One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Norms are social constructs which have been defined over quite a long period of time which shape a society’s view on how one ought to behave. Some of these standards are essential to protect the well-being and safety of individuals and populations, such as laws. Others relating to stereotypes, for example, have been subliminally and overtly engrained in collective consciences. These predefined ideals can ostracize and exclude fellow humans who yearn for equity and connection with others. Authority figures may plainly or unknowingly perpetuate these cerebral conventions, creating further isolation in an “us versus them” mentality. Milos Forman’s 1975 Academy Award-winning classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest bravely explores these notions among a stigmatized group of individuals and their care providers’ draconian techniques.

Randall P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) has been working on a prison farm following his most recent charge of statutory rape. He has offended five previous times with assault. Therefore, prison officials and his psychiatrist agree to a forensic evaluation on a diverse and quiet all-male unit subdued mainly by the manipulative, authoritative, passive-aggressive, and wretched Nurse Mildred Ratched (Louise Fletcher). Her approach to nursing care is far from collaborative. She steers therapy groups with uncomfortable, leading questions, intimidating all of the patients with her calm and calculating mannerisms and word choice. The introduction of McMurphy to the unit is threatening to Nurse Ratched, and it is evident that she holds great hostility and transference towards him from the very beginning. He is also calculating, is malingering his “symptoms”, and should not . He is anything but disorganized in his efforts to anger Nurse Ratched, and he aspires to infuse patients’ daily routines with variety. The inpatients (Danny DeVito, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, and Will Sampson among many others in a wonderful supporting cast) evolve from terror to resentment to amusement towards Nurse Ratched throughout the film largely in part to McMurphy’s actions.

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I feel as if the title can be implicated via many facets of a spectrum. One can literally escape from a confined space, “flying over” or “away” from that enclosure. It could refer to one’s condition deteriorating to a great degree, in that “flying over” can refer to lost hope and complacency. As in the film, some individuals have serious psychiatric conditions and have been involuntarily admitted to the hospital having likely been very ill with no insight prior to admission. Much has changed since this film’s era, and much continues to evolve within psychiatry as it is still considered to be a new discipline. Antipsychotics and other medications have become more widespread and appropriately used, and lobotomies are thankfully not performed as far as I know. While an outstanding masterclass in ensemble acting and directing, this film may have propagated some dangerous ideas. For example, electroconvulsive therapy is not used as a form of punishment without anesthesia but is a highly treatment for severe depression. It is my experience that great care is taken in psychiatric care to ensure a high level of collaboration between patients, families, and other care providers. This allows for a holistic approach towards recovery and living a meaningful life with a mental illness. In my opinion, attitudes held similar to Nurse Ratched high contrast and are detrimental to current standards of care and human dignity. Overall, I feel that “flying over” a mental health issue should nowadays be referred to “flying through”, living life day by day with hope and celebration of each success.

I do not own any of the pictures in this post. This is a part of the Great Villain Blogathon 2017 hosted by Shadows and SatinSilver Screenings, and Speakeasy! Please keep checking their blogs over the next few days as well as look at yesterday’s posts for intriguing and informative posts and opinions on movie villains!

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Terms of Endearment (1983)

The mother-daughter relationship is extremely layered and complex. All females in nature innately protect and nurture their loved ones, especially their young. This support can conversely be appreciated yet overwhelming at times. During adolescence, their children try to grow and explore their own individuality separate from perceived parental coddling and beliefs. Daughters may experience a great internal struggle, feeling obligated and even guilt in incorporating a sense of their mother’s character while discovering their selfhood. Mistakes, resentment, and conflict between mothers and daughters are imminent in this process. However, respect, love, and care remain at the centre of this relationship. This idea is at the heart of the Academy Award-winning 1983 film “Terms of Endearment” directed, produced, and written by James L. Brooks.

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Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine) and her daughter Emma (Debra Winger) have been living in a beautiful home in Houston, Texas since losing a husband and father. They have been the core of each others’ universes for a great deal of time. Emma marries Flap Horton (Jeff Daniels), a local who aspires academia and is also not welcomed into the family by Aurora. The two eventually start a family and move to Des Moines, Iowa for Flap’s career, creating a wide physical distance between mother and daughter. Aurora eventually begins seeing her seeming opposite – the contentious, womanizing neighbour who happens to be a former astronaut, Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson). Throughout multiple life changes and obstacles over a decade, including further pregnancies, affairs, and illness, Emma and Aurora continue to proclaim and treasure their “terms of endearment” towards one another.

This film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning five. Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Shirley MacLaine), and Best Supporting Actor (Jack Nicholson) were the categories nabbing the coveted golden men. The themes in this film surrounding resentment, acceptance, loss,and love are told in a highly relatable manner to all audience members with such care. Shirley MacLaine played Aurora with such heart and earnestness, and we could witness and appreciate her growth as a human being throughout the film. This particular evolution of acceptance is especially towards Jack Nicholson’s character. It is difficult to dissociate the legend that is Jack from many of his roles – his facial expressions, voice, and mannerisms are so unique and distinct. He often plays the ladies’ man with an edge, as he did in this role. However, we also witnessed his transformation into a devoted confidante. In my opinion, we could appreciate his struggle to make this change, as many individuals are torn in their ability to compromise in any new relationship. Overall, “Terms of Endearment” showcases the quintessential human experience through multiple stages of the life cycle.

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I do not own any of the photos in the post. As well, this post is part of the Here’s Jack Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget! Please check out other great posts celebrating the 80th birthday of the legend that is Jack Nicholson! As well, it is Shirley MacLaine’s 83rd birthday today, so let’s also toast to her acting excellence!

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Dangerous (1935)

The course of one’s life can be tumultuous, rollercoasting through peaks and valleys. The highs can be intoxicating, while the lows can be crushing to one’s soul and spirit. These extremes of success and emotion are not a product of their own presence. Multiple factors mesh together to forge varying experiences. For example, the peaks can be a product of many years of tireless work or extensive spiritual clarity.  The valleys may derive from economic downturn. “Dangerous” is a 1935 film directed by Alfred E. Green starring Bette Davis and Franchot Tone which examines these concepts from its onset.

Joyce Heath (played by the always formidable and outspoken Bette Davis) was once a prominent actress in the theatre world. However, she is now considered a “jinx”. A catastrophic correlation between Joyce’s love and men’s demises via devastating means led to sequestration from the theatre, poverty, and alcoholism. Don Bellows (played by the suave and charming Franchot Tone) was so greatly inspired by one of Joyce’s performances that it altered the course of his life to pursue architecture instead of business. Still, he is swept up in a world of social elitism propelled even further by his sweet yet spoiled fiancee Gail Armitage (Margaret Lindsay). One night, he crosses paths with Joyce who is inebriated at a local cafe. He feels as if he owes a great debt of gratitude to her, and cares for her at his country home for a period of time much to the dismay of his housekeeper, Mrs. Williams (Alison Skipworth). The juicy events unfolding from this supposed rehabilitation engrosses themes of jealousy, trust, lust, gullibility, failure, rejection, and masquerading.

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Many would argue that Ms. Davis should not have won her first Oscar for this role. Some feel as if it was a consolation prize for not winning or even being nominated for her larger-than-life and magnetic performance in “Of Human Bondage” the year prior. I feel that this award was well-deserved. She displayed all the complexities of a woman who had lost in love and life through a magnificent screenplay. Her performance was complemented immensely by the on- and offscreen chemistry with Franchot Tone. His calm, unassuming, and naive character contrasted with the forlorn and tormented Joyce tremendously.

The spunky and devoted Mrs. Williams is intuitive and wise in many ways. On the one hand, she informs the earnest and conflicted Don that “turnips will make your chest hair grow”. Within the same breadth, she refers to Joyce Heath as “dangerous” due to her past and seeming hostility. Some individuals make less than ideal choices by society’s standards more often than others due to the sociopolitical and economic climate. Others are quite manipulative, outwardly infallible to the effects of their decisions on others’ journeys. As well, the existence, events, and uncertainty of life always creates an aura of potential danger. Our navigation and judgment throughout each day is impacted by many risks, benefits, opportunities, and challenges. One may characterize life itself as being “dangerous” due to various obstacles. However, these trials and tribulations shape our character and our ability to gain resiliency and coping mechanisms in the face of adversity.

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I do not own the images in this post. As well, this post is part of the Franchot Tone Blogathon hosted by Finding Franchot! Please head over and have a look at other wonderful posts dedicated to this underrated leading man!

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The Towering Inferno (1974)

Humans on planet Earth originate from a variety of countries and cultures. Our choices, celebrations, and customs may vary dependent on our backgrounds. Individuals agglomerate in many locations – at parties, on trains, or in restaurants to name a few. Our separate, sometimes isolated lives may be quite evident even in circumstances whereby conversation could be perpetuated. However, we all experience a broad facet of emotions associated with universal experiences of joy ranging to fear. The sweeping 1974 disaster epic “The Towering Inferno” directed by John Guillermin showcases collective mayhem with the best and worst of humanity materializing in the midst of devastation.

Jim Duncan (William Holden) is the principal instigator of “The Glass Tower”, a 138-story building beaming into the San Francisco skyline. It has been designed by architect Doug Roberts (Paul Newman) with electrical engineering provided by Duncan’s self-centred son-in-law, Roger Simmons (Richard Chamberlain). It seems as if Simmons used cheaper wiring to lower building costs, blaming Duncan for that idea. On the same night as the grand opening gala for this extravagant tower, a small fire in a storage room of the 81st floor balloons with Murphy’s Law ever present.  Fire chief Michael O’Halloran (Steve McQueen) effectively leads and collaborates with a multitude of fellow firefighters and civilians to try to mitigate this blazing “towering inferno” in the face of numerous challenges.

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Many elements of this film encourage its intrigue. The stunts and sheer grandiosity of the tale are quite impressive feats to embark upon in the film’s creation. It has an extremely strong ensemble cast with Jennifer Jones, Faye Dunaway, and Fred Astaire as some of the supporting players. I feel that each character introduced in the film highlights numerous human qualities which encompasses the very core of being human. For example, Harlee Claiborne (Fred Astaire) is a swindler who decides that true passion and care must eclipse exploitation. Lisolette Mueller’s (Jennifer Jones) timid nature is sidelined at the thought of treasured neighbours lost. Lastly, Jim Duncan experienced an ego battle swimming through his guilty conscience at the thought of place lives in peril due to budget cuts. A great deal of effort was required for him to succumb to reluctant leadership in the face of a personal and professional nightmare. Ultimately, each character, especially Holden’s in this supporting yet imperative role, recognizes the importance of appreciating human life and emotion due to our interconnectedness.

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With prestige and leadership comes great responsibility. This truth is encapsulated in the film with some definitively rising and others crashing with this calling. Emergencies demand experienced guidance and authority, but initiatives can only be achieved with strong teamwork. Each person has a vital role to play in accomplishing the most desirable outcome for all involved. Human lives are at stake when emergency responders, especially firefighters, leap to action. Society owes a great debt to their skill, knowledge, bravery, and dedication to an occupation with so many emotions and ultimately lives swinging in the balance.

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I don’t own any of the pictures in this post! As well, this post is a part of the 2nd William Holden Blogathon hosted by Virginie at The Wonderful World of Cinema. Please check out other posts dedicated to this most excellent actor over the weekend!

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All About Eve (1950)

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night”. It is one of the most commonly quoted (and misquoted) lines in the history of film. In addition, it is delivered by the incomparable and legendary Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, a juicy drama from 1950 directed and written by Joseph Mankiewicz. This quote in embedded in modern-day lexicon, embodying the aura of uneasiness of the unknown and predicting the sense that unpredictable yet stirring events are about to unfold. In the film, this quote is impeccably placed. It signals the deception, criticism, loss, and turmoil set to unfold in the lives of deep-rooted and also budding theatrical folk in this flawless film.

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Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is a starry-eyed fan of the theatre world claiming to have seen every performance of “Aged in Wood”, a play in which theatre veteran Margo Channing (Bette Davis) plays the lead role. After one performance on a rainy evening, Margo’s best friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) invites the impressionable Eve to the star’s dressing room, where she meets Margo and a number of people in her inner circle. Margo and director boyfriend Bill Sampson (Gary Merrill, who later married Ms. Davis in real life) grow to quickly trust and wrap Eve under their wings, as Eve becomes Margo’s secretary, second hand, and second brain. However, longtime maid and friend Birdie Coonan (Thelma Ritter) is suspicious of Eve’s infatuated motives, alerting Margo to this potential mistrust. After the aforementioned quote is spoken at a party for Bill (which Eve set into motion, unsurprisingly), an elaborate web of issues associated with ageism, vulnerability, deceit, manipulation, blackmail, dishonesty, disdain, female competition, and tainted success unfolds between these fascinating and colourful characters.

This film is such a classic in every sense of the word. The script is absolutely brilliant, encapsulating the necessary and important character development and flaws of all involved in the film’s universe of New York theatre. The acting is outstanding to say the least. George Sanders won Best Supporting Actor for his role as intelligently scheming theatrical critic, Addison DeWitt. Davis, Holm, Baxter, and Ritter were also deservingly nominated for their roles. A total of fourteen Oscar nominations were bestowed upon this film, with six wins including Best Picture and Best Director. “Titanic” and “La La Land” have only been able to match this mountainous feat of nominations. I feel that this is one of the most superb films ever constructed. Some of the characters in this film can definitely be thought of as the original “mean girls”!

Eve Harrington is certainly one of the most contested and engrossing characters in cinematic history. Her ascent to stardom is certainly marked by malice and corruption. Her transformation within the film from lamb to wolf, so to speak, is startling. It stirs the most unsettling emotions in viewers. Fellow characters and viewers mark a wide range of curiosity to contention surrounding Eve. Hence, the core of the film is “all about Eve”. However, her actions have created an extreme ripple effect amongst those in her own inner circle. This film is a stark reminder of how each of our decisions and motives influence others in our lives to either their or our detriment or benefit. Integrity and truth must therefore be key components of our actions in daily life. Manipulation will either immediately or eventually serve to hurt those who fuel and/or receive impending emotional damage.

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I do not own the pictures in this post.

This post is part of the Classic Quotes Blogathon, hosted by The Flapper Dame. Please check out more wonderful posts over the next few days pertaining to classic films with classic quotes!

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