Tag Archives: Oscar

Book/Movie: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The movie won 5 Oscars. But the book was even better. Uploaded by moviewallpapers.net.

The movie won 5 Oscars. But the book was even better. Uploaded by moviewallpapers.net.

For the first time, a listing covers both a book and a movie. Both are exceptionally good, and could be here separately. But that would be a little silly, wouldn’t it? So we honor them together.

I enjoyed reading Ken Kesey’s novel more than any book I’ve ever read. I’m not saying it’s the best book, only that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of living with these characters, and didn’t want the book to end. Especially considering the way it ended, which is absolutely truthful but difficult to handle.

The book was based on Kesey’s experiences as a night orderly at a mental health facility in California. Randle McMurphy was a minor convict who faked insanity to spend the rest of his sentence away from the work farm in what he considered the easier confines of a mental institution. McMurphy is one of the greatest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction, and the ensemble of patients are also brilliantly created.

Jack Nicholson won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Uploaded by top250movies.net.

Jack Nicholson won the Best Actor Oscar for his performance. Uploaded by top250movies.net.

The film starred Jack Nicholson as McMurphy and featured a chilling performance by Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched. The film went on to sweep the Oscars that year, winning Best Picture, Director (Milos Forman), Actor, Actress, and Adapted Screenplay. But many of you book lovers can relate to my reaction – I came out of the theater disappointed. More than two hours long, and it just hit the highlights of the book. It was certainly an excellent movie, and I appreciate it more now, after the memory of the book’s details have faded a bit.

Ken Kesey is said to have never seen the movie. He was never pleased that the film changed the point-of-view character to McMurphy from Chief Bromden. But if you haven’t seen it, you definitely should. Then read the novel. Going in that order will have the effect of filling in layers, rather than having them removed.

Here’s Jack Nicholson at his best, and Louise Fletcher at her scariest:

Film: The Best Years of Our Lives

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Uncinefilo

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by Uncinefilo

It’s amazing that this movie was made in 1946. It’s remarkable that the country could face such subject matter so soon following the end of World War II.

Three veterans return home to a small town from the war, and each encounters a different challenge in reentering civilian society. Al (Frederick March) can’t adjust to being a hardnosed banker. Fred (Dana Andrews) comes home to realize the wife he took before going overseas hasn’t waited for him. And Homer (Harold Russell) lost both hands in a fire, and now believes his fiance only stays with him out of pity, not love.

It’s a profound screenplay (Robert Sherwood – Oscar) brought to life by a talented director (William Wyler – Oscar) and a talented cast (March – Best Actor, Russell – Best Supporting Actor). To achieve as much realism as possible, Wyler used veterans behind the scenes as well, in props, grips, and mixing.

World War II had a definite conclusion and a signed surrender treaty. Now we fight enemies that don’t wear uniforms and don’t abide by civilized rules of war. So our wars are only over when we feel safe enough to say they are. Our soldiers come home one at a time, rather than all at once. But that doesn’t mean their adjustment problems are any less difficult than those veterans whose stories are told in this film.

That’s what the best movies do – give us timeless reminders of the human condition. And on any day – but especially on this day – this Best Picture gives us another chance to appreciate anew all those who served their country

Film: To Kill a Mockingbird

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by jibber jabber

Photo courtesy of Flickr, uploaded by jibber jabber

With this entry in the list, I celebrate both a book and a movie. Both have moved so many people, affected so many lives. And the movie was a faithful adaptation of the novel, as Harper Lee said of Horton Foote’s screenplay, “I think it is one of the best translations of a book to film ever made.”

Harper Lee earned the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and even today there are more than 30 million copies in print. Consider what you’d do if your first novel turned out to be considered Best Novel of the Century (Library Journal). If you were Harper Lee, you’d never publish again. But you’d receive many honorary degrees, and eventually the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The movie was nominated for Best Picture, and enabled Gregory Peck to win the Best Actor Oscar. It came in at #25 in the American Film Institute’s rankings of the greatest movies of all time. And the character of Boo Radley marked the screen debut of a modestly talented actor you may have heard of named Robert Duvall.

To Kill a Mockingbird has been enjoyed, studied, and cried over. I don’t care how many times you’ve seen the film, it kicks you in the solar plexus every time. Harper Lee never published again, because she knew she could never top her first effort. In that respect, it was a blessing and a curse for her. For us, though, it’s a heartwrenching reminder of where we’ve been as a nation, and an encouraging reminder of how far we’ve come. As Atticus Finch tells Scout:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”