Sunday, April 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Jack Nicholson!

Today marks one of the greatest actors of our time's seventy-fifth anniversary of living. To think that seventy-five years ago, the world was being bestowed with such a versatile and enormously skilled actor. One who could portray absolutely any role and nail it there and then; whose ability it was to transform himself into roles as different as the Joker and Melvin Udall. Then again, in every role, he incorporates that devilish charm accompanied by that irresistible grin that invites you to be mesmerized by him. It assures you that he doesn't bite, but when he actually does, you don't mind because you are utterly amazed by his talent. Quite an opening, yes? Well, Jack Nicholson deserves it, just as he does the following post. Yes, a series of exaltations for his films.

As Good As It Gets - Yet another reason why the nineties are most likely considered the Golden Era of new cinema. (By new cinema, I mean the period after such classics that dominated the 1950s and 1960s.) Pleasantly intriguing, and quite frankly an unexpected Oscar winner for its time, the film follows Melvin Udall, a misanthropic author who cringes at the presence of affable beings, and how he breaks his rough shell by the love and friendship of Carol Connelly (played by Helen Hunt in an Oscar-winning performance) and Simon Bishop (played by Greg Kinnear in a performance that most definitely deserved an Oscar). As you witness Melvin's rude behavior, which is somewhat restrained on account that he is obsessive-compulsive, making him suffer as he must confront and apologize. Of course, he never felt the need to do so, until he is granted the care of Simon's dog Verdell, after Simon is tragically beaten by a group of thieves. (That was a bit of a spoiler, but I had to mention it, as it was incredibly unfortunate and encapsulates yet another reason why Greg Kinnear deserved the award he did not receive.) Once Melvin gets attached to the dog, one could say he was beginning to crack a little, to display complete emotion. He begins to feel companionship, then friendship, then love. Here, Jack Nicholson shows just why he is considered one of the Hollywood greats, in a performance that revealed his genuine talent without requiring him to act insane or evil. I'm not hinting that he is typecast as such a villain, but in this film, he's shown a side, a beautiful side of himself, that just sets him high above the rest.

Batman - Set aside Christopher Nolan's new installments for a moment, for this is the real deal. Tim Burton's version of the tale behind Gotham City's masked-vigilante certainly has more of that comic-book feel, though it is far from colorful costumes and cheesy fights. Michael Keaton plays the masked-caper himself, which I heard was an odd choice back in the day since he was mostly used in comedies, but nevertheless he acts well for the part. Kim Basinger plays the damsel-in-distress, Vicki Vale, who could have been played by anyone, and quite frankly I don't care much for the actress myself. But the true star of the film was Jack Nicholson as the infamously glorious Joker. There has been much argument against the genius of his portrayal of the sadistic villain, particularly when he's being compared to Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance. Now, listen closely, the late Heath Ledger absolutely does not amount to the caliber of Jack Nicholson's brilliant performance. You got that? In The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger not only didn't do as good a job as Mr. Nicholson, but he didn't act well at all, rather he frightened me. And not in an engrossing, awe-inspiring way, but more in a revolting way. Constantly licking your lips and retelling the tale of how you got that smiling-scar is not what makes a stellar performance. Jack Nicholson truly entertained you as the clownish villain, and he delivered his gruesome lines with such maniacal amusement, much like the actual Joker would have. All this nonsense of Heath Ledger introducing a "neo-Joker", or whatever you call that, is complete rubbish. All he did was drool, lick, and repeat. (Pardon me for disgracing him, as he is dead and I should probably show more respect, but this is an aggravating debacle.) Jack Nicholson portrayed the Joker as he is meant to be, sadistically charming and utterly insane, and I'll be damned if anyone denies that fact.
Jack Nicholson on the film: Tim Burton's a genius. He had the right take on it. That's why I did the movie. I did the movie based on a single conversation with him. We both come from the cartoon world originally. We had similar ideas. Tim said the Joker should have a humorous dark side to him. Burton is one of the great movie makers. I think the world of him. He's the most unassuming man. And he doesn't feel pressure. That's what I love about him. Once he's in there, he's smiling making the movie.

Anger Management - One of Adam Sandler's better films, it follows the breakdown of Dave Buznik (played by Adam Sandler) as he is accused of having a breakdown. Ironic, isn't it? Don't worry, it all works out fine in the end, after many comical obstacles, of course. Dave is sentenced to an intensive anger-management program, taught by an aggressively difficult instructor named Dr. Buddy Rydell, portrayed marvelously by Jack Nicholson. Throughout the film, he constantly places Dave in confusing and aggravating predicaments, which seem to worsen his anger issue. Somehow, however, Dr. Rydell's methods are remarkable and Dave is at complete bliss with his girlfriend, Linda (played by Marisa Tomei), at the end. This movie further represents how Jack Nicholson can play a vast variety of roles, even an Adam Sandler comedy as this, and he always adds his own signature flair to the film, so you know he's a part of it. Jack Nicholson, I mean, not Adam Sandler. The versatile actor (again, Nicholson) can make a typically gross-comedy like that of Adam Sandler into a respectable, truly funny film. Now, that's talent.

The Shining - I've never seen this, myself, but from what my dad tells me, it is absolutely horrific, as in it is frightening and one of the best horror films to date. He calls it the scariest movie of all time, so terrifying he cannot make himself watch it again for my sake. Not that I want him to, because he's scared me out of ever wanting to see this film. From what I can gather, Jack Nicholson portrays Jack Torrance, a father who turns psychotically vicious when trapped in an isolated hotel with his wife and son. Knowing Nicholson's capability for being utterly chilling, I can say with assurance that he accomplished that tone, and then some. When I'm in the mood for suspense (almost never), I scurry to watch some clips from the film, only to shut it off right before something scary happens. One scene I did watch from beginning to end was when he was walking towards his wife with pure carnage in his stare, telling her that he was going to kill her. Let me be more clear: "Wendy? Darling? Light of my life. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm just going to bash your brains in." That bloodless clip alone frightened me out of watching pieces of that movie while I'm home alone. Even though it is likely that I'll never watch The Shining, I can say for certain that Jack Nicholson proved that he masters the elements of horror.

The Witches of Eastwick - Three divorcees (played by Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfieffer, and Cher) live in an ideal little village called Eastwick, leading the typical single life, which apparently is over-emotional and focused on finding sex. In comes a mysterious bachelor who alters their life in a magical and perfect way, granting them their every wish...until he hypnotically seduces each one of them. The name of this strange individual is Daryl van Horne, and he's played with vile charm by Jack Nicholson. He reminds me of a dashing yet sinister version of the Joker, without the mass-homicidal urges and the make-up, and naturally played the role with ease and charisma. The demonic element underlying the dark comedy is somewhat disturbing, yet only makes Daryl Van Horne the more likable. (Lately, I've been leaning more towards villains than heroes in the films I watch.) Just as he does with the three ladies in the film, Jack Nicholson seduces me from beginning to end. Well, maybe exactly as he does with the women.

Something's Gotta Give - I was almost not going to mention this one, as it is a given how wonderful this film is. For some reason, it also reminds me of As Good As It Gets. Perhaps because I enjoyed it just as much? Anyway, the story revolves around a blooming romance between Harry Sanborn and Erica Berry, played with genuinely believable emotion and signs of friendship by Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton. I am one who finds romance between older people adorable, and when the film uses actors as lovable as this pair, the movie is a work of excellence. Jack Nicholson plays the suave bachelor-type Harry Sanborn, once again, with grace and enjoyment. His irresistible smile and characteristic eyebrows really work for him here, as they always do. Diane Keaton plays his near-opposite, an accomplished, prim-and-proper woman, closer to his age than his usual twenty-something girlfriend. Better than anywhere else, here opposites clearly attract as the two form a sweet relationship that grows into true love. The two leading actors have such an amazing on-screen chemistry, one that makes me assume that they are good friends in real life who occasionally share a conversation over a cup of coffee. That's the dream.

As I was writing this post, I realized that I haven't fully experienced the filmography of an actor I so admire, not even close. He has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times, the most for any actor, and has won three. Out of all those films, I've only seen two, plus an additional eight. While ten movies may be enough to admire an actor as much as I do this man, it is not enough overall. In other words, I need to increase the amount of films I've seen starring Jack Nicholson. For the time being, have a merry birthday, Jack Nicholson!

"With my sunglasses on, I'm Jack Nicholson. Without them, I'm fat and seventy."

1 comment:

  1. I loved The Witches Of Eastwick, as much for Michelle Pfeiffer's witch as for Jack; and he also had great chemistry with Michelle in Wolf.
    You should definitely check out some of his older films, He's awesome in Chinatown, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's nest...I could go on.
    Happy (belated) Birthday Jack!