Double Indemnity – 100 Best Movies

confession

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity Plot Summary (Spoilers):

opening-sceneDouble Indemnity begins with a man on crutches walking towards the camera. The scene shifts to a car speeding through traffic. The car arrives at an office building, after hours, and a man, named Walter Neff, gets out and gingerly approaches the door. He taps on the glass and the janitor lets him in the building.

confessionWalter arrives at his office at the insurance company he works for and takes off his coat, revealing what appears to be a gunshot wound in his left shoulder. He proceeds to record a confession for the claims manager, named Barton Keyes,  that he was the man who killed the victim in a claim that was under investigation as fraudulent. Walter says he committed the crime for money and a woman, but ended up with neither. The scene then shifts to a flashback that follows Walter’s account of his crime.

phyllisWalter meets Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, on a house call to one of his clients. Walter is immediately attracted to Phyllis. He goes on to give her his spiel about renewing her husband’s auto policies and Phyllis inquires whether his company also handles accident insurance, which Walter affirms. Walter flirts with Phyllis, but she shuts him down, telling him to come back tomorrow around 8:30 when her husband will be home.

Walter returns to his office to find that Phyllis has left him a message, asking him to meet her at 3:30 Thursday afternoon, instead of 8:30 Wednesday evening. Walter meets with Phyllis and conveniently, both her husband and the maid are not home. Phyllis tells Walter that her husband has decided to renew the auto-policies, but that she is also interested in purchasing accident insurance for her husband, because she fears he may be injured on the job. However, she also wants to purchase the policy without her husband knowing about it, because she claims he is superstitious about it. Walter accuses Phyllis of wanting to bump her husband off to collect the insurance money and she feigns outrage. Walter tells her that she’d never get away with it.  Walter refuses to assist Phyllis with her scheme and leaves her house.

kissLater that evening, Phyllis shows up at Walter’s house, saying he forgot his hat. She assures him that he has the wrong impression about her. She flirts with Walter and implies that her husband doesn’t treat her very well. Walter tries to play it cool, but then gives in and kisses her.

Walter tells Phyllis about several cases where a wife tried to kill her husband and collect the insurance money, but ended up in prison instead. Phyllis tells Walter her husband is mean to her and cares about his daughter more than her. She adds that even his life insurance money goes entirely to his daughter. She claims she doesn’t want to kill her husband, even when he gets drunk and slaps her around, but admits that sometimes she wishes he was dead. Walter reiterates that if she tries to kill her husband and collect the insurance, the insurance company will see right through her and she’ll end up getting caught. However, by the time Phyllis is ready to leave, Walter has talked himself into helping her pull of the scheme and tells her so.

Walter tricks Mr. Dietrichson into signing an application for an accident policy, by telling him he’s signing an application for renewal on his auto policy. Walter learns that Mr. Dietrichson is planning a trip to attend his class reunion. He tells Phyllis to make sure her husband takes the train instead of driving, because if he were to die on the train, the double indemnity clause of his policy would kick in and she’d collect $100,000 instead of just $50,000.

groceryWalter begins meeting Phyllis at the local grocery, so they can discuss their plans without being seen or heard by anyone who might suspect them. Their plans hit a snag when Phyllis reveals that her husband fell and broke his leg and as a result, no longer plans to make the trip to his class reunion. Phyllis is getting antsy to end things sooner, rather than later, but Walter insists that she should wait until they can do it right.

Phyllis calls Walter at his office, while Mr. Keyes is trying to convince Walter to give up sales and become his assistant in the claims office. Phyllis tells Walter that her husband will be getting on the train after all and confirms their plans to initiate her husband’s “accident.” Walter turns down Keyes’ job offer.

Walter proceeds with his plans, setting up his alibi and then dressing in a suit similar to the one Mr. Dietrichson would be wearing. He walks over to the Dietrichson’s house and then hides in the backseat of the car Phyllis plans to drive her husband to the train station in. Phyllis loads her husband into the front seat of the car and then as planned, turns down a dark alley and signals to Walter. Walter kills Phyllis’ husband.

murderWalter impersonates Phyllis’ husband and boards the train. Walter tells the porter that he’s going out to the observation car to smoke. When Walter arrives, he discovers another passenger already seated on the deck. He claims to have forgotten his cigar case and the passenger offers to go back into the train to get it for him. Once the other passenger is gone, Walter hops off the train. Phyllis is waiting for him in her car. Walter tells her to take her husband’s hat and go collect the crutches Walter was using off the train tracks. He then grabs Mr. Dietrichson’s body out of the car and hauls it out to the tracks. He tosses the hat and crutches by the body and the pair leave in Phyllis’ car.

In the days following the murder, Walter becomes increasingly convinced that he is going to be caught. His problems compound when Mr. Norton, the big boss man at the insurance company, is determined that even though the police and the coroner have ruled Mr. Dietrichson’s death accidental, that it was not an accident. Mr. Norton calls Phyllis in to his meeting with Keyes and Walter and tells her that they suspect her husband’s death was a suicide. Mr. Norton takes a very combative stance with Phyllis and closes with an offer to settle for an agreed upon amount, rather than going to court. Phyllis shuts him down and storms out of the office.

After Phyllis leaves, Keyes jumps all over Mr. Norton for his suicide accusations, saying he had already considered that possibility and discarded it. He points out that the train was only going 15 miles per hour and it’s highly unlikely anyone would think jumping off the back of a slow-moving train would result in their own death. Keyes’ take down of Norton’s suicide theory eases Walter’s mind, since Keyes was the person he was most afraid would uncover the truth of Dietrichson’s death.

doorLater that evening, Phyllis calls Walter from the drug store and arranges to meet him at his apartment. Walter tells her not to let anyone see her. Shortly after he gets off the phone with Phyllis, Mr. Keyes rings his bell. Keyes is wondering why Dietrichson didn’t file a claim when he broke his leg. He suspects that Dietrichson didn’t know he was insured. However, he discards this notion, since Walter claims to have delivered the policy to him, himself. However, Keyes is still convinced something is wrong. Phyllis arrives and listens at the door, just as Keyes and Walter begin discussing the possibility that Phyllis arranged to have her husband murdered. Keyes leaves and Phyllis hides behind the door. Walter tells Phyllis that Keyes will be watching her every move, so they can’t see each other again until things die down. Phyllis accuses Walter of not caring whether they see each other or not.

Dietrichson’s daughter Lola comes to see Walter at his office and tells him that she feels something is wrong concerning her father’s death. She tells Walter she’d had this same bad feeling before, when her mother died. Lola suspects that Phyllis, who was her mother’s nurse, had something to do with her death, but she was unable to convince her father. Lola is convinced that Phyllis killed her father for the money and vows she isn’t going to let her get away with it this time. Walter tries to convince her that she’s just imagining things because she doesn’t like Phyllis. When that doesn’t work, he decides to try and cheer her up, in the hopes that will stop her from telling anyone else her suspicions about Phyllis.

Keyes calls Walter into his office and tells him that he has the Dietrichson case all figured out. He has determined that Dietrichson was never on the train, after all, you can’t count on throwing a man off a train going 15 miles an hour resulting in death. Keyes is convinced that Phyllis and an accomplice killed Dietrichson somewhere off the train and then an impersonator boarded the train and jumped off and then placed the body on the tracks. Keyes has called Mr. Jackson, the passenger who was on the observation deck with Walter, in to question him, as he was the only person who got a good look at the Dietrichson impersonator.

Mr. Jackson has studied the photos of the late Mr. Dietrichson and tells Keyes that he is willing to swear that the man on the train was not Dietrichson. He doesn’t appear to recognize Walter, however before he leaves the office, he becomes convinced that he knows Walter from somewhere.

meetingWalter arranges to meet Phyllis at the market and tells her that Keyes is rejecting her claim. Walter urges her not to sue, because he thinks Keyes has too much evidence against her. When Walter brings up Lola’s suspicions about Phyllis killing her mother, Phyllis becomes convinced that Walter wants to back off because he feels bad about killing Lola’s father. Walter tries to convince her that he is worried about the two of them getting caught, but Phyllis doesn’t buy it. Phyllis insists that they have to see things through to the end and that nobody is pulling out, because after all, it was Walter who came up with the plan to kill her husband, not Phyllis.

Walter continues to see Lola and on one of their excursions she tells him that she’s convinced her ex-boyfriend Nino conspired with Phyllis to kill her father. She tells Walter that Nino has been meeting Phyllis at her house and that he claimed to be sick the night of the murder as an excuse for standing her up that night. Walter wonders why Nino has been meeting Phyllis, but can’t come up with an explanation.

snoopingKeyes tells Walter that he has discovered who Phyllis’ accomplice was and that she has filed suit against the insurance company and Keyes intends to tear them apart. Walter worries that Keyes is playing cat and mouse with him. Walter snoops in Keyes’ office and finds a recording that indicates that Keyes did investigate Walter, but has ruled him out as a suspect. Instead, Keyes is convinced that it was Nino who helped Phyllis murder her husband.

walter-phyllisWalter arranges to meet Phyllis at 11 that night, at her home. He tells her that Keyes is no longer watching her house, but to turn the lights off, so the neighbors won’t see them. Walter tells Phyllis that he plans to murder her and pin it on Nino, who Keyes is convinced was her accomplice in the murder of her husband. He claims he has already arranged for Nino to show up in 15 minutes, with the police right behind him. Phyllis tells Walter that she’s been meeting Nino, because she’s been trying to send him into one of his jealous rages, by convincing him that Lola has been seeing another man, in the hopes that Nino would eliminate Lola before she had a chance to talk. Walter responds that Phyllis probably intended to have Nino take him out too and then she’d have someone else take out Nino, so she could have the money all to herself.

dead-phyllisWalter goes to close the window and while his back is turned, Phyllis draws the gun she has hidden under the cushion of her chair and shoots him in the shoulder when he turns around. Walter taunts Phyllis, but she doesn’t fire a second shot, claiming that she has realized that she loved Walter after all. Walter takes the gun from Phyllis and shoots Phyllis dead.

As Walter is leaving the house, he hears Nino approaching and hides in the bushes. However, before Nino can enter the house, Walter calls out to him. He gives Nino a nickel and tells him to go call Lola, explaining that Lola still loves him and that Phyllis was lying to him.

closing-sceneBack in the present, Walter finishes his recording by asking Keyes to look after Lola and Nino. Keyes walks in the door and discovers Walter sitting in his office. Keyes explains the janitor summoned him, after discovering some of Walter’s blood. Keyes starts to call a doctor for Walter, but Walter stops him and asks him to pretend he never found him, so that Walter can continue with his plan to cross the border, before the recordings are discovered. Keyes tells Walter he’ll never make the border and he’s right, as Walter collapses before he even gets out of the office. Keyes calls for an ambulance. Walter tells Keyes that he was unable to solve the case because he was right across the desk from the man involved. Keyes says he was “closer than that,” and Walter responds, “I love you too.” Keyes helps Walter light a cigarette and the end credits roll.

Double Indemnity Commentary (Spoilers):

I enjoyed this film, but didn’t find the story to be very plausible. First of all, it seems unlikely that a woman who has potentially already gotten away with one murder, would just randomly hatch a plan with an insurance salesman who just happened by her door, no matter how smitten he seemed with her. Second, while I can see how someone who worked in the insurance industry might find themselves tempted to try and beat the system and file a fraudulent claim, it’s a long way from willing to defraud the insurance company to willing to murder two people in cold blood. Maybe Walter’s past is a bit more checkered than we are made aware, but it seems odd that he would go so quickly from mild-mannered insurance salesman to murderer, just because he’d been pondering trying to rip of the company he worked for and found himself in lust with a woman who just, so happened, wanted to hatch a scheme to kill her husband and collect the money.

I used to be a claims adjuster, so that part of the film was interesting to me. I don’t think the world of claims is quite so dramatic as the film made it out to be, but parts of the movie rang true, particularly the part where the suit tries to settle the claim, because he knows he can’t actually prove it was a suicide, but he thinks he can intimidate Phyllis into settling for a lesser amount by threatening court. The courts have cracked down on unfair claims practices since this film was shot and I don’t think insurance companies are quite as shady as they once were, but I’ve known a few execs who would probably try something like that.

Insurance companies do investigate fraud, but most would take more of Keyes’ approach. Gut feelings that a claim is a fraud isn’t enough. If you can’t prove something is fraud in court, you have to pay the claim, no matter how fishy it smells. This is why Keyes needed to find hard evidence, like the witness who was willing to testify that the man on the train was not the victim, in order to actually deny the claim. This is even more the case in today’s environment, because there are serious penalties involved if a court decides a company unfairly denied a claim.

Both Phyllis and Walter were pretty scuzzy people, but I still found myself rooting for her to kill him in the end.  I found both her sudden case of the feels and his decision to confess and his concern for Lola and Nino to be a bit disingenuous, but I suppose even bad people can have a change of heart. The whole, let me explain my evil plan to you, before I kill you bit was kind of silly as well. I also found it interesting that Keyes still seemed to have affection for Walter, even after finding out he was twice a murderer. I’m assuming we were meant to see their declaration of love for each other as the love between good friends, but they did make a point of Keyes never having gotten married, so who knows.

Annie Hall – 100 Best Movies

Flirtation

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Annie Hall. Annie Hall was also the Best Picture winner at the 1977 Academy Awards, so this movie is the second I’ve ticked off my Best Picture Winners list.

Annie Hall Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Annie Hall begins with Woody Allen’s character, Alvy Singer, telling some jokes and relating those jokes to his life and his relationships with women. He tells the camera that he broke up with Annie about a year ago and he still can’t figure out where things went wrong.

Alvy's HomeHe then talks about his childhood and we seem some key moments from his childhood years via flashback, demonstrating why he thinks he has become something of a neurotic person. He also reveals that he became a famous comic.

The flashbacks shift to his relationship with Annie, played by Diane Keaton. Annie and Alvy have a discussion about how infrequently they have been having sex of late, while waiting in line to see The Sorrow and the Pity and then that night, Alvy wants to have sex, but Annie isn’t in to it.

AllisonAnnie tells Alvy that he knows how it is some times, seeing as how he’s been married before and he flashes back to his relationship with his first wife, Allison, played by Carol Kane. Allison wants to have sex, but Alvy is too pre-occupied with conspiracy theories about the JFK assassination. When Allison accuses Alvy of using the JFK conspiracy theories as an excuse to avoid having sex with her, Alvy admits to the camera that she was right and wonders why that is.

With his second wife, friction results from his skipping out of one of her social events to watch the Knicks on TV. His wife questions what could possibly be so interesting about basketball and Alvy says that it’s physical, which is far superior to the intellectual exploits of his wife’s friends. He tries to talk her into having sex with him and she accuses him of using sex to express hostility.

Back with Annie, Alvy is still having problems in the boudoir. This time Annie is complaining about noisy sirens stressing her out and saying she needs to get out of the city, however Alvy protests that the countryside makes him nervous.

FlirtationHe flashes back to earlier in their relationship and their awkward first meeting at a tennis match. Annie gives Alvy a ride home and the two neurotically flirt and then later Alvy goes to see Annie sing at a club. Later that evening they have sex and it seems to go much better than their more recent attempts.

He continues to flashback through the couple’s happy times, enjoying the city and chatting and having great sex. Eventually, they profess their love to each other and then Annie moves in with Alvy, though he doesn’t think she should give up her own apartment, which makes her think Alvy doesn’t want her to move in. They fight about it and Annie says that she thinks Alvy doesn’t think she’s smart enough for him, though he denies it.

The couple’s troubles continue to increase, as they argue over Annie’s pot smoking and Annie seems to begin to lose her enthusiasm for their sex life.

JewAlvy meets Annie’s family. Her grandmother doesn’t seem to like him at all and her parents seem fairly lukewarm. Her brother, played by Christopher Walken, tells Alvy that sometimes when he’s driving at night and he sees an oncoming car, he thinks about turning the wheel into oncoming traffic. Her brother later drives them to the airport, while Alvy looks on nervously.

The scene shifts to Alvy and Annie arguing about his paranoia. He has been spying on her, because he thinks she is seeing another man. She denies the affair, and points out that Alvy is the one who never wanted to make a commitment. She again accuses him of thinking she isn’t smart enough. Annie tells Alvy that she is seeing an analyst now and that she suggested the dream Annie had about being suffocated was about Alvy.

The couple continues to argue about Alvy following Annie around, because he thinks she is having an affair with her professor. Annie threatens to call it quits.

Alvy's DateAlvy’s friend talks him into seeing another woman. Alvy doesn’t seem to enjoy his date that much, but he sleeps with her anyway. He gets a call in the middle of the night from Annie, saying she has an emergency. He rushes over, only to find the emergency is a spider in the bathroom.

Alvy kills the spider and emerges from the bathroom to find Annie crying. She asks him not to go and asks if he was with another woman when she called. He stays and they have sex. They seem happy and make plans to spend the weekend together.

They enjoy their weekend trip to Alvy’s old neighborhood and continue to have happy times for a while. It doesn’t last. Both of them complain to their analysts about their relationship and Annie says the weekend in Brooklyn was the last happy time they had together. Alvy complains that he’s paying for Annie’s analysis and she’s making progress and he’s not. Annie says she feels obligated to have sex with Alvy even when she doesn’t want to, because he is paying for her analysis. Annie muses that maybe she should just live with a woman instead.

Breakup PlaneAnnie and Alvy visit California. On the plane ride back, Annie thinks to herself that while she adores Alvy, their relationship doesn’t seem to be working. Alvy thinks he’ll probably have the usual trouble in bed with her that night and he wants to ask her to move out, but is afraid she’ll be crushed. They agree on the plane that it is time for the relationship to end. It doesn’t take Alvy long to regret breaking up with Annie, but she has moved to California to be with another man.

Alvy tries dating someone else, but it doesn’t work out. He calls Annie and tells her he wants her to come back and then flies out to California to get her. They meet at a restaurant and Alvy tells Annie he thinks they should get married, but Annie is happy with her life in L.A. Annie tells Alvy that he is incapable of enjoying life. Annie tells Alvy that she just wants to be friends and she has no plans to return to N.Y. and the two part. Alvy, who isn’t used to driving, crashes into several cars trying to back out of the parking lot. Alvy refuses to cooperate with the cop who is called out to the accident he causes and ends up in jail. His friend who lives in L.A. bails him out.

AlvyAlvy writes a play about his relationship with Annie, but changes the ending, having her move back to N.Y. with him. He tells the camera that Annie later moved back to Manhattan and they had lunch together and talked about old times. He seems to have come to terms with their breakup and says that Annie is a great person. The film concludes with Alvy calling relationships irrational and absurd, but something we all keep going through because we need them.

Annie Hall Commentary (Spoilers):

This was my first Woody Allen film. I wasn’t really expecting to enjoy it, but I did. While I find Allen to be a creep in real life, I have to admit that he does have a sort of neurotic charm on-screen. While the movie wasn’t one that was laugh out loud funny, it did have its amsuing points and there was something about it that was just plain enjoyable to watch.

Diane Keaton’s performance was also very engaging. The film is an interesting commentary on the nature of relationships and the differences in the way different people view the same events.

2001: A Space Odyssey – 100 Best Sci Fi & Fantasy Movies

Star child

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies is 2001: A Space Odyssey. This movie also appears on my list of  100 Best Movies.

2001: A Space Odyssey Plot Summary (Spoilers):

Monolith2001: A Space Odyssey begins with a space shot and a dramatic score that shifts to a terrestrial scene overlayed with the words “The Dawn of Man.” A group of apes discover a black monolith. The apes excitedly gather around the monolith and eventually begin to cautiously touch it as dramatic music plays. After touching the monolith, one of the apes begins to utilize a bone from a dead animal as a club. The ape discovers that he can bring down prey by bashing it with the club and he and the other apes who discovered the monolith feast on the meat of the animals they kill.

A rival group of apes confront the club using apes. The club wielders use their clubs to beat one of the rival apes to death, which subdues the other members of the rival group. One of the victorious club wielders tosses his club high into the sky and the scene shifts back to outer space.

Dr. FloydA scientist named Heywood Floyd arrives at a space station on a shuttle. He meets with some other scientists and they discuss some odd happenings at Clavius base, which is Dr. Floyd’s eventual destination. One of the scientists tells Dr. Floyd that they  have heard rumor that some sort of epidemic has broken out at Clavius and he questions Dr. Floyd if that’s the truth. Dr. Floyd tells him that he isn’t at liberty to discuss that, even after the scientist expresses concern that the epidemic could spread to his own base. Dr. Floyd then parts company with the other scientists and the scene shifts to a small vessel approaching the moon, where the Clavius base is.

Dr. Floyd arrives at Clavius base and addresses a group of colleagues. He congratulates them on their discovery and tells them it may prove to be one of the most significant in the history of science. He then addresses the concern some of his colleagues have about the “cover story,” they concocted about the epidemic, in order to keep the discovery a secret and keep outsiders away from their base. Dr. Floyd warns his colleagues that if word of their discovery were to get out, before they can properly study the situation and decide how to announce it to the public, it could result in a great deal of culture shock for the public.

Moon MonolithDr. Floyd travels to the site of the discovery, which is revealed to be a black monolith, like the one the apes discovered in the “dawn of man” scene, which Dr. Floyd is told they  have determined was deliberately buried under ground millions of years in the past. Dr. Floyd gingerly touches the monolith with the glove of his space suit and then he and several other scientists pose for a picture in front of it. The monolith begins to emit a piercing sound that causes the men to cover their ears. The scene then shifts back to a outerspace shot, overlayed with the words “Jupiter Mission 18 Months Later.”

Dr. Dave Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole are eating their space mush, while they watch an interview they did with the BBC about their mission to Jupiter, which is the first manned attempt to reach that planet. Three other men are also on board the ship, but they are in hibernation sleep. A computer called the HAL 9000 is also a part of the mission. The man interviews the ship’s computer, who he addresses as HAL, about “his” responsibilities as the brain of the Discovery ship, which include keeping the men in hibernation sleep alive. HAL responds that the HAL 9000 computer is the most reliable ever built and none has ever made a mistake of any kind. HAL also claims to enjoy working with his human companions and not to be frustrated at all by his reliance on them. The men call HAL the 6th member of the crew. The interviewer asks Dr. Bowman if he thinks HAL has genuine emotions and he responds that HAL seems to, because he’s been programmed that way to make him easier to talk to, but whether those emotions are real is not something any human can answer.

DaveDuring the mission, HAL tells Dave that he has some concerns about some oddities with their mission. HAL talks to Dave about the rumors of something being dug up on the moon and how odd it was that there was so much security surrounding the preparations for their mission, including putting the other three crew members on board, already in hypersleep. HAL then tells Dave that he has just discovered a problem with the ship.

Dave retrieves the equipment HAL identified as faulty, but he can’t find anything wrong with it. HAL recommends they replace the equipment and allow it to fail, so they can trace the problem. Mission control agrees with the plan to replace the equipment, but advises the crew that they believe HAL is in error in predicting that the equipment will fail, based on the information they have gathered from their twin HAL 9000 system. When Dave asks HAL for his opinion on the discrepancy between the two HAL system’s data, HAL replies that it must be due to human error, because it always has been in the past. When Frank asks HAL if there has ever been an instance of a computer error with the 9000 series, HAL assures him that there never has been.

Frank & DaveDave and Frank go into one of the pods and turn off the mics so that HAL can’t hear them. Frank expresses concern about HAL’s reliability and says he has had an odd feeling about HAL the whole mission. Dave reiterates that the HAL series has had a perfect operational record and there’s no harm in replacing the unit and waiting to see if it does fail as HAL predicted. Frank agrees, but wants to discuss what they will do if the unit does not fail. Dave agrees with Frank that if HAL proves to be mistaken, then their mission would be in big trouble and Frank suggests they’d have no option other than to disconnect HAL, since he has complete control over the ship and Dave agrees. Though HAL can not hear what is being said, he is able to read their lips by watching them through the window of the pod.

Frank goes out to replace the equipment and while Frank is out of the pod, HAL uses the pod to disconnect Frank’s oxygen hose and send Frank tumbling off into space. The pod also goes tumbling off in a different direction, leaving Frank stranded in space. HAL tells Dave he doesn’t know what happened.

Sorry DaveDave uses one of the other pods to retrieve Frank’s body. While Dave is out in the pod, HAL shuts down the life support for the three crew members in hyper sleep, killing them all. When Dave returns to the ship and commands HAL to open the pod bay doors, HAL initially doesn’t respond and then says, “I’m sorry Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.” HAL tells Dave that he knows that he and Frank were planning to disconnect him and that he can’t allow that to happen, because their mission is too important. Dave tells HAL that he will enter the ship through the emergency airlock, but HAL points out that Dave doesn’t have his space helmet. Dave commands HAL to open the doors again, but HAL tells him the conversation no longer serves a purpose and ceases communication.

Dave dumps Frank’s body into space and then uses the pod to open the emergency hatch. Dave backs the pod’s door up to the hatch and then uses the explosive bolts to blow the door off the pod and propel himself into the hatch, where he quickly closes the door. HAL asks Dave what he is doing, but Dave does not respond. HAL acknowledges that something has been wrong with him, but assures Dave everything is alright now and HAL feels much better. Sensing that Dave plans to disconnect him, HAL attempts to talk Dave out of it by assuring him that HAL is back to normal and only wants to help Dave complete the mission.

Stop DaveWhen Dave is not persuaded, HAL switches to pleading for Dave to stop and telling him that he is afraid. Dave proceeds to shut HAL down. As HAL nears his end, a pre-recorded message from Dr. Floyd begins to play. The message advises that due to security precautions, only the HAL 9000 was privy to this information, until the ship reached Jupiter space. Dr. Floyd explains that 18 months prior to the mission, the first evidence of intelligent life off the Earth was discovered, buried on the moon. He explains that the monolith remains a mystery, except for a very powerful radio transmission aimed at jupiter. The scene shifts back to an outer-space scene with the words, “Jupiter And Beyond The Infinite.”

As the Discovery approaches Jupiter, there appears to be another black monolith floating in nearby space. Dave approaches the monolith in the pod and appears to be pulled through some sort of tunnel of colorful lights. After seeing a number of fantastical visions, Dave’s pod exits the colorful lights and flies over a planet. Dave’s pod eventually comes to a stop in an ornately appointed bedroom.

Old DaveDave sees a man in a space suit through the pod window and then a now middle-aged Dave is the man in the space suit walking through the bedroom and into the bathroom. Dave looks in the mirror and then turns to see an older version of himself sitting at a table and then he is that older version of himself, now walking through the bedroom again. He sits down at the table and eats, but knocks over a glass, breaking it. When he turns to examine the broken glass, he sees an even older version of himself lying in bed and then becomes that version of himself.

Star childThe black monolith appears in front of Dave’s bed and he reaches towards it. Dave disappears and in his place is a fetus inside of a transparent orb. The orb exits out into space and approaches Earth. The film ends with one last shot of the child floating near Earth and gazing at it.

2001: A Space Odyssey Commentary (Spoilers):

Probably the most impressive and memorable things about 2001: A Space Odyssey are the visuals and the score. Both are gorgeous and the visuals are particularly impressive, considering the film was released in 1968. Many of the effects wouldn’t look terribly out-of-place in a modern film, with the one glaring exception being the apes, which could never be mistaken for anything other than men in monkey suits.

The plot of the movie is a bit sparse and at times confusing. There are pretty large stretches of movie where nothing much really happens. The action picks up in the middle with the iconic confrontation between HAL and Dave, but then tapers off again for the final act.

The movie feels largely like some kind of think piece or message film, rather than a film with an entertaining story. Many of the plot elements are left intentionally vague. The monolith seems to spark a leap forward in the evolution of the apes, but it is unclear whether that was the intent of whoever sent the monolith. It is also left unclear what the monolith actually is, and whether men were ever meant to find the one buried on the moon and follow it to the Jupiter monolith.

The advancement in technology the apes gain brings both life to the starving apes, by making it so they can more easily kill other animals for food and death to both the animals who become their prey and the un-evolved apes. In the modern era, the men who discover the monolith on the moon go to great lengths to keep their discovery a secret and maintain their advantage over their rivals. The timing of HAL’s discovery of the “flaw” in the ship, combined with the video message that plays as HAL is dying, suggest that it may have been mission control that triggered HAL’s false information in order to prevent him from revealing the information they were trying to keep hidden from Dave and the rest of the crew.

It is unclear whether Mission Control fully anticipated the consequences of their actions. Dave and Frank seem under the impression that no one had ever tried to disconnect a HAL system in the middle of a mission, however I find that hard to believe. It would be incredibly negligent not to test out how the system that has complete control of an important and expensive mission would react if it needed to be shut down or malfunctioned, however it’s also hard to fathom why Mission Control would want to risk HAL killing off the crew, considering they seemed to be needed to complete the mission. Perhaps Mission Control had some idea of how HAL would behave, but didn’t anticipate him flipping out and trying to kill the crew. The only other option would be that the plan was to have HAL complete the mission without the crew all along, but if that were the case, why bother to even send the men in the first place?

There is pretty much no explanation about what is going on in the final act. Is Dave seeing a vision of himself or did he actually live out his remaining days in whatever place the monolith brought him to? Does the monolith transform Dave into the “star child” or is the child something they created after Dave died? Does the child actually exist or is this just part of Dave’s vision? If the child is real, what is the purpose of it? If the aliens were intending to help us with the first monolith are they still trying to help us now? Have they been watching what man has done with the technology they gained with the monolith’s help? Do they regret helping mankind and now want to take it all back or do they plan to trigger another leap forward?

2001 is not an exciting, action-packed thriller, but it is a gorgeous film with some interesting things to think about. It is also interesting to note the hits and misses with how technology has advanced between 1968 and the real 2001 and observe the ways 2001 has influenced the science fiction genre over the years.

 

Taxi Driver – 100 Best Movies

Robert De Niro Mimes a Shot to His Head in Taxi Driver

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Taxi Driver.

Taxi Driver Plot Summary (Spoilers):

taxi_driver_4Taxi Driver begins with a shot of a taxi cab in motion. A ex-marine, played by Robert De Niro, applies for a job as a taxi driver, saying he spends most of his nights riding around on subways and buses, because he can’t sleep nights, so he figures he might as well get paid for it.

He gets the job and we hear a voice-over of the taxi driver talking about the various “scum” he encounters on the streets at night, as he drives about picking up passengers. When he returns the taxi to the garage, he pops some kind of pill and then talks about having to clean the cum and sometimes the blood off the back seat every night.

maxresdefaultAfter his shift, he walks to an adult theater, buys some snacks, after unsuccessfully trying to chat up the girl working behind the counter, and then settles in to watch a porno flick. He complains about how he still can’t sleep.

He then talks about the first time he spotted a woman in a white dress, played by Cybill Sheperd. The woman is working on the presidential campaign for Senator Palantine. She notices the taxi driver staring at her from the street and tells her co-worker, played by Albert Brooks, about it. The co-worker asks the taxi driver to move and he peels off.

Travis joins some other cab drivers at a diner. They swap tales about their cab driving exploits and then one of the drivers suggests Travis should buy a piece off some guy he knows, because Travis deals with some “rough” customers sometimes.

Travis walks into the office of the campaign worker he has been staring at. He walks up to her desk and tells her that he’d like to volunteer to work on the campaign, because she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He invites her to come have some coffee and pie with him. She tells him she has a break at 4:00 and that her name is Betsy.

Taxi DriverTravis and Betsy go to the coffee shop and discuss the campaign and Betsy’s co-worker Tom. Travis tells Betsy about how he sensed she had no connection with Tom, unlike he feels she has with him. Betsy calls Travis a walking contradiction and says she’s never met anyone like him. Travis asks her to go see a movie with him sometime.

palantineTravis picks up Senator Palantine in his cab and tells him that he’s one of his biggest supporters. Palantine asks Travis what the one thing in the country that bothers him most is. Travis tells him that Palantine should clean up New York, because the city is full of filth and scum.

A young girl, played by Jodie Foster, gets in the back of Travis’ cab and demands he “get me out of here.” Before anything can happen, a man drags the girl out of the cab and they continue to struggle on the street. The man gives Travis a $20 bill and tells him to forget about it.

19-sometime-sweet-susanTravis takes Betsy to see a Swedish “sex-education” film. She initially objects, but after Travis assures her that it’s not a “dirty movie,”  she goes into the theater with him. Once it becomes clear that the movie is in fact “dirty,” she walks out. Travis questions why she is leaving and she tells him she doesn’t like these kinds of movies. Travis offers to take her to a different movie, but she is still pissed. Travis tries to talk to her, but she gets in a cab and leaves.

Travis calls Betsy from a payphone and apologizes for taking her to the porno flick. He invites her to dinner, but she turns him down, so he tries inviting her for coffee, but she rejects that too. He explains in voice-over that Betsy refused to take his calls after that and she also wouldn’t accept the flowers he tried to send her.

Travis goes to the campaign office and confronts Betsy about ignoring him. Tom intercepts Travis and escorts him out of the building. On his way out the door, Travis tells Betsy that she’s in “hell” and she’s going to die in hell and that she’s “just like the rest of them.” Tom tells Travis that if he comes back, he’ll call the police.

scorsese-deniro-taxi-driverTravis picks up a man, played by Martin Scorsese, who orders him to park at a curb outside a building and sit while the man watches his wife through the window of a man she is cheating on him with. The man tells Travis that he plans to kill his wife and graphically describes how he plans to shoot her with a .44 magnum.

The scene shifts to Travis joining the other cab drivers at the diner. He pulls a driver named Wizard, played by Peter Boyle, aside and talks to him about how down he is feeling. Travis tells him that he’s got some bad ideas in his head. Wizard urges Travis to go get laid or drunk or something, because they’re all fucked anyway. Travis tells him that’s the dumbest thing he’s ever heard. Wizard tells Travis to quit worrying so much.

Travis is out driving his cab and he almost hits the young girl that previously got in the back seat, before being dragged off. He follows her down the street, until she walks off with a man. He explains in voice over that loneliness follows him everywhere.

taxi-driver-deniroTravis buys 4 guns, including a .44 magnum, from the man the cab driver previously told him about. He then tells us in voice over that he’s done taking pills and destroying his body and has decided to get in shape. He also spends some time at the target range working on his aim.

Travis manufactures a gadget to conceal one of his guns up his sleeve. He puts the other three in a custom shoulder harness and straps a knife to his boot. He then shows up to the location where the Senator will be giving a campaign speech and Betsy and Tom are working. He strikes up a conversation with a secret service agent and tells him he saw some suspicious looking people. He then questions him about how hard it is to get into the secret service and says he thinks he’d be good at it. The man tells him to give him his name and address, so he can send him the information on applying. Travis gives him a fake name and address. When Travis walks off, the agent tries to get his photo, but has trouble because of the crowd.

talkintomeeeBack at his place, Travis practices drawing his weapon and has imaginary conversations with potential adversaries, including the iconic, “You talkin to me? Well, I’m the only one here,” speech. He returns to voice-over, talking about how he’s a man who isn’t going to take it anymore and is going to stand up against the scum.

Travis is shopping in a convenience store, when he spots a man trying to rob the cashier. Travis walks up behind the robber, pulls his gun and then when the man turns around, shoots him. Travis is concerned about not having a permit for his gun, but the cashier assures him he’ll take care of it and Travis leaves.

casa-travisTravis writes to his parents, claiming to be working on some secret government job that prevents him from sharing his address with them. He also claims to be dating Betsy. Travis’ mental condition appears to continue to deteriorate. He often spends his time watching T.V. while holding and dry firing the .44 magnum he purchased. Eventually, he kicks the T.V. over and breaks it.

jodiefosterTravis spots the young girl walking the street again and gets out of his cab to walk with her. She asks him if he’s “looking for some action” and he says that he is. She directs Travis to her pimp, played by Harvey Keitel. The pimp thinks he’s a cop. Travis convinces him that he’s not and the pimp quotes him a price. When Travis doesn’t immediately accept, he tells him that the girl is 12.5 years old and he can do anything he wants with her. Travis agrees and follows the girl to her brothel, where he pays $10 to use a room. He asks the girl if she’s really 12.5, but she doesn’t answer. She tells him her name is Iris and then begins to undress, until he tells her not to. He reminds her about getting in his cab, but she claims not to remember. Travis tells her he’s going to get her out of there, but she tells him if they don’t “make it” her pimp will be mad. Iris claims she can leave any time she wants to and that she was just stoned when she got in his cab and she has no place else to go. Travis asks to see her again and he arranges to meet her for breakfast.

IrisTravis meets Iris for breakfast and tries to convince her to go back to her parents, but she tells him that her parents hate her. Travis asks Iris what she plans to do about the pimp and the old man at the brothel when she leaves. He tells her that somebody has to do something to those guys. Iris tells him that she’s going to go live in some commune in Vermont and asks him to come with her. Travis turns her down, because he has something important to do for the government. Travis tells Iris he’s going to give her the money to leave and that he might be going away for a while.

Iris tells her pimp that she doesn’t like what she’s doing. He tells her that he needs and depends on her and calls himself a lucky man. Travis continues to make his preparations and leaves some money for Iris in an envelope with a note telling her that he will be dead. Iris’ pimp intercepts the money and gives it to a gangster who has come to have sex with Iris.

Travis shows up at Palantine’s speech with a new mohawk. He pops a pill. As Palantine walks through the crowd after his speech, Travis reaches into his coat, but one of the secret service agents spots him and Travis runs away.

page_ce_schapiro_taxi_driver_11_1007221208_id_347781Travis goes to see Iris’ pimp. The pimp doesn’t recognize him and claims not to know Iris. Travis pulls his gun and shoots the pimp in the gut. He then goes into the brothel and shoots the man who takes the money for the rooms in the hand, blowing off several of his fingers. The pimp shows up and fires a gun at Travis, hitting him in the neck. Travis shoots the pimp and then the old man again. Another man walks up behind Travis and shoots him in the shoulder. Travis draws the gun from his sleeve and shoots him several times. The old man attacks Travis and Travis pulls the knife from his boot and stabs him. Iris begs Travis not to shoot the man, but Travis puts a gun to his cheek and pulls the trigger. Travis then puts the gun to his own chin and pulls the trigger several times, but the gun is empty. Travis sits on the couch, while Iris sobs.

Robert De Niro Mimes a Shot to His Head in Taxi DriverThe police arrive and point their guns at Travis. Travis puts a bloody finger to his own temple and feigns shooting himself in the head. The camera pans over the carnage in the apartment building and the officers holding their guns on Travis, before shifting to the crowd gathered on the street outside as another cop car pulls up.

The scene shifts to Travis’ apartment, where there are newspaper clippings hanging on his wall that paint him as a hero who battled gangsters. There is also a letter from Iris’ parents, which is read in voiceover. Iris’ parents thank Travis for what he did, saying they wanted to visit him, though he was in a coma. They tell him Iris is back in school and working hard. They invite Travis to visit them in Pittsburgh.

An apparently recovered Travis, picks up Betsy in his cab. They talk about Palantine getting the nomination. Travis tells her that he hopes Palantine wins. Betsy tells Travis she read about him in the papers and asks how he is. Travis tells her he’s just a little stiff. He drops Betsy at her destination free of charge. The movie ends with Travis driving the streets of New York in his cab. He spots something in his rearview mirror and appears agitated.

Taxi Driver Commentary (Spoilers):

The movie begins as a portrait of a lonely, socially awkward and possibly mentally ill man. Travis seems pretty out of touch with normal, every-day life. He manages to attract the attention of the woman he is obsessed with, in spite of creepily staring at her through the window for days on end, but when he is unable to grasp how strange it is to take a woman to a porno movie on a first date, he blows his chances with her.

From there, the movie takes a turn. Travis becomes an angry young man and vigilante. Disgusted by what he sees every night driving his cab, he appoints himself as the person who needs to address the ills of the city. He also starts making plans to assassinate the senator he briefly supported in his attempt to woo Betsy. It is unclear whether his plans to kill the senator have to do with his displeasure that Palatine isn’t doing enough to clean up the city or merely his rage at being rejected by Betsy.

Along the way, Travis decides to take on Iris as a project. He attempts to save her from her life of prostitution and then when his plans to kill the senator go astray, he instead executes Iris’ pimp, along with a couple other people at the brothel, even though Iris doesn’t want him to.

Travis, who would no doubt have been a mentally ill danger to society if he had managed to kill the senator, is instead hailed as a hero for rescuing Iris and killing the “bad guys.” Even Betsy seems impressed by Travis’ actions and amenable to giving him a second chance, in spite of his earlier problematic behaviour.

All of that seems pretty unlikely, which lends credence to those who view the ending as some sort of dream sequence, however the film maker seems to side with the view that the ending was an indication of redemption for Travis, but also a foreshadowing that he is likely to repeat his behaviour in the future.

The movie makes an interesting point about how the act of killing someone is viewed differently depending on who it is that gets killed and how quickly things can change based on luck and circumstance. With mass shootings so much in the news in the past few decades, Travis’ story seems eerily familiar at times.

I found the early parts of the movie to be a bit slow, but the film got more interesting in the second half. I don’t know that I would put the movie on my person 100 best films list, but it is certainly well made and the performances by the cast are stellar.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – 100 Best Movies

Moon

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is E.T. The Extra-terrestrial. E.T. also appears on my 100 Best Science Fiction & Fantasy Movies list.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Plot Summary (Spoilers):

SpaceshipE.T. The Extra-Terrestrial begins with some eerie music played over a starry, night sky. The camera pans to a dome-shaped space ship. Several small creatures shuffle around the forest floor, just outside of the ship. One of the creatures wanders away from the rest of the group.

Left BelowSeveral vehicles enter the wooded area and a number of men go tramping through the forest. The creature who wandered off from the group, hides from the men, while the others get back on the spaceship. The men close in on the hidden creature, who squeals in fear and runs away. The creature tries to make it to the ship, but they close the entrance ramp and take off before he can get there. The men and the creature watch the ship ascend into the sky. The creature makes for the city in the valley below the forest, as the men pursue.

The scene shifts to a bunch of teenagers playing a tabletop RPG in a suburban home. The teens send a younger boy, named Elliot, outside to wait for the pizza delivery man. Elliot collects the pizza and heads back to the house with it, but is distracted by a noise in the yard. Elliot goes to investigate. He hears a noise coming from the shed and cautiously approaches. Elliot tosses the ball he has been carrying into the shed and is surprised when whatever is in the shed tosses it back to him. He takes off running back to the house, stepping on the pizza he had set on the ground on the way.

TracksElliot rushes into the house and excitedly tells his mother, played by Dee Wallace, that there is something in the tool shed and it threw the ball at him. He commands nobody to go outside, so of course, everyone does. The teens grab a few kitchen knives and head for the yard, while Elliot drags his mother by the hand after them. They don’t find anything in the shed, but the teens notice some strange tracks on the floor and Elliot’s brother, who is obviously a master tracker, declares that the coyote has come back again. Elliot’s mom orders everyone to get back inside the house. After everyone leaves, the creature grips the door frame of the shed with his hand.

Elliot lies awake in his bunk, listening to rattling sounds coming from outside the house. He once again goes outside to investigate. Elliot finds more of the “coyote” tracks and follows them. Elliot discovers the creature in a corn field and they both scream and back away from each other. The creature takes off running, leaving fallen trash cans and a swinging gate in his wake. Elliot pursues, but the creature is nowhere to be seen.

The next morning, Elliot rides his bike to a wooded area and scatters some Reese’s Pieces candy on the ground. One of the men who chased the creature away from his ship appears to be looking for something and the creature watches Elliot from behind a tree.

At the dinner table, Elliot has apparently told his family about the creature he saw, but they don’t believe him. Elliot’s brother makes fun of him and his mother insists he must have imagined what he saw. Elliot becomes upset and retorts that “dad would believe me.” When his mother suggests he call his father and tell him about what he saw, Elliot replies that he can’t, because his dad is in Mexico with Sally. This seems to upset his mother and she leaves the table.

CreatureThat night, Elliot camps out in the yard with a flashlight, watching the tool shed. He hears footsteps and looks up to see the creature standing just outside the shed. Elliot tries to call his mother and his brother, but can’t get the words out. The creature shuffles up to Elliot and deposits a handful of candies on Elliot’s blanket.

Elliot lays a trail of candy from the yard to his bedroom. The creature slowly follows, munching on candy as he goes. Elliot manages to lure the creature into his room. The creature mimics Elliot’s actions. Eventually, Elliot goes to sleep, with the creature watching over him.

Back where the creature’s ship took off, a number of men are combing the site with various instruments. One of the men discovers a pile of Reese’s Pieces and eats one. Ewwww!

The next morning, Elliot is pretending to be sick so that he doesn’t have to go to school. Once the rest of the family is gone, Elliot lures the creature out of its hiding place in the closet. He tries to teach the creature his name and then shows him some of the stuff in his room. When the creature starts munching on Elliot’s toy car, Elliot decides he must be hungry and heads to the kitchen to get some food. When Elliot opens the bedroom door, the dog barges in and scares the crap out of the creature.

ClosetWhile Elliot is retrieving food from the fridge, the creature opens an umbrella in Elliot’s room and startles himself, which also causes Elliot to be startled and drop the food. Elliot returns to his room with some food and discovers the creature hiding in the closet.

ScreamElliot’s brother Michael returns home from school and Elliot forces him to swear that Elliot has “absolute power,” before letting him into his room and introducing him to the creature. Michael stares at the creature dumbfounded, while Elliot looks on smugly. Elliot’s sister Gertie, played by Drew Barrymore, barges into the room and she and the creature both start screaming. Elliot’s mother arrives home and Elliot ushers Michael, Gertie and the creature into his closet.

Michael keeps Gertie from giving them away while their mom is in the room and after complaining a bit about the mess, she goes to take a shower. Elliot joins his siblings in the closet and announces that he’s keeping the creature. Elliot tells his sister that she can’t tell mom about the creature. When she questions why, he tells her that only little kids can see the creature, but she doesn’t buy it. The boys then grab Gerti’s doll and threaten to rip it apart if she doesn’t promise to stay quiet, which she does. Meanwhile, the men are still hot on the creature’s trail.

That evening, the boys are debating what manner of thing the creature could be. Elliot shows the creature a map of the U.S. and then a globe and points at California, saying “We are here. Where are you from?” The creature points at the window. Elliot shows the creature a map of the solar system and points at Earth, calling it “home.” The creature lays several round objects on the map and then causes them to float in the air, like a working model of a solar system. Something scares the creatures and the balls drop to the floor. Elliot goes outside to investigate and hears the sounds of the men searching for the creature. Back in Elliot’s room, the creature uses his power to make the dead plant Gertie brought him live again.

Stuffed AnimalsThe next day, Elliot and Michael go to school. Michael’s friends tease Elliot about “the goblin,” and Elliot tells them that he’s not a goblin, he’s a space man. Meanwhile, Elliot’s mom is attempting to shuffle Gertie off to school, when she hears sounds coming from Elliot’s room. She goes to check it out, but the creature hides amongst the stuffed animals in Elliot’s closet and she doesn’t notice him.

KissWith everyone out of the house, the creature decides to leave Elliot’s room. He shuffles to the frig and starts sampling the food, including a few cans of Coors. The creature becomes drunk and stumbles into the counter, which Elliot appears to feel. Elliot also appears to be feeling a bit drunk. The creature discovers the T.V. and flips through some programs. The creature discovers a Buck Rodgers comic. Buck is calling for help, which seems to give the creature an idea. Elliot, who is the middle of waiting for his frog to “go to sleep,” so he can dissect it, mutters “save him,” and then begins releasing the frogs from their jars, telling them to run for their lives. The creature watches a scene from a movie on the T.V., where a man kisses a woman. Elliot emulates the scene with a girl from his class. Elliot gets hauled off to the principle’s office, while the other kids in the class release the frogs out the windows.

Back at the house, the creature has collected a number of electronics devices, small appliances and various other supplies and is dragging them through the living room on a blanket. The creature is obviously still inebriated, and grumps around the room, kicking beer cans as he goes. Gertie and her mom arrive home. Gertie spots the creature and tries to introduce her mother to “the man from the moon,” but her mother blows her off, thinking she’s making up a story. Elliot’s mom discovers an empty beer can on the floor and then gets a call from the school, informing her that her son is intoxicated. Gertie is watching Sesame Street, which is teaching kids the spelling of a number of “B” words. The creature begins to repeat the word “be.” Gertie’s mom tells her she has to go pick up Elliot and misunderstands Gertie, when she tells her mom that “he can talk!” Gertie teaches the creature a few more words, including the word “phone.”

Dress UpElliot returns home to discover Gertie has dressed the creature as a woman and hidden him in her closet. He also discovers that the creature can now speak and knows his name. Elliot teaches the creature to say, “E.T.,” which Elliot has decided is his name. E.T. shows Elliot the Buck Rogers comic and points at the scene where Buck is calling for help and says “phone.” E.T. then points out the window and says, “E.T. home phone.” Elliot figures out that E.T. wants to call his people, so they’ll come get him.

That evening, a surveillance van trolls the neighborhood, listening in on people’s conversations. They hear Elliot and Michael talking about looking for anything they think E.T. could make a machine out of in their garage. Michael tells Elliot that E.T. isn’t looking so good anymore and Elliot responds, “we’re fine!” Michael questions why Elliot keeps saying, “we.”

OuchElliot smuggles a box full of stuff from the garage into E.T.’s closet. Elliot cuts his finger on a saw blade and E.T. extends a glowing finger tip, which he touches to Elliot’s hand and heals the cut. E.T. begins to assemble his machine in the closet. The plant that E.T. brought back to life begins to die.

MoonThe kids get ready to go out trick or treating. Michael and Elliot dress E.T. in a ghost costume and pretend that he is Gertie. The boys head out trick or treating with E.T. in tow. They meet up with the real Gertie at the lookout and put E.T. in the basket on Elliot’s bike. Elliot rides into the woods. When he tells E.T. they will have to get off and walk, E.T. uses his power to fly the bike to their destination.

With Elliot’s help, E.T. constructs his machine in the woods. Elliot’s aggravated mother leaves the house, presumably to look for her children and a number of men enter the house and search it. Elliot and E.T. celebrate when it appears the machine has begun to work. Elliot tries to convince E.T. to return to the house, telling him to give his people some time. E.T. indicates that he is hurting. Elliot tries to convince E.T. to stay, but E.T. remains focused on going home.

Sick E.T.The next morning, Elliot wakes alone in the woods. His mom is home with Michael and Gertie, talking to the police about her missing son. Elliot arrives home, looking terrible. A tearful Elliot implores his brother to find E.T. Mike sets off on his bike and some men in a car follow him. Mike loses his pursuers and heads into the woods, calling for E.T.  He finds a very sickly looking E.T. lying in a culvert. Mike covers E.T. with the sheet from his ghost costume, as he hears a helicopter overhead.

Dying E.T.Mike returns E.T. to the house and then gets his mother. He reluctantly shows her a very ill-looking E.T. Elliot tells his shocked mother, “We’re sick. I think we’re dying.” Elliot’s panicked mother ushers her children downstairs, leaving a frightened E.T. alone in the closet. Mike opens the front door and a man in space suit enters the house. Several more men in space suits frighten the family.

An army of men in hazmat suits approach the house, as E.T. gasps for air on the bathroom floor. One of the space suited men finds E.T. in the bathroom. The men outside, who now have a police escort, roll a large plastic tube up to the entrance to the house. They encase the house in plastic and park a van at the end of the long tube. A man in a hazmat suit exits the van and enters the home.

Inside, a number of people in surgical masks are asking Elliot’s mom questions she doesn’t know the answers to. She wants to know what is happening to her son. Mike explains to one of the men that E.T. communicates through Elliot and that Elliot feels E.T.’s feelings. The men have set up a medical facility inside the home, where they are running tests on Elliot and E.T., while Elliot complains that they have no right to do what they are doing. The men are trying to figure out how to save E.T. and presumably Elliot as well. Meanwhile, the man from the van questions Elliot about what the machine E.T. built in the forest does. The man tells Elliot he doesn’t want E.T. to die and asks what they can do to save him. Elliot tells him that E.T. needs to go home and that he is calling his family. The man tells Elliot that he did the best that anyone could do and that he’s glad E.T. met him first. Elliot begins to recover, but E.T.’s condition rapidly deteriorates.

Mike falls asleep and then wakes up in Elliot’s closet. He notices the plant E.T. revived rapidly dying and cries out. Meanwhile, Elliot begs E.T. not to go, but E.T.’s vitals cease, sending the doctors into a panic. Elliot screams that the doctors are killing E.T. as they wheel him away on his gurney. The doctors unsuccessfully attempt to revive E.T.

AliveThe neighborhood has gathered to watch, as the men begin disassembling and hauling away their equipment. The doctors finally decide that E.T. is dead and cease their attempts to resuscitate him. The men load E.T.’s body into some sort of cooling contraption. The man from the van sends everyone else away, so that Elliot can have some alone time with E.T., before they take him away. Elliot says his goodbyes and tells E.T. that he loves him. As Elliot closes the lid to the contraption E.T. is in, E.T.’s chest lights up. Elliot starts to walk away, but then he notices the plant coming back to life and runs back to the contraption. Elliot throws open the lid and unzips the body bag. E.T. enthusiastically says, “E.T. phone home!” Elliot asks if this means that E.T.’s family is coming and E.T. says, “yes.” Elliot celebrates, but then quickly attempts to hush E.T. up before the men realize he is alive. Elliot zips E.T. back in the body bag, covers his glowing chest with a blanket and then closes the lid to the contraption. He then throws himself over the window in the lid and pretends to be weeping, in order to prevent the men from seeing E.T. moving around. The men drag Elliot away, but they don’t notice anything different with E.T.

Elliot tells his brother that E.T. is alive and they begin making plans to get E.T. back to the woods. The man from the van is talking to Elliot’s mom when Gertie comes in asking if the boys are gone, because she has a note she’s supposed to give her when they’re gone. Gertie’s mother reads the note and she’s not pleased.

Meanwhile, the men have loaded E.T. into the van. Elliot climbs into the back of the van, while Mike, disguised in one of the hazmat suits, climbs into the driver’s seat. Mike gets caught before he can get the hood of his suit on, so he decides to just drive off, pulling two men behind in the plastic tube. Mike orders his friends to grab the bikes and meet them at the top of the hill. The men in the tube try to get into the van, but Elliot releases the tube before they can get in. An army of police pursue the van. They meet up with Mike’s friends at the playground and put E.T. in the basket of Elliot’s bike. The police arrive at the playground, guns drawn, but the boys have already left.

BlockadeThe police pursue the boys on their bikes. The boys think they have outrun the police, when they suddenly run into a blockade, where the police await, with guns drawn. Elliot squeezes his eyes shut and E.T. uses his power to fly all of the boy’s bikes over the blockade and to the woods.

GoodbyeThe boys arrive at E.T.’s communicator and see a spaceship landing nearby. The spaceship begins to lower its walkway as Gertie, the man from the van and her mom arrive. Gertie says goodbye to E.T. and he tells her to be good. He thanks Mike, as another alien begins to come down the walkway of the ship. E.T. asks Elliot to come with him and Elliot asks E.T. to stay, but they both realize that neither thing is going to happen and acknowledge their pain. E.T. touches Elliot’s forehead and tells him, “I’ll be right here.” E.T. takes the flowers Gertie gave him and gets on the ship. The ship flies away, leaving a rainbow in it’s wake. The scene shifts to Elliot’s face as he watches his friend leave and the movie ends.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial Commentary (Spoilers):

I saw E.T. for the first time during its original theatrical release in 1982. I remember loving the film as an 8-year-old and I have seen the movie probably dozens of times since, though many of those times were in edited format on television.

I went through a phase in early adulthood where I found the movie boring, but at some point I returned to loving it again. The effects that seemed so amazing in 1982 have begun to show their age a bit, but the story is still as entertaining and emotional as it was back in the ’80s. However, viewing the movie with adult eyes, I find myself trying not to think about all the unpleasant things that probably happened to Elliott and his family once the government caught up to them.

The movie touches a lot of notes. It is full of the wonder of discovery. It has plenty of fun comedic moments. The story also sends a message about the tactics employed by the government or military or whoever all those dudes in suits were, as well as the police. Instead of trying to communicate with E.T. the way Elliot did, the powers that be immediately trap him and start poking and prodding and testing. They do try to save E.T.’s life, but you get the sense that all of that is secondary to their thirst to make some big, useful and possibly profitable discovery by studying him.

The police drawing their guns on a bunch of kids, is unfortunately another message that rings a bit too true today, with police brutality so much in the news over the past several decades.

The lead scientist or whatever he was, seems to have good intentions regarding E.T., but the fact remains that had he and his men captured E.T. before E.T. found Elliot, most likely E.T. would have ended up in little jars in some secret lab, rather than returning to his family.

The cast did a nice job all the way around, with Henry Thomas, as Elliott, providing a particularly strong performance. He has done quite a bit more acting than I thought he had since, though most it seems to be small roles.

Drew Barrymore was cute and funny and even after many other projects and a number of headline making scandals, people still remember her as the cute little girl in E.T.

Spielberg set out to make a movie featuring an alien that was peaceful, kind and loving, as opposed to the aliens that have dominated much of the film landscape trying to dominate or destroy the Earth, experimenting on humans, etc. The movie carries a hopeful message that there is intelligent life out there and that life is not hostile to us.

I got a bit of a chuckle out of all the product placement. I remember well the commercials for Coke and Reese’s Pieces that promoted their tie-ins to this movie, which was of course a huge juggernaut of mass merchandising, including toys, video games, cartoons and whatever else you can think of. For awhile, E.T. was everywhere.

E.T. remains one of my favorite movies of all-time and no matter how many times I see it, I still cry at the end. I have to say, that rainbow thing was a bit hokey though.

 

A Streetcar Named Desire – 100 Best Movies

Stanley

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is A Streetcar Named Desire.

A Streetcar Named Desire Plot Summary (Spoilers):

streetcar-named-desire-title-still-smallA Streetcar Named Desire begins with a train chugging through New Orleans. A woman named Blanche Dubois, played by Vivien Leigh, boards a streetcar named Desire and takes it to an apartment complex called Elysian Fields. She is looking for her sister Stella, but Stella has gone bowling with her husband.

Blanche locates her sister at the bowling alley and is very excited to see her. The pair have drinks. Blanche seems like a bitch, taking frequent digs at her sister, and she talks non-stop, like a meth head.

Back at Stella’s place, Blanche continues to shit all over Stella’s house and lifestyle and talk a mile a minute. Blanche tells Stella that she is “not well.” Blanche then starts in on a guilt trip about Stella leaving home, resulting in all the responsibilities of looking after the home place falling on Blanche. Blanche reveals that Belle Reve is lost and blames it on the expense related to the deaths of their family members falling to Blanche, who earned only a teacher’s salary. Blanche claims to have taken a leave from her teaching job due to her frazzled nerves.

Stanley2Stella’s husband Stanley Kowalski, played by Marlon Brando, arrives home and Blanche practically drools over him. When Stanley asks Blanche about having been married, she seems very disturbed. She tells Stanley she married young, but her husband died.

Stella encourages Stanley to be nice to Blanche. However Stanley is more concerned with what happened to Belle Reve, seeing as how according to the Napoleonic code, he’s entitled to a share of the proceeds if Blanche sold the place. Stanley rifles through Blanche’s belongings, insisting that her clothing and jewelry are too expensive for Blanche to have purchased on a teacher’s salary. Stanley is convinced that Blanche is trying to cheat her sister and him out of money, by claiming Belle Reve was lost.

Stanley accuses Blanche of cheating her sister and Blanche swears she never has. Stanley is not convinced, so Blanche shows him all her papers, though she becomes distraught when he grabs for what she claims are love letters from her dead husband, who she apparently hurt in some way. Stanley tells Blanche that he’s just looking out for his family and that Stella is pregnant, in spite of Stella’s previous request that he not mention the baby to Blanche.

poker gameStanley hosts a poker game for several of his buddies. Blanche flirts with Mitch, one of Stan’s poker buddies, played by Karl Malden. After losing a hand, Stanley flies into a rage, throwing a radio through the window and busting up the house.  His rage results in a fist fight between the poker players and Stanley beating his wife. Stanley’s buddies try to sober him up in the shower, but he runs them off. After his friends leave, Stanley immediately regrets what he did to Stella.

StanleyStella and Blanche are holing up with the upstairs neighbor. Stanley iconically shouts “hey Stella!” Outside the building, trying to get his wife to come back home. The neighbor threatens to call the police, but Stanley persists and Stella comes downstairs. Stanley sobs on his knees and Stella comforts him and then begins to kiss him. Stanley carries her into the bedroom and Blanche follows, but then leaves after she sees what they are up to.

The next morning, Blanche questions Stella about returning to Stanley after his violent outburst. Stella says Stanley was ashamed of his behaviour and anyway, he’s always been violent and she finds his behavior thrilling. Stanley overhears Blanche trying to talk Stella into leaving. Stella insists she does not want to leave Stanley. Blanche compares Stanley to an animal and urges Stella not to hang back with the brutes, but when Stanley returns, Stella enthusiastically embraces him.

Several months down the road, Stanley confronts Blanche about a man named Shaw, who claims to know her from a seedy hotel. Blanche denies it.  Concerned about what people have been saying about her reputation, Blanche questions Stella about what she has heard. Stella denies having heard anything untoward about Blanche. Blanche tells Stella that with her beauty fading, she has had to resort to tricks, like a paper lantern over a lightbulb, to attract men. Blanche now has her sights set on Stanley’s poker buddy Mitch and hopes to get a marriage proposal from him.

dateDuring her date with Mitch, Blanche tells Mitch about the death of her husband. She tells him that her husband had been depressed, but she didn’t recognize it until he shot himself. Blanche blames herself for her husband’s death, since she was critical and unsupportive of him, calling him weak. When Mitch talks about being lonely after his mother dies, Blanche tells him she knows what it means to be lonely and suggests the two of them need each other. Mitch proposes to Blanche.

The scene shifts to Mitch and Stanley fighting about Blanche at work. Stanley has been trying to convince Mitch not to marry Blanche, by telling him about Blanche’s past. Stanley tells Mitch to go ahead and marry Blanche, but to hurry up and get her out of his house.

Stanley tells Stella the same thing he’s been telling Mitch, that Blanche was run out of two different towns for her promiscuous behaviour and mental instability and that she lied about quitting her teaching job. He claims Blanche was fired for getting mixed up with a 17-year-old boy, whose father complained about her.

Birthday PartyMitch doesn’t show up at Blanche’s birthday party. Stanley gets pissed when Stella chides him for eating like a pig and being disgusting and greasy and he starts smashing things again.

Stanley gives Blanche a bus ticket as a birthday gift and she runs away sobbing. Stella is furious and confronts Stanley. The fight ends when Stella tells Stanley to take her to the hospital.

MitchMitch shows up at the apartment and confronts Blanche. She eventually admits to him the truth of her past. Mitch kisses Blanche, but refuses to marry her, saying she’s not clean enough. An enraged and possibly deranged Blanche orders Mitch out of the house.

Blanche follows Mitch into the courtyard and screams, prompting passers-by to ask if she’s OK. Blanche retreats into the house and closes all the shutters and douses all the lights.

Vivien Dress UpThe scene shifts to Blanch dressed up in an old gown and a rhinestone tiara and conversing with people who aren’t there. Stanley returns from the hospital. Stella is still at the hospital, awaiting the baby. Blanche tells Stanley she has received an invite from an old flame to go on a cruise. She also tells Stanley that Mitch returned with a box of roses, seeking her forgiveness, but that deliberate cruelty is not forgivable. Stanley at first, pretends to believe Blanche, but then calls bullshit on Blanche’s lies, mocks her and then leaves the room to change into his pajamas.

rapeBlanche attempts to make a phone call to Western Union with the message that she’s caught in a trap. Stanley returns and Blanche tries to leave, but he stops her. Stanley pursues Blanche and she threatens him with a broken bottle, but he overpowers and then rapes her.

The scene shifts to poker night. The baby is sleeping and Stella is worried about Blanche, because she won’t eat and she has things all mixed up in her mind. Refusing to believe Blanche’s story about Stanley, Stella tries to trick Blanche into willingly leaving with a man and a woman from the nut house, but when Blanche realizes the man is not her old flame come to take her away, Blanche runs back into the house, saying she forgot something.

strangersWhen Stanley rips down Blanche’s paper lantern she loses her shit and the old woman from the nut house tackles her. Mitch becomes angry and tries to punch Stanley. Mitch blames Stanley for making Blanche crazy. Blanche convinces the doctor to ask the woman to release her and then takes his arm, saying she has always depended on the kindness of strangers.

Stella weeps as her sister is taken away and tells Stanley never to touch her again. When he hollers for her, she grabs the baby and runs up stairs, vowing she will never return to him again. The movie ends with one last shot of the outside of the apartment building.

A Streetcar Named Desire Commentary:

A Streetcar Named Desire is an engrossing, but somewhat depressing film. When Blanche Dubois shows up broke and desperate at her sister’s place, she’s a hard person to like.

Blanche is constantly ragging on her sister. She insults Stella’s appearance, implies she’s fat, calls her husband a common Pollock and is constantly running down Stella’s home.  In addition to the barrage of criticism, Blanche also seems very manipulative and full of shit.

As the movie progresses and Blanche’s lies are stripped away, she begins to become a somewhat more sympathetic character. Her alleged affair with a 17-year-old student is pretty skeezy, and she brings part of her problems on herself by living a life full of lies and manipulation, but I can’t help but feel for her. She is obviously very insecure and lonely, feeling her only value to the world is her physical beauty, which she sees as fading as she ages. She tries to fill the void in her life through her affairs with various men and that only brings more societal scorn down upon her.

The contrast between Blanche and Stanley is an interesting one. Blanche sees herself as refined and gentile, a woman of taste and high-class, while Stanley is a brutish, belligerent man who at times doesn’t seem to do much more than grunt and break things.

Neither end of the spectrum is presented in a particularly positive light. Blanche is an elitist snob, looking down her nose at others, while Stanley is a bully, wife-beater and rapist. Both characters basically live down to the stereotypes.

Stella also falls into the stereotype of the abused spouse who keeps threatening to leave, but always returns. When she learns Stanley raped her sister, she chooses to believe Blanche is lying, because she can’t bring herself to either leave Stanley or live with him, admitting that she knows he is a rapist. Stella claims she will never return to Stanley at the end of the film, but I suspect she probably did.

Blanche’s mental condition already seems fragile by the time she moves in with Stella and Stanley. The rape by Stanley seems to push Blanche over the edge, resulting in her being committed to a mental institution.

The exceptional performances by the cast combined with an interesting and thought-provoking story, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, make this my favorite of the 100 Best Movies I have watched thus far.

On The Waterfront – 100 Best Movies

On the Waterfront Beaten Terry

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is On The Waterfront. On the Waterfront was also the Best Picture winner at the 1954 Academy Awards, so this movie is the first I’ve ticked off my Best Picture Winners list.

Some Like it Hot Plot Summary (Spoilers):

On the Waterfront Opening SceneOn the Waterfront begins with a group of men exiting a union lodge on a dock by a large ship. The scene transitions to an apartment building in the city. A man in a plaid jacket, named Terry Malloy and played by Marlon Brando, summons a man named Joey to collect a missing pigeon that flew into Terry’s coop. Joey agrees to meet on the roof. Some men are waiting on the roof for Joey and toss him off the roof when he arrives. Terry expresses surprise at Joey’s fate, saying he thought they were just going to beat him up a little.

When the police attempt to question the residents of Joey’s building about his death, most of them refuse to talk, but one woman tells them Joey was the only longshoremen with the guts to talk to the crime commission investigating the union. Terry learns from the union bosses, lead by a man named Johnny Friendly, that Joey was killed for “squealing” about their mob-connected, dirty dealings on the docks.

On the Waterfront PoliceThe next day at the docks, the crime commission agent questions Terry about the activities of the labor union, but Terry refuses to talk. After the union rep hands out all the day’s assignments, the workers who didn’t get a job riot and the rep throws a bunch of tabs on the ground, which they all scramble and fight each other for. Terry picks one up. Joey’s sister Edie, played by Eva Marie Saint, tries to take it from him. Terry gives up the tab, when he learns who she is and she gives it to her father, who is a longshoremen, like her brother was.

Father Barry, the local priest, encourages the workers to stand up to the mob, who do the hiring on the docks and control the union, and organizes a meeting at his church. One of the union thugs approaches Terry and tells him Johnny wants him to infiltrate the meeting and report back.

DuganAt the meeting, Father Barry tries to guilt the workers into fessing up about Joey’s murder, but they refuse, saying they “don’t rat.” The meeting is interrupted by a smashed window and a group of union thugs raising a ruckus outside the church. The workers flee, but some are beaten by the thugs. The beatings cause a worker named Kayo Dugan to change his mind about standing up to the mob, as long as Father Barry swears he is in it with Dugan until the end. Terry helps Edie escape the church and then clumsily flirts with her.

When Edie returns home, her father tells her he is sending her back to school. He also tells her Terry is the brother of Charley the Gent, the right hand man of Johnny Friendly, and that she should stay away from him, but Edie thinks Terry isn’t like his brother. Edie tells her father she’s grateful for what he’s done for her, but that she’s going to stay and find out who killed Joey.

On the Waterfront EdieEdie goes snooping around the roof where Joey was killed and discovers Terry tending his pigeons. The two of them go out drinking and dancing. Edie questions Terry about Joey, but he claims not to be able to help and then warns her to quit pursuing Joey’s killers, because it isn’t safe. Terry gets served with a summons to appear in court.

Edie tries to get Terry to admit that Johnny and Charley were responsible for her brother’s murder and then accuses Terry of being part of it. Edie calls Terry a bum when he wont confess. Terry again warns Edie to go back to school and forget about Joey before she gets hurt.

Johnny confronts Terry about not keeping an eye on the church meeting. Terry says nothing happened at the meeting, but Johnny tells him Dugan met with the crime commission and ratted out Johnny’s operation. He also scolds Terry for romancing Edie and orders him to get rid of her. He declares that Dugan needs to be muzzled and tells Terry he’s going to be pulled from his cushy job in the loft and put back in the hole as punishment for his bungling.

Father BarryDown in the hole, Terry tries to pull Dugan aside to warn him, but Dugan blows him off. The union rep arranges an “accident” that results in Dugan being crushed by falling cargo. Father Barry once again tries to rouse the workers against the mob by comparing Dugan’s murder to the crucifixion of Jesus and anyone who stands by in silence to the Roman soldiers. Some of the men turn hostile and begin throwing things at the priest and telling him to go back to his church. Father Barry continues to try to incite the workers against the mob. When one of the men tries to silence the priest, Terry knocks him out. Edie finds Terry later and makes out with him on the roof.

Terry confesses to Father Barry that he set Joey up to be murdered, though he insists that he thought they were only going to lean on him a bit, not kill him. The priest encourages Terry to come clean with Edie and to rat out Johnny and Charley in court. Terry tells Edie about his role in her brother’s death and she is mortified.

The man from the crime commission approaches Terry on the roof. He asks Terry about a boxing match he lost and Terry tells him he threw the fight as a “favor” and missed out on a title shot as a result.

Johnny’s minions report that they saw Terry talking to the crime commission. Charley tries to take up for his brother and blames Edie and her father for mixing him up. Johnny tells Charley to take Terry on a drive and try to straighten him out on the way and if he can’t, to kill him.

ContenderCharley takes Terry for a ride and tries to buy his silence by offering him cushy new high paying job. Terry tells his brother he is thinking about testifying. Charley pulls a gun on Terry and pleads with him to take the job and keep his mouth shut. Terry confronts his brother about pushing him to take dives for the gambling money and tells him he coulda been a contender, instead of a bum, if only Charley had looked out for him, instead of using him. Charley tells Terry he’ll tell Johnny he couldn’t find him. He gives Terry the gun, tells him he’s going to need it and then drops him off. However, Johnny was having Charley watched and the union thugs are immediately on the case.

On the Waterfront KissTerry busts into Edie’s place and in spite of her protests that she doesn’t want him, she gives in and admits she loves him when he kisses her. The union thugs call Terry out, saying they have his brother. Terry goes to meet them and Edie follows. They narrowly escape being run over by a truck and then discover Charley’s dead body hanging in the alley. Edie begs Terry to leave with her and go somewhere they can live in peace, but Terry vows to “take it out of their skulls.”

Terry goes looking for Johnny, gun in hand, but finds him gone. Father Barry arrives and tells Terry to get rid of the gun and fight Johnny by testifying in court, instead of trying to kill him.

Terry testifies against Johnny in court. Johnny tells Terry he just dug his own grave and promises him he’ll never work on any waterfront again.  After the trial, Johnny gets dumped by his mob affiliate and faces indictment. Terry gets the cold shoulder from his friends and discovers his pigeons have been killed by a young boy who used to idolize him. Edie pleads with Terry to leave the waterfront to get away from Johnny.

On the Waterfront Beaten TerryTerry confronts Johnny at the docks and gets his ass kicked by Johnny’s minions. Father Barry and Edie come for Terry and Johnny orders the workers, who had been watching the brawl between Terry and Johnny, to get back on the job. The workers refuse to work, as long as Terry is not allowed to work. Johnny claims Terry can’t even walk. Edie’s father pushes Johnny into the water.

Some of the workers find Terry and urge him to walk up to the docks to demonstrate to Johnny that he is no longer the boss of them. Father Barry and Edie help Terry to his feet and he staggers out to the docks. The boss calls the men, including Terry in to work, in defiance of Johnny’s orders and the movie ends with Johnny shouting threats as the garage door closes behind the workers.

On the Waterfront Commentary:

On the Waterfront WorkOn the Waterfront is my favorite of the movies on my 100 Best list that I have watched so far. The performances by Brando and Malden were extremely compelling. The story was interesting and of course the good guys won in the end. Presumably, anyway. We don’t really know what happened after the film closes.

The iconic “I coulda been a contender!” speech actually made me a bit misty eyed, even though I’ve heard it before. I am a firm believer in the value of organized labor. So, it’s always disappointing to me, when the subject of how corrupt many labor unions have been and still are comes to surface.

When workers don’t organize, they are at the mercy of their employers, who hold pretty much all the cards, but unfortunately, too often the power of the workers has been siphoned off and corrupted, so they ended up at the mercy of a different set of thugs and no better off.

The message of On the Waterfront about standing up for what’s right in the face of incredible personal consequences is one I can appreciate, but I also found the film to be an enjoyable experience in terms of pure entertainment.

Some Like it Hot – 100 Best Movies

some-like-it-hot-tango

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Some Like It Hot.

Some Like it Hot Plot Summary (Spoilers):

CasketSome Like It Hot begins with two dour looking gentleman riding in a hearse with a flower draped casket. The hearse is being pursued by police, who open fire on the vehicle. The two men return fire. The police shoot some holes in the casket, which begins leaking some sort of liquid. The men in the hearse open the casket to reveal it is full of whiskey bottles and the movie’s setting is revealed to be prohibition era Chicago.

A federal agent infiltrates the funeral parlor the vehicle they were chasing fled to and discovers it is a front for a speakeasy. A couple musicians, played by Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, in the band spot the federal agent putting on his badge and decide to high tail it out of the speakeasy, before it gets raided.

The police raid the speakeasy and chaos ensues. The two musicians, named Jerry and Joe, sneak out via the fire escape. The guys are flat broke and now won’t get their paycheck for playing at the speakeasy. They try betting their overcoats on a dog race and lose.

They try to find some work at an agency, but come up empty, until Joe’s pissed off girlfriend, Nellie, tells him there is a client looking for a sax and a bass for a three-week, all-expenses paid, gig in Florida. Jerry and Joe rush into the office only to find that the client needs two females under 25 to fill the positions.

Jerry tries to talk Joe into dressing in drag and taking the Florida gig, but Joe thinks he’s nuts. They get offered a gig on the U of I campus that they accept instead. Neither of them has a car and the gig is 100 miles away, so Joe talks Nellie into loaning them her car. The guys head over to the garage where Nellie’s car is and interrupt some mobsters playing poker. Before they can get the car, the game is raided by the mobsters who owned the speakeasy, who are pissed at the poker playing mobsters, because one of them, named Toothpick Charlie, ratted the speakeasy mobster, named Spats Colombo out to the feds.

MassacreSpats’ crew shoots Toothpick’s crew dead, while Joe & Jerry try to hide behind the car, but they are discovered. Spats gives the order for Joe and Jerry to be shot, but they are saved when the gunmen are distracted by a surviving poker player trying to get to the phone. Jerry and Joe escape while the gunmen finish off the poker player.

The pair duck into a cigar shop and Joe calls the agency, posing as a female musician. The scene shifts to Joe and Jerry, in drag, boarding a train to Florida. Jerry tries to chicken out on the platform, fearing they’ll never manage to pass as women, but when he sees a newspaper headline about the shooting, he changes his mind and they get on the train.

Sugar KaneJerry is excited about the prospect of being surrounded by women, but Joe warns him not to try anything. When the pair try to find a private spot to fix Jerry’s chesticles, they discover Sugar Kane, played by Marilyn Monroe, sneaking a drink. Jerry lusts after Sugar, but Joe repeats his warning not to pursue any of the women.

Sugar gets busted with her flask during band practice, but Jerry claims its his, to keep her from getting kicked out of the band. Jerry continues to lust after the girls and Joe continues to warn him to cool it. Meanwhile, their employers begin to suspect there is something “weird” about them and resolve to keep an eye on them.

When Joe finds out that Sugar is running away from her career playing in male bands because she can’t trust herself and has a thing for sax players, he starts to lust after her himself. Sugar, on the other hand, is tired of getting pumped and dumped by one sax player after another, which is why she joined a girls band. Sugar tells Joe she’s out to land herself a glasses wearing, yacht owning, millionaire in Florida.

Jerry & OsgoodJerry attracts the attentions of one of the elderly millionaires in Florida, while Joe gets hit on by a bellhop. Tired of getting pinched and pursued by men, Jerry wants to ditch the girl band and go find a gig with a male band, but Joe disagrees, saying the mob will be looking for them among the male bands. Jerry decides to stick it out, but accuses Joe of being motivated by his lust for Sugar.

Joe swipes his employer’s suitcase full of resort clothes and dresses in them so he can pose as a young glasses wearing, millionaire and try to seduce Sugar. Meanwhile Sugar spins her own tales to convince Joe that she’s really a society girl playing with the band for a lark.

BathtubJerry discovers Joe’s ploy and tries to expose him, in spite of Joe’s warning to keep quiet. However, Jerry’s ploy fails and Joe intimidates him into silence. Jerry’s millionaire pursuer, named Osgood Fielding III, calls the room and Joe answers the phone. When Osgood invites “Daphne” to his yacht for dinner, Joe accepts on her behalf. Joe hatches a plot to have dinner on the Yacht with Sugar, while he sticks Daphne/Jerry with a shore bound dinner date with the dirty old man, Osgood.

some-like-it-hot-tangoWith Jerry’s help keeping Osgood on shore, Joe manages to lure Sugar on to the yacht. When Sugar expresses concern that some men would try to take advantage of a woman they were alone with in the middle of the night on a yacht, Joe claims he’s not interested in girls thanks to a tragic accident with a former love, even though he “tries all the time.”

Joe tells Sugar if he ever found the girl who could “cure” him, he’d marry her. Sugar resolves to try and sets to smooching Joe. He keeps up the act. Sugar keeps trying. Eventually, Joe admits he’s enjoying Sugar’s efforts.

When Joe returns to the hotel the next morning, a giddy Jerry tells him he is engaged to Osgood. Joe tries to talk him out of it, but Jerry thinks he can fool Osgood long enough to wrangle a settlement out of him. Joe talks Jerry out of going through with the engagement, but stops him from returning the diamond bracelet Osgood gave him as an engagement gift.

SpatsSpats and his cronies show up in Florida, for a meeting with a higher level mobster named Little Bonaparte, and so does the federal agent who is trying to bust them. Joe and Jerry spot Spats and his crew in the lobby of the hotel and panic. They head back to their room and start packing. Jerry makes a plan to sell the diamond bracelet and flee the country, but Joe refuses to leave without saying goodbye to Sugar.

Joe calls Sugar and tells her he has to leave for South America on business and won’t be back because he is marrying the daughter of some business associate for the sake of his stockholders. To assuage his guilt, he decides to send her the diamond bracelet in a bouquet of orchids.

Joe and Jerry shimmy down the side of the hotel, but get spotted by Spats’ cronies. Spats figures out that they are the two witnesses to Toothpick Charlie’s murder and he and his thugs set out after them.

Anticipating the pursuit, Joe and Jerry hide until Spats and company leave their room and then sneak in through the window. They dress up as an old man in a wheel chair and a bell hop and try to sneak past Spats, but when Spats notices the bellhop is wearing heels, the jig is up.

somelikeithot-killercakeJoe and Jerry hide under the banquet table where Spats and his crew are seated at the meeting with Little Bonaparte. Pissed off by Spats murder of Toothpick Charlie, Little Bonaparte arranges for an assassin to hide in a giant birthday cake and pop out and murder Spats and his crew. Worst. Birthday. Ever.

Joe and Jerry flee the room after the murder, but Bonaparte spots them and orders his men to get them. Joe and Jerry change back into their drag outfits and escape the mob. Joe convinces Jerry to call Osgood and tell him he wants to elope, so they can hide out on the yacht.

Joe spots Sugar singing about being through with love and lays a kiss on her. Sugar thinks Joe is his drag persona Josephine at first, but eventually figures it out. The mob isn’t fooled and chases after him.

Joe and Jerry escape the mob and join Osgood in his boat. Sugar follows and gets in the boat. Joe tries to convince Sugar she doesn’t want him and confesses to being a lying, saxophone player, just like all her previous disappointing beaus, but Sugar shuts him up with a kiss.

Nobody's PerfectDaphne/Jerry tries to convince Osgood that the two of them can’t get married by listing reasons ranging from being a smoker to not being able to have children, but Osgood won’t be swayed. Finally, Jerry takes off the wig and admits he’s a man, but Osgood says “Well, nobody’s perfect” and the movie ends.

Some Like it Hot Commentary:

Some Like it Hot is billed as a romantic comedy and is considered by many to be one of the funniest films of all time. I have to admit, I didn’t find the film to be all that funny or romantic.

Some LIke it Hot DragIt had its moments. The suspension of disbelief required to accept that even the dimmest of people would be convinced by Jerry and Joe’s drag outfits for any length of time is a bit on the high side for me.

Probably the most interesting aspect of the film for me was the way it played around with the homosexual/bisexual themes. First, we have two adult men living together and acting very coupley at times, in spite of the fact that both of them, at different times are over the top with their lusting after women.

Sugar & JoeSecond, there’s Joe’s fake “I’m not interested in women, in spite of trying all the time,” act with Sugar. It’s seems like it probably is just a ploy to motivate Sugar to chase after him and miraculously cure him, but given the chemistry between Joe and Jerry, it’s easy to see Joe as a try hard playboy who keeps chasing skirts, because he’s in denial.

Finally, there’s the whole Osgood/Jerry relationship. I’m inclined to believe that Osgood was never fooled by Jerry’s drag get-up and is either gay or bisexual. Jerry also seems rather fond of Osgood, in spite of his initial impression of him as a “dirty old man” and his lust for Sugar. Though Jerry’s initial intent with Osgood probably is to try to get his hands on his money, Jerry seems to be genuinely fond of him and conflicted about his feelings for him by the end of the film.

Some Like it Hot probably wouldn’t make my personal list of 100 Best Films, but it does have some strong performances, interesting, for the time period, themes and funny moments.

Raging Bull – 100 Best Movies

Jake Champion

The next movie I tackled on my list of 100 Best Movies is Raging Bull.

Raging Bull Plot Summary (Spoilers):

raging bull opening sceneRaging Bull opens with a black and white shot of a boxer warming up in a boxing ring. The scene shifts to a pudgy man, eventually revealed to be Jake La Motta, played by Robert De Niro, who seems to be rehearsing some kind of speech in 1964. The scene then shifts to Jake, in the midst of a boxing match in 1941.

La Motta, an undefeated fighter, is seriously behind on points and his corner man and brother Joey, played by Joe Pesci, advises Jake that he will have to knock his opponent out. Jake knocks his opponent down three times in the final round, but his opponent is saved by the bell on the third knock down and Jake loses the fight. Jake and his corner feel they were robbed and the audience riots over the decision.

Jake has a loud argument with his wife in their apartment, prompting one of Jake’s neighbor’s to call him an animal. The argument is interrupted by the arrival of Jake’s brother Joey.

Jake & JoeyJoey has a conversation with Jake about his career and Jake laments that he’ll never be able to face the best in the world because of his size. Jake is a middleweight, while the best in the world is a heavyweight. Joey tries to convince Jake not to stress over something he can’t change. Jake tries to demonstrate how tough he is, or something, by demanding his brother repeatedly punch him in the face.

VickieJake spots a beautiful blonde girl, played by Cathy Moriarty, at the local swimming pool and seems quite taken with her. Joey tells Jake the girl, who is named Vickie and is only 15, is not the kind of girl you just hit and then quit. What’s more, Vickie seems to be involved with the crowd who surround Tommy, a fight promoter Jake refuses to work with, in spite of Joey’s friendship with the man and attempts to convince Jake otherwise. Seeing as how Jake is married, his brother advises him to forget about Vickie. Contradictory to his advice, Joey introduces Jake to Vickie and Jake has an affair with her, at some point, apparently splitting with his wife.

Jake defeats a previously undefeated Sugar Ray Robinson. Jake expects the victory to provide him with a shot at the middleweight title. However, both Sugar Ray and Jake have a hard time finding opponents who want to fight them, so they rematch two more times. Sugar Ray wins both fights.

Home MoviesThe movie shifts to a montage of scenes from a number of fights over the next several years and Jake’s relationship with Vickie, who he eventually marries and has three kids with. The movie comes out of the montage to a scene of Jake and his brother arguing over Joey’s management of Jake’s boxing career. Joey explains that everyone is afraid to fight Jake, so he had to match him against Janiro, a young kid who doesn’t know any better. Jake is concerned he won’t be able to make weight for the fight. Joey claims that if Jake loses the fight because of his weight, then the other fighters won’t be so scared of him anymore and he’ll be able to get his title shot. If he wins, then they’ll still have to give him a shot, because there’s no one else.

Vickie tries to back up Joey’s argument for Jake fighting Janiro, but ends up setting off Jake’s jealousy when she mentions that Janiro has a pretty face and all the girls like him. Jake becomes suspicious that Vickie is cheating on him when he’s not around and asks his brother to keep an eye on her. Jake’s bro tries to convince him that Vickie isn’t doing anything wrong and Jake is just picking at her because he’s stressing about making weight. He encourages Jake to make up with Vickie before he leaves for training camp, but Jake continues to be paranoid and jealous when it comes to Vickie and other men.

JaniroJake knocks Janiro out, but his problems with Vickie continue. She gets in an argument with Jake’s bro because she is tired of Jake’s jealousy and suspicion and tired of being alone so much while Jake trains. She complains that Jake doesn’t even want to fuck anymore. Joey tries to convince Vickie that the problems are all due to Jake being a contender for too long and that once he gets his title shot, everything will get better, but Vickie does not look convinced.

Joey gets in a fight with Salvy, one of his group of friends from the neighborhood, that Vickie is having a drink with, because he suspects something is going on between Salvy and Vickie. Joey goes as far as smashing Salvy’s head in the door of a taxi, before finally being pulled off Salvy.

Tommy tries to make peace between Joey and Salvy and then confronts Joey about why Jake won’t let him promote his fights, saying the fact that Tommy can’t even deliver a fighter from his own neighborhood is making him look bad. Joey explains that Jake wants to make it on his own. Tommy tells Joey to explain to Jake that he’ll never get a shot at the title if he doesn’t work with Tommy.

Raging Bull DiveJake continues to obsess about his suspicion that Vickie is cheating on him. Joey tells Jake that he will get his title shot, but first he has to agree to take a dive in his next fight. Jake throws the fight, but makes it pretty obvious that is what he’s doing in the process, due in part to his refusal to go down in the fight, instead standing around and letting his opponent beat on him until the referee stops the fight. Jake is very upset about throwing the fight and sobs afterwards. He is even more upset when he gets suspended by the board for throwing the fight.

Two years later, Jake finally gets his title shot. He gets upset at Vickie the night before the fight, accusing her of being too friendly with Tommy, and slaps her. Jake wins the fight by TKO, finally becoming the middleweight champion. Jake continues to be suspicious of Vickie. Jake confronts Joey about why he never told Jake about his fight with Salvy. Jake eventually accuses Joey of fucking his wife.

Jake Attacks VickieJoey refuses to answer Jake’s accusations and leaves. Jake then confronts Vickie and smacks her around. Vickie tries to lock herself in the bathroom, but Jake breaks down the door and continues to accuse Vickie of fucking his brother. Vickie angrily tells Jake that she fucked all Joey’s friends and sucked Joey’s cock, which was bigger than Jake’s. After slapping her around some more, Jake leaves. Vickie follows him and slaps and insults him, until Jake knocks her to the ground.

Jake Attacks JoeyJake goes to Joey’s house and attacks him in front of his wife and kids. Vickie tries to stop him, but Jake knocks her down again before leaving. Vickie returns home and begins packing a suitcase. Jake pleads with her not to leave and she embraces him and quits packing.

Jake, who looked on the verge of defeat, knocks out his opponent in his first title defense, with 13 seconds remaining in the final round. After the fight, Vickie encourages Jake to make up with his brother, but Jake doesn’t do it.

You Didn't Knock Me Down RayJake fights Sugar Ray again and loses by TKO. Jake taunts Sugar Ray about never managing to knock him down.

The scene shifts to 1956 and a pudgy Jake talking about how he’s done with boxing and is very happy with his wife and three kids. Vickie also claims to be happy now that Jake is retired. Jake opens up a night club, where he spends his time drinking with and kissing underage girls.

Jake emerges from a night spent at the club to discover Vickie waiting in her car. Vickie tells Jake she is leaving him. Jake thinks this will be just like all the other times Vickie has threatened to leave, but she assures him it’s for real this time and she is getting a divorce and custody of the kids.

Fat JakeThe DA confronts Jake about allowing a 14-year-old girl into his club and introducing her to men. Jake gets arrested and tries to sell the jewels from his championship belt to cover his defense. Jake can’t raise the money and ends up in jail. Jake breaks down in prison, punching and head butting the wall. Jake blubbers about not being an animal, hearkening back to the insult flung at him by his neighbor when he argued with his first wife.

A year later, Jake is back doing his comedy routine. Jake has a new woman who appears to be a burlesque dancer.  Jake spots his brother outside the hotel he is working at, and tries to talk to him, but Joey walks away. Jake follows Joey and tries to make up with him, but Joey doesn’t seem interested.

Raging Bull Ending SceneThe film ends with Jake rehearsing the “I coulda been a contender” speech from On the Waterfront and then psyching himself up to go on stage for his comedy act. The scene then fades to a quote from the bible and the credits roll.

Raging Bull Commentary:

The film was well made and the performances of De Niro and Pesci were compelling. The plot really didn’t interest me that much. The main focus seemed to be in contrasting the success Jake had in the ring vs. the mess he made out of his personal life, thanks to his constant jealousy and paranoia.

I found the whole affair with the 15-year-old to be pretty squicky, but maybe it was considered normal for multiple grown ass men to be chasing after and fucking teenage girls back in the 40’s. I dunno.

Jake ChampionJake is a hard guy to like, which is OK, because I don’t think we were really supposed to like him. He’s obviously a talented boxer, but he’s a pretty shitty human.

Joey is a bit more of a sympathetic character. He certainly isn’t without his faults, but he seems pretty devoted to his brother and at least makes an attempt to steer him away from some of his more destructive tendencies.

With Chinatown, being the first movie I tackled on my list, that makes it two for two on movies that have abuse of young girls as a central plot point and have the main characters slapping around the women they supposedly love, which is kind of a downer.

Raging Bull wasn’t really my cup of tea. I thought it was a good film, but not one I really enjoyed watching that much.

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.