Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why People Like Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson Make the Big Bucks


Every once in a while we see the salaries that top actors make and wonder how it's possible and why they are worth so much. This week I watched Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List and believe I've settled on my answer. For a space of two hours or so we get to spend time with people who, for one reason or another, we enjoy being with. 

The Bucket List is not an Oscar film, nor does it strive to be. Rather, it is a nicely assembled romp featuring two men who over a lifetime have won a lot of hearts. Freeman had already had two decades of work under his belt (in TV and film) before he captured our hearts in Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and the variety of places he's shown up since is impressive, most notably as the narrator in Shawshank Redemption (1994). He's been a president, a soldier and even God (Bruce Almighty) as well as Bruce Wayne's secret weapon to save Gotham City. But in whatever role he plays, a lot of people must enjoy being with him because Hollywood shows no signs of letting him ride off into the sunset yet. Five films in 2013 and at least five more in 2014 aim to take advantage of his power of attraction.

This was my second time watching The Bucket List (2007) and I enjoyed it even more than the first. It's one of those films with Morgan Freeman as narrator again, a storyteller tale. As a device it works well. An ordinary man narrates his experiences as he gets to know an extraordinary one. Tom Hanks, an ordinary guard on death row at the prison, is the storyteller in The Green Mile. In this case, Freeman is an ordinary mechanic named Carter who ends up in a cancer ward with an extraordinary billionaire named Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson).  

Nicholson has become one of the iconic actors of our generation since he burst on the scene in Easy Rider. (He didn't really burst onto the scene as he already had 12 years experience by that time.) His range is exceptional, bringing him three Oscars and a dozen more nominations. Despite his bad boy reputation off-camera he excels at radiating charm. Hence he is the perfect candidate to accompany Carter on the world tour of experiencing the spectacular.


The film follows the usual Hollywood format with an initial setup that takes 27 minutes or so, then moves into the second section of the story, with various adventures and eventually some unexpected twists. At the end of the ride you feel like you got your money's worth. In this case, Carter has introduced Edward Cole to the concept of bucket lists (things one wishes to do before they die) and Cole has the means to fulfill much of what Carter desires.

The cinematography is quite spectacular. The crew filming had plenty of incredible sights to relish and fawn over with their camera lenses. In that regard, it's a beautifully filmed film.

Do you have a bucket list? The last time I watched this film (2009) I composed a short bucket list of my own. Like many resolutions that we make it wasn't long before that list was forgotten. What I've noticed is that deep inside I do have a serious "bucket list" that keeps me looking forward. If I'm lucky I will accomplish all those things that have been stirring in me there at my core.

What about you? What are the things you need to accomplish before you go? My word to you: keep pressin' on.

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