I’ve been trying to watch the silver screen accomplishments that made it onto the “AFI Top 100 Films” list.  Sometimes I catch one of these films airing on channels such as AMC or TCM.  I also sometimes have the opportunity to see classic films during outings I find out about in my classes, as well as in-class screenings to compliment coursework.  Two opportunities came along in the last few weeks of my fall semester.

“Taxi Driver” (1976)

This was the first one, which I heard about through my English professor during our class on the Beat writers.  A restored version of “Taxi Driver” would be playing at Bryn Mawr Film Institute and since I hadn’t seen it before, I thought, “Why not see it restored and at a landmark theatre for my first time watching a classic film?”

Now that I’ve seen it, “Taxi Driver” wasn’t my usual type of movie, what with the graphic crime scenes.  However, I did like it for the acting and it was the first Robert De Niro film I ever saw.  Other big names besides De Niro included Harvey Keitel (who, in character, I almost didn’t recognize at first), Cybill Shepherd and Jodi Foster.  The acting by Foster at the time, as a teen, made me realize that it’s hard to think of anyone that age now who is as talented as Foster was so early on.  De Niro, as he does voiceover or is shown in scenes writing in his notebook, reminded me of the photo on the back cover of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.”  The photo is of Kerouac typing away as he works on his novel.

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“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975)

I had to opportunity to watch this on the last day that my English class on the Beat writers met, since we discussed Ken Kesey’s book.  Jack Nicholson, with his expressions and laugh, reminded me of some other films he has since starred in: “The Shining” (1980) and “Anger Management” (2003), to name a few I’ve seen.  Particular examples that came to mind were when he is talking to the bartender in “The Shining” and when he and Adam Sandler sang in a scene from “Anger Management;” you’ll see what I mean.  Anyway, there were a few surprises in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” including a familiar face from “Poltergeist II: The Other Side” (1986).  This was Native American Indian actor Will Sampson.  I thought this was the first time I saw him in anything else besides the horror story about a family dealing with ghosts.  However, according to his IMDB profile, Sampson also starred in “Orca” in 1977.  I’ve only seen that twice in comparison to the many times I’ve seen “Poltergeist II”.  Sampson’s character in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” gives viewers some surprises in a storyline that has Nicholson’s character, Randall P. McMurphy, trying to break up monotonous life for the group of patients.  The nurse seems to have a way of stopping him with trivial technicalities along the way, and it puts viewers right on his side.  In such moments, you can’t help but think, “Oh, come on…give McMurphy a break!”  The well-acted film has both funny and sad moments, and a few intense scenes of drama.