Forman.  I’m no slave to the Academy Awards by any stretch- but it’s a little crazy that an important figure in 1960’s international cinema (Czech) and a permissible two-time winner of the Academy Award for best director is all the way down here at #107 all-time. I’m not saying he was the outright “best director” in 1975 or 1984 but who would complain too much for the director who made One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus to walk away with the statue. And those two films are largely Forman’s defense. Forman is here because of his filmography (again, largely those two towering works). I would not call Forman a style-plus director by any means. However, those two films fall in my top 167 of all-time and there’s nobody else with a 1-2 punch left like that here at #107 on this list.

Best film: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Yes, this is Nicholson at the top of his game and I don’t think it’s as well-directed as say 1974’s Chinatown with Polanski- but if you think about the memorable sequences here in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, it’s not all Jack. Certainly the sterile, haunting hospital/asylum is made by Forman. And the epic finale, one of cinema’s great ending scenes, has nothing to do with Nicholson’s tour-de-force performance.

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Forman’s crowning achievement– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

total archiveable films: 8

top 100 films:  0

top 500 films:  2 (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus)  

top 100 films of the decade:  2 (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus)

most overrated:  Loves of a Blonde. It’s been ages since I’ve seen it- but when I did I gave it a simple “Recommend” and it couldn’t find a top 10 spot in 1965.  This is a pretty far distance from the TSPDT consensus- which places it at #572.

It’s been ages- I need to revisit the Czech period from Forman– this is Loves of a Blonde here

most underrated:  Amadeus is #330 on TSPDT and I’m at #167. That’s not egregious but I don’t see any reason why the consensus should have such a distance between Forman’s two best films—Amadeus is right there with One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and they have them a couple hundred spots away.

Amadeus is #330 on TSPDT and I’m at #167 all-time
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a stunningly beautiful shot in Amadeus

gem I want to spotlight:    The People Versus Larry Flynt. This is firmly in the biopic phase of Forman’s career (which really spanned from 1984 (Amadeus) to this here in 1996 and to The Man in the Moon in 1999). This doesn’t sniff Amadeus but Woody Harrelson and Edward Norton (then an unknown up and comer) are superb here.

stylistic innovations/traits:    The reoccurring traits here are mostly non-visual. Again, if that were not the case on Forman, he’d have landed in the 50-100 directors of all-time.  How about the dueling nature of his two best films. It’s Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched vs. Jack’s R.P. McMurphy and then in Amadeus it’s Tom Hulce’s Motzart vs. F. Murray Abraham’s Antonio Salieri (maybe that’s a note that they could have leaned a little more to tell Jerry Falwell’s side in Larry Flynt).  I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Both films also feature insane asylums (or corrupt hospitals). If this sounds weak it’s not- I mean Forman had some powerful stylistic/visual choices within each film (like the reoccurring shot of the conductor in Amadeus) and the medium-long shots showing the entire circle or group of patients/inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Another trait for sure is the subject matter biopic choice/preference.

perhaps there’s more here visually with Forman– a reoccurring shot (this from Fireman’s Ball– seems to be the collection of a group gawking)
another similar shot here in the 1975 Academy Award winner
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reoccurring shot from the orchestra’s POV here in Amadeus– an inspiring choice from Forman

top 10

  1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
  2. Amadeus
  3. Loves of a Blonde
  4. The Fireman’s Ball
  5. Ragtime
  6. The People Versus Larry Flynt
  7. Taking Off
  8. Hair

By year and grades

1965- Loves of a Blonde
1967- The Fireman’s Ball R
1971- Taking Off
1975- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest MP
1979- Hair R
1981- Ragtime R
1984- Amadeus MP
1996- The People Versus Larry Flynt R

*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film

MS is Must-see- top 5-6 quality of the year film

HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film

R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives