Tag Archives: Chinatown

Technicolor Dreams

17 Aug

As those who visit this site regularly are aware, I have a few passions. Um, obsessions, Tom, obsessions… Potato, po-TAH-to, whatever. Earlier this year I wrote of my justice issues, centering around the brilliant, seminal, devastating Chinatown. I promised then to write about another passion… um, Tom, it’s an… that’s enough, you. So today I give you Technicolor Dreams.

In the summer of 1977 a movie with a wookie was unleashed on the world and became the obsession – there, I said it – of many a cineaste, including a zillion teenage boys. I was one of these and saw Star Wars 6 times in the theatre. What can I say? As much as George Lucas seems to be trying to kill any love anyone might have for the first three films through his revisions and desecrations of the original texts, Star Wars was and is a wonderful movie. Later that year, though, in November of 1977, another outer-space movie was released to high acclaim. Radically different from Star Wars, this movie took place on the home front, dealing not with galaxies far, far away but with what might happen were aliens from another planet to come to earth.

Movies and books had been exploring alien invasions for many years, of course. H. G. Wells wrote what is perhaps the godfather of such tales. In 1898 (1898!) he wrote War of the Worlds (free download!), a terrifying depiction of what might happen were we invaded by Martians. Orson Welles famously adapted this for radio in 1938, presented mostly as a news bulletin, which anecdotally caused some people to believe the broadcast was true. This was followed by a host of terrific, frightening films about alien invaders, particularly in the 1950’s when the potential invasion by communists was a deep seated fear of many Americans.  Just about every plot involving space aliens coming to earth was a dark, terrifying tale. Until that November 1977 release of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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Justice Issues and “Chinatown”

30 Mar

 “You see, Mr. Gittes, most people never have to face the fact that at the right time and the right place, they’re capable of anything.”  Noah Cross 

 

We all have archetypes that spur us individually. Our backgrounds, our struggles, our loves, loyalties and rivalries combine to create passions, positive and negative, that charge us. These are passions that energize rather than enervate. Because of these personal experiences and passions, each of us have genres that are intensely meaningful, story types to which we return again and again.

I have two. One is “The Joseph Story” which is any story that follows loosely the account of Joseph from the Old Testament. Favorites that fall under this particular archetype are Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Field of Dreams, Heaven Can Wait (1978 version)andDisney’s Beauty and the Beast. Each of these four, while wildly different movies, follows a similar storyline concerning a dreamer with a vision. In the face of events that drag the character further and further from this vision ever being achieved, the vision miraculously comes to fruition in the end, albeit in an often different way than imagined. It’s a wonderful archetype I’ll write about at a later date.

The second story type that drives me revolves around justice. 

There are a couple of therapy sessions we need not explore here that would explain why I am obsessed with justice…. not particularly for myself but for the people around me and others I encounter in the world. Consequently, movies that explore justice are some of my favorites of all time, movies I will watch again and again and again. Examples here include Erin Brockovich, In the Name of the Father and Norma Rae. (There are quite a few others I could list.) Each of the movies mentioned are splendid movies even apart from my justice obsession. Erin Brockovich is a wildly entertaining movie, more fun than any such movie has a right to be, a movie that cemented Steven Soderburgh’s status as one of the best directors in Hollywood, and a film that plays out in highly original ways while still being very much a crowd-pleaser. In The Name of the Father is simply one of the best movies of the 90’s and would have swept the Oscars in ’93 had it not been for a juggernaut called Schindler’s List. Norma Rae is a surprisingly gritty, wonderful film that holds up beautifully even today. I love these movies passionately and will show them to anyone, anytime. Yet there is one ‘justice movie’ I return to more than any. It’s a movie that had one of the biggest influences on my life; it is also one of the top 5 movies ever made. That movie is Chinatown.

 

I was twelve years old the first time I saw Chinatown…

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