Five excellent Donald Sutherland performances to watch at home

Every Monday, ArtHouseFilmWire looks for movies for you to watch at home, and since Donald Sutherland celebrates his 82nd birthday on July 17, let’s turn to the man who is much, much, much more than President Snow of “The Hunger Games” series.

He has starred in over 100 feature-length films to date and just completed filming “The Leisure Seeker” (2018) with Helen Mirren, so Mr. Sutherland is not slowing down.

Let’s look back at some classic Sutherland performances!  There are so many to choose from, but here are five of ArtHouseFilmWire’s favorites.

“The Dirty Dozen” (1967) – Maj. Reisman (Lee Marvin) of the United States Army leads twelve convicted criminals on mission to kill a number of high-ranking German officers in the waning days of World War II. This dirty dozen – rightly named because of their unshaven appearances – lumber through training and eventually serve their perilous assignment.  Admittedly, the film’s action sequences are simply passable and are not particularly special.  Instead, the clear “charm” of director Robert Aldrich’s movie lies with the performances of the U.S. Army’s felonious new recruits.

Telly Savalas, John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, and Donald Sutherland are some of the key dozen, and Sutherland brings down the house while impersonating a general who inspects some troops.  With an unkempt uniform and a cockeyed helmet, Pinkley (Sutherland) chews gum while looking over an unsuspecting platoon.

“They’re very pretty colonel. Very pretty, but can they fight?” he sarcastically says.

Well, you’ll have to watch to know for sure, but we do realize that they are part of a classic, classic movie!  (Netflix DVD only, Amazon Streaming)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 1/2   out of   ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“M*A*S*H” (1970) – A very compelling comedy – about a medical unit just three miles from the front during the Korean war – alternates between the sometimes alcohol-induced antics of surgeons Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland), Trapper John McIntyre (Elliott Gould) and Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt) and their deadly serious service in the operating room.

Head nurse ‘Hot Lips’ O’Houlihan (Sally Kellerman) screams to her superior officer that the M*A*S*H unit is an insane asylum, but not because of the constant barrage of wounded soldiers, but due to the series of pranks Hawkeye and company conjure up. At times, director Robert Altman’s picture is extremely funny, but it dates itself with the sometimes sexist attitudes towards women.

There’s also a random football game thrown into the mix, but this 1-hour 56-minute ride should be experienced and also used as a pleasing comparison to the famous television show which followed.  (Netflix DVD only, Amazon Streaming)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐   out of  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“Don’t Look Now” (1973) – Tragedy strikes John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura Baxter (Julie Christie), as their little girl, Christine (Sharon Williams), dies in a drowning accident.  Heartbroken and distraught, the couple relocates to Venice while John works on a restoration of a 16th century church.  While they begin to heal, claims of Christine’s appearance arise, and in fact one person claims that the couple’s late daughter sat right beside them in a restaurant.  In a purposefully off-putting mystery/thriller, director Nicolas Roeg keeps us guessing the story’s direction.

Is Christine’s ghost running through the streets of Venice?

Is John’s life in danger?

If so, why?

Throw in a long and very random lovemaking scene too, and you’ve got a really perplexing picture.  You’ll need to be patient to sit through the muddle in order to get answers at the end, but the wait is worth it. (Netflix DVD only, Amazon Streaming)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐  out of  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“Backdraft” (1991) – Director Ron Howard’s tense drama about Chicago firefighters pulls us into the danger of raging infernos while also delivering a very good whodunit as a number of recent fires appear to be linked.  An impressive list of actors – including Robert De NiroScott GlennJennifer Jason Leigh, and J.T. Walsh – help support Kurt Russell and William Baldwin who star as conflicted brothers.

The weakest part of the film is the familiar story of the aforementioned siblings not seeing eye-to-eye, but works best during the hazardous firefighting scenes and the talented cast lend their individual contributions to the puzzle.  Donald Sutherland particularly stands out as an incarcerated pyromaniac.

When Ronald (Sutherland) is asked what he’d like to do to the whole world, he responds with absolute certainty, “Burn it all.”  (Netflix DVD only, Amazon Streaming)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐  out of  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

“JFK” (1991) – Director Oliver Stone’s three-hour puzzler considers lots of theories as to who killed President John F. Kennedy, and we also learn about New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison’s (Kevin Costner) experience in trying to find the truth.  Multiple viewings are needed to grasp all of the pieces to the seemingly impossible case the film presents, and that’s the power of Stone’s movie.

The picture more than suggests the late Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone or possibly not even take part in the assassination at all, and to complicate matters further, late in the picture, Garrison meets a mysterious man dressed in a black overcoat (Donald Sutherland).

In arguably the movie’s most intriguing scene – referring to himself as “X” – Sutherland’s character drops a bombshell by stating a conspiracy much bigger than Garrison could have possibly imagined.  (Amazon Streaming)

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐   out of  ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Image credits:;  Clip credits:  Movie clips (YouTube)


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