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Monday, 18 December 2017


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talking about an old Nicholson movie brings back lots of memories for me since he always seemed to play iconoclasts and I always felt that was me...which I guess is a weird admission for a blog post comment. Nicholson did angry better than anyone I think....if you compare his on screen anger to for example to a Nikolas Cage, who has many youtube videos devoted to him, Cage is always made fun of for his crazy angry rants, over the top acting but Nicholson does it and it is totally believable in their context of the movie. Cuckoo's Nest was great, but my favorite is Five Easy Pieces. The diner scene is very special.

I have seen both movies you mention. Heck, I even own a DVD of "Asphalt Jungle" (also notable for the being the first -- rather dewy -- performance of a young Marilyn Monroe). But I have never read Roger Ebert's piece about "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." Funny, I only read movie reviews after I have seen the picture, really to see whether the reviewer got it "right" -- horrifically arrogant on my part, but there it is.

*And man is the photography in "Asphalt Jungle" something to behold! Those exterior shots of rain on asphalt and slick black cars' somber reflections in the night . . .

I don't lose any sleep from seeing only an infinitesimal fraction of the world's (or any given year's) photography. Most of what I actually do see doesn't appeal to me anyway. But the fact that there is always the possibility of an undiscovered gem keeps me looking. And that dopamine hit from seeing something really interesting? That's what keeps the search lively (and part of what keeps me coming back to TOP, as I can generally rely on Mike's excellent recommendations -- there is a comfortable overlap of taste here).

By way of excusing Ebert, I do feel that a work's contemporaries are not always best suited to define an age's excellence in a lasting way. Consider Christopher Marlowe. More famous than Shakespeare in his day, he is read by almost no one now save Eglish Professors and (some, not all of) their benighted pupils.

For me, I think that Cartier Bresson will survive the next century. Ansel Adams? Not so much -- a Christopher Marlowe in the making. Just one man's opinion of course and, after all, what do I know?


When we talk about photographs we have looked at we tend to limit ourselves to pictures in books or on walls or on a screen. All instances when we actively look at a photograph.
But what about all the photographs we are exposed to each day that we process without considering them as photographs?
Walk into a supermarket and start counting photographic images being used to entice you into cracking your wallet. There isn't a gallery on the planet with a tenth as many pictures.
As a lifelong hack I am left in awe of what food photographers can do. Somewhere out there a photographer is making a house payment taking pictures of Spam. Hats off to them.

Its so long since I saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest that I wouldn't want to say much about it. But your reference to the fishing trip episode reminded me of something that happened when I was working for a service user/psychiatric survivor led voluntary organisation ('non-profit', is the American term, I think?)

Several of us had been invited up to the local hospital to consult on a development plan they were hatching. As we were settling down in the manager's office she asked us if everyone was there yet. At which point our chairperson, a lovely man - tall, conventional looking, but with a wicked sense of humour, replied - poker faced - "no, the others'll be along in a minute, they're just parking the coach". Without a moment's hesitation the manager got up from her desk and went over to the window to see what was happening in the car park below. Her expression when she realised there was no coach was something to behold!

My colleague went on to work in advocacy for many years, and would no doubt have been very effective in the role. The people I worked for and with were quite an impressive crew. I used to say, only half joking, that we'd be a lot better off with them running the country.

Time once again to watch the old Christmas movie favorite DIE HARD. A great Christmas tale of the selfless Bruce Willis helping a group of people held in bondage to be free. Happy Holidays.

Pigs on the Wing parts 1 and 2 on Pink Floyd’s Animals serve the same purpose as the fishing expedition in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

I am glad there is art in the universe even if I will only ever experience a fraction of it.

You left out Chinatown. How could you leave out Chinatown?!

Yes, but on the other hand if you've seen one cute kitten picture you've seen them all :-)

One of the problems of seeing different photographs is the tendency for many writers to repeat the same photographs of the same photographers. Karsh was a bad example of a photographer endlessly reprinting the same "greatest hits". How refreshing would be a book of "B side" photographs.

"Turns out, when I count, I have seen a grand total of ten Jack Nicholson movies."

More than three times as many as me - just Batman, Tommy and Easy Rider.

He may be a great actor, but he generally just doesn't appear in films I particularly want to see.

Gets me to thinking of all the great photography I saw in NYC galleries in the late '70s, early '80s... and of another most memorable film- A Simple Plan.

"We all need to choose wisely and zero in on the good stuff as best we can. "

The trouble is that you miss a lot of good stuff if you only zero in on the known good stuff, the greatest hits. The trick is to figure out how to "zero in" on what is of value without knowing about it first. I think there is a potential Zen archery digression here but...

re Jack Nicholson movies, Roger Ebert and editing the good stuff.

The first cut of Easy Rider was over four hours long. Dennis Hopper decided that since everyone knew what a motorcycle movie was about he could divide the movie into the parts that told the story and advanced the narrative and all the other stuff. The genius move was that instead of getting rid of all the other stuff, Hopper got rid of the story.

A really interesting thing about Jack Nicholson's acting career is that for a long stretch he thought of himself as a producer who would sometimes jump in as an actor.

Essays like this make me glad that Patreon is sending a few of my dollars to Mike every month.

TOP isn't an echo chamber. It's because the common ground is so slender (but just enough) that I love it! Thank you and Merry Christmas, Mike... :-)

Among my favorite less famous Jack Nicholson movies are "The Last Detail" and "5 Easy Pieces" which was tied up in litigation for decades and only became available again a few years ago. He's not a very likable guy in 5 Easy Pieces, but the scene in the restaurant as well as the scenery around the San Juan Islands in Puget Sound make it worth watching.

WNYC/Studio360 did a very interesting podcast about One Flew Over ... in 2013. No direct url to it but it’s easy to find if you start at wnyc.org and search inside Studio360’s American Icons series.

Check out "About Schmidt" funny and sad.

Regarding not seeing much photography, I had a great example show up in the mailbox today. Last week I met a current candidate for Minnesota Governor at a fundraiser, Tina Liebling, and she told about her childhood growing up as the daughter of a documentary photographer. I ordered her father's book, Jerome Liebling: The Minnesota Photographs. This has to be one of the best photo books I own, and I don't recognize any of the photos. You can find plenty of used copies, but it's out of print.


If your going to read Ken Kesey, then you really got to read Sometimes a Great Notion.

I think it is worth a link to "Asylum
Inside the Closed World of State Mental Hospitals"
By Christopher Payne
Introduction by Oliver Sacks
which is by MIT Press and surely available at Amazon and the Book Depository.

Payne made it his business over a period of multiple years to research and photograph many of the huge hilltop complexes that flourished and provided a comfortable world for the mentally handicapped of the first half of the 20th century. Great pictures and very informative essays by both the photographer and by Oliver Sacks, who started his career there (so did Ken Kesey). I remember them, north of Boston and up the Hudson valley, but they are all prisons or vast condo expanses now. Payne caught the period of the transition.

Heresy Alert:

I wish I could recover the hours of my life I spent slogging through the pointless bucket of navel-gazing nonsense that is Barthes’s “Camera Lucida”.


Easy Rider- Nicholson's turn puts that film in a whole new gear the minute he appears, waking up in that southern jail cell.. ("I promised these people... I promised these people..." ) that and the surprisingly good acid trip-montage section near the end were my most memorable takeaways from a recent re-viewing..

Read the book, it too is a classic. Reading it will, however, provide completely different images on McMurphy, the Big Nurse, and Chief Broom.

When someone mentions common experience, in either book or film, I think of either "Lord of the Rings" (both book and film) or "Star Wars" (film).

I've found it difficult to find anyone I talk to that has not either seen or read both of the above.

Even if your cup of tea isn't fantasy or science fiction, these classics have engaged the imagination of entire generations, and are likely to for some time to come...

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