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44. Chinatown (#127)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney and this week with special guest Phil Bagnell, The 250 is a fortnightly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every second Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode between them.

This time, Roman Polanski’s Chinatown.

When a seemingly routine investigation into spousal infidelity evolves into a political scandal, private investigator J.J. Gittes finds himself navigating the dark underworld of thirties Los Angeles. Sinister conspiracies, local politics, private ownership of public utilities. As Gittes digs deeper and deeper, he uncovers the rotten foundations upon which the city was built.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 127th best movie of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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The X-Files – Hell Money (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Hell Money is an oft-overlooked episode of The X-Files.

The positioning in the third season probably doesn’t help. It comes directly after Teso Dos Bichos, probably the season’s weakest episode. It is also positioned in the gap between Pusher and Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space”, two broadly-loved episodes that serve as pitch-perfect examples of The X-Files both on- and off-format. In contrast, Hell Money is something a little stranger. It is not as conventional as Pusher, nor as radical as Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space.”

Seeing is believing...

Seeing is believing…

Instead, Hell Money is an episode of The X-Files that loosely fits the show’s format. Mulder and Scully investigate a bunch of macabre murders where sinister forces are at work. However, in keeping with the broad themes of the third season, the evil in Hell Money takes a particularly banal form. There are no monsters here; at least, not any supernatural monsters. The only ghosts that haunt the narrative are metaphorical. There is a culture alien to our leads, but one a bit more grounded than extraterrestrials.

Hell Money is a clever and thoughtful piece of television that feels subtly and harrowingly subversive.

The writing is on the wall...

The writing is on the wall…

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Non-Review Review: The Two Jakes

I’m going to be completely honest here, and possibly ruin my reputation as a film boffin. Until I held the DVD of The Two Jakes in my hands about ten years ago, I didn’t even know there was a sequel to Chinatown. The belated sequel languished in development hell after real life intervened – there was no way that Polanski could direct a sequel to perhaps his most famous film (at least not in Los Angeles, where it was set) and the movie that followed became caught in a tug of war between actor Jack Nicholson and writer Robert Towne, both of whom wanted a shot at directing. Nicholson won, but one can’t help but get the feeling in watching the film that the movie might have been better served with a stronger and more impartial director.

Will the bad guy get his just deserts this time around?

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Non-Review Review: Chinatown

“You may think you know what’s you’re dealing with,” a character warns private detective Jack Gittes at one point during Chinatown“but, believe me, you don’t.” Later on, Gittes confesses to his lover that, when he was a police officer working in Chinatown, his beat consisted of doing “as little as possible”, an anecdote that screenwriter Robert Towne reportedly heard from an officer who had actually served in Chinatown – rather than an officer involving himself in some sort of event that he couldn’t possibly comprehend, the police would actively disengage themselves from the community. That’s the core of the corruption at the heart of Polanski’s film – how little anyone actually knows about what is really happening, and how it’s easy to ignore these things rather than attempting to deal with them.

A nosey detective...

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Can You Separate A Film Maker From Their Body of Work?

I considered writing this little piece in a vacuum, leaving the issue the sparked it sitting like an elephant in the room – but there’s really no point avoiding it. I’ve been troubled watching Roman Polanski films ever since I read up and discovered why he had to direct The Ninth Gate from abroad. The knowledge that he had engaged in sexual acts with a thirteen year old girl has been very hard to disassociate from the man in viewing his filmography – oddly enough, it’s harder to disassociate than the grisly facts surrounding the brutal murder of Sharon Tate by the Manson family. I saw The Pianist and his rather lacklustre (Playboy financed) version of Macbeth before I found out about his flight to Europe and his seemingly eternal exile. I was unlucky enough to see Chinatown afterwards, and as great as the film was I couldn’t quite get over what Polanski had done. Am I being a little silly or is it really hard to view the work of film makers in a vacuum?

"Forget it, Jake, it's Polaski..."

"Forget it, Jake, it's Polaski..."

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Sequels Separated by Decades…

Flynn lives! Jeff Bridges’ career declines! The viral marketing campaign for the sequel to Tr0n kicks off this week at Comic Con and I’m skeptical – but not just because they haven’t decided to go with the logical title Tr1n. I’m mostly skeptical because it’s a sequel to a cult movie produced twenty years after the fact. How many sequels separated by decades have actually succeeded?

It was cutting edge for the time, I swear...

It was cutting edge for the time, I swear...

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