But first, quasi-stream of consciousness commentary on Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H.–not the TV series.
Robert Altman’s work is synonymous with the phrase “ensemble cast films.” Due to advancements in sound recording technology in the 60s, filmmakers could experiment with and include more sounds when making movies. Altman certainly incorporated multitrack recording, allowing several characters to talk at the same time in a sequence. Each voice can be heard even if the words themselves aren’t decipherable.
Thirty or so minutes into the film:
Soldier A: Colonel Blake, General Hammond did not answer the phone, sir. They said he was at a football game.
General Hammond: Those generals have all the fun.
Soldier A: Yes, sir.
90 minutes into the film:
Elliot Gould: You can’t blame Henry because Hot Lips Houlihan can’t stand her name.
Tom Skerritt: You know, she’s just a lady, though. What the hell.
Donald Sutherland: Come on, for crying out loud. She’s regular army. She’s a fanatic about ritual. She—she won’t even let us play football.
That guy: General.
General: I didn’t even know you had a football team.
Donald Sutherland: Well, it’s pretty much in the planning stage. We’ve, uh—
Elliot Gould: No, no, we have—we have a very fine football team.
General: Yeah, well, we had a team back with the 325th EVAC last year.
That guy: And what a team that was.
General: Yeah. I coached the boys myself.
That guy: He’s the finest coach in the far east.
General: Yeah. Uh, we’re now trying to work out a schedule of the outfits we’re going to play this year. Of course, we, you know, throw a little money into a pot and make bets.
Elliot Gould: How much, uh, how much money do you put into your pot?
General: Five thousand. Six thousand.
Elliot Gould: Five thousand dollars?
Donald Sutherland: Oh, look, you know, I don’t think we’re in the sort of league you’re in.
General: Well I’m sure we could find a date when we can play your team.
That guy: It could be arranged…..
Elliot Gould: Hawkeye, that man has five times the manpower to draw on than we do.
Donald Sutherland: Sure, so we get ourselves a ringer, right? We get Henry to apply, make a specific application for a neurosurgeon. He asks for Dr. Oliver Harmon Jones.
Tom Skerritt: Dr. Oliver Harmon Jones?
Donald Sutherland: Oh, he’s—
Elliot Gould: Who is Oliver Harmon Jones?
Donald Sutherland: He is better known as “Spearchucker” Jones.
Elliot Gould: He’s a good ball player.
Tom Skerritt: Oh yeah! He’s that Negro boy played with the 49ers, ain’t he?
Donald Sutherland: Sure.
Tom Skerritt: Yeah, sure. I remember. He’s good.
General: Henry, if we had closer relations, we wouldn’t have this misunderstanding, right? Now, that’s where a football game would help between your outfit and mine.
Henry: A football game?
General: Yeah, we put up a few bets, five thousand maybe and have a little fun. Special services in Tokyo says it’s one of the best gimmicks we’ve got to keep the American way of life going here in Asia.
General: No, football!
Henry: What about Major O’Houlihan?
General: You mean Hot Lips? Screw her….
Tom Skerritt: Uh, I guess the only problem is I just wonder about the social problem. You know what I mean? He’s the only Negro officer in the whole camp, you know?
Donald Sutherland: We got a problem? We’ll stick him in here with us, baby boy.
Tom Skerritt: You’re serious, ain’t ya?
Donald Sutherland: Sure, I’m serious.
Tom Skerritt: It’s enough for me to put up with you two Yankees, but I mean, you know, that’s—
He used to throw the javelin, hence “Spearchucker.” Very soft-spoken.
Henry (?): All right, men, we’re not here to sell lemonade. We’re here to practice.
–and then he introduces Spearchucker to everyone who’ll be on this team. He says to him, “Well, I just want you to know that we’re all the same here on the playing field, uh, officers and men alike. Now we’re going to begin with the three basic principles: Organization, discipline and teamwork.”
Spearchucker interrupts & suggests they get warmed up first. Henry says, “That’s a good idea. You organize that. “
There are cheerleaders. Some of the soldiers played in college nearly a decade ago, so diegetically that would be the 40s? Donald Sutherland has an idea on how to win the game. Let the General’s team score more during the first half, then in the second half, put Spearchucker in and bet the rest of the money to win. Henry says, “That’s very good thinking, Captain.” He then says to Spearchucker, “Oh, oh, and I had another idea. We should have some plays. You know, usually in football, if you have some organized plays—
Spearchucker says he already thought of some. Henry clearly has no idea how to read the play diagrams. And now we have a football field somewhere in South Korea and a team in blue jerseys and a team in red jerseys. There are yardage numbers on the field. How many officials are there? All the players are wearing helmets. The game-play is fragmented in the kick-off return and filmed too swiftly. Hmm, one of the medic players takes some kind of injection to use on number 1 on the blue team. It makes him think he’s running in a track meet. The kick-off return is accompanied by non-diegetic patriotic music, and most of the non-diegetic sounds are gone. Disorientation montage sequence, fragmented bodies and movements, same patriotic song but faster tempo. Halftime isn’t for a speech, but for Henry to press the bets. Spearchucker enters game and makes a kickoff return TD. I wonder if Altman had seen NFL Films’ football follies.
Hot Lips is told she’s an idiot for getting excited over a red flag—she doesn’t know it’s an indication of a penalty. One of the blue players called red 69 a “coon.” Spearchucker tells red 69 to name-call the blue player’s sister, Gladys. Aka, don’t get mad get even?
In terms of angle, it’s not that different from present-day aesthetics. But with respect to camera movement, it’s certainly not like televised football. There’s some Horse Feathers meets NFL Films here.
Instant replay in real-time. When Spearchucker grunts after getting tackled in the fourth quarter. Three times it repeats that grunt. The red team wins ….but by how much.
Now onto the Gator Bowl.
Texas Tech Red Raiders take pluck the Gator Bowl 2008 from the grasp of the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Final score 31 to 28. Raiders kicker Alex Trlica made the game-winning field goal (forty-one yards!). The commentator mentioned that Trlica never misses an extra point kick, but isn’t as consistent with field goals.
Get game summary, stats, play by play here.