As part of a benefit for the JCC of Greater Rochester, actor Elliott Gould was in the region for a 40th Anniversary Screening of the film MASH, one of my all-time favorite films. Seemed like a good reason for a roadtrip. One of my friends from overseas even (jokingly) threatened me with death if I squandered the opportunity and didn’t go.
Gould did a brief introduction before the screening. His presence was definitely worth the price of admission. I’d have paid double if Donald Sutherland would’ve been there, too. After all, my favorite line in the film was about his Hawkeye Pierce.
Hot Lips O’Houlihan: “I wonder how a degenerated person like that could’ve reached a position of responsibility in the Army Medical Corps.”
Father Mulcahy: “He was drafted.”
During the Q&A afterward, Gould (justifiably) credited the series for keeping Altman’s film alive. Now, if I wasn’t so tired, I’d go on about how much more I like the film than I ever liked the TV series. I understand that film and TV are two completely different animals, and how some of what I liked about film just wouldn’t translate. Still, the film’s tone was more my speed.
I’d made jokes beforehand about how I was going to ask lame questions like, “Gee, did you realize 40 years ago that you were making a classic?” Or the sort of stuff Chris Farley would ask: “Remember… that scene… when you punched out Robert Duvall? Remember? ‘Cos he made that kid cry. Remember that?
“That was awesome.”
I think that by making those jokes, I’d realized, at least on a subconscious level, that those are the sorts of questions that always get asked whenever you open a forum up to “the general public.” It happened when I saw writer Joyce Carol Oates speak last year. She was there to talk about a non-fiction project she was doing at the time. Now, as disappointing as that was–I’d wanted to her about her fiction, of course–it would never occur to me to ask the question most writers dread hearing, “Where do you get your ideas from?”
Now, not every question Gould was asked was at that level, but it was pretty close. As a result, I didn’t hear Gould say anything I didn’t already know from watching the MASH DVD extras–except for the fact that apparently director Martin Scorsese didn’t understand the game of football until he watched the football scene in MASH.
I know that must make me sound like a total snob.
Still, the opportunity just to be present at an event like this, honoring a piece of art with one of the people involved in making it was pretty breathtaking. Just the thing to get my creative juices flowing….