It’s Chinatown, Tom

I finally gave CHINATOWN a sporting chance last night. I rented it for free from the library, so there was no money on the line, and from the moment I popped in the DVD I knew this was going to be the time I’d “get” it. And I did. I liked it a lot. It had the same feel and mood and vibe that THE BIG SLEEP and THE MALTESE FALCON give, but with a bit more of a modern spin. I enjoyed watching Jack Nicholson and there were some good moments in the movie, but I still don’t see it as a GREAT movie. There are plenty of movies, PI and otherwise, that are much better and have done more with, and for, the form, so I don’t see why this movie gets special billing.

This could be because I’m coming to the movie late and all of the secrets had been revealed, but still, I don’t think that’s it. And that’s one of my biggest questions with this movie. I don’t get what the whole sister/daughter kinky family triangle has to do with the main story of the water shortage plot. They never mesh and one never really has anything to do with the other. But none of that matters. The plot zipps along after a slow start and about an hour in I was ready to go to sleep but it kicked it up right then and I was dragged along to the end. I think my biggest complaint is that there wasn’t enough character stuff for me. I’ve grown so used to my PI stories being as much about the PI character as the PI’s case and there is none of that here.

Anyway, today I watched YOU’VE GOT MAIL and that is a much better movie. It’s not the best romantic comedy by far (that, of course, is reserved for WHEN HARRY MET SALLY) but it is one of my favorites and since it takes place in NYC that gives it a whole lot of bonus points. I especially like all the internet chatting stuff in the movie, but this is the first time I noticed how far we’ve really come in online communication since 1998. And their computers are so old (today those would be gleaming white iBooks) and they have DIALUP connections. How funny is that.

This movie has a high watchability scale in that you can come in to the movie at any point and watch it to the end. But two of my favorites speeches are Tom Hanks talking about fall in NYC and wanting to buy a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils. I love fall and I love school supplies and I love NYC so of course that would register with me. My other favorite line comes almost at the end when Tom Hanks is talking about if they had met under different circumstances. If he hadn’t been the one to put her out of business, he says he wouldn’t have waited 24 hours before calling and saying “How about coffee, or drinks, or dinner…for as long as we both shall live.” That is just a great line. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from WHEN HARRY MET SALLY when Harry tells Sally that “When you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

Or something like that. Now I’m off to go work on the novel. Mock if you must…

11 thoughts on “It’s Chinatown, Tom

  1. Bryon:I was working on 66’th street when they were filming ‘You’ve got Mail’ right around the corner. They filmed the winter scenes in August, they closed off the streets and had machines pump in snow. It was pretty wild.Pat Lambe

  2. You’ve Got Mail?Dammit, man. Just get yourself some glittery barettes, a collection of Barbara Streisand albums and a tutu and be done with it!

  3. I hate to admit it, but I totally agree with Jim. You weren’t watching the animated CHINATOWN, were you? By the guy who did the cartoon LORD OF THE RINGS?

  4. Bryon – if I didn’t agree with you so much on this movie, I’d be making fun of you. But You’ve Got Mail is one of my all-time favorites, and I too love the line about the scotch tape and bouquets of sharpened pencils. The music in that movie is great too. So I’m with you on this.but yeah – also agree with John on the glittery barrettes. You might wanna save the tutu for when you watch How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days…

  5. You’ve Got Mail? The Better movie?I just spit water all over my computer screen. I think I just went blind.My brain does not compute.You are… you are… holy shit, there aren’t words.

  6. It’s been about a year since I saw CHINATOWN for the first time myself. Have a look at review I blogged.Gittes is the best role I’ve seen Nicholson play. Jake may not compare to book PIs, but the debate should be how he compares to other screen PIs. Since 1974 there’ve been a boatload of lukewarm adaptations of book-first PIs: Robert Urich and Joe Mantegna Spenser, Powers Boothe and James Caan as Philip Marlowe, Jeff Bridges as Scudder, Denzel as Easy Rawlins, or Alec Baldwin as Robicheaux. I’ll take Gittes over any of them. He was made for the movies. Towne knew what had to happen onscreen to make Jake memorable.Two other great screen original PIs? Jeff Bridges as Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski and Bill Pullman as Darryl Zero (ZERO EFFECT).

  7. ZERO EFFECT was a terrific movie. Too bad it didn’t get more exposure. The scene where Ben Stiller threatens to kill Ryan O’Neal was great. “I have a gun and everything.”

  8. Bryon, you’re officially out of your fuckin’ mind. You have to be. You’ve Got Mail is the kind of movie that turns people into diabetics, it’s a bloody REMAKE and it has Tom bastard Hanks and Meg GimmeSomeLip Ryan in it? What in the name of God has it got going for it apart from a woefully underused Steve Zahn?You worry me, pal. You reeeeeaally worry me.

  9. I’m breaking a holiday silence to second everyone who has suggested you may be a bit, uh, brain-damaged when it comes to You’ve Got Mail vs. Chinatown.Bryon, dude, get a grip. Jake Gittes (Mr. GITS) is a great character, with tons of noir ‘tude but Chandler’s underlying chivalric sense of right and wrong. I don’t know what you’re smoking when you watch You’ve Got Mail, but I want some.And I love Tom Hanks.

  10. I was so excited stumbling across your blog… most of the ones I find are either full of teenage angst or married women sharing the cute thing their kid did today. But Come On! YOU GOT MAIL is better than CHINATOWN!? Maybe it’s a Michigan thing? I was there once, I knew something was off about that place, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

Comments are closed.