Jack (Nicholson) wins Kennedy Center Award.
December 3, 2001 6:57 AM   Subscribe

Jack (Nicholson) wins Kennedy Center Award. Arguably the best American actor alive today. Even gets Bush and Cheney to come together for first time (NYT) since 9-11. Neptune, New Jersey should be proud.
posted by Voyageman (30 comments total)
One of best still:

Jack: Wendy, let me explain something to you. Whenever you come in here and interrupt me, you're breaking my concentration. You're distracting me! And it will then take me time to get back to where I was. You understand?

Wendy: Yeah.

Jack: Now, we're going to make a new rule. When you come in here and you hear me typing [types] or whether you DON'T hear me typing, or whatever the FUCK you hear me doing; when I'm in here, it means that I am working, THAT means don't come in! Now, do you think you can handle that?

Wendy: Yeah.

Jack: Good. Now why don't you start right now and get the fuck out of here? Hm?

The Shining (1980)
posted by Voyageman at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2001

Best american actor alive today, my ass! Jack Nicholson is the Tony Danza of acting. He's a parody of himself, cast as either the spooky, possibly insane creepy old guy, or the nasty smirking creepy old guy, or some combination of the two. Shock and surprise, it's the same role he's been cast in countless times, and apparently not that far off from the "real" Jack Nicholson. An "actor" shows depth, diversity, range. Nicholson shows... um... uh...

I mean, geez- look at the movies he's made over the past couple of decades or so, and how many are basically the same role: Jack Nicholson playing "Jack Nicholson the Brand" (TM). In his youth, he may have been talented- but come on, Jack Nicholson's been coasting on his alleged "coolness" for years, and has been 'Walkening' it for as long as I can remember.
posted by hincandenza at 7:21 AM on December 3, 2001

hincandenza is...well i agree, except the creepy part. the man smokes so much dope (jack)...and Bush and Cheney have been together since 9-11. The NY link wants a a pass word and im not in the giving mood.
posted by clavdivs at 7:27 AM on December 3, 2001

I gotta agree with hincandenza on this one. Jack plays himself, and he doesn't do it well. He stands in front of the camera and recites lines with a sneer. He never becomes the role. He's standing in for real talent.

I call that performing. I don't call that acting.

The most obvious example of this was Nicholson's performance as Joker in Batman: it was 10% attendance and 90% makeup, but to a more subtle degree you can say the same about any other movie he's been in. Giving this guy the award demeans the honor.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:32 AM on December 3, 2001

Now, Pavarotti, Andrews, and the incomparable Q. I can get behind these choices, especially Quincy Jones (yes!), but not Jack.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:41 AM on December 3, 2001

True, but lets all keep in mind that ol' Jack made around 60 million dollars as a salary for Batman.
I am not a fan of Jack, but if I could make 60 million for a sneer....
Given that, Five Easy Pieces is one of my favorite Nicholson movies, if only for the fact that you get to see Sally Struthers in a bra.
Sometimes, life is just too weird.
posted by bradth27 at 7:46 AM on December 3, 2001

NYT login info: metafilter/metafilter
posted by o2b at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2001

many are basically the same role: Jack Nicholson playing "Jack Nicholson the Brand" (TM).

I agree that in later years he's become a parody himself - more "Jack being Jack" than Jack trying to be a character.

But still, he really did some great stuff in the '70's - The Last Detail, Carnal Knowledge, Five Easy Pieces, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Easy Rider, Chinatown. I suppose it becomes difficult to view his work in these films through "pre-Jackster" eyes.

I thought he did a good job, escaped his persona to some degree, in As Good as it Gets.
posted by groundhog at 8:00 AM on December 3, 2001

many are basically the same role: Jack Nicholson playing "Jack Nicholson the Brand" (TM)"

How many Oscars and Oscar Nominations has Julia Roberts (you know, from "Julia Roberts starts as Julia Roberts in 'Julia Roberts: The Movie'") or Tom Hanks (though I'll grant him Forest Gump) been given for playing the same fscking people -- themselves -- over and over again? How about Sandra Bullock, or Tom Cruise? If diversity is the hallmark of good acting, Jack Nicholson is the least of Hollywood's worries.

Other actors (i.e. Brad Pitt) have had a more varied array of roles than any of the forementioned.
posted by Danelope at 8:28 AM on December 3, 2001

In general I agree with the consensus that he's phoning the parts in but I could swear I caught him actually acting in The Pledge.
posted by victors at 8:29 AM on December 3, 2001

Some great stuff in the 80's too - Shining, Reds, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Terms of Endearment, Prizzi's Honor.
posted by Voyageman at 8:37 AM on December 3, 2001

Right on, victors. If you caught The Pledge, you saw him doing what he has best -- revealing that he has "It." It is the same "It" that someone like Robert Duvall has and only shows up in the smaller, less blockbuster-y movies they do.

I mean, one could argue that movie acting is at its best when one plays minor variations on the self, that in fact that is really the best one can do. The key, then, is guarding that self enough so that each variation still seems fresh and exciting. We're talking about choices here. Too many Batmans and Gone In 60 Secondses (god can you believe Nic Cage?) will ruin everything.

In fact, I dare you to mention one actor who has truly reinvented themself for each role they play (once you strip away the differences their character has from the script -- especially big strokes like "the character is handicapped"). The key to the film acting seems to be revealing the self in the intimate moments, and in big closeup, that's damn hard to do as anyone other than yourself.
posted by jaysoucy at 8:44 AM on December 3, 2001

Hate the Oscars, but stats show he's right up there with the best of them in both Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, and his combined 11 tops them all (living and dead, American and non-American, if my math is right...)

Actors with most Best Actor nominations:
Spencer Tracy (9) Laurence Olivier (9)
Paul Newman (8)
JACK(7) Marlon Brando (7) Dustin Hoffman (7)
Jack Lemmon (7) Peter O'Toole (7)
Richard Burton (6)
Gary Cooper(5) R. DeNiro (5) T.Hanks (5) James Stewart (5)
Fredric March(5) Paul Muni(5) Al Pacino(5) Gregory Peck(5)

Actors with most Best Supporting Actor nominations:
JACK(4) W.Brennan(4) Arthur Kennedy(4) Claude Rains(4)
Charles Bickford (3) Jeff Bridges (3) Charles Coburn (3)
Robert Duvall (3) Gene Hackman (3) Martin Landau (3)
Al Pacino (3) Jack Palance (3) Jason Robards (3)
Peter Ustinov (3) Gig Young (3)
posted by Voyageman at 8:54 AM on December 3, 2001

I could make a similar list of great actors often overlooked by The Academy, some better than most on your list, who haven't received a single Oscar. Particularly comedic actors who are able to make humor believable and human - very tricky to do and not something I recall Jack ever doing well Witches of Eastwick being an example off the top of my head.

I don't see how your list means anything. Jack got eleven Oscars so that entitles him to a Kennedy Center Award?
posted by ZachsMind at 9:34 AM on December 3, 2001

In fact, I dare you to mention one actor who has truly reinvented themself for each role they play...

Terry Gilliam (Monty Python notwithstanding.)
posted by Danelope at 9:39 AM on December 3, 2001

What hincandenza said, but,

Jack Nicholson is the Tony Danza of acting.

Isn't Tony Danza the Tony Danza of acting? If not, who is he of acting, or what is the the Tony Danza of?
posted by rodii at 9:47 AM on December 3, 2001

Terry Gilliam isn't an actor.
posted by solistrato at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2001

The main reason Jack isn't Tony Danza is because he plays characters not named "Jack", whereas Tony Danza is almost always "Tony".

Jack rocks.

In a world of talentless hacks like Brad Pitt, John Travolta and Tom (watch me grimace in a boyishly charming way) Cruise, Jack stands head and shoulders above them.
posted by owillis at 10:05 AM on December 3, 2001

His getting the most Oscar nominations was meant to provide third party perspective on Jack arguably being the best living American actor. (at least by Academy standards, although I agree, plenty of deserved personal favorites never make it)

Re his deserving the Kennedy award - "recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts"

Jack oozes American culture. His 40+ years in business and a quick look at past winners convinces me he deserves it.

Jack vs. Clint Eastwood,Sean Connery, Jason Robards, Bill Cosby, Lauren Bacall, Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Sidney Poitier, Kirk Douglas Paul Newman, Ginger Rogers, Gregory Peck, Sammy Davis, Jr. ,James Stewart, Cary Grant , James Cagney, Henry Fonda ? He's in there.
posted by Voyageman at 10:28 AM on December 3, 2001

Credit where it's due...

What we're seeing in that first comment is not good acting by Nicholson (though we may be reminded of it), but good writing by Kubrick and Diane Johnson.
posted by bingo at 10:55 AM on December 3, 2001

Couldn't agree with you more, but his delivery made the lines stick in my subconscious forever after.
posted by Voyageman at 11:10 AM on December 3, 2001

An interesting fact is that in Mr. Roberts, he can be seen in a non-speaking part as one of the sailors on that ship.

I have never seen a credit for this and the Kennedy Center does not mention it.

Jack has all the qualities that I usually hate in celebs, but I think he's great. . .another interesting note is that it as as his house where Roman Polanski got into the predicament that made him flee the country.
posted by Danf at 11:28 AM on December 3, 2001

and then this - "suddenly being a Jack fan is akin to being a Tommy Lee or Axl Rose fan " - another view here and sequeled here (courtesy apeculture)
posted by Voyageman at 11:39 AM on December 3, 2001

I liked him in Ensign Pulver.
posted by y2karl at 11:55 AM on December 3, 2001

From voyageman's second link:
Jack's being sued again. A woman... claims that Jack assaulted her after a threesome went awry in 1996... [He] started beating Catherine, slamming her head on the ground and threatening to throw her over Mulholland Drive.

Whoa- is it possible that David Lynch's latest film is partly a sly Hollywood reference, a la "Rosebud" in Citizen Kane?

Also, regarding my "Jack only plays himself", I should clarify: Jack was pretty good in his early roles, although still always had that element of wacko in every character he played. He's more talented than many other Hollywood heavyweights, but I feel that he's basically wasted that talent by doing an impersonation of himself for the last couple of decades, excepting a handful of mostly unseen small-budget flicks. These are the exceptions that seem to prove the rule: it's like a pro athlete who was great once, and could be great again, but seems to never put their full heart and effort into it, basically playing only for the paycheck and spending the whole game looking forward to the post-game spread.

Oh, and the "Jack Nicholson is the Tony Danza of acting" was un homage to the great Australopithecine Charley of Ruben Bolling's weekly comic strip, "Tom the Dancing Bug".
posted by hincandenza at 5:59 PM on December 3, 2001

solistrato: Terry Gilliam isn't an actor.

What the fuck? Did you even look at the link I posted? Terry Gilliam is indeed an actor, and a writer, and a director, and an animator to boot.
posted by Danelope at 8:33 PM on December 3, 2001

Yes, you are right, Danelope.

As a film actor, Gilliam's work as "Dr. Imhaus" in Spies Like Us, "Smoking Man at Shangri-La Towers" in Brazil, and "Irritating Singer" in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is remarkable. It is right up there with Jack Nicholson's, Marlon Brando's, and Jack Lemmon's.
posted by jaysoucy at 8:55 PM on December 3, 2001

I was moved by his portrayal of Naked Man At Piano in the old Python. Much better at it than Terry Jones.

Oh and he did a great Cardinal Fang.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:21 PM on December 3, 2001

I dare you to mention one actor who has truly reinvented themself for each role they play.

Vincent D'Onofrio.

But then, I could be wrong. For I am, alas, the Tony Danza of MeFi commentators. On a good day.
posted by verdezza at 12:33 AM on December 4, 2001

Tony Danza heaven vs Jack Nicholson heaven
posted by Voyageman at 5:18 AM on December 4, 2001

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