As a part of the arguably best year for film in the past decade (and followed by quite possibly the worst), this Harry Potter outing is easily one of the best (where it ranks among its fellow HP flicks on my list is yet to be seen). Mostly banking on the fact that its predecessor was merely acceptable, this time around the gang is joined by some intriguing new characters. The bulk of the exceptionality of this movie is from Dolores Umbridge (played with typical vigor by the under-appreciated Imelda Staunton) and Luna Lovegood (played with spacey brilliance by newcomer Evanna Lynch). But then again, the highlight of each successive Harry Potter movie seems to be the newest Brits that have come to play newly introduced characters. The truly unfortunate part about its being released in the brilliant 2007, though, was that Staunton’s take on Umbridge was almost completely overlooked by critics.
As seen by his performances in Chinatown and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Nicholson’s role in the ’70s was to take less-than-perfect characters and portray them in a way that makes him difficult to despise, no matter how hard he tries. In Carnal Knowledge, though he’s clearly usurping on his friend’s territory, a part of you thinks he has a right to see his roommate’s girlfriend (Candice Bergen) on the sly. And judging by their more electric connection, she didn’t seem to mind at all. But like other Mike Nichols efforts (see Closer), no one ends up truly happy, and Jack seems the most unfulfilled of them all. Life lesson — don’t make Ann-Margret unhappy.
Jack’s Performance: B
The Film: B-
Let’s make one thing infinitely clear: I’m a sucker for WWII movies. This one in particular stems entirely from my grandpa’s undying adoration for this movie (and, his personal favorite, Patton). But the reason The Bridge on the River Kwai is on my 100 favorite films list is for a typically unlikely reason when it comes to war movies — the performances. It features my personal favorite Alec Guinness performance, as well as a cast of more minor roles that are unexpectedly poignant (“Madness! Madness!”). “Colonel Bogey’s March” aside, this movie has immense rewatchability (Believe me, I know. I’ve seen it upwards of fifty times). Though it may lack the intensity of more modern efforts such as No. 95 on the list, it’s a wonderful showcase for Guinness, and it set the tone for all future depictions of “the great war.”
Jack’s Performance: B
The Film: B+
What would a top 100 list be without Schindler’s List? With some seriously underrated performances from Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (their personal best, in my opinion) and exquisite direction from the typically skillful Steven Spielberg, the only thing that could top its otherwise near-perfect production might be the tear-inducing score from John Williams. (You will soon find out that I can’t help but adore John Williams, no matter how much quoting he does in his scores.) And even though I’m a believer in Tommy Lee Jones, and I obviously appreciate the work of Mr. Hanks, I believe it’s safe to say Neeson and Fiennes should’ve nabbed the Oscars in 1993. I don’t really see how the film would’ve worked nearly as well without them. So though I favor other Spielberg efforts more than this (you’ll just have to wait and see…), there’s no denying it’s one of the highest quality movies of the ’90s.
Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
What better way to showcase Jack‘s signature devilish eyebrow arch than by making him the debonair sex-machine personification of evil itself. In The Witches of Eastwick, Jack is joined by three iconic ladies (two of which are fellow Oscar winners — Susan Sarandon and Cher — and the other, who has shamefully been snubbed). So, with a trio of beautiful vixens, how does Jack even stand a chance? Well, though he is hammy as all get out, Jack is believable as the tempter to the town’s three dowdy loners.
Though he probably gets what he deserves, poor Jack is subjected to the coven of ladies as they use their combined powers to bring him down (and all the while remaining helplessly in love with them). And then all notion of seeing Jack as a sex symbol of any kind is done away with as he takes on some… er… less-than-attractive visages (see right). While Jack’s performance is perfectly acceptable as silly summer fare, the film itself is, at times, an over-the-top mess.
Though there are admirable performances all around (character actress Veronica Cartwright is a hoot!), the movie, based on the novel by John Updike, rests on its stars and its fun score (at the 5:00 mark) from John Williams. Despite its flaws, the movie has fairly good rewatchability, and the effects and makeup are still dazzling twenty years later.
Jack’s Performance: B+
The Film: B