Tag Archives: jack nicholson

What If This is As Good As it Gets?


When I was in my late teens, “As Good as it Gets” with Jack Nicholson was a gangbuster comedy and a rare funny movie that got Oscar love.

The story follows a cranky old novelist Melvin who gets irate if every little thing in his life isn’t exactly perfect.  When his usual waitress (Helen Hunt) takes sick leave to care for her ill son, Melvin goes bonkers because no other waitress is able to handle all of his unusual little requests and quirks and demands.

He finds the waitress and hires a great doctor to cure the boy.  Waitress and Melvin become unlikely friends and they take Melvin’s neighbor (Greg Kinnear) on a road trip.  Greg is an artist who is attacked and robbed and he has to suck it up and ask his estranged parents who don’t approve of his gay lifestyle for a loan to keep him afloat as he has lost so much money due to the attack and medical bills etc.

At some point in the film, Melvin realizes he will never not be pissed off all the time.  Helen Hunt will always be an unappreciated single mom.  Greg will probably keep letting the wrong people into his life who do bad things to him (the robbery and attack were from a former boyfriend).

Melvin says, “What if this is as good as it gets?”

In other words, a point comes where we realize we have peaked and it is unlikely that life will ever get any better.  If anything, it’s just a steep decline until death from hereon out.

As I reach 40, I realize the time to get things done is when you are young.  Unfortunately, I spent my best years making a lot of dumb decisions and I thought my youth made me Superman, “Eh, I’ll fix my life tomorrow for I have plenty of time.  Today, I will eat cookies and play video games.”

It would have been nice to have gotten a sequel.  Maybe Jack and Helen get married and Jack becomes less dickish since he has love and Helen can breathe a little easier if Jack is helping with the kid.

Maybe Greg will find a love that won’t break into his house and beat him up and steal his stuff.

I don’t know.  But I’ll tell you I didn’t get that line when I was younger but now that I’m older, I understand it.  What if this is as good as it gets?


P.S. – One of my favorite quotes.  A female fan asks novelist Jack “How do you write women so well?” He responds, “I think of a man and then I take away reason and accountability.”

So much of this movie probably wouldn’t fly today even though the movie was fairly “woke” for its time.  Jack was a cranky prick who made fun of Greg for being gay but when the chips were down, he cared enough about his neighbor to lend a hand.  Jack’s obviously been jilted in the past so that he doesn’t have a lot of respect for women but Helen’s kindness helps him find it.  Actually, that’s another great line.  “You make me want to be a better man.”

Today, in a reboot everyone would have to be nice and get a long but maybe the point is we’ll all never see eye to eye since our experiences have been different but can we count on each other when the chips are down is the question.

OH, I SHOULD MAKE A POINT: The point is, I wish I had understood when I saw this movie in my late teens that life eventually does peak, so when I was young, I should have climbed a much higher mountain so I could have a much better view for a while in my 40s and possibly 50s before I start tumbling down the hill in my 60s (if I get that far, hopefully, knock on wood.)  So, if you’re a younger member of the 3.5 reader club, start climbing now, bitch.


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Literary War Quote – 1984 by George Orwell

Bookshelf Battler here, reporting live from the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare battlefront.  I have to hand it to this game.  Such ultimate realism – the sights, the sounds, the blasts, the getting shot twenty times and then hiding behind a corner until you get better – ok, so maybe the realism factor isn’t all that high but still it is an all around A+ game.

This week I’m celebrating this game with a tie-in to literary war quotes – mentions in literature about that most necessary (or unnecessary?) of all evils – war.  War.  Ungh.  Goo God yah huh – what’s it even good for?  Absolutely nothin.’

In 1984, (the book, not the year that happened thirty years ago – hey what do you know, Happy Anniversary 1984!) by George Orwell, a vivid portrait the ultimate police state is created, so much so that the novel gave rise to the phrase, “Big Brother is watching you.”

What did this book have to say about violence – as in organized violence ,or in other words, war?  Check it out:

“Those who abjure violence can only do so by others committing violence on their behalf.”  – George Orwell, 1984

Don’t be fooled by the catchy use of the word, “Battle” in the title of this blog.  I’m all for peace, happiness, and tranquility.  But George makes a good point.  Constant threats abound – both from criminal degenerates at home and terrorists abroad.  We are able to sit around and type on our blogs, drink our Mountain Dew, and play our video games because “rough men,” i.e. police and soldiers are taking up arms on our behalf and keeping the bad guys at bay.  Here’s what else George had to say on the subject:

“People sleep peacefully in their beds only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  – George Orwell, 1984

My opinion, police and military types often get a bad rap.  They’re often portrayed in pop culture  as savages, jerks, people on a power trip who just enjoy committing acts of violence and while I suppose there will always be a few bad apples in any bunch, we have to be honest with ourselves and realize that we are able to live peaceful lives because the government employs “rough men” (and hey – even “rough women!” to fight on our behalf.

This concept was further immortalized in the 1992 military courtroom drama film, A Few Good Men.  Remember the character Col. Nathan Jessup played by Jack Nicholson?  Here’s the direct quote of his infamous “You Can’t Handle the Truth!” speech:

“Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns.  Who’s gonna do it?  You?  You, Lt. Weinburg?  I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom.  You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines.  You have that luxury.  You have the luxury of not knowing what I know – that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives.  And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.  You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.  We use words like honor, code, loyalty.  We used these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something.  You use them as a punchline.  I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it.  I would rather you just said thank you, and went on your way.  Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post.  Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to.”  – Jack Nicholson as Col. Nathan Jessup in A Few Good Men

Well, maybe this is not the best example since Jessup was the bad guy in the film but overall, the main point – if you feel the need to criticize police and the military for being “rough men,” try to also keep in mind that their “roughness” is very much needed.

And don’t forget – my Call of Duty character will be exploded 50 times tonight by frag grenades, many of which I tossed accidentally at my own feet, so that you can play peaceful video games like Mario Kart and Minecraft.

Full disclosure – I have to give props to NBC’s The Blacklist because Raymond “Red” Reddington used Orwell’s quote in this week’s episode.  When I heard it, I was like, “Thank you, James Spader!  There’s a blog post!”

In conclusion – don’t forget to subscribe to this blog and follow @bookshelfbattle.com on Twitter.

And if you’re a Walking Dead fan – stop by Sunday night to discuss the latest episode!  What is Carol going to do as a patient at the evil hospital, anyway?

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