#620 One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an excellent film that won many awards in 1975. The film features incredible performances by Will Sampson, Louise Fletcher, Jack Nicholson, Christopher Lloyd, Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, and many others all working as a tight ensemble to deliver a powerful and beautifully paced piece. Forman’s direction has rarely failed throughout his illustrious career, and this movie is no different; any scene between Fletcher and Nicholson is mesmerizing as one can literally see static electricity building between their silent eyes.



As a reader, I am really looking forward to the films on this list that are based on books I have read. As a matter of fact, I am looking forward to reading some of the books that I haven’t read before seeing the film and experiencing both pieces independently. There are a lot on the list that I have already read, so that helps.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was a film that I saw in high school and ended up reading the book a lot later. It is somewhat of an urban fantasy and is told in the point of view of the Chief as he tries to make sense of the senselessness of his surroundings. It was a great book, and it’s most memorable elements were its use of fantasy elements and Beat Generation narrative in the face of telling a compelling story about domination, social complacency, and the importance of self in a world that doesn’t care.

This film  is excellent but leaves out a great deal of what makes the book great. As a work of art on its own, it manages to evoke some incredible performances from some new actors (Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, and Brad Dourif). The fact that this studio film is able to captivate the audience using only one set most of the film as if we were watching a play (it was also a play, of course) is a testament to the power of the performances and the script over anything else. It is rare today that original performances by original actors are a chance that studios take, and it worked so perfectly in this film. Furthermore, Forman’s understanding of a good performance when he sees it, and his ability to zoom into the performer’s face uncomfortably close brings a shocking beauty to their performance. Dourif’s close reactions to Fletcher’s questioning about halfway through the film is one of the greatest compositions between actor and camerawork that ended in something absolutely beautiful.

A great film whose script and theatrical execution appear to be its strongest points. As an adaptation of a book, it misses some of the books more important elements and only focuses on plot and theme. Largely misses the tone and narrative of the piece, but it is beautiful on its own as a separate work of art.



I have never read the book or seen the play.  I thought the movie was great.  This is another film where we get to discover the early work of some of the actors we grew up watching ( Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd). The actors actually lived on the psych ward of the Oregon State Hospital during the filming, and several of the staff and actual patients of the ward were featured as  background actors during several scenes.

The rights to make a film adaptation were obtained by actor Kirk Douglas in the 1960s, who had starred as McMurphy in the play.  However, by the time the movie began production, 10 years later, he was too old to reprise his role as McMurphy. His son Michael Douglas continued to work on adapting  the novel and play into a film.

Jack Nicholson gave a flawless performance, as his characters goes head to head with the terrific villain Nurse Ratched. The supporting cast all deliver equally compelling performances, many of them unknown actors or in their Hollywood debut.

#2 The Great Train Robbery (1903)

This falls into the category of earliest films that ended up sparking what we see as the definitive film making and consumption of our era. it was the first western, the first multi-shot narrative with consecutive story lines happening at the same time, the first breaking of the fourth wall (which we remember hearing sent audiences screaming into the streets from thinking they were actually being shot at?) and the first “blockbuster.”

We watched this film on YouTube as it is in the public domain.


This is considered one of the first films to have a narrative story line ( cowboys holding up a train!  Classic!).  Interestingly, the original negatives of this film are archived by the Library of Congress and is still in excellent condition.  One of the visual effects I found quite interesting was the frames that are hand tinted with color, and how amazing bright these frames are.  This is a great quick film to watch.  It’s also really curious to consider how different it is to tell a story without dialogue – how precise and purposeful each visual image must be to further along the sequence of the narrative.

Also, sort of a timeless story.  Made in 1903, my seven year old would still find this story relevant and exciting.


I don’t have much to say about this film, except that as a modern film viewer this film does a lot of what I expect to happen when I watch a film. The thing that makes it so remarkable on every level is the fact that this is one of the first films to do all of this so much. I was coincidentally reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures at the same time, and that added a fun dimension of experiencing this early work of film art once again.

It is a cool flick, and much of what is presented in this film is revolutionary and remarkable for the time considering so many people were just figuring it out at the time. It reminded me of the antique nickelodeon hand-crank films I watched at Canobie Lake Park as a kid – where one would still insert a nickel to watch a short film in a little box made from hundreds of little paper cards flicking by like a zoetrope. Fun, short, and really cool little film that must have astounded Edison’s audiences at the turn of the century as this stuff started picking up!

#1035 The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums falls in the category of a director that my wife and I always enjoy, and whose work is consistently incredible. This film is on the list of “let’s buy it, and then let’s buy it again when then Criterion comes out,” for us, and we watched our Criterion Collection DVD with pride as we entered Anderson’s fully immersive world. We ahve seen this film so many times that we quoted throughout, and stayed silent for the rest of it. We shouted, “you sonofabitch!” We murmured, “She smokes.” We cheered, and cried, and held one another. We sang Elliott Smith.

It is simply a damn good film. The book cites it as “an extremely satisfying hybrid that is far too funny to be wholly tragic and far too glib to be profound,” but in many ways this review seems to not have the foresight that all of Anderson’s films are profound. Everything is. It says more about us than it does the characters, and does it in a way that is removed from reality just by a couple of clicks of fantasy and hyper-reality. That is something that Anderson is a master of, and it is simply a beautiful thing.

Also….Thanks to a certain “Coat Factory” who let us shoot this photo in their products in their store as we shopped… They didn’t really approve it, but we were able to find what we needed. Except for headbands. Don’t shop there for headbands in February.



The thing about this film when I saw it in the theater and found myself crying my eyes out at the end is that it reminds me of myself in a lot of ways (I have always felt like I am a combination of Margot mostly and Richie a little) in terms of things that I see as great things about me and things that I am perpetually working on… But most notably, I felt like it was a terrifying and depressing document of my own relationship with my father. In watching it, every single time I am heartbroken at the vast complexity of human relationships and how much they make absolutely no sense at all most of the time. Love is love, and nothing can be done about it. Mortality is mortality, and what are you going to do when it is your time? How can one constantly refresh one’s own expectations of oneself when one doesn’t tend to change?

But this film is so damn touching and funny and real… And in the face of it being so absolutely fictional, it is a testament to how well it was written that one can say it was incredibly real and reminded them so much of real life. It is hyperbole, and it is through this hyperbole that truer things cannot be said than the magnified version presented in this, one of my favorite movies of all time.

Also, the soundtrack melts me every time…. NICO, NICO AGAIN, ELLIOTT SMITH

Also, I am not sure why this video exists, but I think I love it.


Polo dress.  Black eyeliner.  Track suits.  Own Wilson… Luke Wilson… Ben Stiller… Gwyneth..This movie makes me incredibly nostalgic.  The characters are so real, and so familiar.  This movie is so satisfying visually, the soundtrack married exactly to the mood and tone and images.   People can be magical and terrible, and the things we hold onto from our childhood rarely meet or even match our expectations as adults.   Most of all,   love is perhaps the messiest, most unpredictable things of all.  The characters are all brilliant, glamorous, and so perfectly imperfect.  Somewhere there is a picture of me in a $30,000 fur coat ( a la Margot), and while my eyes aren’t dead enough in the photo, I always consider it my throwback to Tenenbaum photo.

I wish I knew where my Ralph Lauren Polo dress was, too.  But I do know where I can find matching Adidas tracksuits to dress my entire family….

#897 Groundhog Day (1993)

Groundhog Day was kismet. We decided to watch it because it is coming up. We watched it right when we decided we would be doing this thing – randomly flipping through the book as the film was on the television, boom, the film is on the list! It was wonderful revisiting this flick, and we had some great conversations as we watched.

This is a classic film that the Schneider book argues the “best comedy of the 90s,” as a result of its “terrific conceit (one that is never explained, which makes it even better).” It is a clever movie that both of us admit to not having seen since the 90s, and it is a fun, reflective 90s movie that seemed to be the origin of the cliche-formula that followed so many times for the next thirty years.


Personally, I love Groundhog Day!  This year marks the 130th year Groundhog Day has been celebrated in the United States.  Phil the Woodchuck has an accuracy rate of 16%, but the tradition of watching animals coming out of hibernation dates back to our European ancestors; they would watch for animals waking up to know when to plant the spring crops.  Anyways, I had a vague memory of seeing this movie a million times growing up.  Watching it again for the first time in a long, long, time, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.  Bill Murray’s performance was excellent, and the pacing and writing of the movie were engaging.  Absolutely worth the time to watch and enjoy again.


I loved this movie when it came out… and then I watched it over and over and over, and then it was on television over and over and over. It was a seemingly endless run that one could pick up at any point and enjoy, until it got too old because you knew exactly came next… Of course… You’d still watch it. Even though it was broadcast and you had the VHS in the closet ten feet from where you were sitting with no commercials.

Then a bunch of other screenwriters and Robert McKee students started doing the same thing, and then the device of the perfectly timed, repeated comedic structure was born. Now we can hardly watch a film without it, and those that don’t follow the formula seem to stand out.

This time watching it, however, I got a lot out of it. It had been at least ten years since I saw it last. It was a lot of fun to watch as an adult without the washed-out rehashing again and again of seeing it for the hundredth time. I have to say, still a pleasing and brilliant little film. It was truly like reliving a little slice of my adolescent awe at the film after not seeing it for many years. Murray was literally perfect (and it was interesting to learn that he hated it and fought with Ramis the whole time, only patching their broken relationship just before his death), and his ability to play the same role again, and again, with such ferocity, fresh humor, and excellent timing is a testament to his talent. Toblowski and Eliott were similarly difficult to match in this film.

#1 Le Voyage dans la Lune (Rest. 1902/2011)


Today we watched the restored, colorized version of A Trip to the Moon from 1902 (but the restored, colorized version from 2011 with music by AIR!). One of the first feature films ever made with a storyline and an extensive cast, it tells the story (a story!) of a trip to the moon, with conflict! intrigue! suspense! action! comedy! Everything a film needs. A “revolution” at fourteen minutes, Schneider’s book suggests that this is the first chance a film had to present a purely cinematic fictional “fantasy constructed for pure entertainment,” opening a door to the future of film as a grand escapist platform.

We watched this film on YouTube as it is in the Public Domain.


This film instantly reminded me of the Smashing Pumpkin’s album  Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (…and the Tonight Tonight video.  Go ahead, watch it again.  I just did).  A Trip to the Moon is filmed more like a play with several acts, with each “scene” unfolding with the familiar directions and staging of a something from the theater.   The colors are almost garish or obscene in their brightness and boldness- but this just adds to the appeal.  I was struck most by what a delightful and imaginative story this is, from the sets, to the costumes, to the magical powers of umbrella.   I would love to know what someone watching over a hundred years ago was thinking after a first view.


I thought this was a charming little film – mainly for its connections to the Tonight Tonight video that Jennifer mentioned. We couldn’t stop talking about it, along with the documentary we watched about Wayne White called Beauty is Embarassing, an incredible film where White discussed his work with puppetry, MTV/Smashing Pumpkins, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and other great art projects.

This film is pretty revolutionary in a lot of ways. As I watched I couldn’t escape what I think of when I think early film…all of which don’t have a plot, and are just short snippets of something happening. Like The Horse and The Kiss. I also thought of the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret which romanticizes the fictional genesis of this film along with the Paris film industry. Interestingly, I also saw the movie which was something…different.

This was a gorgeous film in its use of stop-film tricks, weird theatrical cardboard sets that at times were two dimensional and at times three dimensional, beautiful and complex costumes and makeup, and some really impressive special effects. A pleasure to watch in its new colorized incantation that added a somewhat extra level of magic to the film. Furthermore, having been scored by one of my favorite bands, AIR, it was a joy to experience. Audiences at the time must have been astonished!


We absolutely love film and literature.

After a visit to the library book sale, I picked up a well-loved copy of Schneider’s 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die. My wife and I decided to start a blog and knock off each of the 1001 films and write about them.

This is our blog.

We own the FIRST EDITION, but we are also using the list available at THIS LINK to include and renumber the films that are in newer editions. Furthermore, our list is available at THIS LINK in terms of our progress and what dates we watched what.



My favorite film of all time is Harold and Maude, but I also love the films of the Cohen Brothers, Wes Anderson, Charlie Kauffman, Spike Jonze, and many classic films.

I am looking forward to watching a lot of films in this collection – especially some of these classics I have never seen including Intolerance, Frankenstein, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and others that have been on my list that I just never got around to seeing. I am also looking forward to watching some of my favorites over again, and really looking forward to many on the list that are foreign works that I have never heard anything about.

Here is to trying to get through all of them before I die!



I love a good  competition… 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die… challenge accepted!

Paging through the book there were most of our favorite films already ( confirmation we have great taste in movies) , and great short descriptions of many we haven’t viewed yet .  Of course, my primary concern is what culinary feast to pair with each.  Will post pics of brilliant pairings when they happen.