Without plans for the weekend? Five pivotal Jack Nicholson films

Easy Rider

Although it had already been on television and cinema for more than a decade, this selection chooses the emblematic I Seek My Destiny, from 1969, as the beginning of the international recognition of the great Jack Nicholson. In the shoes of George Hanson, along with his friend Dennis Hopper (also director of the film) and the legendary Peter Fonda, they carry out an existentialist generational proposal by crossing the vast territory of the United States, world empire and mecca of hundreds of thousands of young people all over the planet. The film earned him his first Oscar nomination (he had twelve) and was a boom throughout the world: the air of liberation that it displays is the appropriate reading of a precise moment of the post-war generation that is searching for freedom as his main life goal. Although in the leading role he can be placed a small step behind the Hopper-Fonda duo, Nicholson shows that, as a partner or principal, he is always a guarantee.

Available on Apple TV and Google Play.


Chinatown

Nicholson becomes here a name that sells, and that is also sought after by directors who do not want to stick to the industrial canons of Hollywood. In this case, it is the rugged, controversial and talented Roman Polanski who summons him to act as an actor in this classic black crime thriller, which at the time (1974) was an innovation in the genre. JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a Los Angeles detective in the midst of a 1930s crisis, where misery and misery abound, because hunger and the fear of losing what one has awakens unprecedented behaviors in individuals. Gittes investigates the death of Mulwray, and the femme fatale he must confront is Mrs. Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), who is looking for him to investigate the case because she suspects that her husband was murdered, although our hero believes that she is hiding something.

Available on Amazon Prime.

The glow

There are several films left from the 1970s to which Nicholson owes his success, most notably Trapped with No Way Out, which earned him his first Oscar. But this selection tries to show the many facets of Jack, and to be scary, he prefers to include this classic. Because although the drama of Trapped… has high tension peaks, with the touch of fantasy and terror that Stanley Kubrick’s mastery achieves in The Shining (and his allegory on the derangement to which modern individuation and loneliness leads), Nicholson achieves catapult terror to superlative levels. Practically that he reopens the genre. The story is simple: a family agrees to take care of a huge hotel during the winter; a hotel with a heavy track record. There the isolation will do its thing on the narcissism of a man who is no longer protected as much by the patriarchal culture.

Available on Amazon Prime, Apple TV and Google Play.

Batman

In 1989 Tim Burton revived the dark bat man, but more than thinking about the hero, he thinks about the villain; as if to say: “tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are (or could be)”. And then he summons Jack Nicholson to play El Guasón (Joker). More than one has said that without his Joker, Joaquin Phoenix -going through Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight- could not have taken the character to his paroxysm. In that year of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Burton was dealing -once again- with the residual effects of the best intentions. And Nicholson had already amply demonstrated that he is capable of understanding and achieving what directors are very clear about, but which he finds so difficult to explain; that dirty thing about the characters -be they good or bad- that is not shown in public, due to the modest limits that culture always imposes. Nicholson inaugurates the era of the glorious Jokers.

Available on HBO Max, Google Play Movies, YouTube and Apple iTunes.

Mr. Schmidt’s confessions

One of the strangest films the actor has made, if not the strangest of all. Alexander Payne (director of The Descendants, among others) summons him to play a gray man, left in the time of the capitalist solidity of the 20th century, with his life regulated according to the clock (to the rhythm of the second hand the film begins), predictable in its development and its end. Although life always gives you surprises. And Schmidt discovers, from the unexpected death of his wife, that 25 years ago he had an affair with his best friend. So, heartbroken, he just finished his last day of work (he’s going into retirement) he sets out on his trip to Denver to visit his daughter. And he does it without parameter or judgement, allowing his life to take on a vitality that he never had before. Unexpected encounters, surprises, comic situations and those bittersweet ones that leave so much teaching and serve to value the passage through the Earth. An endearing journey that Nicholson’s acting exquisiteness makes memorable.

Available on HBO Max and on Apple iTunes.

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