Here’s some avant garde stream of consciousness for you.
War is horrifying. To participate and survive, people must cope. Some people do so by adhering to procedure and military culture. Others become self-destructive, running to drugs and alcohol. Then there are some that become unabashedly cruel. They live out crude and misogynistic lives to deal with the mangled bodies.
That last group is the focal point of Robert Altman’s MASH. We are supposed to sympathize and laugh because they aren’t doing this out of free will. In the words of Roger Ebert:
“Most comedies want us to laugh at things that aren’t really funny; in this one we laugh precisely because they’re not funny. We laugh, that we may not cry.”
Ebert’s take is ridiculous because we have nothing to cry about. The characters don’t become conduits for the horror of war because they are so deeply unlikeable. We don’t relate to them; we want to get as far away from them as possible.
To make matters worse, the director, following the new Hollywood template of hippie bullshit, created an episodic story where nothing matters, connects, or coalesces. Trying to pull the strands together in this one is intentionally made impossible.
It’s purposefully inscrutable because that’s all it has to offer: nonsense.
The journey up the river and deeper into the jungle is rewarding.
American Film Institutes Ranking: #29/100 Awards: Nominated for eight winning Sound and Cinematography. My Rating:
The right space for a lesson to exist is on a continuum where it goes past being a challenge but stops before it becomes inscrutable. Movies that are too easy become labeled as hackneyed. On the other end, movies that are completely impenetrable are only liked by a certain few; a parade of avant garde and social conscious critics try to prop up the significance as it falls on deaf ears.
Apocalypse Now hits that right spot. I’m not sure I understand all of it, but I get enough of it for it to continue to roll around in my brain. The movie exposes our faulty concepts on the meaning of insanity and then goes on to try and figure out who really is acting “crazy.” By the end, and maybe even still, I’m so disoriented that I’m not sure I can tease that one out.
American Film Institute Ranking: #66/100 Academy Awards: Nominated for six winning four: Best Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay. My Rating:
“Network” knew there was a weakness in the system and ourselves. All it was going to take was one seemingly clairvoyant person to serendipitously realize that people don’t live on a diet of rational, purposeful solutions. Rather it is channeling people’s frustrations and anger, being a conduit for people’s rage, that propels you to power.
Howard Beale did not purposefully reinvent his show to do the latter; he mentally snapped at the appropriate time on air. What happened next was a lack of duty by those that had the power to stop it — the television executives were more than happy to rake in the ratings boom that he brought.
This bug in the system reveals much about ourselves and should make our selections of politicians no surprise.
A front row seat to the underbelly of Mafia crime, the movie about the Corleone family has plenty of malevolent retribution to enjoy.
American Film Institutes Ranking: #3/100 Awards: Nominated for eleven awards with one being revoked and winning Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. My Rating:
This is one of the heavy hitters of film, obvious by how high it is ranked (#3!) but also by its universal acclaim. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% on the bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong. I find this movie very good and enjoyable, but I’m not quite sure I would put it in my top five movies of all time.
There is something intoxicating about seeing the inner workings of the mafia, and Francis Ford Coppola’s movie does a wonderful job of characterization — there are rememberable people, interactions, and changes amongst the cast over the course of the movie. The fact that no one is safe from the violence adds an additional level of intrigue, never knowing who might be the next one to “sleep with the fishes.”