Memorial Day is not a time for cracking jokes, but wartime itself often requires humor as a matter of survival. So in honor of this weekend's holiday, I've put together a Movie Night featuring some thought-provoking but entertaining war satires. These three films utilize dark humor while also recognizing and respecting the horrors of war.
It's remarkable to think that Stanley Kubrick's classic satire of nuclear holocaust was made back in 1964, because not a year has passed since when Dr. Strangelove wasn't eerily relevant. To me, this is not only one of the greatest war satires of all time but also one of the most expertly crafted satirical films overall. That's because it manages to put forth a subtle yet clear critique of deadly serious issues while also delivering laugh-out loud laughs that make you just uncomfortable enough. George C. Scott and Peter Sellers handle their one-liners ("precious bodily fluids," anyone?) with the care one would afford a nuclear warhead, making them infinitely quotable even now.
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Amid the martinis, intramural football games, and madcap practical jokes, it's sometimes easy to forget while watching Robert Altman's brilliant satire that the colorful characters are in the middle of a war. But when the horrors of combat surface, it's a sinister reminder that the dark comedy is merely a coping mechanism. The arrestingly odd pace of MASH only enhances the stellar performances by Donald Sutherland, Sally Kellerman, and the rest of the cast, who will make you think as much as they make you laugh.
Good Morning Vietnam
Based on a true story, Robin Williams plays Adrian Cronauer, an American radio deejay who takes to the air waves in Vietnam in 1965, entertaining the troops with his racy commentary. Recent Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker also stars. Williams is his usual clever, funny and raunchy self, breathing fresh air into a dismal situation. The movie highlights the human need for connection during times of difficulty and also asks the question: Is it better to be just entertained and in the dark, or to hear the truth?