Monday, April 20, 2015

MASH By Justin, Amir, and Doug

     M*A*S*H was released in March 1970. The film was directed by Robert Altman and written by Ring Lardner Jr, who interestingly, was a member of the Hollywood Ten and blacklisted by the HUAC Committee; the ban was lifted in 1965 when he wrote the Cincinnati Kid. The film was portrayed as a black satirical comedy and had an estimated budget of $3.5 million; it grossed $81.6 million in the United States. Several notable actors and actresses held prominent roles in the film including Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Tom Skeritt, Sally Kellerman, Robert Duvall, and Gary Burghoff. Only Burghoff and George Wood reprised their roles as Corporal ‘Radar’ O’Reilly and General Hammond on the television series, which ran from 1972-1983. The film focuses on a group of Mobile Army Surgical Hospital officers as they perform surgery just miles from the Korean Conflict. They poke fun at the Korean Conflict by not caring about their work. Additionally, they make fun of the war, joke about death and religion, behave inappropriately, and chaos is always constant in the camp. Selected to the National Film Registry, M*A*S*H was considered to be culturally significant because it made fun of the Korean Conflict even though it was about Vietnam. Additionally, the film also poked fun at religion and death, pillars that the United States held in high regard during this period.
     Robert Altman’s successful film, MASH, is praised for its well-done satirical outlook on the Vietnam War. Using the Korean War as a cloak over its direct criticism of the Vietnam War, MASH is a comedic commentary on the absurdity of war. The men of the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital appose authority and conformity whenever possible. The film was an achievement due to its groundbreaking take on American Warfare. It was one of the first American films to criticize war and religion, two staples of the American identity during the Cold War era. The idolized protagonists, Hawkeye, Duke and Trapper’s, complete disregard for their superiors and army laws were far from common place in a war film. Not only that, but the two characters, Burns and Houlihan, that sought for conformity and order in the army camp were ostracized and ridiculed. Serious topics like religion, war, death, gore and infidelity were handled with little care and blatantly painted in a comical light. Americans, especially during the Cold War era, took war very seriously and to have a film so successful outwardly mocking war was telling. Altman’s film showed the growing opposition of conformity, violence and authority in the 1960’s. This film was so important because it gave the unorthodox a voice and shied away from the black and white picture the early Cold War painted for the American people.
     There were three major connections to classThe first connection dealt with The Tragedy of American Diplomacy.  Williams believed that America invaded foreign countries in order to spread their dominance rather than to help democratize the country.  This is significant to MASH because it is interesting that a movie created around the same time as the Vietnam War does not make much mention of Anti-war sentiments but rather it tries to avoid the subject.  This could be due to the American public beginning to share Williams’ view of America spreading an empire rather than helping others.  The next subject covered was the making fun of the military bureaucracy.  Colonel Blake and General Hammond both seem disinterested in their respective posts and actually rather incompetent at performing their duties.  This is comparable to the movie Dr. Strangelove, where the government officials are all rather incompetent as well. 
The last connection dealt with the small subtle hints at Anti-War sentiment.  There were three situations of this.  The first of which dealt with a conversation between Hot Lips and Trapper John.  It is significant because it’s the first time there is any real mention of the war affecting the soldiers.  The second hint was when Ho-Jon went for his physical and Hawkeye, we assume, actively tried to keep him out of the army.  The last hint was when Hawkeye and Duke get their discharge papers and get out of the base as fast as they can, Duke tried to leave before finishing a surgery.
The film clip we used was when Painless tries to commit suicide.  We believed that this best represented the overall feel of the movie, and gave the class a glimpse at the type of things the camp would do to keep their minds occupied.
We asked the question, “Why did this movie seem to ignore, or brush aside, the fact that they were at war?”  The class discussed how this may have been because of the overall feel the public had for Vietnam.  We also discussed how although there may have been discontent for the war, it was still not okay for a film to talk bad about a war they were currently engaged in.

Destructing MASH (1970)

What's the big Deal? MASH (1970) BY: Eric D. Snider

MASH (`1970) BY: Roger Greenspun

1.      Dr. Strangelove

2.      MASH film

3.      Williams, William Appleman. The Tragedy of American Diplomacy. Rev. and Enl. ed. New York: Dell Pub., 1962. Print.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
By: Kevin Schechterly and Rosie Davidson

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner poster.jpg

Guess Who’s Coming to dinner, was released in 1967. Starring in the movie was Katharine Hepburn, Katharine Houghton, Spencer Tracy, and prominent African American actor Sydney Poitier. Sidney Poitier was the most famed actor/actress in the movie, with this being his third box office hit in three months.  The movie tackles the issue of interracial relationships through a white woman and a black man who met in Hawaii and want to get married but want their parents’ approval.  Initially the parents are not on board but as the movie three out of the four parents are all for the marriage.  For obvious reasons it was a controversial for the time but also went against the norm and had an optimistic outcome.  The movie’s budget was $4 million dollars.  It grossed over $70 million globally.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner was a revolutionary movie for its time as due to its main theme addressing racial tensions and interracial couples. The movie was very optimistic for its time because racism was so deeply engrained in American society but in the movie, Matt Drayton’s racism and disdain for interracial marriages was overcome in a matter of one evening. In class we have been talking about racism in America and the Civil Rights movement. This movie pertains to class because of the racism that had to be overcome to proceed with the marriage. Also, it breaks the norms of the day because interracial couples were not common and were not even legal in a number of states.
            In the discussion that followed our question there was agreement upon the reason the movie never mentioned specifically what problems Matt Drayton had with the interracial marriage. The two people that we called on referred to the audience’s point of view and that the producers would not want to alienate potentially racist viewers. The movie was made to try and shed some light on interracial marriages and that they are not bad but they had to do so carefully to avoid coming on too strong and losing possible listeners or believers.


Monday, March 30, 2015

A Raisin in the Sun (1961)

A Raisin in the Sun, released in 1961, was based on Lorraine Hansberry’s play of the same name which debuted in 1959.  Many of the actors featured in the play reprised their roles for the movie, most notably Sidney Poitier who played to role of Walter.  The film focuses on a working class black family from the South Side of Chicago, and their struggles regarding a $10,000 life insurance check received by Momma following the passing of her husband.   A Raisin in the Sun had a budget of about $1.5 million and was regarded as both a groundbreaking and a controversial film.  Considering the time of the films release, an African American centric film could have potentially been a risk, but the movie proved to be quite influential.  Selected to the National film registry, A Raisin in the Sun, was considered to be culturally significant for the same reasons that made it potentially controversial.  A socially conscious film about an African American family and their struggles set an artistic precedent for films, television shows and stage productions to follow. 
The film’s main themes included the universality of family life regardless of race, the inaccessibility of the American Dream, assimilation into cultural norms, the ability to overcome stereotypes, and the existence of latent racism. First, one can recognize that the film was geared attempted to highlight the similarities of all American families; this was implemented by the movie in order to present a white audience with the realization that white and black families faced many similar problems and generational differences. The next major theme was the inaccessibility to the American dream, which occurred for many who were trying to obtain the expected middle class lifestyle of the era. This dream led many U.S. citizens, such as the fictional Walter, to a materialistic obsession, which the movie used to criticize the norms of American consumerism (Lecture Notes). Next, the theme of assimilation was explored through Beneatha, who chose between an assimilated boyfriend and one who was focused on cultural heritage. She chose Joseph, a man who embraced his African roots, indicating her rejection of assimilation. As she acted against the societal pressures of the McCarthy era, Beneatha’s actions sent the message that anyone can go against societal norms (Many are the Crimes). Beneatha also deviates from the stereotypes of wanting to get married and wanting to become a housewife, which showed the viewer that anyone can rise above stereotypical expectations of the time. Lastly, Mr. Lindner’s attempts to maintain neighborhood segregation without appearing outwardly prejudice demonstrated that even though racism was becoming frowned upon, especially in the Northern United States, it still had an influential latent presence (Cold War Civil Rights).
Both the themes and plot of Raisin reinforce many of the ideas raised in class. First, the conflict in the second half of the story results from the practice of housing segregation. As we discussed in class, many suburbs became segregated (by choice or due to housing codes), even in liberal northern cities like Chicago. The exclusion of the Youngers from the suburbs in Raisin is justified by Lindner as an attempt to avoid interracial tensions. He argues that their exclusion is more of an effort to keep peace than to restrict the Youngers in any way. This tactic is similar to those used by the federal government with respect to the civil rights movement during the Cold War. When confronted with foreign pressure to abolish segregation, the government invested much energy into reframing the issue, rather than addressing the racism at the root of the practice. Like Lindner, the government appeared generally uncomfortable with the practices of segregation, but to avoid potential disruptions to the peace, it avoided change for as long as possible. While some of the film’s messages are generally progressive, it also exhibits many stereotypical aspects of 1950s culture. For one, the family has aspirations of establishing comfortable middle-class lives. Momma chooses to use only part of her insurance money to purchase a home, opting for a modest one in a predominantly white suburb. Like many families of the time, she desires practicality rather than opulence. Similarly, Momma sees the home as the primary source of fulfillment, remarking to Walter Lee that, “It’s dangerous when a man goes outside of his house to look for peace.” Walter Lee hopes to establish a traditional family model as well. He frequently expresses embarrassment over the fact that his wife must work to help support the family, and if he were to become financially successful, he insists that she would no longer work. In addition, unlike the prototypical families of the decade, the Youngers live in a multigenerational household consisting of more than a core nuclear family, but this is not by choice. Instead, their frequent complaints about sharing household facilities implies that they would choose alternate living arrangements if they had the financial means.
            The class discussion regarding the video clip from Raisin focused on the similar tactics used by both the US government and Mr. Lindner when addressing the racial divide. As one student pointed out, both the government and this character appeared extremely “uncomfortable” with the issue and as Dr. Guarneri noted, both invested much energy in putting a positive spin on a very negative message.

By: Michael Kostalis, Matthew Burger, and Alex Carter


Schrecker, Ellen. Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America. Boston: Little, Brown, 1998. Print.

Dudziak, Mary L. Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2011. Print.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Question #1

During the Cold War era, the United State's public policy was especially vital.  Creating and maintaining a positive reputation internationally was used to combat the communist expansion.  Americans were scrutinized for their lack of artistic originality and influence, as the United States was criticized for copying many Paris works of art.  Abstract art was an attempt at bringing something new to the art world that had never been seen before.  The United States government wanted to leave its footprint on the world stage.  Instead of attacking the canvas with a predetermined image, abstract art was meant to focus more on the process than the final result.  However, this form of artistic expression had ulterior motives, and would thus be looked upon differently by most art loving individuals.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Question 3

Those who were subject to American culture exports may not have seen these in a completely peaceful way.  Some nations may have felt these cultural exports were being used as propaganda to promote the United States as a cultural peace driven nation, even though the U.S. was involved with many military efforts. These countries may have also realized the United States was trying to come off as non-imperialistic, but at the same time the U.S. was attempting to force their ways of culture, through art and entertainment. As a result, these countries could view the actions of the U.S. as aggressive and dominating nature, which is characteristic of a forceful imperial power. For example, although the abstract art created in the U.S. presented individuality and openness for interpretation,  the U.S. was pushing their own culture’s ideals onto other counties. This may have came off as chauvinistic and dictating, which means they were pushing peaceful culture in a not so peaceful way.
Matthew Burger 

Question 3

I don't think that the american cultural exports would have been effective in the way Eisenhower wanted. I think that foreigners would have felt that the US was forcing cultural upon them. Seeing american art wouldn't have necessarily made foreigners think that we weren't a war obsessed country. Also, the selectivity of the art forms, most notably the abstract art, didn't even allow foreigners to see a true representation of american culture.

Question One

If the viewers, of the  Abstract Expressionism art work, knew the origins of this style it would not have been very effective for the U.S. foreign policy.  The idea behind Abstract Expressionism is that it is apolitical and free and the real meaning is in the process to make the piece not the final product.  Those points are the complete opposite of the way the U.S. government used it.  The relationship between the style and the use of it by the government are completely contradictory.