will come right out and say that I loved MASH and this is totally my jam. Sorry mates, just the way it is.
    The point of the movie as I see it is that this is opposed to militarism, authorities and the dehumanization that is war. The camp crew run an anarchy to cope with the horrors of war. Anybody who comes with a self-righteous and narrow attitude are being mocked. This includes Burn, O'Houlihan, the colonel in Japan and the visiting general. Religion, discipline, militarism and social doctrine are all torn apart while the only thing that is taken serious in saving the wounded. Those that get out of their righteous hypocrisy are adopted as O'Houlihan eventually is. Pierce learn that racism is stupid etc. No, I think I can defend it all the way.
    Maybe today mockery would not go this far. This movie could not be made today. I am not certain that is not a loss.