Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A-Z Challenge: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Today's post is cheating, in a way.  I'm taking advantage of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to talk about Jack Nicholson's best movies, so this is a multi-film post.  If it's not cheating, you can consider it bonus material.

First, let's start with the chosen subject: In One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Randall Patrick McMurphy, a common criminal, has his sentence commuted from jail to a psyche ward.  Unhinged but clearly sane, McMurphy makes his mark on the other patients and the staff at the hospital, especially his nemesis, Nurse Ratched. This movie is fantastic.  The characters and the actors who portray them are engaging, entertaining, and realistic.  At it's core is an incredible performance by Jack Nicholson in what I think is the third greatest performance of his very noteworthy career.

His greatest performance, in my own humble opinion, is in As Good as It Gets.  Here his craft is honed and precise, his character filled with quirks but 100% believable.  The movie seems like it was written just for him, like the entire effort was put in place so Jack could bring Melvin Udall to life.  Like many of the movies I've mentioned, this is a mix...It's a hilarious comedy, but it has a hell of a lot of heart and is a poignant drama at the same time.  If you have not seen As Good as It Gets, you should go see it.  Now.

Nicholson's second greatest performance is as Jack Torrence in The Shining.  It evokes of one of his lines from As Good as It Gets: "Go peddle your crazy somewhere else.  We're all stocked up here."  The Shining is chock full o' memorable moments.  Like when he's stalking his wife up the stairs, demanding the baseball bat, or when he pokes his face through the door and says, "Here's Johnny!"  Few people can turn on the crazy like Jack Nicholson.

And I'll close out with an honorable mention: He made The Joker an icon before Heath Ledger did.  He totally made Time Burton's Batman, again amping up the insanity and giving an inspired performance that stole every scene.  I won't compare his performance to Ledger's because they are too different, it's like trying to pick my favorite ice cream (Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby) over my favorite potato chip (Ruffles)...they are both totally delicious, one's sweet and salty the other is pure salt, so it depends on what I'm in the mood for. 

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10 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

The only film I consciously know as a Nicholson film is A Few Good Men. Perhaps I should search out your suggestion.

Rick Daley said...

Annalisa- That's another great movie. You should see As Good as It Gets, it's excellent on all levels...story, acting, and entertainment value.

Laurel said...

I second the AS GOOD AS IT GETS nomination. The writing and acting are the best example of Show Don't Tell that I can think of. He took an extremely unlikeable character and made us care about him, even feel sorry for him. It took a dog to do it, but the scene with the dog skipping over the cracks in the pavement was charming, funny, and sad.

Speaking of the dog, he could have been relegated to plot device status but the interactions there, where Melvin lets down his guard, were crucial and heart melting. Greg Kinnear brought his A game, too.

Rick Daley said...

I like that part when Greg Kinnear does the Jack Nicholson impression. He nails it! And yes, that dog should have won an Oscar...

Eric said...

Good choices of Jack movies. The Shining is probably my favorite, but I like all of them. I'm not sure I'd put Jack's Joker on the same level as Heath's though. They are completely different takes on the character, but IMHO Heath performed incredibly well while Jack was just kind of okay.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

He was very effective in A Few Good Men as well. "You can't handle the truth!" - one of the best movie lines ever.

D.G. Hudson said...

Oh, I am a fan of Jack Nicholson, and since 'Easy Rider' with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, I've liked his work. That was an early appearance but his style is evident. He has that sleazy smile down pat.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest I read early on, and loved his role there; the movie did the book justice IMO.

And, to answer your question about the Opera Garnier, Rick, yes there is a underground lake there under the Opera House near the rue Scribe.

Matthew MacNish said...

These are all great films.

Rick Daley said...

Eric- It's a tough call on which is best, they are all so good. Heath may have one-upped Jack, but Jack went first, and Heath had a target to shoot for. At the time Nicholson played The Joker, it won the show. I give a few points for that.

Alex- That line is a classic. Also, it is one step away from Kevin Bacon.

DG- Thanks! I thought the lake might be real but I wasn't sure. I also read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and agree that the movie did justice. I could have mentioned that yesterday in my adaptations!

Matt- It's been a while since I watched The Shining, I need to track it down.

Red said...

Glad to see you do this one. I love the movie, as well as the book. While we disagree as to which movie is which in the top three, we agree as to the top three!
Red.