Sunday, February 17, 2013

Some Recent - and Very Different - Movie Viewing

During the course of the last two weeks, I watched a couple of very different movies on DVD, and felt like commenting.

The first was one that has become almost a classic, from 1974 and director Roman Polanski, "Chinatown."

This is a noir-style private eye movie, set in 1930's Los Angeles and stars Jack Nicholson as the private eye, Jake Gittes, Faye Dunaway as his client, and John Huston as her father, who also may be the guy pulling the stings in a big case involving Dunaway's husband - who ends up dead - and water rights in the greater Los Angeles area.  When watching this now almost 40 year old movie, you should be aware that when it was made, Nicholson was NOT the major star that he was to become, but you can see WHY he became that star.  As with many such stories, the plot is complex, but it can be followed if you pay attention.  (Unlike, say, the classic "The Big Sleep."  No one knows what that movie is about, but it doesn't matter, because it is such great fun, anyway.)  The period details of this movie are terrific and very stylish.

Also, this was the first movie that Polanski made since the 1969 murder of his wife, Sharon Tate and her friends, at the hands of Charles Manson's minions, and those events are said to have had a hand in his thinking as he made this movie.  Polanski has also since run into some very disturbing legal troubles of his own that have kept him out of the USA for a number of years.

Anyway, a really good movie that you should make a point of seeing, and I love the final line. "Forget it, Jake.  It's Chinatown."

The other movie was way at the other end of the spectrum, "Ted".

This is the movie about the little boy who gets his wish and has his teddy bear come to life to always be his "best friend", which can be complicated when you are in your thirties.  The DVD gives you the choice of watching the theatrical R-rated version, or an unrated version.  We chose the "R" version, and I just can't imagine what the unrated version must be like.  Which doesn't mean that "crude" can't be funny.  It is quite funny, even if it does go on a bit long.

I bring this up because the brains behind this movie (writer, director, and voice of Ted) is Seth Macfarlane, who is also the creator of TV's "Family Guy", and the man who will be the host of next Sunday's Academy Awards show.  The Academy took come criticism last year for bringing back Billy Crystal as host.  I love Crystal, but he was deemed to be "too old" by many critics, and the Academy wanted to appeal to a younger audience, so they're going with Macfarlane.  By the way the last time the Academy wanted to skew young was two years ago when Anne Hathaway and James Franco co-hosted.  Hathaway was okay, and she sure tried hard, but Franco was a complete and total stiff.  Anyway, Macfarlane is definitely for the younger crowd, and "edgy" could be a mild term for what he might bring to the role as Oscar Host.  It will be interesting, to be sure.

Oh, and since we are talking about Academy Awards, watch for my Oscar predictions later in the week.

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