Alan Arkin Week

by Randy Fuller Jul 12, 2023

Pairing‌ ‌wine‌ ‌with‌ ‌movies!‌  ‌See‌ ‌the‌ ‌trailers‌ ‌and‌ ‌hear‌ ‌the‌ ‌fascinating‌ ‌commentary‌ ‌for‌ ‌these‌ ‌movies‌ ‌and‌ ‌many‌ ‌more‌ ‌at‌ ‌Trailers‌ ‌From‌ ‌Hell.‌ This week, we wring our hands and rip our shirts, for we have lost another great one – Alan Arkin. We will feature three of his films and have an appropriate wine to pair with each.

When it comes to Mr. Arkin’s work, 1970’s Catch 22 is a great place to start. It is a dark satire which comments on the absurdity of America’s militaristic heritage. Arkin plays Captain John Yossarian, who pilots a bomber in WWII. It’s his job, and he does it well, but that sort of work gets to be a grind after awhile.

Contemplating the idea of getting out of the Air Force due to insanity, Yossarian runs into the bit of military intelligence known as Catch 22. You’d be crazy to want to fly a bomber, but that craziness is proof that you’re not insane. For further demonstration, see Corporal Klinger of the 4077th.

What a cast! A lesser actor than Arkin would get lost among the likes of Martin Balsam, Martin Sheen, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Bob Balaban, Bob Newhart, Norman Fell, Jack Gilford, Jon Voight and Orson Welles. Oh, and Catch 22 gave Art Garfunkel his film debut. We’ll leave it to you to determine if that was a good thing or not.

Catch 22 Vineyards is Australia’s version of the hook: “You can’t be a winemaker until you get experience, but you can’t get experience until you make wine.” Their Barossa Valley red blend is red enough to be reminiscent of the ball turret gunner who was your friend.

In 1966, when The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming was playing at one of my hometown’s movie theaters, lightning struck the building. The front brick facade was reduced to a pile of rubble, looking very much like the place had been bombed. A photographer from the local newspaper captured the destruction, with the marquee in front emblazoned with, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming.” The caption read, “It looks like they’re already here.”

That anecdote is my big memory of the movie, despite the incredible job that Arkin does with his role as a sailor on a Russian submarine. When the sub runs aground near a New England island, the farcical story spins out as the Russians try to find a way to unstick their ship and keep the Cold War from getting hot.

It was not a universally loved movie, but it captured my 11-year-old imagination. For weeks after seeing the film, my favorite expression was “Ee-mare-zhency. Everybody to get from street.” And Alan Arkin was my new favorite actor.

You can’t go wrong with a Russian wine for The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming. Well, you actually can. You can go very wrong. However, if you can find the Kuban-Vino Château Tamange fortified white wine, I’m told it is a fine example of the Rkatsiteli grape. Alternatively, you know, Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Little Murders, from 1971, has Arkin directing for the first time. He also plays a NYC cop who seems to be having a tough time dealing with the spiraling violence in his city.

This black comedy is blacker than black, blacker than Catch 22 had been just a year earlier. You will laugh, but you will have a tough time dealing with the fact that you did.

Elliot Gould is a dysfunctional man, in a dysfunctional world, who joins a dysfunctional family and becomes even more dysfunctional. The urban violence that surrounds him draws him in until he becomes a participant in it. It’s like a Catch 22 – the more one rejects the dysfunction, the more one becomes a part of it.

All that dysfunction screams for a wine from Sonoma County’s Dysfunctional Family Winery. They make a nice Sagrantino, and there are no reports of violence breaking out there during a tasting.

Randy Fuller
NowAnd Zin Wine –
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