M*A*S*H, the 1970 satirical black comedy, which dipped a poison pen in so many sacred cows that had been pretty much off limits and taboo in cinema before it, celebrated its 45th anniversary on January 25th, 2015.
Set during the Korean War of the 1950s, M*A*S*H had right on its sleeve an allegorical backdrop to so many current events of the late 1960s such as Vietnam, life in general during that tumultuous time, and anti-establishment sentiments, feelings, and bents. Done sometimes with an almost cinema verite documentary style, one of the end results of the unique approach taken by the directorial maverick film legend Robert Altman, M*A*S*H was the kind of film that had been unseen before in Hollywood. Running with an almost ragtag, loose visual style, it’s almost voyeuristic in the ways we see the comedy in the film and the film in general, and there are plenty of laughs: ranging from slapstick to witty to punny to sublime and ridiculous, there’s all styles and temperatures, from cool to downright raunchy in some respects. Eyebrows must have certainly been raised when the old guard audience of old guard Hollywood first laid their peepers on the film at certain sequences without question. But all the while, it’s the kind of film that is sort of winking at everyone and everything, 100 percent conscious of what it is; there’s a reverberating feeling that hits the tinderbox every time and creates incendiary types of experiences for the viewer when they watch it.
Contagion Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Elliott Gould, Jennifer Ehle, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard, Chin Han, Griffin Kane, Sanjay Gupta
Release Date: September 9, 2011
Contagion is a movie that showed much promise with its previews and its advertised premise, but in reality it turns into 100 minutes of wasted production opportunities used instead to push stereotypical propaganda at the viewer. With its notable ensemble cast, and a plot device that is not new but has been proven to be popular over the years, the Steven Soderbergh film had huge potential that will do nothing but disappoint the thriller/horror fans expecting an epidemic epic.
I have been quite a big fan of medical thrillers over the years, particularly those that focus on diseases and outbreaks. From stories of crazy Ebola-like viruses to weaponized disease, I’ve been fascinated with the concept both in its reality, and in its use as a plot device in thrillers. I have no rationalization for this attraction: perhaps it was the wonderful conclusion H.G. Wells brought us to in War of the Worlds, or perhaps it is the disease-based plot devices of some of my favorite zombie flicks. Either way, when word came out Soderbergh was taking up the subject; I was thrilled at the prospect.