Friday, February 18, 2011

30 Days of Oscar Day 22: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Movie: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Year: 1976
Nominations: Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Actress (Louise Fletcher), Best Director (Milos Forman), Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Brad Dourif), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Original Score
Wins: This was the first film in 41 years to sweep all the major categories - Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay.

This was one of the films that initially gave me the idea for 30 Days of Oscar because I'd never seen it.  This was probably one of the most well-known movies that I'd never seen - phrases like "Nurse Ratched" implying a caretaker with sinister and controlling undertones.  I think I thought it was a particularly violent and scary movie, for no other reason than it came from the 70s.  Silly reason when so many of Nicholson's best movies came from back then.  Also, with a terrific supporting cast of nutjobs, including Christopher Lloyd (practicing for The Dream Team I guess), the late Vincent Schiavelli,  and Danny Devito (I totally didn't recognize him at first) and other character actors I recognize, but couldn't name.  Nicholson and Fletcher (as Nurse Ratched) totally deserved their Oscar nominations and wins, though I've only even ever heard of Jaws and Dog Day Afternoon among the movies they competed against for the main awards.

When the movie starts Nicholson has just been brought to the mental hospital from a work farm where he was locked up for assault.  He doesn't seem particularly crazy, which actually  becomes a problem when he starts making problems, like stealing the bus full of patients and taking them deep-sea fishing.  Yes, he's probably a sociopath because he's a really good liar and manipulator.  However, he doesn't seem like he's someone who should be locked up.  Ironically, with all of her attempts to control him, Nurse Ratched basically makes him crazy.  He tries to annoy her by rallying the patients to get support for watching the World Series, and then his prank going fishing.  However, he doesn't realize that you're usually under different rules in a mental hospital and it's not like jail where they let you go when you've served your time - here you have to prove a bit of sanity to get out (or at least make Nurse Ratched happy).  Of course a big showdown happens toward the end and you get to see the really evil side of Nurse Ratched.  5 of 5 stars/lambs


Anonymous said...

It's one of the greats. Might be my favorite Nicholson performance.

While a lot of people talk about the whole institution aspect, my favorite scene was the boat trip. It offered a much needed respite from the white walls and also was a funny sequence.

Jess said...

I hadn't even thought of the use of color in the movie, but there's a great analysis to be done there. The boat trip really does "bring a little color into their lives", both literally and figuratively. And the scene where he arrives at the hospital and he's the only bit of color in the scene with his jeans and jacket and the patients are all in scrubs. I think it might be my new favorite Nicholson performance, mostly because Shelley Duval isn't nearby.