Year 8, Day 151 - 5/30/16 - Movie #2,350
BEFORE: I've reached the midpoint of Movie Year 8, and so it's time to stop and assess - the Watchlist is down to 125, thanks to my system of only adding one film after deleting two. It seems that's the only way I can make true progress, so this is not only the lowest number of films that has ever been on the Watchlist, it's also the furthest I've gone into a year and have it still be mathematically possible to clear the list within that year. I've got 150 slots left, but I have a terrible feeling it won't be enough, the math just doesn't support that.
It's also Memorial Day, so a time to stop and reflect - and I appreciate the fact that I've never served in the military, so it's doubly important that I appreciate those who have, which has granted me the freedom not to. What I do know about war has mostly come from movies, first from the "Star Wars", then later from films like "Platoon", and these days I've been watching a lot of films set during World War II. I'm sort of going backward in time, seeing as how the project has also urged me to watch several films about the Civil War, like "Gone With the Wind". It would be pretty embarrassing if I new more about Marvel Comics' "Civil War" than the real one from U.S. history.
For some reason, men over a certain age seem to get fascinated with World War II - at first it was because they lived through that era, but now the following generation has become older and similarly obsessed with it. I worry that by watching WWII movies, I'm starting to follow in my Dad's footsteps.
Jon Voight carries over from "Deliverance", and he'll also be here for one more film tomorrow.
THE PLOT: A man is trying desperately to be certified insane during World War II, so he can stop flying missions.
AFTER: If you don't know what a "Catch-22" is, it's a seeming contradiction in logic that's caused by circular reasoning, stemming from military rules that appear to make no sense. The phrase has entered the vernacular to describe any situation where you've reached a dead-end, metaphorically, and can't seem to act or move forward in a situation. This film (based on the novel by Joseph Heller) puts forth the best example with Yossarian, who wants stop flying bombing missions, as he feels he might be going crazy. And being crazy would be a great excuse to be grounded, except he has to ask to be declared crazy, and that asking would be the act of a man who's not crazy, so therefore he must be sane and has to keep flying.
In a similar fashion, his commanding officer is aware that after a certain number of bombing missions, a soldier is allowed to rotate home, but since he can't afford to lose his best men this way, he keeps increasing the number of missions required, so that no one can ever reach that goal. That's frustrating for sure, but from the army's standpoint, it makes perfect sense - it's the kind of regulation that helps win the war.
Of course, there was another 1970 dark comedy war film that explored the futility of war - "M*A*S*H", which technically was set in Korea, but come on, it was really about Vietnam. So since that was in the zeitgeist, does that mean that "Catch-22", a film set in WWII is also really about Vietnam? Whether this counts as a comedy or not is possibly the matter for some debate. Black comedy is always tricky that way, it almost feels like a bit of a cheat to show the horrors of war and some funny bits together in the same film, like putting ice cream on your french fries or something. Some people might enjoy the taste, but most probably won't.
Also, there's a non-linear structure - with a few flashback fantasy sequences, I can't guarantee that the events depicted happened in the order in which they're shown, plus the movie ends the same way as it begins. Is some of this/all of this a dream? Or does the circular nature of the storyline just reinforce the futility, like we pick up on the fact that Yossarian is going around in circles, and therefore might never get out of his situation? From what I'm reading on Wiki, however, it seems like the film is more linear than the book, which features mainly separate stories that are told completely out of order.
And what's with the names? Many are patently absurd, like Captain Aardvark, or they rhyme, like Chaplin Tappman or Milo Minderbinder. Then there's Captain Major, he's not double-ranked, his name is Major, but he's a Captain, at least at first - when he becomes Major Major things get even worse. He tells his aide not to let anyone in his office to see him, at least not when he's there, since he doesn't want to be disturbed. When the aide asks when he should let people in to see him, Major Major says to do that any time when he's not there. So anyone who wants to see Major Major can only get in to see him when he's not there, which means they won't ever meet with him - another Catch-22.
As I said, I've never served in the military, but each year when I go to Comic-Con (not a proper comparison, I know, but stick with me...) I treat it like a military operation of sorts, I've got a sales goal to reach and a certain number of personnel to cover the booth, and I have to be keenly aware of all of the convention's paperwork and procedures in order to take the best possible advantage of the situation. And disasters happen, I have to work around them, and quite often the rules of the convention center don't seem to make any sense. Yet, they still need to be followed, or we could lose our privileges.
Also starring Alan Arkin (last seen in "Gattaca"), Martin Balsam (last seen in "St. Elmo's Fire"), Richard Benjamin, Art Garfunkel (last seen in "54"), Buck Henry (last seen in "Grumpy Old Men"), Bob Newhart (last seen in "Cold Turkey"), Anthony Perkins (last seen in "Psycho"), Martin Sheen (last seen in "Gandhi"), Paula Prentiss (last seen in "What's New Pussycat"), Orson Welles (last seen in "Compulsion"), Bob Balaban (last seen in "The Mexican"), Charles Grodin (last seen in "The Heartbreak Kid"), Jack Gilford (last seen in "Arthur 2: On the Rocks"), Norman Fell (last seen in "Fitzwilly"), Austin Pendleton (last seen in "Amistad"), Peter Bonerz, Susanne Benton (last seen in "A Boy and His Dog"), Olimpia Carlisi, Marcel Dalio, with cameos from Jack Riley, Bruce Kirby, Richard Libertini, Elizabeth Wilson.
RATING: 5 out of 10 Italian prostitutes