3/7/14: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Cuckoo

Back before I retired, I was working 55, 60 hours a week. 9-5; 5-5; 5-6; 24/7/365! Whatever it took. Even on vacation, it was 6-9 in the morning, meetings at lunch or over drinks at Chases on the Beach’s Tiki Bar in New Smyrna Beach FL. Life was simple then & I had a lot of free time on my hands. Then came 11/11/11: Retirement day; lucky #11. Ya, right! That’s when everything changed & I had to reinvent myself. Instead of just watching films, I began to introduce them. Later teach film-based cooking classes at Wolcott Adult Ed. That’s where I met Denise Whelan & she turned me on to the OLLI Program at UConn’s Waterbury Campus. So last fall, I presented a Kubrick course there. And now I host films at least twice a  week unless it’s bikini time at Chases. Then I do relax…sorta. But mostly, I’m busier than ever. ‘Relax!’, people tell me. ‘You’re retired. You should be taking it easy.’. “And now they’re telling me I’m crazy over here because I don’t sit at home like a goddamn vegetable! Don’t make a bit of sense to me. I don’t think it’s crazy at all. And I don’t think any of you do either. No man alive could resist the temptation to watch great movies for fun & to quench his intellectual curiosity. And that’s why I got into blogging as well. If that’s what being crazy is, then I’m senseless; out of it; gone-down-the-road! Whacko! But no more, no less, that’s it! Eh, I must be crazy to Blog in a loony bin like this.”

Cuckoo - ChasesCuckoo - DeniseCuckoo - OLLICuckoo - StanleyCuckoo - Bikini

Anyway, Miloš Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s stars Jack Nicholson as renegade Randle ‘Mac’ McMurphy. It’s Oregon, 1963.  The seemingly stable Mac is serving a short prison sentence for the statutory rape of a 15 year old girl when he’s sent to a mental institution for evaluation. The ward is run by the dictatorial, sadistic & manipulative Head Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher in her Academy Award-winning role). She keeps her patients under complete control with a combination of mind-control techniques: Humiliation; medication; music & group therapy designed to stress conformity; denial of privileges; and other less pleasant forms of treatment. Her patients include: The stutterer Billy (Brad Dourif); the childlike Cheswick (Sydney Lessick); delusional Martini (Danny DeVito); Harding (William Redfield) is pedantic & paranoid; the vulgar Max Taber (Christopher Lloyd) ; and Chief Bromden (Will Sampson) is a deaf & dumb, native American hulk.

Cuckoo - MilosCuckoo - MacCuckoo - RatchedCuckoo - MedsCuckoo - GroupCuckoo - BillyCuckoo - ChesCuckoo - MartiniCuckoo - HardingCuckoo - TaberCuckoo - Chief

The picture won 5 Oscars in 1976 at the 48th Academy Awards: Best Picture; Actor; Actress; Director; and Adapted Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben & Bo Goldman). And it was nominated for 4 more Oscars: Supporting Actor (Dourif); Cinematography; Film Editing; and Score. Ken Kesey wrote the novel. It was ground-breaking, and did a great deal to change the way mental health institutions managed their patients. I love the book. It’s mind-blowing! One of my favorites ever. But the film – I like it even more!! Kesey, however, prefers his novel even though he doesn’t have a clue which is better, more important, funnier, stranger…anything! He was one of the most open-minded men of his or any generation, but was so annoyed that the film was written from Mac’s point of view rather than Chief’s, he vowed never to see it. Perhaps his one failure in his 76 years is that he never did. He made the same mistake that so many people do: He compared a book to a movie. But they at least watch the film. You can’t do that! A novel is a project undertaken by one guy or girl, all alone in his or her room in underpants for 2 years. A film is a collaboration of the work of 100’s of people under the supervision of a director. It’s not apples & oranges, it’s apples & orange groves. I know what you’re doing: You’re saying to yourselves, ‘But that’s what you just did!’. It’s not. My opinion is based on scholarly analysis. Compare & Contrast in Your Blue Book, if you will. A deeper dive than, [in Lily Tomlin operator voice] ‘I think the book was better.’. I know. You’re thinkin’, ‘That makes no sense. Get off of the fence. Coming from you, I’d never have guessed.’. Just watch the trailer for Cuckoo’s Nest. Once it’s over, you know what to do: Put it on top of your Netflix queue. 4 Stars!

Cuckoo - WritersCuckoo - KeseyCuckoo - BlueCuckoo - Lily

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