60/60 Review #40: Chinatown.

Well... I didn't see that coming. If you've seen this movie, you probably know what I'm talking about. And no, I'm not talking about the reveal of the villain or the reason behind it. Anywho, moving on, Chinatown focuses on private detective J.J. Gittes (Jack Nicholson) who is hired to snoop around on Hollis Mulwray (Darrel Zwerling) and an affair he's having. But, well, one thing leads to another and Gittes not only has a murder investigation that gets him caught up with Mulwray's wife, Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), but a much bigger conspiracy that has something to do with water.

Coincidentally, I just watched Rango the night before this one, giving me two nights in a row with films on water dumping and thievery. Needless to say, the novelty of such a fresh idea didn't grab me as it probably otherwise might have. But then again, it's not that fascinating of a motive. The story was both interesting and... not. The movie wasn't boring, don't get me wrong. I think the way the film played out the story was done quite well and kept you guessing. However, the story itself, when all's said and done (with one major exception), is like... huh, OK. Now, the major exception is the shocker I mentioned in the opening. I totally didn't see it coming, and when you look at it after-the-fact, it's one really effed up movie. The following paragraph is spoilers, so read with caution if you haven't seen the film.

(SPOILERS) What's clear is that Katherine is Evelyn's sister/daughter due to incest... great, thanks a lot Polanski. Bringing me back to rape again, damnit! Anyway, what I gathered from there is that Evelyn's father and husband were business partners when she was a little girl. They had a fight when she "was still in grade school" and separated. Then the partner ends up marrying Evelyn, meaning he has to be at least 20 years older than her. Eventually, the man has an affair with his wife's sister/daughter. Not only is that weird in and of itself, but the girl was probably between 13-16 (OK, pedophilia), then the man himself had to be 30-40 years older than the girl or something. Unless I totally missed something. So the dad ends up seeing his former partner and current son-in-law cheating with his daughter/granddaughter and kills him, which also gets him the water rights he wants. And there's a whole other convoluted mess in there with land buying and whatnot, but I haven't figured that out yet. Anyway, to top it all off, at the end of the movie, the father not only gets away with it, but he takes his incest-daughter/granddaughter with him to do who knows what with. (END SPOILERS)

If I had any other complaints, it would be that this film is tough to follow. I'm still not 100% about everything that was going on or the motives behind things and whatnot. I'm sure that would be an easy fix with another watch, but I strongly doubt that will happen for a while. I didn't dislike the movie, but it's not one I'm gonna pop in when I'm bored. On the positive side, the acting and the writing in general was pretty dang good. Nicholson is great, and John Huston as Noah Cross was pretty fantastic. Of course, the writing won an Oscar for this film.

Sorry to disappoint, but I don't have any major thoughts on this film. It was good. I liked it. I'm not gonna go out of my way to watch it again, but I'm not disappointed I've seen it. I'm glad I have. Perhaps if anyone would like to spark a conversation in the comments, we could go from there. But for now, I'll just leave it at that.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. Please note, that rating is almost entirely on the film's entertainment value for me, not on its quality.)

(P.P.S. Whoo, review #40! I'm 2/3 of the way through the list!)


  1. **SPOILERS**

    You didn't miss something so much as you overanalyzed. Mulwray wasn't having an affair with Katherine - it just looked that way to prying eyes.

    Cross killed him because he wouldn't build the dam Cross needed to put through his lucrative business deal (recall that Gittes' photographer snapped them arguing before he got to Katherine's place).

    It was a crime of profit; not passion.

  2. I feel that these 60/60 reviews are the worst idea you've had on this blog because they really reveal your lack of credbility as both writer and critic (you're more of just a fanboy really).

    For one, for someone who writes about being an English teacher, in which school did you learn that terms liked effed up and omg is good writing?

    Then there is this statement: "If I had any other complaints, it would be that this film is tough to follow." How is that the movies problem. That a movie is hard to follow is one of the worst arguments anyone can make. Why should a movie pander to those who can't keep up or who don't want to work to find the meaning in the story. Critcism a movie for it's laziness?

    I criticism this space for it's laziness.

  3. Hatter: Thanks. That makes more sense.

    Anon: You are, of course, entitled to your opinion. Though I would appreciate a little less cowardice and for you not to hide behind an anonymous moniker.

    I use terms like "effed up" and "omg" in more of an ironic, comedic sense. I don't actually use them in seriousness.

    If you would have read the whole review, I did say by the end that there were no real faults of the film, but that it mostly wasn't my cup of tea. So no, that isn't the movie's problem--but I did state that.

    And your first complaint was an insult to my credibility as a writer and critic. In a sense, you're stating that one must already have both a mastery and liking of all films (or at least the "essentials") in order to discuss them. But doesn't that take away the glory of discovering and experiencing classics for the first time? Apparently, I can't be, by your implied definition, a critic without having already watched and reviewed these films; however, I lose credibility as a critic FOR watching and reviewing these films. That kinda puts me in a Catch-22, don't you think?

    Also, before you criticize me for my writing, please make sure to both spell and use "criticism" correctly.

    Finally, you might want to look up the definition of laziness. Not only did I not call (or even imply) that this movie was lazy, but for you to accuse me and this blog of laziness is ridiculous. I put out a weekly webseries, a bi-monthly podcast, and a post nearly every day. And that's for just this blog, not including other things.

  4. Obviously, Anon there probably doesn't read my site or else they'd die of a fucking heart attack.

    And Anon, there are movies that are hard to follow. There are movies where the writer, director, and/or editor are talentless hacks and they can't make a movie compentently. I know that's not what Nick was saying here, I'm just telling you there ARE movies like this.

    Take, for example, "The Room". Written, directed, and possibly edited by a guy who doesn't speak English, or appears not to anyway. And that movie, if you try to take is seriously, is hard to follow. You have a 10 minute sex scene. Then a chick with breast cancer, but is never bought up again, and you have random people breaking into apartments having sex. Try to follow that shit.

    As for the 60/60, I think it's the best thing Nick has done. It's exposed him to all these films he probably wouldn't normally watch on his own and gives HIS OPINION on. Not everyone on the planet is going to like "Chinatown" or god forbid "2001: A Space Odyssey". So, whoever you are Anon, I think you need to chill the fuck out.

  5. How is that the movies problem. That a movie is hard to follow is one of the worst arguments anyone can make. Why should a movie pander to those who can't keep up or who don't want to work to find the meaning in the story.

    Apparently Anon does not watch David Lynch films.

  6. Jason: Thanks, mate. But hey, maybe Anon just doesn't like me exposing myself.

    Rachel: Damn straight.

  7. This is one of my all time favorites and I totally get where you're coming from. On the first viewing, I think the big twist is so blindsiding that you miss all the little details of the narrative that make this one of the most tightly constructed American film noirs.

    I loved it the first time, but with a rewatch, I found myself loving it even more.

    Beyond that, I think the filmmaking is fantastic, the one scene in the dark apartment is magnificent. And I love the J.J Gitties character and Nicholson's goofy seriousness throughout the film.

    And I think it's completely fair for you to say you found the film hard to follow. It is a complex story that doesn't stop to explain all the connections. It's a fair point and I don't think that makes you lazy at all.

  8. For the record, I love Chinatown. It's my favorite Polanski film. But, as I've said elsewhere on other sites, if we all agreed on every film, there'd be no reason for blogging film, would there?

    And now, onto the heart of the matter...

    Dear Anonymous,

    First, allow me to laugh at your lack of cojones for posting your weak-ass complaints without your name. I laugh at your empty scrotality. Ha! Ha ha!

    Second, dear little nameless puss, to take issue with a blogger for using shorthand or colloquial expressions is laughable. Nick's writings are quite readable at the very least, and well-informed and interesting almost always. I don't always agree with what he says, but I rarely disagree with how he says it. For the record, I teach English, too. More to the point, I teach college-level English. Would I accept "omg" or "effed up" in formal writing? No, I would not. Do I give the airborne hindquarters of a rattus norvegicus when seeing it on a blog like this one? No, I do not. These expressions lend themselves to Nick's style. I enjoy the informal tone.

    As a matter of fact, I do the same thing on my own blog. I have used expressions like "crazy mo-fo" and "WTF action" liberally. Why? Because it's a damn blog, not an address to Congress.

    Third, and finally, "criticism" and "criticize" are different words. "Criticism" is a noun; "criticize" is a verb. Stop verbing your nouns when you already have a verb form you can verb with. Yes, I ended the sentence with a preposition. Yes, that was intentional. Also, "it's" is short for "it is." You meant the one without the apostrophe, which is the third-person singular possessive.

    Don't mess with me, Sonny Jim. I'll take you on in a grammar/usage war any day and will come a-marching home with your head mounted on a damn semicolon.

    Your Pal,


  9. I feel so loved!

    James: Yeah, Nicholson was great with the character. And thanks for stepping up with the 'hard to follow' bit.

    Steve: <3

  10. I want Movie Guy Steve as my blog bodyguard!

  11. Y'know, I didn't even mention the fact that Anony-mouse missed the apostrophe in "movie's" and didn't end that question with a question mark. I also skipped the missing comma in the parenthetical at the end of the first paragraph. "Effed up" and "omg" should really be in quotes.

    Grade? "A" for assholery, "D" for dumassitude.


  12. Castor: Indeed! I'm a lucky guy.

    Steve: haha...

  13. I usually don't post on here because I have similar feelings to this Anon person but have never really cared enough to post a comment because life is too short and I'd like to spend it doing productive things like educating myself, reading great criticism, making myself a better person and so on.

    I will say this though. Indeed, if one wants to voice an opinion put a name and/or face to it.

    With that said, my honest opinion of this blog, this not being a personal attack this blog's writer, is that there's just so much written that is devoid of meaning, especially in these posts.

    The simple fact is, and I've argued this point in other comment sections as well: classic movies are beyond reviews. Let's be fair Nick, you're a reviewer not a critic. That's fine. Everyone has their place.

    The problem with classic and historical movies is that they exist, after all these years, at a place beyond reviews. They don't need reviews anymore. They need criticism: someone who will dig deep inside and find something new to express about them. These entries on the other hand reveal nothing new (you've admitted in some of them that you have nothing much to even say beyond simple value judgments). Great movies, whether you are for or against them, need more than value judgments. They deserve more.

    I do agree with one more thing Anon said, but maybe not in the same way they presented it. Movie's being hard to follow is not justifiable criticism unless of course the movie is so, like someone else threw out, because of how horrible it is. Rachel Thuro brings up David Lynch. I don't think you can criticize Lynch for being weird or hard to follow. David Lynch makes movies the way he wants to make movies and, despite it all, they do make sense. Either we catch up or get left behind.

    With all that said, I'm a different person than you, my relation to movies is different, my background is different and my personality is different. You're blog doesn't really appeal to me but I respect that is my preference and nothing more than such and so it must be.

    Life is too short to get caught up in these petty things. Alas, it goes on.

  14. As an aspiring film critic, I completely disagree. The value of a movie reviewer is recommendation, but to suddenly place these films considered as "classic" in this pantheon where they can only be engaged under the lens of criticism is to make them infallible to the film review process.

    Most people have watched a "classics" they did not care for and I think there's value in writing about why. This can help reshape the way we think about movies with the distance of time.

    Does a film still hold up 40 years later? I think that's something a movie reviewer certainly should be able to do in order to give recommendations of older films as well as new ones. If these films don't hold up, perhaps its time to rethink the film's status as a classic. Therefore, I think the 60/60 reviews are a great idea.

  15. I agree. Plenty of movies age poorly. There's a particular value to seeing how (or if) a film holds up for a modern viewer.

    Both true criticism and reviews have their place in the world. More to the point, most people want reviews of films--they want to know if they'll like something and why.


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