September 20th, 2021

This week I watched some older films and the new release on Crave with Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: This is a classic movie that won the Oscar for Best Picture back in 1975. It also won Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, Best Actress for Louise Fletcher and Best Director, Milos Forman. Forman also directed Amadeus. It is an iconic role for Nicholson. This is role where Jack Nicholson actually plays a role than playing himself. He plays Randall McMurphy who is convicted felon, who thinks that being in a psychiatric hospital is better than being in a prison with assigned work details. He meets up with Nurse Ratched an experienced tough-as-nails, no nonsense woman who runs her floor like a well oiled machine. Over time one questions whether she really is looking to improve the lives of her patience, or rather this is an affirmation daily of her superiority. She isn’t to be challenged. In comes McMurphy who quickly looks to upend her structured existence with her patients. The patients are all men, and are important to dynamic. There are some well known actors here in their early days like Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd. The story is really a power play between McMurphy who challenges the other patients and pushes them to be more independent, and Nurse Ratched. McMurphy has an impact on each and every one of them becoming the somewhat leader of this motley group. The acting is first rate all around. I was re-visiting this because I haven’t reviewed it, but I had seen it a long time ago. The performance of the Chief is one that has struck me more upon another viewing. Forman tells this story, one that my brother read in high school, but was unread by me, in a moving way where the performances shine and you get a sense about an aspect of life for some that wouldn’t normally be seen. The story remains as effective today as back in the 70s. People are people, even though I expect that shock treatment is no longer used as a means of “treating” people with mental challenges.

Basic Instinct: In 1992, this movie became a sleeper hit and mostly on the performances by Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas. Stone shines in a movie that is a psychological thriller and murder mystery. For 1992, there was more nudity and titillations than for its time. There is plenty of frontal nudity. Stone plays an author named Catherine Trammell, who inherited a great deal of wealth from her deceased parents, and writes murder mystery books. Her books tend mirror people and characters in her life. There are some classic scenes like the interview scene with Stone in the white dress. She uncrosses and crosses her legs in full view of her male police, legal interviewers. Later there is a bedroom scene where a scarf is used and then an ice pick comes into play. The players get more entangled and the story moves on, with the audience not knowing whether Trammell did or didn’t do what occurs. Is this an Academy winner? No. But is it entertaining? Yes. One can view and wonder about how this will all unfold. If the reader doesn’t feel like watching this, likely male teenagers in the house will.

Scarface: This is an iconic role for Al Pacino. For a man who has played many incredible roles, including the unforgettable Michael Corleone in The Godfather, this is one for which many people will think of him first. His Cuban accent is forced, but this 1983 movie directed by Brian De Palma is a tour de force for Pacino in a role of a Cuban exile who becomes a major drug king pin in Miami. He plays Tony Montana. Like the other movies reviewed, this movie has some memorable scenes, like the early scene in the motel with the Columbians. There are also many lines used that have become part of the every vernacular of life like “Say hello to my little friend” and “All I Have In This World Is My Balls And My Word, And I Don’t Break ‘Em For No One!” and “In This Country, You Gotta Make The Money First. Then When You Get The Money, You Get The Power. Then When You Get The Power, Then You Get The Women.” Steven Bauer plays his best friend and side kick. From a new immigrant to the US, to a dish washer, he has street smarts and ambitions for bigger things. The end always justifies the means. He will do anything to get ahead. He has a hair trigger temper when it comes to his sister. He lives boldly and passionately with a strong business sense. Together he and his best friend rise in the Miami drug world. Tony has early visions of owning the world. He meets his boss’ girlfriend, played by Michelle Pfeiffer and is immediately struck by her. Early advice on having longevity in the cocaine business from that old boss is quickly forgotten. The story is one of unbridled ambition and excess. If the entire focus of a life is making money and getting ahead, something can get lost. Usually this can mean relationships, with family or friends or both. This is a remake of a film from 1932 of the same name. This addresses the cocaine drug scene in Miami in ways that weren’t seen before. The performance of Pacino makes it, and the circumstances that reveal just how crazy this business was, along with the participation of bankers, legislators and the Columbians.

Scenes From A Marriage: This new series on Crave was just released last week. It plays each Sunday. Yesterday the second episode was played. Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain play a married couple with a young daughter. Chastain plays a woman who works at an IT company. She is the bread winner in the family. Isaac plays a professor who is the primary caregiver for the daughter. The first episode was slow but got better as the wife has some interesting news. The couple needs to deal with it. The series is a re-make of the 1973 series from Ingmar Bergman. Michelle Williams was apparently supposed to star in it, but she bowed out. Chastain stepped in. These two played a married couple from A Most Violent Year. They are former classmates from Julliard School. Like Revolutionary Road, with Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio from a few years ago I wonder why these dramas about marriage have to seem so miserable. I suppose that there wouldn’t be much drama if things all went swimmingly in a blissful union of two people so deeply intertwined. Life is more complicated than that. Especially when there are children involved, there are painful discussions that take place. Decisions are made, and they are never easy. There is deep hurt and emotion. Things both said and unsaid. The ebbs and flows of connection and disconnect. Rarely is it that two people are in sync at the same time. One is almost always on a different plain at a different time. One doesn’t enjoy this, and the scenes that are painful but you experience them. In many ways, this isn’t for younger viewers. They don’t have the life experience to understand that this can be very real. Love for the young can be very black and white, an absolute. The truth can be that it is more shades. The simple act of packing a bag can be more impactful emotionally, and tell you a lot about the people involved, than you might expect. Two episodes in, I enjoy the performances. I will continue to watch.

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