The Last Detail : Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

I have to say I'm not the world's biggest Jack Nicholson fan, but Last Detail has always been one of my favourite movies, and I think Jack gives his best performance by far in it. The only other time he comes close is Chinatown. I think his turn in Cuckoo's Nest, and the fact he got the Oscar for it, ruined him as an actor, because he's just been playing R.P. McMurphy ever since. I honestly can't understand why he's still considered one of Hollywood's best actors as he hasn't given a really good performance in well over thirty years - in fact, I thought his performance in The Departed was actually cringeworthy.

"That, - Captain Bligh, - that is the thing; - I am in hell, sir - I am in hell."

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Since he has gotten older I much prefer him playing in slight comedy mode..he is still a great actor but those parts like "The last detail" are long gone, although he was brilliant as usual in the serious role of "Ironweed" When I watched him being old and serious as a gangster in "The departed" it was good but that is when I thought about it and decided that I enjoy him more in his twilight years as an actor of more comedic characters…he does it so well and he did so much serious stuff when he was younger, that this is a side of him that is fun to watch.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

I prefer him in "Chinatown", "Five Easy Pieces", "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "About Schmidt", just to name a few. I agree his performances can be repetitive, but he can also be great in unusual roles like "About Schmidt" or "Ironweed".

"I did cramps the way Meryl Streep did accents" - Calliope (Middlesex)

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

The Last Detail was one the movies where, what would seem now that Nicholson had played himself.I prefer his other two groundbreaking roles respectively in "Chinatown" and "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest".I also think that he deserved an oscar more for "Chinatown" than the latter.

Anyway my preferences would go like this(leaving out the supporting roles):

Chinatown>One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest>Five Easy Pieces>Iron Weed>About Schmidt>Profession:Reporter>The Last Detail>As Good as It Gets





"Has anyone in this family ever even SEEN a chicken?"-Michael Bluth

Definitely, this and Chinatown

and Jack certainly never looked better than he did in these two movies. At his peak.

Re: No..here it is….

1) Five Easy Pieces
2) One Flew Over Cuckoos Nest
3) The Last Detail
4) the King of Marvin Gardens
5) Chinatown

Re: No..here it is….

LAST DETAIL was certainly one of his best performances, maybe not tops. Still, this was probaby his most over-looked performance.

Re: No..here it is….

I disagree. I think his most overlooked performance is "King of Marvin Gardens".

Re: No..here it is….

Not his best performance but I liked him in The Shining! He was so over the top it was a great movie for me just because of his performance. Good in Easy Rider too in a supporting role.

Re: No..here it is….

Not only his best, but one of the best performances in the hsitory of movies…

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Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Since the time I saw it on its initial release, I have always held the opinion that "The Last Detail" was his finest performance. Followed closely by "Five Easy Pieces."

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

His most restrained performance might actually be in "The Two Jakes" and he was spectacular in "Wolf." I do love the intense Jack of "Last Detail" and certainly "Chinatown," "Carnal Knowledge" and so on. My fave might be a tie between "Five Easy Pieces" and "Chinatown."

As for the Nicholson that he developed into, as you mentioned in your last sentence, I do not mind it all. He is always entertaining.

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Films are not reality. Reality is not film. Film is only an approximation of reality.

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Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Just playing himself is something you often hear when Nicholson is discussed and it bothers me, bothers me a lot. Walken, Keitel, etc who studied with Adler, Strasberg and the rest of them who are considered the greatest era of actors and acting teachers, to which Nicholson belongs to, these guys will tell you there's nothing else that you can use than yourself, you are the instrument, it's your emotions and feelings and so on. So a lot, most of it, has to come from the actor, otherwise why would he be the one playing the parts? Because he makes them so god damn interesting.

With that rant out of the way, I own the DVDs of Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail and Chinatown, and I constantly rewatch these three so it has to be one of them, personal favourite must be Five Easy Pieces right now, it's so natural yet complex.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

One other thing about the roles, sure, they weren't as good after he won the Big O, but realistically, how could they have been? I mean there's only quite a few other actors who've had such a string of great roles greatly played (Brando, Rourke, Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman, maybe a few others). But with Jack you still get some unique and great performances from time to time. The Shining, Reds, A Few Good Men, The Crossing Guard, About Schmidt, etc.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Agreed! Five Easy Pieces his best, followed by the underlooked King of Marvin Gardens.

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Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Scott, don't think a lot of people are taking you seriously. You seem a very 'abstract' film critic, speaking of things without conclusive evidence.
You should watch As Good As it Gets and About Schmidt. Try A Few Good Men. The Shining, would you mind?

Seriously - you make me laugh.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

and The Passenger. I almost forgot this. I think Jack Nicholson's portrayal is up there with Welles and Bogart. Absolutely brilliant!!

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

An 'abstract film critic'? Thanks, that made ME laugh!

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

If it isnt, it sure comes close - theres a good mix of understatement and volatility in Budussky. But saying Nicholson has only "played himself" as this over-the-top showman, is no less hyperbolic & misleading than to repeat the tired old mantra that Pacino has done nothing but yell for the past 30 years. Obviously, theres some truth in it (probably more with Nicholson than with Pacino), but there have been several wildly different performances by both. And, at any rate, Nicholson & Pacino are always entertaining to watch no matter what they do.



"facts are stupid things" - Ronald Reagan

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

"Five Easy Pieces" is by far my personal favorite, followed by Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, and The Last Detail.

He, for me, has fallen victim to what appears to be "too big to direct syndrome." I've noticed this with many actors and fewer actresses. If they are indeed 'playing themselves,' then their 'self' has morphed into something that I do not find as appealing as it was in their earlier work.

Look how natural and entertaining Nicholson's small role in Easy Riser was. He was a supporting character and simply enhanced the leads and the picture.

Over the years, he's mugged, paused, raged, eye-rolled and eyebrow-acted more and more.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Definitly an overlooked performance :). His character was really great here.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

I think The Last Detail is right up there with Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, Carnal Knowledge, Cuckoo's Nest & Ironweed. As he began to get older, I thought he was good in Blood and Wine, but the critics & moviegoers alike thought that one sucked. Gotta see The Passenger. Hadn't heard of it, but after an earlier poster mentioned it, I'm gonna check it out.


"With or without a parachute?"

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

his performance in The Departed cringeworthy?

I don't think his performance in Cuckoo's Nest could be said to have ruined him in any way, because that character was so unique and particular, and I do not see how you see that role recurring in all of his later roles. As for his performance in The Departed, thats one of those rare roles that has found an actor it fits so perfectly. Nicholson adds so much a sense of realism to that film in that portrayal, that if it makes you cringe, then I don't think you understand the essence behind the picture altogether.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

What can I say, it did make me cringe. I felt this was pure caricature, not characterisation - reminiscent in that respect of his turn in Witches of Eastwick. I also think there are many other veteran actors who could have assayed this role, and done a better job than Nicholson. Personally, I think Ed Harris would have been an ideal choice (and if you can't understand why, perhaps it's you who misunderstand the essence of the picture?). Jack Nicholson gave some truly remarkable dramatic performances in the earlier part of his career; but then, so did John Geilgud. Geilgud recognised as he got older that he was better suited to comedy. Perhaps Jack should too, and avoid dramatic performances from now on, because he just doesn't have what it takes any more.

"Eat a sandwich. Drink a glass of milk. Do some fvcking thing!"

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

no, but certainly in top 10 or 20 or 30. come on, when does he ever give a terrible performance?

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

This is one of the movies that made his career.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

I would say it was his best performance, if it hadn't been for 'The Shining.' He was so good in that picture, it was frightening. Both pictures are remarkable 'must-see' films.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

In answer to the original question, yes. I do.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, Chinatown, Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, The Border, Ironweed, A Few Good Men, The Crossing Guard, As Good As It Gets, The Pledge, About Schmidt…….. What do you want?

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

I'd rate The Last Detail and Cuckoo's Nest as his best. I like The Border too, but haven't seen it in a long time. Back in the '70s when Nicholson was occasionally doing a little publicity for his films, Nicholson, in a magazine (probably Crawdaddy, in an on-set report while he was filming Cuckoo's Nest)) rated his performance in The Last Detail as his favorite,"That's the best I can do." I also remember his comment of "This ain't a film about my f___ing hair" when make-up took a long time fussing with his hair between takes for a scene in Cuckoo's Nest.

Re: Anyone else think this was Nicholson's best performance?

Close to it. His peak period is the early 70s. I really didn't care for his oddball character in Easy Rider, but in Five Easy Pieces I think he found a character close to his own experience and made the most of it. Follow that with Last Detail, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Chinatown, and that alone is quite a body of work. Nicholson was one of the 70s actors hitting on new nerves, and I think he did it best, better than Pacino, Hoffman, Voight or Beatty. I think it was the genuine anger Nicholson could generate, whether clearing the table in Five Easy Pieces, waving a .45 at a bartender in Last Detail, or choking Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Unfortunately, there aren't many performances in his portfolio to match after that. I would add About Schmidt, but there's a lot of cash-in roles over the last two decades.
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