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.
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.
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.
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.
- One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
- Loves of a Blonde
- The Fireman’s Ball
- The People Versus Larry Flynt
- Taking Off
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|
|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
[…] 107. Milos Forman […]
Just watched cuckoos nest as it finally arrived on Netflix. Wow the film just flew by. It’s fascinating the idea McMurray doesn’t want to be there but is unable to escape and I guess I don’t see nurse ratchet as rhis psycho everyone else does. She seems to be as bad as murphy, she is controlling like him but at the end when she mellowed down with a neck cady. How do you feel. My biggest problem was the ending with the Chief breaking the fountain and walking off into the night. I thought that besides that cheesy ending it was very good and compelling, a heck of an entertainment. Qlso though like you said above save for some shots of the patients all together there really weren’t any great visuals. Nothing id hang up on my wall. I just saw it but would say perhaps an HR leaning MS.
This review is wrong on so many levels – sorry. Nicholson (he is called McMurphy and not McMurray) isn’t a character that’s as bad as Nurse Rached at all. I don’t think you understood the characters. This movie is very dark and certainly not entertaining. It’s so sad and devastating the way the men are treated-unless that’s your idea of entertainment.
The ending is one of cinemas great endings. This used to be in my top 3. I don’t think of the movie THAT highly anymore, but it’s one of cinema’s greatest works of art. I really, really, really like this movie.
There are so many great visuals. The establishing shots , the ending shots, the patients on the boat etc.
No mention of the writing or acting? The music? The thematic elements? The assured direction? How did you forget all that? Calling this movie just an HR is wrong – sorry.
Azman i wrote mcmurphy but it changed the spelling on my computer. I want to address your points. The movie was entertaining. Not the fact that they were tortured but it was super well paced and it was just great seeing all that charisma of nicholson and also all the other characters were fun to watch. Very unpredictable also.the writing which a good bit was improvised I believe was very good. Also i believe I did mention the acting. The music by Jack nitschez that bookends the film was amazing. The themes well part of it I got is that nicholson not being crazy but then he wanted to see what he could do with these guys was interesting. He became their friends. Also, I forgot to mention the boat scene was the light blue sky which were great visuals. Yeah the establishing shots were nice. Some of my favorite shots were as a said the ones drake mentioned above, the shots of the asylum guys. I guess I wouldn’t call this movie super stylized, more atmospheric. I’m also not saying mcmurphy is bad but I was defending the ratched character a bit. Maybe that was a hyperbole. I mean torturing the patients and making them take pills and with the vote was cruel but i don’t think she deserved to be choked nearly to death and I think she is highlighting ugly human nature that exists the fact that we all want to be in control sometimes. I mean Jake Lamotta beat his brother for delusions that his wife was cheating and I think when she was asking the patient if he feels better and he said yes that was redemption possibly. Also i do like the ending. Where nicholson died and it was tragic his best friend there did it. I might be wrong but I felt him throwing the fountain and walking off was a soapy tv movie ending but i might be wrong. Maybe I just need time to adjust to being duped. I was expecting them to all escape together, so I’ll actually give it points for subversion. And I said hr/ms it might lean more toward that. Finally I wonder if you read the book if so is it any good.
@Azman also do you mean it was one of your top 3 movies or top three endings? Just wondering. My favorite endings are gone with the wind, city lights clockwork orange singing in the rain and metropolis. What are your top 5.
I believe Amadeus is a bigger and better cinematic achievement than cuckoo’s nest. I think its better at every level. And arguably F. Murray Abraham’s performance is better than Nicholson’s in cuckoo’s nest.
So according to me Amadeus is his best film. I still think cuckoo’s nest is a MP though.
@M*A*S*H- thanks for sharing. I have those two films very close on my list so I don’t have a problem there. Aside from the performance being superior in your eyes, anything in Amadeus stand out as the reason why you think it is superior?
Narrative , visuals , score and period accurate production design. Do you think it wins in all these areas?
What do you think about the performance field? Do you think murray Abraham is better?
@M*A*S*H- interesting- thanks for sharing. I’m not sure myself.
I’m glad there is a conversation going on about Cuckoo’s Nest because I feel it is a touch overrated as well. A masterpiece? Definitely. There are very few films that manage to pack such a punch with their ending (I think it’s a large part of its worth – absolutely stunning finale and one of the best of all time – it really showcases the writing, themes of the film and ties it up all together brilliantly). That said, I don’t really understand how Milos Forman won best director for it, especially in the Same year as Nashville (I think it was a little controversial at the time, so perhaps that sealed the deal) because really there isn’t much going on from a visual point of view. That is my main problem with the tspdt consensus ranking it as a top 150 film. I don’t think it is one. Top 200? A little lofty for me, still, but I think it is more fair. It definitely belongs in the top 300-250 area, and obviously I’m kind of nit picking right now but it doesn’t feel right from a visual perspective. To be fair, Forman works quite well with zooms (even though nobody can do them better than Altman) and there are some very poignant shots. As you mentioned, the sterile hospital environment is really well done. And overall it is a great film. And it speaks volumes about all sorts of things. It deals with themes of freedom, abuse, mass psychology, mental illness (obviously), totalitarianism, the individual against the system (very Polanski of him, isn’t it), of course the treatment of society’s outcasts and mental health practices in the 50’s (lobotomies, shock therapy), self emancipation, free will and thought, the power within one’s own self (the ending evokes something very Nietzsche, I’d say). Its sheer scope makes it an undeniable piece of work. I love how Chief is quietly the heart and soul of the film, sort of its consciousness. It just feels right. It is truly one of the greatest films out there and one of those that I believe should be seen by anyone. This is clearly Nicholson’s show and he walks, runs and flies away with one of the all time great unhinged performances, brilliantly juxtaposed by Fletcher’s Machiavellian Ratched – the look on her eyes is deeply disturbing.
@ Georg- Certainly, you compare it to Nashville or Barry Lyndon– others from 1975 and it doesn’t look so great– but any time the Oscars or Academy award a film that is a masterpiece with some honors I think you have to walk away pretty happy, right? Well said here in particular ” This is clearly Nicholson’s show and he walks, runs and flies away with one of the all time great unhinged performances, brilliantly juxtaposed by Fletcher’s Machiavellian Ratched – the look on her eyes is deeply disturbing.”
Agreed. The thing is that it’s a really well made film + extremely entertaining. And that’s why people tend to overrate it. Its just like the case of shawshank redemption or forrest gump .
It’s number 33 on AFI’s top 100 list. People who rank it that high are those who rank goodfellas above raging bull , the godfather above apocalypse now and inception above Dunkirk.
I mean, at least for me, I’ll disagree with someone on those rankings but I won’t contend with them unless they rank them significantly higher.