Chinatown – 100 Best Movies

Sex Scene

The first movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Chinatown.

Chinatown Plot Summary (Spoilers):

NotMulwrayChinatown opens with some racy photos of some dude plowing a chick. Uncle Pauly, who has apparently hired Jake Gittes (played by Jack Nicholson) to find out whether his wife has been cheating on him, looks rather upset. Jake consoles Uncle Pauly and escorts him out. Jake’s next client is the wife of Hollis Mulwray, the head of the L.A. Water Department. Mrs. Mulwray is concerned that her husband is seeing another woman.

Jake asks the woman if she loves her husband and when she says she does, he encourages her to go home and forget the whole thing. Mrs. Mulwray insists she has to know and Jake says he’ll see what he and his associates can do.

Jake and his cronies investigate Mr. Mulwray and catch him smooching a pretty, young blonde, the photographic evidence of which makes front page news. After telling a decidedly not funny dirty joke, Jake is confronted by a woman (played by Faye Dunaway) who claims to be the real Mrs. Mulwray and she is quite certain she never hired anyone to spy on her husband. Mrs. Mulwray is not happy at all and she intends to sue.

Jake does some more poking around, hoping to find out who set up Mr. Mulwray and made Jake look like an idiot. However, his investigation hits a snag we he discovers the police hauling Mr. Mulwray’s dead body out of the river.

Nostril SliceJake continues to investigate, drawing the ire of a couple of tough guys working for the Water Department. They cut Jake’s nostril and warn him to quit snooping. Convinced there’s some kind of payoffs involved with the building of a new dam that Mr. Mulwray was trying to thwart, Jake presses forward.

Jake confronts Mrs. Mulwray, because he is convinced she is hiding something. She reveals that she knew about her husband’s affair and was OK with it, because she was also having an affair. Jake tells Mrs. Mulwray that her husband was murdered because he discovered someone has been dumping water from the reservoir into the ocean, when the city is supposed to be in a drought.

Jake discovers that Mr. Mulwray and his father in law, Noah Cross (played by John Huston), used to own the water dept., but Mr. Mulwray thought the water supply should belong to the public. Jake confronts the man who replaced Mr. Mulwray as the head of the water dept. and accuses him of hiring the fake Mrs. Mulwray in an attempt to tarnish Mr. Mulwray’s reputation.

Jake also accuses him of secretly dumping thousands of gallons of drinking water into the ocean and draws the connection to Mulwray’s death. The new dept. head claims they have been diverting water to some orange groves to help out the farmers and the water going into the ocean is just normal runoff. Jake tells the dept. head that he’s not after him, but wants the people who hired him and suggests he give Jake a call.

Daddy CrossMs. Mulwray offers Jake $5000 plus his normal salary to find out who killed her husband and why and he accepts. Jake goes to speak with Daddy Cross, who offers Jake $10k to find Mr. Mulwray’s missing girlfriend.

Jake goes to investigate the orange groves and after getting shot at and beat up by the owners, he learns that the water dept. has been blowing up their water tanks and poisoning their wells. After getting his ass kicked again, Jake tells Ms. Mulwray that the dam her late husband opposed is a sham. The cons pushing for the new dam have been dumping water to make the dam seem needed and then once built they intend to divert the water to the groves they’ve been buying up on the cheap, after running the farmers out. Once they have a steady water source in place, they can then flip the groves for big profits.

Following up on a tip he received from the fake Mrs. Mulwray, Jake and the real Mrs. Mulwray investigate a rest home, where a number of elderly residents, one of which died a week before making his purchase, have been listed as the recent purchasers of thousands of acres of farm land in the valley.

Sex SceneAfter a run in with some more goons at the rest home, Jake ends up at Mrs. Mulwray’s house and the two of them have sex. Post coitus, Jake tells Mrs. Mulwray about how he tried and failed to save a woman he cared about when he was working for the District Attorney in Chinatown.

Mulwray receives a phone call and has to rush to the caller’s aid, but she refuses to explain what the call was about. When she learns that Jake spoke with her father and her father is looking for her husband’s girlfriend, she tells Jake that her father is dangerous and crazy and may be behind her husband’s death.

Jake follows Mulwray and discovers her apparently holding her husband’s girlfriend against her will. She tells Jake that the girl is her sister and is at the house of her own free will. Jake gets a call from the police, directing him to come to the home of the fake Mrs. Mulwray who hired him. Jake arrives to find NotMrs.Mulwray dead and the police want details on his investigation.

The police think Mrs. Mulwray had her husband killed and order Jake to bring her in for questioning, but when he returns to her home, he finds her gone. While looking around the property, Jake spots a pair of glasses in the fish pond.  Jake tracks Mrs. Mulwray down at the house where her “sister” is. He calls the police and reveals that he found her husband’s glasses in the salt water pond in her yard and believes he was drowned there because he had salt water in his lungs when he died.

SisterDaughterHe then tells Mrs. Mulwray he knows she doesn’t have a sister and demands to know who the girl really is. She tells him she’s her daughter, but he doesn’t believe her. After Jake slaps her around a bit, she reveals that the girl is her sister and her daughter, the result of an alleged rape by her father when she was 15.

Mrs. Mulwray explains to Jake that she ran away from her father after the rape and that Hollister Mulwray, who was her father’s business partner at the time, took care of her. She was unable to bring herself to care for the child at the time, but now wants to be with her and she had planned to try to flee via train, to prevent her father from tracking down her and her child. Jake tells her the police will find her if she tries to take the train and to flee to her hired man’s house in Chinatown instead. Before she leaves, she tells Jake the glasses are not her husband’s, because he didn’t wear bifocals.

Jake lures Daddy Cross to his daughter’s house and lays out the evidence against him. Cross admits his schemes and demands to know where his daughter is. He then orders his goon to take the glasses from Jake and force him to take them to his daughter at gunpoint.

Chinatown endingThey arrive in Chinatown, to find the police waiting. Jake tries to convince them of Daddy Cross’ guilt, but they arrest Jake instead. Mrs. Mulwray shoots her father in the shoulder when he tries to approach her daughter and then attempts to flee in her car, but the police shoot her dead. Daddy Cross drags her shrieking daughter away. The police let Jake go. Jake’s partners escort him away from the scene, telling him “Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Chinatown Commentary:

I remember seeing bits and pieces of this movie on TV when I was a kid, but the only thing I really remembered from the movie was the “She’s my sister and my daughter!” scene, so I knew that plot twist was coming.

In spite of that, I found Chinatown and the various twists and turns of the plot to be an interesting and entertaining movie. While I think Jake was able to connect the dots just a bit too easily, I appreciated the layered storytelling.

I suppose if I hadn’t already known about the incest subplot, that revelation would have had more impact and it might have been a bit more difficult for me to guess where the story was going along the way.

This definitely isn’t a movie for those who like happy endings. The bad guys won and the girl her mother so wanted to protect ended up in the clutches of her rapey grandfather/father. The overall message seems to be that if you have enough money and power, you can get away with just about anything.

The movie seemed very well made with an overall feeling of quality and the performances were mostly quite compelling. A worthy entry on the list.

A Day in the Life – 100 Best Songs

Next up on my list of the 100 Best Songs of all time, is A Day in the Life by The Beatles.

A Day in the Life is the second Beatles song on my 100 Best Songs list. Initially, I thought it was one I hadn’t heard before, but once I started it up, I realized I just didn’t recognize the title.

Much like Hey Jude, A Day in the Life has a lush orchestral sound and a thought-provoking message and mixes tempos and moods throughout the song. It begins as a basic melancholy ballad, then in the second half the song becomes more upbeat and uptempo and then finishes with a dramatic crescendo.

It doesn’t have the same sing-along, ear worm quality as Hey Jude, but the song does a good job of evoking emotion and making you think about life and the world around you, while also being entertaining. This isn’t really my favorite Beatles tune, in terms of a song I’d want to listen to frequently for enjoyment, but I think it is a song that is definitely worthy of this list.

Hey Jude – 100 Best Songs

Next up on my list of the 100 Best Songs of all time, is Hey Jude by The Beatles.

While I enjoy some of The Beatles music, I won’t claim to be a huge Beatles fan or anything. Although, I did gain a newfound appreciation for their songs by playing the game Beatles Rockband and my old band even covered one of their songs for a while.

Hey Jude has a lush orchestral sound that progresses from a melancholy ballad to a rollicking celebration. The lyrics encourage Jude to open himself up to love and to all the experiences life has to offer and discourages him from making life more dreary than it has to be by closing yourself off to others, in order to avoid pain and rejection.

The message is simple. If you want her, go out and get her. Don’t sit around moping and stressing and wishing you had her, because you’re afraid, go out and get her. Additionally, the song suggests that you not heap all the problems of the world on your shoulders and sit around feeling sorry for yourself about it.

The song ends with a rather lengthy and memorable sing-along portion that’s hard to resist. The video features people in the background, standing with their arms around each other and swaying to the music, while singing along. I think that image perfectly encapsulates the warm, fuzzy feeling that Hey Jude invokes.

Hey Jude has all the hallmarks of the best of The Beatles music: a memorable tune, a meaningful message and a sound that entertains and evokes emotion. It’s easy to see why this band has become so revered by so many.

Billie Jean – Michael Jackson – 100 Best Songs

First up on my list of the 100 Best Songs of all time is Billie Jean, by Michael Jackson. I grew up in the 80’s and Michael Jackson was one of those “soundtrack of my childhood” artists.

My mom bought his Thriller album and I listened to it over and over again. A bunch of girls in my fourth grade class and I used to make up dance routines to his music and practice them on the playground. I even used to put on a single glove and dance around my room, pretending to be him.

The iconic Billie Jean music video was a popular request at the local roller rink and getting to see one of MJ’s videos on the big screen was something we looked forward to every week.

The song is basically a cautionary tale, about women who try to claim celebrities are their baby daddys in order to claim a big pay-day, set to a groovy dance beat. Billie Jean was supposedly based on a true story of one such woman, who tried to claim MJ fathered her illegitimate child.

Ironically, given the persistent rumors that Michael was in gay, a confirmed case of him getting some woman in the family way might have actually  helped quash some of those rumors.

Lyrically, Billie Jean, doesn’t really do that much for me, but like many of MJ’s best songs, Billie Jean has that special something about it that just makes you want to get up and dance. The addictive rhythm, catchy melody and Michael’s vocal gymnastics make the song instantly enjoyable, even if you’re not that into stories about the wicked ways of women.

Whether MJ was gay or not was his own business and nothing I’m concerned about. However, the later accusations that he molested children were certainly disturbing. Combined with all the plastic surgeries, his eccentric behaviour and ultimately his death due to a drug overdose, MJ certainly seemed like at best, a hot mess of a person and at worst, well something a lot worse.

However, whatever kind of person he might have been, he remains one of my favorite music artists. His talent as a vocalist and a dancer made him one of a kind and I enjoy his music as much today as I did back in the 80’s, though I’ve given up the choreographed dance routines.