November 23, 1975 [One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Chinatown]

Jack Nicholson staggers out of the grave of his ACLU lawyer in Easy Rider, chopped in the neck and buried by the roadside--the guy who mourned the loss of freedom, and didn’t live to see how right he was: The 1960s really are gone--and maybe he helped.

As private eye J.J. Gittes (wearing a kind of mask because he's a nosy guy, kitty-kat) in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown--a movie put together like a faded-gold novel--Nicholson lets us in on a secret: the Depression started it, dealt a knockout blow that we’re still reeling from. And it all plays out in Lost Ang-a-leez, where the inbreeding leaves them sobbing in the street, both millionaires and rumpled-suit gumshoes, stunned by gaping wounds.

Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest helps to dispose of the body, the movie a rough sketch of the victim, cold and raw--except for brief respites: the imaginary World Series, a little bit of fishin’ and grinnin’. Randall Patrick McMurphy, head of the bull-goose loonies, is now the center of attention, while the big Indian--who'd "been away a long time"--in the movie is handy as a metaphor but silent as a narrator. In any case, the authorities have definitely been alerted, and Louise Fletcher’s Nurse Ratched--a name straight out of Dickens--folds her hands and bears down, hard.

And both end with innocents slaughtered, the counter-culture a shill for squares. So maybe we already knew it was all gone when the kids in The Brady Bunch flashed a peace sign; it’s just that Nicholson twists it home with more charm.


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