Top 100 Novel Review: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey (1962)

An Infinite Amount to Think About.

Not only is their a dynamite narrative, the themes and competing ideas could fill a lifetime of consideration. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’ve had a run of books that forgo traditional story elements, like having a plot, meaningful narration, or development of characters (here’s looking at you “The Sun Also Rises” and “Falconer”). While they get heralded as artistic masterpieces, I find both books lacking teeth since they are not only unenjoyable to read, but they can’t coalesce to say anything due to being stripped of narrative devices.

In comes my savior: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” 

Not only does this book have an immensely intriguing story, showing the power struggle between a Head Nurse and an Asylum patient who are both egomaniacs, it has as many themes as you can consider. Like an infinite ball of string, you are free to pull and unwind from any angle as long as your heart desires.

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Top 100 Album Review: #67 – The Stranger, Billy Joel (1977)

The Piano Man’s Reigning Achievement.

One of those rare albums where almost every track is a triumph of song writing perfection. 

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Rolling Stone’s Ranking: #67/100
Grammy: Song and Record of the Year for “Just the Way You Are.”
My Rating:cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Billy Joel intertwines with my coming of age. I found a 2-disc greatest hit collection in the streets of Richmond, VA when I just got my permit to drive — it didn’t leave my driving music rotation for years, and Goodnight Saigon become an anthem between my friends.

When I saw this track listing, I new most of the material with 6 out of the 9 songs being “Greatest Hits” material. Seeing the songs in their natural habitat on “The Stranger” along with the other solid material is almost unthinkable: how did someone come out with this much good material at once?

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Top 100 Movie Review: #32 – Godfather Part II (1974)

A Sequel Better Than The Original.

There, I said it. Godfather’s second incarnation is better than the first, having a cleaner plot and an interesting juxtaposition of past and present. 

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Al Pacino as Micheal Corleone.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #32/100
Awards: Nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (De Niro), Adapted Screenplay, & Score.
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Initial reaction to this movie was divided with many people not liking the two story arcs happening at once. Canby writing for the New York Times described the film as “stitched together from leftover parts.” The film later became a focus of reevaluation with some considering it a better film than the first. Roger Ebert even went as far as to re-rate the movie with his highest ranking retrospectively.

Something about this film caught my eye more than the first, and I think it centers around me viewing the two-story arcs positively; it gives us time to breath from present day events while providing a solid, stand-alone story.

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Top 100 Novel Review: Falconer by John Cheever (1977)

The Point Eludes Me.

Too many competing thoughts drown out the powerful writing of John Cheever. 

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m glad I read this book, though. Using his short-story prowess, Cheever puts lots of vignettes in this novella via the individual characters and there are a few powerful ones to be found here. They just don’t coalesce into a solid message or theme, and with many of the outcomes seemingly contradictory, I’m left not knowing what to feel about this novel.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #10 – Singing in the Rain (1952)

A Musical with a Story.

Some of the numbers are a bit lame, but the story, acting and sets are intriguing enough to make up for the boring parts.

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Gene Kelly in the famous “Singing in the Rain” scene.

American Film Institute Ranking: #10/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for two – Supporting Actress & Original Music Score
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

The story’s iconic scene with Gene Kelly has been burned into the collective consciousness of Americana, but what about the rest of the movie?

Singing in the Rain pairs an interesting story with some solid musical numbers to be a pretty good film. While some of the lulls can be quite treacherous to get through, there is usually enough interesting things on screen, whether talent, clothing, set, or cinematography to make it bearable.

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Top 100 Novel Review: Red Harvest, Danshiell Hammet (1929)

Hardboiled Pulp.

Popularizer of the genre, Hammett’s detective story is a  solid mystery with plenty of quick wit.

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My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff.

I love mysteries, and even more, I love detective mysteries that are set pre-1960s. I grew up on Earl Stanley Gardner’s Perry Mason, another pulp fiction mystery series. Where Red Harvest is different is there is more grit to it — everything is or will be corrupted in this book, even the main character.

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Top 100 Movie Review: #93 – The Apartment (1960)

More Drama Than Comedy

While The Apartment gets pegged as a comedy, its premise is too dated to get the same laughs today but thankfully holds its own with sentimental moments. 

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Jack Lemon and Shirley McClain.

American Film Institutes Ranking: #93
Academy Awards: Nominated for 10 winning five, including Best Picture, Director, and Original Screenplay
My Rating: cropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-starcropped-smooth-star

Sick and stuck visiting family, I went to the on demand section of their cable provider looking for something to watch. Not wanting to get sucked into the four hour “Gone with the Wind (though I succumbed to that on day three of the flu), I decided on “The Apartment”; heralded as a classic comedy, it would fit nicely with my febril mood.

I ended up not finishing it. Too sick to continue and too confused by the lack of laughs, I took NyQuil and went for a deep sleep. Unfortunately when I came to, the on demand selections had reset. I didn’t finish watching until many weeks later, renting the DVD from the library.

I wanted to get it over with so I could write my review and move on, but something happened — I really enjoyed the last half of the film. All the problems that I was going to use to bury this film evaporated into thin air as the movie continued.

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