Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Brighid's Pick: RoboCop (1987)

Paul Verhoeven is not a great filmmaker. He’s not even one of those deeply flawed geniuses like Michael Cimino. But RoboCop is a great film.

One of RoboCop’s most immediately definable traits is how it's in on the joke over how campy the tone is. Black humor wed to hyper-violence is used to critique American tastes and values, and the film winds up playfully sneering at its target audience for showing up to pay for their movie ticket. Corporate climbers snark about their friends getting blown away by military industrial complex tech run amok before retiring to sex workers and blow for the evening. Ronny Cox (of all people!) is called on to bring a homoerotic edge to macho posturing in the executive washroom. Cops are being shredded in the streets like they are black people at the hands of the cops. People across all races, genders, sexualities, and income levels stop in the streets to cackle and howl at a television program that even John Kricfalusi would consider too lowbrow. Precincts are being bought up by Omni Consumer Products (OCP) to be used as testing grounds for undead cyborg law enforcement officers and matte black Ford Tauruses (the Future!).

This is the world RoboCop gives us, and it is fucking awesome.

While it’s technically not a comic book movie, it certainly feels like one: It’s establishment leftist tone is more focused, but the tone, pace, and overall feel of this film is very reminiscent of Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, released by DC Comics a year earlier. RoboCop’s protagonist also bears more than a passing resemblance to the old 60s manga protagonist 8 Man. Not a comic book movie, but definitely a superhero movie.

Our basic plot: Newly transferred Good Guy Alex Murphy (played by real life hardass Texan/art historian Peter Weller) is blown away by drug kingpin Clarence Boddiker (portrayed by iconic heavy Kurtwood Smith). Up-and-comer Bob Morton of Omni Consumer Products uses the corpse in his newly greenlit RoboCop project, which was fast-tracked after his senior rival Dick Jones had his ED-209 mecha go rogue and murder a board member during a presentation. OCP is planning to gentrify Detroit on an unprecedented level, and they can’t just have Big Brother robots roaming poor black neighborhoods, murdering indiscriminately.


RoboCop, despite not being programmed with an ego, manages a sort of John Wayne swagger as he roves the bullet-riddled Old Detroit shooting baddies. It’s unclear who’s filing reports or taking witness statements for him, but I’ve seen buddy cop films with less adherence to reality than what’s on display here, so whatever. He eventually runs into the crew who killed him. This brings back dormant memories from his former life and causes him to start investigating the Big Baddie, Clarence. During a drug raid, RoboCop beats it out of the future Red Foreman that the reason Clarence is allowed to run amok in Old Detroit is that he works for OCP VP Dick Jones. When it comes time to haul Jones in, RoboCop’s hardware begins to shut down and Jones begins to gloat. We discover that RoboCop’s firmware contains a hidden primary directive file that prevents him from taking any executive OCP officer into custody (which admittedly feels much less shocking in our post-Snowden/Manning 2015 than it probably did when America was still reeling from the Iran-Contra scandal). Jones dispatches Clarence Boddicker to eliminate Bob Morton, and sics ED-209 (and most of the police force) on RoboCop. He also outfits Boddicker’s crew with ridiculous boom-stick-looking weapons that can turn cars into crumpled, flaming bits of scrap. After the obligatory woodshed-beating of the hero, RoboCop recovers to kill all the evil characters on screen, shooting Jones through a skyscraper window after the company president angrily shouts “You're fired!”

Good stuff.

Looking back at a film made the year after I was born, I’m fascinated by how the cynic tone of the film takes shape. More precisely, how naive and optimistic late 80s cynicism looks to cynic eyes in the 21st century. When RoboCop is drilled about his primary directives after his first deployment to the police precinct, he responds with “Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law.” Verhoeven (and presumably most of the audience) just assumes that the corporate, technocratic authority of the near future places humanity and the public trust above things like legalistic concerns, liability, etc. Also, the shocking reveal of Prime Directive 4, which prevents RoboCop from arresting a senior executive of OCP, feels like something out of that one Wired article your friend on Facebook shared but you never read. Our post 9/11 reality has (correctly) instilled in us the notion that authority is never subject to the rules of governance it carries out under threat of violence, rendering a deadly reversal more of a “duh” moment. Hell, as of writing this, the US Government is still trying to distract the world long enough that everyone forgets about all the people it just murdered during an intentional, prolonged shelling of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan. As for the War on Cops as portrayed in the film...err, yeah. That one’s just silly.

Lest we walk away thinking ol’ Paul is just another hippy dippy utopian blowhard, he does work in some scathing, near nihilistic  jabs at Reagan Era incompetence during the Frank Miller-esque news update, which serves as a cold opening to the film; an armed Pretoria is threatening nuclear winter if their white supremacy is overthrown, a Star Wars satellite accidentally malfunctions and wreaks biblical havoc with its laser cannon, and Old Detroit is essentially a grimy concrete maze of viaducts, rape, and murder via concussive explosions. That morning crew sure is pleasant to watch, though! The lead anchor is even of Asian descent! Such Future!

80s action and future Twin Peaks cast alumni aside, the best part of this film is how Verhoeven blends noir elements with crass, black humor. Everything OCP does under the auspices of Dick Jones is a lives-costing boondoggle, designed to generate revenue streams as opposed to functionality. RoboCop can’t reconcile the vestigial memories of Murphy’s family nor can he shake the pang of loss. His humanity bubbles towards the surface enough to claim his name, but he has next to nothing left of his old life to salvage. The good guys come out on top in the end, but only after (literally) eviscerating the criminal element. And while we’re left to assume that Murphy and his pseudo-partner Lewis ride off into the proverbial sunset at the end, what exactly are they riding off to? OCP is still going to step on Old Detroit to enact its Neo-Babylon project called Delta City. Murphy might have his name back, but his future doesn’t promise anything beyond that disgusting baby food paste Bob Morton’s crew developed for him. The formulaic ending and soaring Basil Poledouris score allows the viewer to let it all cheerfully slide down the back of their throat a la Rocky IV, but it leaves enough laying around that you can construct “what’s next?” scenarios as bleak and hopeless as you want. One thing’s for sure: Nothing about this crackerjack film warranted sequels or a family friendly tv show. A.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Special Edition — Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

In memory of Leonard Nimoy, an actor whose subtle cues and exploration of the human soul crossed generations, inspiring people across the globe to strive to uplift humanity. 



Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan isn’t just the greatest Star Trek film in the franchise’s history, it is one of the greatest films ever made, one of the greatest voyages deep within the human psyche, exploring concepts of rebirth, failure, friendship, and sacrifice in a cleverly layered space fable. It’s a movie that steps beyond the archetype of its genre and successfully embraces the deepest parts of the human soul. Simply summarized, it’s a tightly constructed work of art that stands against the erosion of time and resonates with us all, in one way or another. And it’s a pretty stellar revenge film to boot.
When we first enter The Wrath Of Khan, we’re met with a newly promoted Admiral James T. Kirk who’s feeling the boredom and woes of old age on his birthday. He’s tired, yet restless. He doesn’t want to wile his hours in suspended animation, trotting around Star Fleet with a book in his hands, but the adventure he’s thrived on for so long is over. Kirk can’t jet off halfway across the galaxy anymore, and even if he wants to, new blood is taking over the Enterprise. And there’s nothing he can do, except bemoan the ills of age as he inspects his collection of antiques in a home that resembles more of a museum than a dwelling. 

While supervising a new crew on a routine training mission aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, a surprise attack propels Admiral Kirk, unknown to him, on a quest for the Fountain of Youth, in search of a project known as Genesis that can take dead systems and rebirth life across entire planets. Through his journey, he revisits ghosts from his past in the form of a failed relationship, a son he didn’t know he had, a powerful enemy he once thought placated, and the fear of failing his crew in what appears to be a no-win scenario. 

The Wrath Of Khan is very thematic in its execution, and almost every line of dialogue carries a hidden meaning to it, something that speaks to more than just progression of the plot. Some bits of dialogue are even ripped and adapted from famous works of literature, most evident in the film’s villain, Khan, whose speeches hearken back to Moby Dick’s Captain Ahab. But it’s not the references that make this movie float, it’s the pulsating spirit riding the undercurrent, the self-reflective adventure that brings a man to face his darkest of fears and worst enemy in a deadly attempt to rekindle that vestige of youth. In short, the film is about life itself, it’s about taking a decaying husk and bringing the Holy Grail to its lips.

Oddly enough, at the time it was released, the symbolism in The Wrath Of Khan was as thematic for its characters as it was indicative of the Star Trek franchise — a flourishing of growth to a subculture that was proving financially unsound to mainstream appeal. So important was this movie, it’s even been argued that The Wrath Of Khan kept Star Trek from being decommissioned permanently. And with a villain like Ricardo Montalban’s Khan soaking up screen time and embedding himself deep within Hollywood’s psyche, who could disagree? 

Suave is one word to describe him. Charismatic, passionate, theatrical, calculating, mad, and cold are other words. One cannot talk about The Wrath Of Khan without naming the titular villain. Montalban’s performance as Khan is very much a part of the ether that elevates this film to a Shakespearean tragedy. He brings a powerful showmanship to the screen, and his character is so over-the-top, comic book-ey, and operatic in his performance, that his magnanimous presence is believable in his single-minded quest to destroy Kirk, cursing his old foe’s name to the very last breath. Quite literally. 

And speaking of characters, Spock is arguably the most important of all. Leonard Nimoy serves as the ultimate symbol of sacrifice in The Wrath Of Khan, offering his life, so that Kirk can overcome a no-win scenario. His death is soft, slow, and painful. As an audience, we watch Spock succumb to radiation poisoning inside a cylindrical tube, his outstretched hand pressing up against the glass as he repeats poignant last words back at a lifelong friend.  His words are an explanation and a testament to living a life in the service of others. They’re a call to the heart, a synthesis of meaning as The Wrath Of Khan steps outside of its Star Trek shell and appeals to the human condition. 

Out of all the films to follow in the franchise’s storied history, this is the only one to aim for and surpass high art, to birth unto the world a sense of catharsis. This is why it’s remembered as the best Star Trek film. This is why people still talk about it, quote it, make memes of it, and share it with their friends and family. The Wrath Of Khan is more than a movie. It’s a quest for the human soul. 

Live long and prosper. 



Every science fiction franchise has its crown jewel; Gundam has its Zeta series, Doctor Who has ‘Caves of Androzani’, etc. This is Star Trek’s jewel. While it is not in quite the same echelon as Star War’s The Empire Strikes Back, this is essentially Star Trek’s Empire, and it delivers the goods in a way that is wholly satisfying for fans of the original Trek incarnation. 
After a rather ho-hum maiden foray into film, the Trek franchise boiled down the white and gray fluff to cruise at a mean pace with Wrath. The film isn’t always quickly paced, but it is lean and efficient, with almost every line of dialogue between the franchise’s principal triad of protagonists introducing, commenting on, or resolving the themes explored in the film.  

Perhaps the greatest weakness of the film is Khan himself, who serves paradoxically as the franchise’s most enduring and iconic villain. This flick is essentially a sequel to the original series episode ‘Space Seed’, which aired in 1967, fifteen years prior to Wrath. That’s a rather curious choice to make, bringing back an antagonist from a cancelled television show to serve as a film’s marquee character and plot fulcrum. Montalbán is also hamstrung by the fact that his scene chewing never occurs in the same frame as his nemesis, Shatner’s Kirk. He is, however, able to pool an insane amount of conviction and magnetism into this part, which (mostly) makes up for the aforementioned problems. 

While Khan’s presence isn’t quite a home run, this film affords us a romp with Kirk at the character’s absolute best. For much of the original television show, Kirk was fairly invincible, waltzing in and out of danger while remaining static as a character. Tune in next week to see stern-jawed white man glopped in pomade defeat the thing, kids! At some later, indeterminate point, Kirk was subsumed by the clownish, lace-front perm wig antics of William Shatner. But here we have the best depiction of Kirk we’ve ever been given: Tired, bewildered, vulnerable, and finally (finally!) at a loss for how to deal with a bad scenario. He attempts to solve his problem in the only way he knows how, which is plowing straight into it, content to live with the consequences. And there are consequences. And he does live with them. He lives with them. We finally see this Flash Gordon-esque character breathe, and it is an incredibly rewarding experience.  

I would be remiss if I did not comment on the late Leonard Nimoy’s performance as Spock. The original incarnation of Star Trek is riddled with blind optimism for the future, which often leads it astray into ridiculousness and camp. But Nimoy had a knack for staying elevated above the drek. Through Spock, he was able to portray a charitable wisdom devoid of selfish ego. His character’s Vulcan disposition could often be read as obtuse and insensitive, but Nimoy’s memory, as well as Spock’s, will continue to endure due to the subtle warmth and lack of cynicism Nimoy brought to the role. A.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Evan's Pick: Aliens (1986)

There’s not a movie I’ve seen more times in my life than Aliens. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with this film; not only would I watch it on a weekly basis but I would also compulsively write lists of all the characters, along with their means of death at the hands of the titular antagonists. At one point I even drew my cartoon versions of each of their demises, even depicting the off-screen deaths we didn’t see of characters like Spunkmeyer. Hopefully one day I’ll find these lost treasures the world has been clamoring for and get them included in a special edition of the film.

My uncle, who is a much more accomplished cinemaphile than I will ever be, noticed my obsession and gifted me with the Director’s Cut version of the film. This is the version of Aliens I’ve come to know and love and is, in my opinion, the canonical version of the film; the theatrical release had too much of its emotional core stripped out for the sake of running time. This cut of the film grants insight into the personal lives of its protagonists, providing information that ultimately allows the heart of the film to develop.

For those who haven’t seen the film, it stars Sigourney Weaver as Ripley, the sole survivor of the close encounter of Ridley Scott’s Alien and a woman with the uncanny ability to dream plot exposition. After drifting in space in hypersleep for 57 years (sleeping through the entire lifespan of her daughter back on Earth), she is rescued by a salvage crew and testifies about her encounter to her employer, the multinational corporation Weyland-Yutani. Unfortunately, upon investigating her claims they trigger another alien outbreak on one of their colony planets. A team of Marines is sent to investigate, and Ripley joins them as a consultant under the promise that the Marines are going to wipe out these nightmare creatures once and for all.

I'm getting real sick of having this dream!

As a kid, I preferred the action and the fast pace of Aliens to the slow-burn, deliberate pacing of its predecessor. The idea of a big squad of military badasses slowly being picked off one-by-one by a hive of “perfect organisms” held more appeal in the mind of an eight-year-old than a tale of hapless space truckers getting diverted from their voyage home and encountering a single monster. I responded more to the quippy dialogue of Cameron’s script than I did to Ridley Scott and Dan O’Bannon’s early attempt at mumblecore realism.

As I got older, I began to notice the intricacies of the film’s plot, like how seamlessly the story flows from beat to beat in a clear chain of cause and effect without relying on coincidence or Deus ex Machina. I also began to notice how well James Cameron’s script takes the subliminal ideas laid out in the first film and extrapolates them to their logical conclusion, like inferring from O’Bannon’s script that the Xenomorphs they encountered must have a hive structure that includes a queen.

Additionally, I began to see the subtle tenderness underlying the relationships between its characters. And I don’t just mean between Ripley and Newt, the eight-year-old lone survivor of the outbreak on the colony, although the maternal bond that develops there best exemplifies the unspoken relationship-building at which the film excels. I also mean between characters like the badass Latina Marine, Vasquez (Jeanette Goldstein) and her pals Drake (Mark Rolston), Hicks (Michael Biehn) and Hudson (Bill Paxton).

If I were the type of person who were qualified to write analyses of scenes in films, I would single out Ripley’s first confrontation with the Xenomorph queen as my first dissection victim. It wasn’t until I was 20 that I realized just how brilliantly the film captures this encounter. Not a word is spoken in this scene, but Ripley and this alien queen are able to communicate exactly what they mean to each other — and to the audience — through body language and facial expressions alone. It’s a testament not just to Sigourney Weaver’s abilities as an actress but also the talent of the special effects team. The alien queen they constructed perfectly expresses her hostility toward Ripley, her protectiveness over her crèche, her “dialogue” with her drones and her horror over what is eventually done to them. This scene is a masterpiece within a masterpiece.

No words necessary, just as in the film. 

Sadly, as I’ve gotten even older, I’ve started seeing cracks in the rest of the film. A few years ago I spent some more time with Ridley Scott’s Alien and discovered upon doing so that it is basically a perfect horror film, and close to a perfect film altogether. Although I didn’t appreciate it when I was a child, it does what great horror should do: establishes a believable setting with relatable characters, then slowly immerses them in a situation that gets increasingly dangerous and out of their control, until it reaches a point of no return.

After finally starting to appreciate the subtle brilliance of Alien (including the sexual dimensions of its horror, which I never noticed as a child), I did a side-by-side comparison with James Cameron’s sequel, and came to a disturbing conclusion: Alien is actually a better film than Aliens. This was hard for me to admit, but as much as I love characters like Hudson and Vasquez and basically all the military grunts on their bug-hunting mission, some of the dialogue in the movie almost feels like it needs to be delivered with a laugh-track in the background.

Case in point. Bazooper!

Aliens is still one of my favorite movies, and I’d still choose it over Alien if I were picking out a movie to watch while I nursed myself out of a hangover, but I’m able to concede some of its flaws. However, it was in these recent viewings when the cracks started to show that I finally had to admit another horrifying truth to myself: it’s all Vasquez’s fault.

Now, I guess it would be more fair to say that it’s all Weyland-Yutani Corp’s fault and, more specifically, the sniveling Carter Burke’s fault (played perfectly by the sniveling Paul Reiser), but these secondary villains aside, everything else that goes wrong from the first encounter with the Xenomorphs onward can and must be blamed on Vasquez. And this is not an accusation I make lightly as, after Ripley, Vasquez is my favorite character in this movie, if not in the entire series.

"Look man, I only need to know one thing: where the primary heat exchangers are."

But listen: it is Vasquez who hides a magazine for her assault rifle from Sgt. Apone when mission control realizes they can’t fire any rounds near the nuclear reactor core. It is Vasquez who says “fuck it” (or, more specifically, “let’s rock!”) and begins firing her assault rifle at the attacking Xenomorphs when they find themselves surrounded — and it is this firing that ruptures the nuclear core's cooling system, causing it to detonate later in the film. It is Vasquez who fires on the Xenomorph near her friend Drake and indirectly ends his life. And finally, it is Vasquez (and Lt. Gorman) who eat a grenade near the finale in order to kill two encroaching Xenomorphs instead of dying quietly — and it is the resulting explosion that sends Newt down an airshaft and into the clutches of the alien queen.

Now, this would all be okay if my analysis of Aliens ended with Aliens. Unfortunately, Aliens was followed by the toxic, nihilistic, life-destructive Alien3 (which I guess we’re supposed to refer to as Alien Cubed?), which is a well-made movie on its own merits but completely undermines and negates everything positive about Aliens. In fact, Alien3 reinforces Bishop’s Utilitarian position that they abandon Newt at the end of the film and escape the planet when they have the chance. By killing off Newt and Hicks in the first five minutes of the film — and doing so by assuming the eggless Queen who boards their spacecraft at the end somehow managed to lay eggs on their ship — it makes everything that happens after Vasquez’s sacrificial death pointless. Actually, it makes it worse than pointless — it makes everything Ripley does to save her adoptive daughter a colossal, counterproductive mistake.

In a world where I can completely ignore Alien3 and pretend the series continuity ends with James Cameron’s sequel, Vasquez’s sin of recklessness is forgivable and ultimately laudable. Until that day comes, though, I am forced to admit that my second favorite character in one of my favorite films is ultimately responsible for the horror that followed as the franchise continued. Yes, that means Vasquez is partly to blame for Alien: Resurrection.

Sadly, this scene was excluded even from Cameron's Director's Cut.

You might have noticed that I didn’t cover any of the myriad technical or artistic achievements of this film, from its superb special effects to James Horner’s iconic score, which is still probably my favorite action-film score of all time. This is mostly because I’m a lazy writer and couldn’t think of a way to seamlessly integrate those points into the rest of the text but, to a lesser extent, it’s also because everyone in the world has already seen Aliens and doesn’t need me to rehash the stuff they already know. This is an incredible movie and if for some reason you've never seen it, you're in for a treat.

Recently some rumors were swirling that Neill Blomkamp (District 9) planned to direct a reboot of the latter half of the franchise that picks up immediately after the events of Aliens, and hopefully diverts the story away from the disheartening fare that followed. It turns out that while there was some truth to these rumors, Blomkamp is no longer involved, meaning the project may be no more. I, however, am going to continue holding out hope for this true sequel to materialize someday that gives Ripley, Newt, Hicks and even Bishop the happy ending they deserve.

I can dream, can't I?

I think we both can.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Scott's Pick: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

There’s no technical reason why One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is my favorite film. There’s no academic essay, no scholarly words, no dorky references. To me, this movie is as painful as it is fun. It’s as much of a reminder about life as it is a cinematic call-to-action. When I watch One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, I see a great drama, I see a magnificent discourse on society, and I see a mirror that penetrates through my skin and burrows to my core.  

To me, the world of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is the celluloid nightmare we’ve all grown up in, alienated and aloof as we walk down the immaculate white hallways of our sprawling dystopia. In this institution, dream-like melodies lull us to sleep as some civic-minded community leader plans out a routine for us, and mandatory medication dulls our senses as some well-dressed legislator legislates our life options into fewer and fewer multiple choice options.  We’re reminded that we have freedom of choice, that there’s a door we can walk through, as this hazy nightmare icily folds around our inebriated limbs. We see the swaying trees through the window, the leaves rustling as a cool breeze rushes by. The sun’s out. There are animals frolicking. 

But we stay inside. We stay where it’s safe, where it’s comfortable and warm and seemingly nurturing enough. The food ain’t that bad here, and the doctors and nurses and orderlies are smiley at least.
In this institution, our meals are prepared and portioned for us. Our medicine is doled out, right on schedule. Nurses tend to our needs, reminding us of what we can and cannot do. We’re civilized here. We’re herded together under a set standard of rules and regulations – members of a community working to rehabilitate ourselves for the greater good. Some rules don’t make sense, but we don’t question; we keep our heads bowed as that music envelops us. What we need to know about the world, the news, that glowing beacon known as the Fourth Estate, will tell us, patting us on the head while its agents stuff a few greasy dollar bills into their pockets – much-deserved tips for a job well done.

“Medication time. Medication time,” the loudspeaker soothes. 

“Medication time. Medication time,” our smiley friends remind us. 

But then there’s that movie playing in the background – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. It reminds us of the swaying trees and the rustling leaves. It pesters us to gaze at the sun, to watch the animals. It’s our life, not theirs, this movie whispers to us. We’re just as level-headed, competent, intelligent, and capable as anyone, so we should choose, not them.
Very few of us have ever met a Randall Patrick McMurphy. When he crashes into our lives, his boyish bravado and rebellious humor carry forth a tumultuous sea of discord that permit us to see how stained and covered in filth and waste those bleached, white walls really are. When R.P. McMurphy’s around, we take notice of the favoritism the nurses play and their sycophantic coddling, and we meet the insitution’s personal goon squad, the one that steps in when our fellow inmates are a little too unruly. We hear the hoarse cries of violence reverberating a few octaves below the music, and we see the oil and slime dripping from that community leader’s fingertips. And out of nowhere, this man, R.P. McMurphy, asks us our opinion on something. He asks us what we would like to do, where we would like to go, how we would like to go, and he asks us if we’re brave enough.  Once one breaks the spell, that pied piper hospital muzak is a haunting melody – a melody of sleep, death, and servitude. 

When that tune wriggles under our skin and makes us afraid, it is only then that we begin to dream. We can envision a greater world and see the interlocking pieces of a bigger picture.  Our problems, our ailments that have plagued us, they’re nothing more than minor crutches we’ve used, that the nurses and doctors have used, to keep us in line – ants on the march toward building a better tomorrow. Everything that seemed so worrisome and important is only an artificial roadblock. And we were never sick to begin with, so why are we here? 

The protagonist of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest dies in the end, his attempts to shove a bug up the ass of the system and free us all seemingly thwarted, but there’s a moment where another character, a silent observer R.P. McMurphy inspired, throws a water fountain through the window and escapes into the early hours of a new dawn. That character, Chief, is a representation of us, of what we could be if we wanted. He’s the mirror, the shimmering pool Milos Forman’s 133-minute odyssey is asking us to look into and reflect. Are we truly living freely, or are we stunting ourselves to live out the lives our betters have deemed more fitting for us? 

Though some critics will argue this film is ultimately about R.P. McMurphy’s failure, this film is less about failure as it is about keeping the wildfire, the question, the realization of the bigger picture alive. If the protagonist can inspire even one solitary soul to bear the weight of skepticism and individuality, he has succeeded. Period.  

When I watch One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, I don’t watch it as a film scholar or a movie buff, I watch it as just another human. And it’s cathartic. Empowering.