Category Archives: Jack Nicholson

Top 5: Jack Nicholson Movies

Hold on, getting a poster of this in my room right now.
According to some recent reports, Jack Nicholson has retired from acting. Then, according to some other reports, Jack Nicholson hasn’t retired from acting. I’m not sure which is true, but I really want to write this article.
It has been nearly three years since Nicholson has been credited in a movie and it doesn’t look like has any projects planned for the future. And at the Oscars this year he seemed, well, old (apparently, his retirement is due to memory loss). I’d love some more Nicholson but if he decided to call it quits now, he’d be leaving behind an amazing legacy. Besides maybe Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Newman, few actors have had such consistent records. And most importantly, “The Bucket List” isn’t the last credit listed on his IMDB page.
So I don’t know if this is the end of his career or not but either way, it’s never a bad time to celebrate Jack Nicholson. Also, this is a really fun way to put off my homework. 
Read On After the Jump: (Movies are sorted in order of the year that they came out).

Easy Rider (1969)

Before “Easy Rider” roared into theaters and announced that the hippies had taken over Hollywood, Jack Nicholson was getting a lot of small parts in a lot of B-movies which I still want to watch. “Easy Rider” wasn’t supposed to be much, but it subdued all expectations, as did Nicholson as alcoholic lawyer George Hanson. As George, Nicholson embodies Southern Hospitality. While he always seems a little sketchy, he is also nice enough to get a drink with. Nicholson burst with spontaneous little movements, giving the sense that he has as little control over his performance as George has over his own actions. Nicholson turned a small role into an Oscar nominated performance. It was the first of many to come. 

Chinatown (1974)

Nicholson’s filmography reads like a list of some of my favorite movies of all time. Perhaps Nicholson’s performances were always so consistently outstanding during the 70s because he was given the best material that Hollywood had to offer. Yet, Nicholson made every character he played his own. As Jake Gittes, Nicholson churned out a snarky version of a film noir detective. While they would usually be a little more reserved and mysterious, Gittes was instead abrasive and sneaky in his snooping methods. “Chinatown” is one of the darkest movies ever made, yet not enough people seem to give Nicholson credit for being both the protagonist and the comic relief. You better believe that after watching “Chinatown,” you’ll know exactly how to “screw like a Chinaman.”  
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Speaking of making characters his own, Nicholson did the same but this time with a character that had already been invented in literature. Nicholson makes R.P. McMurphy the gold standard for all Hollywood anti-heroes. From the second he enters the institution, jumping around and kissing doctors, he immediately lights up the room. Sure, he’s a repeated offender, but he’s so relatable because he’s so honest and real and doesn’t let anyone get the best of him. He’s the kind of person everyone wishes they were confident enough to be. He even stood up to Nurse Ratched. Now that was one scary lady. 

The Shining (1980)

This most remarkable aspect of this horror classic is Stanley Kubrick’s direction. However, Nicholson’s performance is just as important, as it stays away from hamminess and instead he gives a frightening portrayal of one man’s descent into madness. Just like the entire movie, watching Nicholson is a slow build. It’s even more frightening because the motives are so hazy. Fun fact: the now legendary “Here’s Johnny!” line was improvised by Nicholson.

About Schmidt (2003)

This is one of Nicholson’s most un-Jack performances. Instead of just playing Jack Nicholson, he instead played Warren Schmidt, a schlubby Midwestern man who suddenly feels alone and useless after he retires from his job and loses his wife. It’s a quiet, understated performance that’s equal parts awkward, funny, and moving. It was another well deserved Oscar nomination for somebody who probably didn’t need another one, but deserved it anyway.
Guilty Pleasure: Anger Management (2003)- I’m sorry (but not really). This is the only time we’ll ever see Jack Nicholson sing “I Feel Pretty” on film. Don’t take this for granted, people!

Movie Review: About Schmidt

It’s almost 5 o’clock on some weekday and Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) is on his last day of work before retirement. He’s not so much paying attention to the paperwork on his desk, but rather for the very second that the clock strikes 5 PM and he’s a free man. Then again, this was probably what every single day of work was like for him.

I think it would be a gross generalization to say that Warren Schmidt, the titular character of “About Schmidt” is no different from me and you, as there are many things that make me and you different. Rather, he begins the movie with no unique characteristics to establish him. He is vice president of an insurance company, working in a blank office in a plain, white skyscraper. Later, we will find out this was never the job he hoped to end up with.
Warren then goes home every day from work to a wife (June Squibb) he doesn’t think he loves enough and a daughter (Hope Davis) who is marrying a deadbeat (Dermot Mulroney). The Schmidt household is a picture of lost potential.
Warren’s life post-retirement has come down to a single Winnebago, the one he will drive cross country to his daughter’s wedding. But Mrs. Schmidt suddenly, inexplicably, drops dead. This drives Warren into a second, even worse rut. But still, he must embark on that cross country road trip. Most say that long trips are best made with a companion. Well its a long road to Denver, and the only thing accompanying Warren are his thoughts.
“About Schmidt,” like just about every other Alexander Payne movie, boils down to a road trip. While his films are usually about how friends or family resolve their differences on the road, making Warren go it alone shows that this is truly a film about a man who doesn’t only need to redeem himself in the eyes of his family, but rather he must redeem himself in his own eyes. That’s why when he begins writing letters to a boy he adopted from Africa, it sounds a lot like he’s talking to himself.
“About Schmidt” certainly isn’t Payne’s best film. No, that honor still belongs to the twisted “Election.” Yet, it captures an essence and a feeling that all of his films try to convey better than anything he has ever done. “About Schmidt” shows that the idea of America lies on the road. This is a country of people who feel the need to explore, from the pioneers to Warren Schmidt. This might sound like too much of an overanalysis but once you see this movie, it’ll make sense.
“About Schmidt” shows in finest form that Payne and his frequent co-writer, Jim Taylor, know how to write natural sounding dialogue like few others working today can. The conversations feel colloquial yet relatable. No matter what, “About Schmidt” always gives off a warm, welcoming vibe, even when the characters act totally detestable.
Usually, a lone road trip would seem dull, and more like in-between time between big scenes rather than an entire movie. But Payne makes Schmidt’s trip a deep, introspective one. While most road trip stories are interesting for what the characters see, this one is most interesting for who our character meets along the way, and the moments they all share together. There is something about the kindness of strangers that can make someone want to tell them anything. Or that is, if you don’t feel comfortable saying anything to your own family.
I said it once before in my review of “The Descendants” that Payne can get established actors to go totally against type, and deliver some of their finest work. Jack Nicholson’s most familiar character is a loud, outcast rebel. In “About Schmidt,” he plays someone facing the consequences of a life of not taking any risks. It is a quieter performance than we are used to seeing from him. He unlocks something in the character that no other actor could in that he takes someone who is so plain and unextraordinary and makes him vibrant and extraordinary. Then, when he finally realizes how little time he has left, and how much of life there is to enjoy, his revelation feels earned rather than contrived.
For that main reason, the ending of “About Schmidt” feels right when it could’ve felt wrong. I am not saying that “About Schmidt” is going to change your life, as that is not the point of it. Rather, it might just make you want to look around, appreciate where your from, and then do something you wouldn’t normally do. How often does that happen?