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A Guide to Robert Altman in Five Films

on January 27, 2020, 2:00pm
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The Wiseass Humorist

MASH (1970)

A Guide to Robert Altman in Five Films

MASH (20th Century Fox)

Now See This: “I had another idea. I think we should have some plays. You know, usually in football you have some organized plays…”

A football game, with a ringer, and non-prescription use of drugs, in a war film? Now dig this: This ain’t Mister Roberts. And it isn’t In The Army Now with Pauley Shore, thank Christ. This is MASH, the freewheelin’ comedy classic and calling card for Altman in Hollywood. He basically got away with this while Fox was sinking capital into Patton, and both war flicks made out with Best Picture nominations in the same year.  And while Patton won, MASH is the one that inspired the hit show.

Altman did this under the radar (no pun, intended), and it’s such a freaks-and-geeks takes on the war genre. Arguably, no other war film has matched the hippy-dippy madness of Altman’s MASH. It basically redefined alt-comedy in the ‘70s with its acerbic view on combat and gore and pain and victory. It’s almost Python, it’s so droll and crass. So very Sundance as well in its naturalism and sense of capturing a happening. Altman landed on a tone and a style that would give him ample means to share his sardonic wit for the rest of his career.

Altman on Altman: “Fox had two other war movies going on: Patton: Lust for Glory and Tora! Tora! Tora!, both big budget pictures. I knew that and decided that and decided that the way to keep out of trouble was to stay out of their sightline – and the best way to do that was not go over budget or over schedule.”

The Damdnest Thing You Ever Saw: “This isn’t a hospital! This is an insane asylum!”

Alt-ternates: Brewster McCloud, Popeye, A Perfect Couple, OC and Stiggs


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