Richard Lutz plugs into his flatscreen and wanders through a world of hoods, heroes and hubris.
There’s a bit of an American marathon tour de force this Tuesday on Sky Movies Select. It’s worth lying supine on the couch, closing the curtain and taking a dive into deepest filmville…or else slap on the hard drive.
It goes something like this:
It starts with MASH(8.20am). Robert Altman made his name with this black comedy about the Korean War as Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland caught the eye of the surging counter-culture in 1970 with its cheeky flipping of the bird at authority.
Altman was never to go by the book (see Nashville, The Wedding among others) and he rejected straight narrative to edit together concurrent little vignettes, all slightly linked, all loosely scripted. Careers were made on this war comedy: besides Gould and Sutherland, there were Robert Duvall, Tom Skerritt and Sally Kellerman who upped their earnings after MASH became a gold encrusted hit, and as it entered another dimension with its long-running TV follow up.
When MASH ends, hold the dial. Next up at 10.20am is McCabe and Mrs Miller, made a year later, which took a picaresque swipe at the Old West as it became the New West full of greed and selfishness. Altman put this little beauty together too with Warren Beatty and Julie Christie as lovers who can’t live with ‘em and can’t live without ‘em.
He’s a dubious card sharp, she’s a brothel owner hooked on opium. They team up together and all goes well until big money moves in. The couple try to fight the mining companies. And fail miserably. You can’t fight Wall Street in the US – even in the old Pacific Northwest. Altman allowed the cast to ad-lib, allowed extras to do what they wanted and used layered sound to give it an ad hoc feel- a feeling you too would experience if you landed in a snowbound town with a bunch of people high and ready to rumble. It is one of the best westerns ever made; dreamy, hard-edged and full of impending doom.
Your day continues with Dog Day Afternoon, the last of the five star trio.
Al Pacino is a bank robber who screws up a New York heist. An overkill police siege locks him into the Brooklyn bank. At his side is a panicky, twitchy John Cazale. What a team, what a follow up to their work in Godfather 2 as two of the Corleone family.
If you haven’t seen Dog Day Afternoon, I won’t throw a spoiler at you. But leave it to say the motive for the thwarted robbery is not as expected. Pacino plays it sometimes for laughs, sometimes as a violent maniac. But ultimately as a fascinating take of a young loser who knows he is slowly messing everything up, for him and everyone around him.
So, there you go. Tuesday is all scheduled and double locked. Six hours of three of the US’s best movies.
And as a footnote, because I am that kind of guy, Thursday has a cute curve ball for you too. Sky’s Crime Movies channel opens and ends with a pair of American hoodlum films that can stand on their own. At 10.50am is Casino with Robert de Niro.
Joe Pesci and he light up Vegas and then turn on each other as Martin Scorcese plumbs the violent depths when the Mafia ran the casinos. Sharon Stone gives her best role ever as the girl who can’t say no to danger nor heroin.
And at 10.00pm is Goodfellas. Pesci, de Niro and Ray Liotta are Scorcese’s trio of Made Men who are anything but good fellows who are slowly unmade by fate, greed and hubris.