Saturday, November 6, 2021

(20) One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - 1975

First of all, as I would suggest with all these movies, before reading this review, see the movie if you haven't. I can't talk about this one without spoilers, particularly the ending. Part of the fun of these reviews is possibly introducing the movie to new people, so I don't want to ruin it for you.

Now, assuming you've all seen it, I'm free to proceed. I've seen One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest maybe five times now. On the list of  the Top 100, it's one of the last I have seen for the first time lately or revisited. That was on purpose because it haunts me a little.

Jack Nicholson stars as Randle "R.P." McMurphy. He has been in jail for crimes including rape, and a major juxtaposition is that he is very likable despite that. Unless you can get past this disturbing part of his character, I'm not sure you can enjoy the movie, because for all the good he does while in the mental hospital, you'd have to hate him for being a sicko who raped a young girl. So, let's acknowledge and park that for now.

There is a question at first about whether or not McMurphy is "crazy" (this is set in 1963, so we have to account for very dated language, treatment, and behaviors) at first. He is to be evaluated for a while, to see if he is mentally ill or not. Though high-strung and very exorbitant, he does seem much better adjusted than the others in the ward he is put into.

This movie has an excellent and well-known cast, even to people 45 years later. There is Christopher Lloyd of "Back To The Future" fame, Danny DeVito, and even Vincent Schiavelli, who if you don't know the name certainly know the face. The main antagonist is Nurse Ratched, played by Louise Fletcher. Will Sampson is quietly brilliant as "Chief", especially in the basketball scenes and at the very end of the movie. 

In a nutshell (pardon the TERRIBLE pun), McMurphy dances to his own beat and is all about rocking the boat in the ward. And Nurse Ratched is all about keeping things her way. Most of the patients are there voluntarily, but McMurphy is not, as he discovers. Once the guards let him in on this fact, he then works hard to try to escape.

They do escape once, as McMurphy steals a bus with the rest of the ward's patients on it, and they go around town and then for a bit of freedom on a fishing boat before being returned to the hospital. It's at this point where the staff start to think of McMurphy as, if not "crazy", at least dangerous. But for all that, he also plays a role in several patients starting to emerge from their trauma, at least a little bit, for at least a little while.

It's that good guy/bad guy personality that makes McMurphy compelling. He provides contrast to the others while highlighting their collective plight. When meek and mild Charlie Cheswick (Sydney Lassick) starts to stand up to Nurse Ratched, he winds up with shock therapy as a result when the protest turns into a larger ruckus involving McMurphy and the Chief. McMurphy gets it too but seemingly comes away unscathed.

The climax of the movie is really when McMurphy is to escape with the Chief, concocting a plan to escape by first getting the night guard out of the way by smuggling in some booze and girls, and getting the patients all drunk. But, as booze and fate would have it, no one escapes and McMurphy gets outed as the instigator the next morning, leading to the anti-climax.

To give away the end, because it's so barbaric, is necessary here. Thank goodness we seem to have gotten beyond some of these practices as a half-century ago still used. McMurphy is lobotomized and basically turned into a vegetable, and returned to his bed in the middle of the night. The Chief, realizing his friend is pretty much gone, smothers him to put him out of his misery. It is very hard to see such a vibrant life snuffed out, and Chief can't bear it. The only semblance of a "happy ending" is that the Chief finally grows back mentally into his very large body, and uses his incredible strength to escape alone.

It makes me wonder about how many thousands (millions?) of people have had such fates in the past, and still today in some places. Lobotomies were (are?) a real thing, and just about the saddest, most terrifying thing I can think of. I'm sure there are occasions where it helped a person (if done right), but for a misfit like McMurphy, who is representative of colorful people with such personality that certainly do exist in real life, just seems wrong. Unless you jump back to the fact he raped someone, and this could be seen (not by me) as a fitting end and more than he deserved.

Nicholson is at his best here. His portrayal of McMurphy is very entertaining to watch as he leads the ragtag band of misfits in an uprising of sorts against the system. When he first shows up in the hospital and is unshackled, he acts in a way that is very much a foreshadowing of his turn as the Joker in 1989's Batman. And it just goes on from there until he meets his ultimate fate.

Here's a contemporary review of the movie by someone much more talented than me, in Variety magazine. And here's another from The New York Times.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

(79) The Deer Hunter - 1978

I've watched the vast majority of the movies on the Top 100 list since I last posted, and today watched The Deer Hunter for the second time. Actually, since it's a three-hour movie, I watched most of it yesterday and finished it today. There is just something about it that made me want to share my thoughts on this film.

I think it's that contrast it provides. Stark contrasts about real life during that period of time. Set during the latter stages of Vietnam, we see the characters share the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The lows are hard to watch, honestly, and I really don't know how real folks deal with such fates as the people in this movie.

Monday, August 17, 2020

(1) Citizen Kane - 1941

Yeah, I jumped from the bottom of the list to the very top. It just seemed like the thing to do at the time. Nobody said these blogs needed to be in order.

Citizen Kane was rated, in 1998, as the number ONE movie of all-time. That's quite an achievement. On many lists produced since the first AFI rankings came out, you will still find it at or near the top. Here's one. On the AFI revised list from 2007? Yup, Numero uno. Out of nearly 400,000 rankings on IMDB, it has 8.3 out of 10 stars and is at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes' audience scale as of this writing. Don't expect these rankings to ever change very much.

Friday, June 12, 2020

In The Line Of Fire - 1993

This is one of my favorite movies. Hat tip to my girl Angie for it coming up in conversation yesterday, making me desire to see it again. I watched it this morning, and I am glad to report it holds up extremely well.

The thing that strikes me about it today is that there is no wasted time during the 2 hours and 8 minutes. The story holds your attention the whole time, and every scene is impactful to the story and characters. Even the minimal love story is important because, without it, our hero is not able to progress in his pursuit of the villain.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

(97) Bringing Up Baby - 1938

This film was a fun one, for sure. One never knows for sure how a film from 1938 will hold up against the passage of time, but this comedy definitely does. Name just about any comedy you've seen in your life, and you might be able to draw comparisons to Bringing Up Baby.

Due to life and technology, it took me several attempts to fully get into it, but I am very glad I stuck with it. Having never seen it prior to now, I had no idea what it was about or even what genre it belonged to. In fact, seeing the beginning credits showing mega-stars Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant, you could have easily stopped me there and told it was a drama of some sort.

Monday, March 30, 2020

(98) Unforgiven - 1992

First of all, why is it called "Unforgiven"?

Who is unforgiven? I would imagine it's the lead character, William Munny (played by Clint Eastwood). But the idea of forgiveness isn't directly dealt with in the movie that I can tell. I feel a bit weird about writing about a movie where I don't understand the title, but without Googling it, or asking others who might know, I'm left with no real answer.

As I watch and count down the original AFI 100 list, this is the first movie I encounter that is from my lifetime, that I know I saw way back when, when it was new. Chances are, I watched it on a VHS tape I rented at the video store and had to return within 24 hours for fear of getting a late fee. That all seems so long ago, and at the same time, not so long ago.

Friday, March 27, 2020

(99) Look Who's Coming To Dinner - 1967

The first thing I need to say is: there are 98 movies BETTER than Look Who's Coming To Dinner?

I suspect I will have similar reactions many times as I watch or re-watch the rest of the movies on the Top 100 list. I am very glad I didn't have to compile it. Thank you, AFI!

I've been jotting notes down while watching the movies, often pausing to scribble something down. With Yankee Doodle Dandy, I wrote three pages. For Look Who's, I wrote six. That doesn't really mean a whole lot, as I know that depending on the day, I will allow these blog posts to flow more from memory, or less. The goal is to capture as much of my reaction as I can at the time, in case I can't type it up right away.