Friday, June 11, 2010

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

The second film ever to receive all five major Academy Awards is not the top ten material that many seem to think it is. (In fact, none of the three films to so far do so really achieve that level of artistry and meaning. The Oscars aren’t that sort of event, after all.) Do not understand. It is technically competent, well acted, and a great story. It just has it failings, and this is not the first assertion of that fact.

As it stands, the story is trying to present a parable of the dangers of totalitarian ideologies. Specifically, communism is what the filmmakers had in mind here. Any system that attempts to control and rob humanity of its freedom is an evil system. People, while not perfect or even truly good, are not made better by outside force—they merely cease to be human.

The largest problem with Cuckoo's Nest is its protagonist. He is so flawed that today’s audience is hard pressed to get on board with his quest. Presumably in the 1970s, audiences were so fed up with authority that they would cheer on a reprobate child molester. Today’s sensibilities have a harder time rooting for a man who was so negative in free society (causing fights and having sex with a fifteen year old) that he was locked away.

In the end, we are clear on the negatives of the totalitarian system, but we do not see any hope that there could be a system that would help people to live in harmony and freedom. It is easy to complain but far harder to provide helpful ideas.


  1. I hated the movie in the 70's, still do. Still wonder what in the world people see in Jack Nicholson! He never acts; he's always the same in every movie: himself, and that leaves a lot to be desired!

  2. I respectfully disagree. Nicholson often does play a variation on himself, but not always. Of course, the ability to play yourself naturally is surprisingly difficult, but that's a different discussion.
    Nicholson has turned in truly great, un-Jack-like performances in the following films:


    While not all of these films are really great, Nicholson is fascinating to watch in all of them. I especially recommend IRONWEED and ABOUT SCHMIDT to see soulful, complex Nicholson performances.

  3. Well, you've got me, Tyler. I have not seen any of those. I'll have to check them out.


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