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Chinatown

Chinatown  

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  1. 1. Does Chinatown belong on the AFI list?

    • Of course it's respectable! It's old.
      15
    • Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown.
      5

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  • Poll closed on 05/03/19 at 07:00 AM

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16 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

You have to include some cinema in the definition; 

 

48 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

a style or genre of cinematographic film

:) 

I mean, cool man. If you want to go “deeper”, that’s totally fine. I don’t see it. Nor do I really care to argue the point. Most things I’ve seen seem to classify it as noir (or neo-noir). But if you tell me it’s significantly different, then I’ll just take your word for it. Like I said, it’s a fine movie, but I don’t care that much. I’m not going to argue over not liking it as much as you think that maybe I should.

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The thing about Film Noir is that studios and filmmakers in the 40s weren't aware that they were working within this genre, it was a term applied by French film critics and not embraced by American filmmakers of the 40s and 50s. As far as they were concerned, they were making dramas.

Chinatown is a self-aware, revisionist noir, consciously using the conventions of the genre, so it really cannot be placed in the same category as 40s and 50s films. Also, the films considered to be the first noirs are "The Maltese Falcon" (1941) and "Stranger on the Third Floor" (1940) - which means that Chinatown, set in 1937, takes place in a pre-noir era. The height of noir happened in the aftermath of World War II, and those films expose the dark side of the post-war prosperity. Chinatown, by contrast, is made in the aftermath of the Vietnam war, and it looks back four decades to create a narrative of corrupt institutions, and about the futility of good intentions that is more of a response to Vietnam, in the way that the classic noirs are deeply tied to World War II.

So, I think it's a different dish.

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16 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

 

:) 

I mean, cool man. If you want to go “deeper”, that’s totally fine. I don’t see it. Nor do I really care to argue the point. Most things I’ve seen seem to classify it as noir (or neo-noir). But if you tell me it’s significantly different, then I’ll just take your word for it. Like I said, it’s a fine movie, but I don’t care that much. I’m not going to argue over not liking it as much as you think that maybe I should.

Uh putting the words "cinematographic film" in there doesn't tell anyone anything. What does that phrase mean to you? It definition just says 'marked by pessimism, fatalism, and menace.' It totally ignores and dismisses all the stuff you conveniently want to ignore and dismiss: the shadows, angles, voiceovers, black & white, but that's the cinematic language that needs to be included, as I think Chinatown subverts it to go somewhere new.

Quote

ut if you tell me it’s significantly different, then I’ll just take your word for it.

Don't be rude. I'm not gonna take your word for it being a lame Daredevil movie either.

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2 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Uh putting the words "cinematographic film" in there doesn't tell anyone anything. What does that phrase mean to you? It definition just says 'marked by pessimism, fatalism, and menace.' It totally ignores and dismisses all the stuff you conveniently want to ignore and dismiss: the shadows, angles, voiceovers, black & white, but that's the cinematic language that needs to be included, as I think Chinatown subverts it to go somewhere new.

It was a joke. That’s why I put a smiley face there. 

I’m glad you enjoyed the film.

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20 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Don't be rude. I'm not gonna take your word for it being a lame Daredevil movie either.

Dude, I’m not sure what’s going on with you today. I just gave my opinion and was using an analogy. I’m sorry I don’t see it at the same level as you. I’ve said repeatedly I like the movie, I just don’t love it. What you’re reading as snark, is just apathy. I was literally deferring to your expertise. You seem to be coming at this much hotter than I am.

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9 minutes ago, Cameron H. said:

Dude, I’m not sure what’s going on with you today. I just gave my opinion and was using an analogy. I’m sorry I don’t see it at the same level as you. I’ve said repeatedly I like the movie, I just don’t love it. What you’re reading as snark, is just apathy. I was literally deferring to your expertise. You seem to be coming at this much hotter than I am.

And all I was doing was offering the counter-opinion to analogizing it to just another noir with nothing new to say. Is that not what we do here? I was hashing out the definition of noir and the quality of the film, I thought. What else is this forum for? I liked the movie and didn't want the only opinion on here to be "it's like Daredevil". How is this any different from any other thread? 

Apathy?  OK, that was not coming across in your post either. I'd love to know if anyone here reads you as even remotely apathetic.

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1 hour ago, AlmostAGhost said:

Apathy?  OK, that was not coming across in your post either. I'd love to know if anyone here reads you as even remotely apathetic.

Apathy at the movie.

Seriously, if you like the movie, that’s awesome. I haven’t attacked, belittled, or flat out disagreed with any single one of your points. I just gave my take, you gave a counterpoint, I responded to clarify (politely I thought), and then you started in with the condescending stuff. (“I could go deeper?”) At that point I tried to bow out of the conversation, because I honestly think it’s dumb to get uptight over a conversation that is essentially “I like this movie” vs “You don’t like it enough.” I’m totally willing to accept you know more about noir than I do. If you tell me I’m not getting it, you’re probably right. I thought that was the end of it. Then you replied with “Uh putting the words ‘cinematographic film’ in there doesn't tell anyone anything.” I didn’t “put” it there. That was the joke. You said any “definition that doesn’t include ‘cinema,’ but the definition I took from Dictionary.com (Not even Wikipedia. That’s how lazy I was being ;) ) included the word. (Ha ha ha?) I thought it was a funny dumb joke. What I didn’t expect was to have was a stupid joke rammed down my throat like I thought that was a set in stone definition. I explained it was a joke, and again, tried to bow out.

Then you edited your post to accuse me of being rude and added, “I’m not going to take your word for it being a lame Daredevil movie.” First of all, it was a lame Daredevil comic, not a lame Daredevil movie :P And my point in that post was to say that those comics generally ARE good (i.e. Chinatown is good). That they use the best writers and the best artists (i.e. screenplay writer, cinematographer), but ultimately that pedigree doesn’t automatically make it any different than a normal, non-mature rated, Daredevil comic. It’s just a bit “more” if you will. You don’t agree and that’s fine.

But perhaps, more importantly, I wasn’t trying to get anyone to “take [my] word.” I was simply giving my opinion not trying to attract converts. If I were actually trying to convince anyone of anything, I certainly wouldn’t include a Frank’s Red Hot joke at the end. Feel free to agree with my nerdy, comic book analogy or not. You’ve made a lot of good, non-lame points. I just don’t care enough to really engage with your points because I don’t really care that much about the movie.

I get you want to discuss this movie and that’s totally cool. And I’m sorry no one is really commenting on it so you can really get into the nitty-gritty. I did my best to intentionally direct the conversation toward the movie and not just the “art vs artist” debate. That was the point of my post. I wish I cared more about Chinatown so we could discuss it, but I don’t. Even more so, what I really don’t feel like doing is having an antagonistic conversation with someone who seems to think I’m an idiot because I don’t like a movie even more than I do.

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NOthing was more antagonistic in anything I said than you going "But if you tell me it’s significantly different, then I’ll just take your word for it."

There's no other way to read that.

You started with "Taking the conversation back to the film itself..." and I apologize for following the conversation.

Since when did I imply ANYWHERE that you were an idiot? Do not put those words in my mouth. If this is how discussions are taken on this board, I'm out.

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Just now, AlmostAGhost said:

NOthing was more antagonistic in anything I said than you going "But if you tell me it’s significantly different, then I’ll just take your word for it."

There's no other way to read that.

Since when did I imply ANYWHERE that you were an idiot? If this is how discussions are taken on this board, I'm out.

I’m really trying to smooth this over. I don’t really know what else to say, man.

I just meant that you seem to know a lot more than I do about noir - or care to know. If you tell me it’s not the same as Double Indemnity, then I believe you, because I’m not particularly interested in doing an in-depth compare and contrast. You don’t need to convince me further. If it came across as antagonistic, I’m sorry. The “I could go deeper?” struck me as extremely condescending and it’s possible that my annoyance with that affected the “tone” of my response. But I was actually being sincere.

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9 hours ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I think because of this, it's an even bleaker commentary on humanity than even the darkest noirs. Everyone liked the bleakness of man revealed in Sierra Madre; why not here? It's easy to distance yourself from Double Indemnity and be like, I wouldn't fall for this, it's just a character, etc. Here, you can't avoid it. *shudders*

Here's my take on this because Treasure of the Sierra Madre is a film I love and Chinatown was a film I appreciated but not loved. I think the bleakness of Sierra Madre is a universal and more biblical bleakness. In Sierra Madre the "evil" are punished while the "good" are rewarded. Howard, while also a gold chaser, is the moral compass. He imparts wisdom and lessons that should be learned while Dobbs ignores them. The movie is bleak and says that man has many problems and vices and is prone to temptation and violence and a whole host of ills BUT it doesn't have to be that way. There is that hope or at least that silver lining that makes the audience member go "I would be like Howard not Dobbs... I hope."

Meanwhile Chinatown is about how everybody and everything is terrible. The "evil" are rewarded and the "good" well... are there any? I guess Faye Dunaway is the closest and she is shot in the head. So the "good" get nothing. This is the far bleaker message for sure, but the message for the viewer is more along the lines of "you're a cog in a machine, and what you do doesn't matter." There is no moral center to guide us. Not to be confused with Gittes who seems to grow a moral conscious by the end of the film but given that he's a selfish character guided by self interest who's to say that his outrage is at the injustice of it all or because it wasn't his way? To compare Gittes to Dodds, you have these two similar in sense characters, except Dodds knows who he is and is that way to the end. The story is about the bleakness of man and how if we change there is hope for us. Chinatown is bleak and even if we do change it's for our own self interest and doesn't really matter anyway. It's giving you your medicine without the sugar, so that's why the one kind of bleakest is easier to swallow.

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9 hours ago, Cameron H. said:

(I want to say The Big Sleep doesn’t, nor The Third Man - although I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong :)) 

The Third Man does have some voice-over, though it's just at the beginning and not from the protagonist.

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7 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

The Third Man does have some voice-over, though it's just at the beginning and not from the protagonist.

Thank you! You’re absolutely  right! 😊 

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Making my way slowly through the backlog. 

For some reason I always mix up the plotlines of Chinatown and On the Waterfront. Probably because I binged so much classic film when I was younger. Rewatching again this time and I was "oh, yeah!" several times. Which is weird because they are so different.

As a person with an animated heart, I was hoping there would be a token mention of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, not only for the similar plot structure and its pseudo-real-world connections, but because the trolley company that is featured in Roger Rabbit is called "Cloverfield," an Easter Egg for the proposed title of the mythical third film of the Gittes trilogy after The Two Jakes. If Chinatown gets taken off the AFT list (unlikely!) maybe we can replace it with Roger Rabbit :)

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