One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

I know why the caged bird sings.

Playing a man pretending to be crazy, Jack Nicholson won the first of his three Oscars as Randle McMurphy, a prisoner who refuses to be held down by restraints — psychical, or of the mind.

The award was a nice makeup for being robbed the year before when his career-best work in Chinatown was nominated, but Art Carney won.

While that detective yarn is my personal all-time favorite, Cuckoo is more than worthy of all its accolades.

Perfectly mixing dark humor with pain, frustration, and, ultimately, existential horror, director Miloš Forman crafts a classic.

 

The Last Detail

The undisputed swearing champ for five years.

When this darkly-funny comedy about Navy hard-asses escorting a court-martialed seaman hit theaters in ’73, it upped the ante on F-words in mainstream films.

Coming in, the record was 25, set a year before by Last Tango in Paris.

With 65 variations on the word fudge, Last Detail stayed atop the charts until ’78, when Blue Collar let fly with 158 fricks.

Last Detail has nothing on modern-day swear-fests like The Wolf of Wall Street (569 F-bombs), but no matter whether you love or hate potty mouths, this is one of Jack Nicholson’s best.

See (and listen) for yourself.

The Shining

One hotel, a million nightmares.

Jack Nicholson, at his manic best, is already a deeply-troubled man before he hauls the family off to the wilderness.

Once there, his new home becomes a prison, chipping away at what little sanity he has left.

The man just wants a little frickin’ peace and quiet in which to write. Is that too much to ask?

Apparently, as there’s bizarre stuff happening behind every door at the Overlook, and a handy axe just laying around, waiting to be used for nefarious purposes.

Time to let your freak flag fly high, Jack my boy.

 

Batman

The only film to inspire me to craft a home-made t-shirt.

Well, two actually.

Using markers and blank white shirts, I produced one with Batman, and a second one featuring The Joker.

Hitting in 1989, when I was 18, this was also the first film to get me to camp out in front of the theater for hours to be first in the door.

Then I returned another six times, captivated by Michael Keaton’s transformation from a wild-eyed comic to a steely vigilante, Jack Nicholson’s giddy mania, and the way Kim Basinger … wore a dress.

I’m a simple man, then and now.

Chinatown

The best there ever was.

Private eye flicks, the more hard-bitten the better, are my soul food, and Roman Polanski’s twisty (and extremely twisted) tale of family life most foul, sits atop the heap.

Jack Nicholson has three competitive Oscars, yet somehow didn’t win for playing Jake Gittes, which is sort of fitting, since the sardonic shamus seems fated to lose in everything he does.

Backed by the note-perfect score of composer Jerry Goldsmith, Gittes plunges into a web of sin, deception, and murder, not realizing until the end there won’t be any heroes left on these blood-stained streets.

Perfection.