MASH (1970)


“I wonder how a degenerated person like that could have reached a position of responsibility in the Army Medical Corps!

He was drafted.”

Wanda was a slow, feminist triumph from the year 1970. Robert Altman’s MASH is an unfunny, sexist triumph from the same year. I didn’t like the movie, but it was a triumph nonetheless, scoring 5 Academy Award nominations and securing a place in cinematic history on a number of “Top American Films” lists. I think there’s a lot to appreciate about MASH, so I can’t say I don’t get it, but I definitely didn’t enjoy it.

MASH follows a looser, episodic series of antics surrounding a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). The movie takes place during the Korean War, but there’s clearly a parallel to Vietnam given the time of release, well before the big-name Vietnam films would start hitting theaters. There’s also no surprise that the movie was made into a TV show for how episodic it is. I took a prolonged break from the movie halfway through and had no trouble picking back up in the middle, despite the fact that I didn’t really want to finish it.

I enjoy dark comedies, but something about the style just didn’t sit right with me. There’s a goofy Mad Magazine approach where nothing takes itself seriously. I think that’s what worked so well for the movie, given its playful approach to some of the darkest subject matter of the 70s, but it doesn’t hold up for me today. Comedy has changed for the better, or maybe I’m just of a different time, but there’s nothing subtle about MASH. Even overlooking the sexist, unsettling missteps that the film makes, there’s no comedic substance. MASH isn’t shooting for much commentary, and when over-the-top sight gags are the entire pitch for the movie, I find it hard to latch onto anything.

In one famous scene, the characters set up a trap for the antagonistic female nurse “Hot Lips” where they convince her to take a shower, then raise the tent that surrounds her as she begins showering, revealing her body to the entire camp. Again, the abhorrent depiction of females in the film aside, the gag is lazy. The film is not only overtly masculine, but it seems to shoot for the lowest common denominator. I’ve heard that the TV show improves on the hollowness of the movie by rounding out the characters, but I still wouldn’t care to watch it.

The movie is a sort of anomaly for me in this process. It’s maybe the least enjoyable experience I’ve had, as I haven’t found much to learn from MASH. I don’t see much artistic merit in it, but there are plenty of movies without much artistic merit that are still watchable. MASH isn’t one of those movies either. It seems severely dated, perhaps as dated as a movie can get in terms of content, and I haven’t been so tempted to browse my phone during a movie for a long time. I don’t plan on watching it again, and hopefully I won’t ever have to.

Films Left to Watch: 863

About Travis

I'm a software engineer reviewing a bunch of movies.
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