Innocence Lost

The Third Man M Third 1950

Theaters:  September 1949

Streaming:  November 1999

Rated:  NR

Runtime:  93-108 minutes

Genre:  Classic – Crime – Drama – Film Noir – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

els:  8.5/10

IMDB:  8.2/10

Amazon:  4.2/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  9.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.3/5

Metacritic Metascore:  NA/100

Metacritic User Score:  NA/10

Awards: 1 Oscar

Directed by:  Carol Reed

Written by:  Graham Greene (screenplay and book)

Music by:  Anton Karas

Cast:  Joseph Cotton, Trevor Howard, Orson Wells, Alida Valli

Film Locations:  Austria, UK

Budget:  $

Worldwide Box Office:  $618,173

Holly Martins (Cotton), an American writer of 3rd rate westerns, broke and drunk more often than not, is invited to post-WWII Vienna by his old friend Harry Limes (Welles). Martins arrives in Vienna in time to witness Limes’ funeral.  Martins begins to ask around about the death of his friend and slowly becomes suspicious that the official account of his death, a traffic accident, is cover for a murder. Martins, an innocent fool, sets out to discover the truth about his friend’s death, stumbling through a city filled with experienced cynics, thugs, and kriminelle.

Nazi Germany annexed Austria, known as Anschluss Oesterreichs, in March 1938 with significant support of the Austrian public.  In 1943 the Allied powers; Britain, France, US, and the USSR, agreed to nullify the German annexation and have it revert back to an independent country at the end of the war.  The Allies, in 1945, divided Austria and Vienna into 4 sectors with each sector controlled by one of the 4 powers.  This arrangement was to last until 1955 when the country agreed to maintain eternal neutrality. The allied powers initially stationed 260,000 troops in the country after 1945, which was entirely paid for by the Austrian people. The cost of the occupation coupled with the war-destroyed industries and poor harvests lead to wide-spread hunger, lack of heating for homes and businesses, and unemployment.  The post-war years of 1945-46, with little in the way of an Austrian police force, saw crime spiral out of control with Soviet troops responsible for 90% of all reported crimes. The underground economy flourished with little or no regulation or oversight.

Graham Greene, considered as the greatest English writer of the 20th century and with the publication of his 1940 novel, The Power and the Glory, cemented his reputation as one of the best writers of his generation. Early in life he joined the communist party and a few years later converted to Catholicism. He initially wrote a short novel for The Third Man, not intending to publish it, but to provide background for the screenplay. The novella was eventually published under the same name as the movie, The Third Man in 1950. The book is not very good, basically because it is in an unfinished state. Ignore the book and watch the movie.  Greene, in 1948, personally researched the book and screenplay by exploring the streets, nightclubs, and sewers of Vienna along with immersing himself into the clandestine black-markets within the city.

MU Zither 2018A pedestrian movie filmed in Vienna would require a musical score relying heavily on orchestral waltzes with dance scenes showing gay Venetians circling the glossy dance floors of resplendent Viennese palaces. Well this movie isn’t pedestrian by any means; no waltzes, no orchestras, and no palaces make an appearance.  The entire score is delivered by a single instrument; the Zither, a multi-stringed, wooden instrument played either in an upright position or laid flat on one’s lap. The movie opens with the Anton Karas playing  an instrumental on a Zither. It is initially foreign and harsh to the ear but as the movie progresses you warm to its sound and melody, eventually succumbing to its hypnotic effects, realizing in the end that no other musical approach or sound would have worked.

Carol Reed took Greene’s ok screenplay and transformed it into the greatest British film ever made.  The black and white scenes of mountainous mounds of Viennese bombed rubble, the back-lit monstrous shadows, tilted horizons that change the normal perspective to an austere strangeness fitting of the black undertones of the movie; effects that add to the downbeat story of innocence lost in the harsh glare of a crooked reality.   The movie begins and ends with a funeral, letting you know that the only happiness you will find in post-war Vienna comes with death: death of desire, death of devotion, death of decency.

The acting in this movie is superb. Joseph Cotton’s innocence, Trevor Howard’s natural stoic acceptance of a world gone bad, Alida Valli’s stubborn attachment to love, but its Orson Welles that stands out as the films larger than life anti-hero.  An auteur with only acting credits in this movie, but he still insists on bringing along his own style, ad-libbing his lines when it suited him, inserting one of the most memorable lines in the movie:

You know what the fellow said – in Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, they had five hundred years of democracy and peace – and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.

It doesn’t really matter that it was the German’s who invented cuckoo clocks and the Swiss were content with being bankers, sans the Hapsburgs, and providing mercenaries to the other European powers’ wars.

This is a movie you need to add to your “Must Watch in My Lifetime” list.

Little Mole

The Little Drummer GirlM Drummer 1984

Theaters:  October 1984

Streaming:

Rated:  R

Runtime:  130-132 minutes

Genre:  Drama – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

els:  4.5/10

IMDB:  6.1/10

Amazon:  4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  5.7/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  3.4/5

Metacritic Metascore:  NA/100

Metacritic User Score:  NA/10

Awards:

Directed by:  George Roy Hill

Written by:  Loring Mandel (screenplay), John le Carré (book)

Music by:  Dave Grusin

Cast:  Diane Keaton, Yorgo Voyagis, Klaus Kinski

Film Locations:  Germany, Greece, Israel, Lebanon, UK

Budget:  $20,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $7,828,841

Charlie (Keaton), a creator of alternate realities and a so-so actress believes in the Palestinian cause; in their quest for a country and peace.  She is recruited by Israeli intelligence, telling her they also want peace. They want her help in finding a Palestinian terrorist bomber, using her well honed abilities at deception and misdirection.

David John Moore Cornwell, a British writer of mysteries and spy novels under the pen name of John le Carré, worked for the English secret service until his 3rd novel in 1963, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, became an international best seller.  He quit the service in that year and devoted his time to writing, mainly cold war spy novels dealing with the psychology of gamesmanship and spy craft rather than James Bond type action. His stories usually center around the moral cost of attempting to contain the communist empire  without absorbing the stain of their criminality and depravity. In 1983 he broke from his successful template of cold war spy novels and wrote about the ethical ambiguity between Palestinian and Israeli methods of prosecuting and defending against acts of terror in his novel, The Little Drummer Girl. The novel was the 4th highest selling novel in the US in 1983. Loring Mandel is mainly known for his long-time writing involvement for the TV soap opera, Love of Life and his 2001 screenplay for the Nazi final solution movie, Conspiracy depicting the 1942 Wannsee Conference.  His screenplay for The Little Drummer Girl is a faithful and true rendition of le Carre’s novel.

George Roy Hill directed 14 movies, 8 were nominated Oscars and 9 for Golden Globes. Four of the movies won Oscars and 3 won Golden Globes. He was nominated, but didn’t win, the Best Director Academy Award for the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. His high water mark came in 1974 when he won the Best Director Academy Award for the 1973 movie The Sting. His movies slowly declined in quality after that, with his last 2 films, The Little Drummer Girl and Funny Farm receiving little praise from either the public or audiences. His direction of The Little Drummer Girl was not spectacular, workman-like rather, but that wasn’t what destroyed this movie, that distinction belongs to Diane Keaton.

Diane Keaton is absolutely horrendous in this movie.  Some of the polite critics say she was miscast, which is true, but that doesn’t negate the fact that throughout this movie she just recites lines without conviction or is capable of displaying any proper scene awareness.  Diane Keaton made her name in 1970s acting in movies with the incestuous Woody Allen.  The apogee of her career  came in 1977 with her playing Annie Hall in the movie of the same name.  It has been downhill for her ever since.

This is a movie that you never need to watch unless you wish to watch all of John le Carre’s books come to life on the big screen. Just be aware that the story is good but Keaton is painful to watch.

Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port

W Graham Ruby 2018Ruby Port from Vila Nova de Gaia, Douro Valley, Portugal

Main Grapes: touriga franca – touriga nacional – tinta roriz – tinta barroca

Secondary Grapes:  tinta amarela – tinta cao – souzao – tinta francisca

19.5% alcohol

Purchased:  6 March 2017  –  $19.99

Opened:  31 March 2018

els:  9.0/10

Decanter:  95

Wine and Spirits:  91

Wilford Wong:  91

Falstaff Magizin: 91

Wine Enthusiast:  89

Wine Spectator:  87

Cellar Tracker:  87

Grapes in Portugal extend back 4000 years to the times of the lost civilization of Tartesso, with vineyards being established in river valleys along the southern Iberian Atlantic coast. Tartesso is thought, by some, to be synonymous with Atlantis or at minimum, a contemporary cousin and both are now believed to be drowned, sunken cities, possibly somewhere on the southern Iberian continental shelf. The Phoenicians, who began arriving in 12th century BC, followed by the Celts in the 8th century BC, and the Greeks a century later, all likely contributed to increasing the plantings, production, and trade of Iberian wine. The first real evidence of wine production comes from the 5th century BC and the arrival of the Carthaginians, who replaced the Phoenicians and closed the Gibraltar Straits to the Greeks. Meanies. Then the Romans came, gaining partial control of the Iberian Peninsula from the Carthaginians after the first Punic War in the 3rd century BC, and cementing their control by the conclusion of the second Punic War.  The Romans were instrumental in expanding the vineyards of southern Portugal and establishing the first vineyards in northern Portugal, including the Douro River Valley. The Christians and the barbarians continued the wine making and trade after the Romans left until the 8th century AD, Arab conquest of the peninsula ended their reign. This caused the wine industry to experience setbacks and difficulties, mainly in the 12th century, but everything returned to normal after they were expelled from Portugal in the 13th century.  Beginning in the late 14th century, the British, in their thirst for wine, slowly took control of Portuguese wine industry, and trade between the two countries thrived.

Portugal is the 11th largest producer of wine by volume, behind Germany and ahead of Russia.  In 2015 the country produced 177 million gallons of wine or 2.4% of the world-wide total. The country is the 9th largest exporter of wine, by volume, shipping 74 million gallons or about 2.7% of the total world-wide exports, behind Germany and ahead of Argentina.  Fortified wines accounted for 19 million gallons of the 74 million exported. Their exports rank 10th in the world by value, shipping $805 million worth or 2.5% of the world total, behind Argentina and ahead of Hong Kong.  Their vineyards exceed 550,000 acres planted in grapes, about 2.5% of the world-wide total.  France, UK, and Angola are the top markets for Portuguese wines.  There are more than 2900 wine producers growing in excess of 250 types of grapes in the country.

Portugal’s wines are categorized into 3 different levels of quality. At the upper end of quality scale are 31 DOCs (Portuguese label) or DOPs (European Union label), with clearly defined geographic limits and strict rules for grape usage, and yield. The mid-level quality wines are the 14 large regional areas labelled as VR, IG, or IGP; 12 on the mainland and the 2 island regions of Madeira and the Azores. The rules for these wines are less strict than DOCs but details such as grape varieties and alcohol content are still prescribed. At the bottom of the scale are table wines, which are not necessarily bad wines, but this level has no rules to constrain the artistic impulses of the area’s wine makers.

The Porto and Douro DOC, with a bit more than a 100,000 acres of grapes under cultivation, occupies the valley created by the 550 mile long Douro River, its headwaters near the small Spanish town of Duruelo de la Sierra at 7300′ above sea level. The Portuguese portion of the river flows westward about 90 miles through the Mountains of Leon from the eastern Spanish border to the  Atlantic coastal city of Porto. The DOC’s geographical limits in the valley stretch from the Spanish border and continue westward about 60 miles to the small city of 4500 inhabitants: Mesao Frio, an ancient shelter along a Roman road and the Douro River dating back to the 3rd century AD.

Wine in the Douro region is known from at least the time of the 3rd century Roman occupation but likely goes back to the beginning of the first century AD. It is the oldest region in the world with a formal demarcation (appellation) for making wine.  A royal Portuguese edict in 1756 stipulated the geographic boundaries for Port wine. Two other less formal wine region declarations in the world preceded Douro: the 1716 Lega del Chianti which defined the geographic area for production of Chianti wines in Italy, and the 1730 Hungarian vineyard classification in the Tokaj region which used soil and the propensity for the grapes to rot as an area specific guide.

The wine region’s vineyards are terraced into the steep slopes of the mountains, planted in man-made soils of broken up schist and granite.  The schist soils are usually reserved for grapes used in the production of Port while the granite soils grow grapes for table wines. The mountains protect the grapes from the full climatic effects of the Atlantic Ocean’s cold winds.  The DOC is divided up into 3 sub regions: Baixo Corgo, the cooler, wetter, western-most area with the most vineyards, 35,000 acres, but with the generally the lowest quality wines; Cima Corgo or Upper Corgo, the heart of Port wine production with 47,000 acres planted; and the eastern-most Douro Superior, having the coldest winters and hottest, driest summers. This latter area is currently experiencing rapid growth in grape plantings and wine production but currently only 21,000 acres are cultivated. Temperatures in the valley during the growing season range from 45-90°F with rainfall averaging 0-2.3″ per month. There are 5 main Port grapes grown in the area: Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Barroca, and Tinto Cão, all usually planted together in the older vineyards but the modern method is to plant single varietals. The Sousão grape is also gaining popularity in the Douro vineyards.

Port, a fortified sweet wine, takes its name from the northern Portuguese, Atlantic coastal city of Porto, the main export center for the valley’s wines. The grapes are grown, and the wine is produced upstream in the Douro Valley while the blending and ageing generally occurs across the river from Porto in the sister city of Vila Nova de Gaia. No one really knows exactly when Port wine was created but is believed to have its genesis in the later part of the 1600s or the beginning of 1700s, and as legend has it, the monks in the Douro Valley monastery of Lemago were responsible for its inception.

Port is made by adding a neutral grape spirit, sometimes referred to as brandy, to the wine before the fermentation process has completed.  The grape spirit stops the fermentation leaving residual sugar and boosts the alcohol content and sweetness of the wine.  The addition of the grape spirit, was to ‘fortify’ or protect the wine for its trip to England. There are numerous styles of Port including: Ruby, a young, blended wine of  different vintages and varietals, aged for less than 3 years; Tawny is a blended wine that is aged in wood for more than 3 years and sometimes up 40 years; Vintage is a single, exceptional year harvest, allowed to age in a barrel for 2 to 3 years and then bottled. Not all years produce a Vintage Port.  Vintage Ports should be allowed to age for 15 years or more in the bottle before drinking.  They can take up to 60 years to fully mature. The six most widely used grapes for Port wine are Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cão, and Tinta Amarela.

Touriga Franca is the most commonly planted grape in the Douro DOC, accounting for about 20% of all acreage planted. The wines are  dark and dense with aromas of black fruits and flowers. The tannins are high which provide for excellent aging potential.  For Ports and red blends it is commonly mixed with Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional wines.  The grape is almost exclusively grown in Portugal, accounting for 99.97% of the world-wide plantings.  It is the 59th most commonly grown grape in the world, planted on 28,600 acres world-wide.

Tinta Roriz, also known by its more familiar name, Tempranillo, is a black grape used to make full-bodied red wines, or in Portugal, one of the main varietals used to make Port.  The grape is believed to have existed on the Iberian Peninsula since the time of the Phoenicians. It produces a ruby-red wine with flavors of berries, plum, tobacco, vanilla, and herbs. Tempranillo is the 4th most common grape grown in the world.  In Portugal it is grown on 41,300 acres versus 575,000 acres world-wide.

Tinta Barroca is another commonly planted vine in the Douro area and is almost exclusively grown in Portugal. It is seldom used as a single varietal wine. It is a thin-skinned grape that adds dark colors, the tannins are few, with flavors of plums and cherries. The grape does poorly in high temperatures or excessively dry conditions. This varietal is the 96th most common grape in the world being grown on 15,250 acres world-wide of which 14,675 acres are planted in Portugal.

Touriga Nacional is Portugal’s finest red grape and is planted throughout all 14 of the country’s regions but is believed to have originated in either the Dao or Douro areas. It is a low yielding, thick-skinned grape, high in tannins, with intense flavors of  black currants, raspberries, and liquorice. The varietal is the 67th most common grape in the world, planted on 25,800 acres world-wide, of which 25,000 of those acres are in Portugal.

Tinta Cao dates back to the 1700s in the Douro Valley. The thick-skinned grape has great balance between tannins, acidity, and sugar. It has floral aromas, is well-structured, and is frequently blended with Touriga Nacional and Aragonez wines. The grapes produce very low yields making them very difficult to justify, economically, in the growers’ vineyards. This varietal is ranked 411th in the world and is only found in Portugal.  It is grown on about 900 acres and may soon be extinct.

Tinta Amarela is a difficult grape to grow, doing best in hot, dry climates.  The grapes are full of tannins producing dark, full-bodied wines but are primarily used in Ports.  The grapes are fairly high-yielding, producing aromas of blackberries, flowers and herbs.  The berries are susceptible to rot in wetter climates and have a harvesting window of just a few days. This grape ranks 75th in the world and is almost entirely grown in Portugal. In Portugal it is planted on 22,850 acres with only about another 60 acres grown in the rest of the world.

The brother’s Graham, William and John,  British mercantilists, founded their firm along the banks of the Douro River in Porto, Portugal. There initial business was to trade in textiles but in 1820 they bartered twenty-seven barrels of Port for textile debt. From that point forward they decided that making the best port in the world was much more interesting and enjoyable than buying and selling patterned cloth.  The brothers bought their own vineyard in Douro Valley in 1890.  That same year they also built their Vila Nova de Gaia lodge, across the river from Porto.  The lodge is still used today to blend and age their ports. The cellar contains 2000 pipes (126 gallon wooden barrels), and 40 tonels (cement vats) and balseiros (large wooden, vertical vats).

In 1970 the Symington family fortuitously took control of the company with that year’s vintage being considered one of the greatest in the century.  The families Portuguese heritage dates back to the arrival Andrew Symington, arriving in Porto from Scotland in 1882. Today, 5 Symington cousins run Graham’s, along with Warre’s, Dow’s, Blandy’s, Leacock’s and many others. They are the largest owners of vineyards in Douro which today amounts to about 2300 acres.

Graham’s has 5 terraced vineyards in the Douro Valley; all with well-drained, unirrigated schistose soils, growing in a hot dry climate: 1) Quinta Dos Malvedos, the original Quinta, in the Upper Corgo grows 4 different grapes: 35% Touriga Franc, 29% Touriga Nacional, 18% Tinta Barroca, and 13% Tinta Roriz. 2) Quinta Das Lages in Rio Torto, a northern tributary of the Douro River, grows 38% mixed varietals (it is quite common in the valley for growers not to know exactly what varietal is growing) 22% Touriga Franca, 21% Touriga Nacional, and 14% Tinta Barroca. 3) Quinta Da Vila Velha in the Upper Corgo, produces 38,000 gallons of wine each year from 4 varietals: 33% Touriga Franc, 17% Tinta Roiz, 13% Touriga Nacional, and 12% Tinta Barroca. 4) Quinta Do Vale De Malhadas in the Douro Superior grows 3 varietals: 55% Tinta Roriz, 24% Touriga Franca, and 15% Touriga Nacional.  5) Quinta Do Tua in Upper Corgo has some of the oldest vines, growing 4 varietals: 28% mixed varietals, 21% Touriga Nacional, 17% Touriga Franca, and 17% Souzao.

Six Grapes, Graham’s short hand for their best grapes, sources them from the same 5 vineyards that produce its Vintage Ports. Approximately 35% of the best grapes from the vineyards are set aside each year to potentially source their Vintage Ports. Only a small percentage, if any, of those grapes eventually are bottled as Vintage Ports with the remaining being used to make Six Grapes Port.

The grape varietals are fermented separately at the company’s Quintas and are brought down river to Vila Nova de Gaia to be aged 1-2 years in the cellar’s seasoned, wooden barrels.

A dark, inky wine with flavors of plum and sweet cherries. A great structured wine with a very elegant, lasting finish.

Although there is some movement to serve Port with a meal containing beef, I find this difficult to pursue or appreciate. I believe there are only a few options for enjoying Port, either as an after dinner digestive, by itself as an after work or late night restorative, or with chocolate.  My preference is to have a few Godiva raspberry truffles on hand when drinking this Port.  They were absolutely made for each other.

An outstanding ruby port at a fair price. Drink this year but will be good for many years, decades even, after buying.

$19.99 wine.com

The Last Little Tramp

Modern TimesM Modern 1936

Theaters:  February 1936

Streaming:  August 2010

Rated:  G

Runtime:  87 minutes

Genre:  Comedy – Drama – Family  – Romance

els:  8.5/10

IMDB:  8.5/10

Amazon:  4.8/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  9.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.3/5

Metacritic Metascore:  96/100

Metacritic User Score:  8.9/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Charlie Chaplin

Written by:  Charlie Chaplin

Music by:  Charlie Chaplin

Cast:  Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman

Film Locations:  Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, California, US

Budget:  $1,500,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $1,400,000

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, humorously battles modern life in the depression years of the 1930s, and he repeatedly loses. In his never-ending quest for survival he splits his time between failing his employers, getting fired, getting arrested, and spending time in the local jail. Coming off one escapade he discovers and falls in love with the beautiful gamin, Goddard; the dual together accelerate the tempo of absurd slap-stick into overdrive.

Silent films, after the technical hurdles of film, camera, and projector were overcome, became a full-fledged art form beginning in the mid-1890s and lasting until the late 1920s.  The early 20th century saw the art form generate almost all the genres that we know today, along with the experimentation and perfection of close-ups, long shots, and panning.  Contrary  to popular belief the technical quality of these early films was generally very good and the use of color in the 1920s was common. What wasn’t good was their preservation; by some estimates almost 70% of all silent films are forever lost. True silent movies incorporated live music at the theater, giving employment to thousands of musicians and the coming ‘talkies’ laid them all off.  Progress always has a price. The beginning of the end for silent movies occurred when Warner Brothers released The Jazz Singer in 1927, squeezing out silent films in a few short years afterward.

This is Chaplin’s last ‘silent’ movie, although audible music, song, and voice are interspersed with pantomime and title cards throughout the movie. By 1936 silent movies were well in the past but Chaplin felt that for his send off of his beloved mime, the Little Tramp, he needed to keep him inaudible.  But with all things Chaplin he broke that promise also when he staged the Tramp’s hilariously memorable nonsense song and dance number towards the end of the movie.  This scene alone, is worth the price of admission.

Charlie Chaplin, born in England in 1889, began his performing  career early in life, somewhere around the age of 10, working the London music halls and stages until he was 19. He came to America in the first decade of the 20th century and through his Little Tramp persona became one of the most recognizable men in the world. His movies on the surface were comedies but almost always contained a statement on the sufferings of the proletariat and fascism. His farce: the 1940 film, The Great Dictator, lampooned the German fascist while playing off the similarities between himself and Hitler; their small stature, silly mustache, and low birth. Loathing fascism, Chaplin, inexplicably was able to sympathize with communism, never realizing that the two were the opposite sides to the same coin.

Charlie Chaplin was married to 4 women and had 11 children.  His 3rd wife was the lovely and captivating, Paulette Goodard, whom he married in 1936. She co-starred with Chaplin in this movie and others including the above mentioned: The Great Dictator.  She is remembered mostly for these two films along with Cecil B. DeMille’s Reap the Wild Wind and So Proudly We Hail!, which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  To see Goodard, in this movie and others, is to fall in love with her.

Place this movie on your “Must See in My Lifetime” list.  A true Chaplin masterpiece.

Black Water

ChinatownM Chinatown 1974

Theaters:  June 1974

Streaming:  November 1999

Rated:  R

Runtime:  130 minutes

Genre:  Crime – Drama – Film Noir – Mystery – Suspense – Thriller

els:  8.5/10

IMDB:  8.2/10

Amazon:  4.6/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  9.3/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.2/5

Metacritic Metascore:  86/100

Metacritic User Score:  8.9/10

Awards: 1 Academy Award and 4 Golden Globes

Directed by:  Roman Polanski

Written by:  Robert Towne

Music by:  Jerry Goldsmith

Cast:  Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston

Film Locations:  California, US

Budget:  $6,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $29,200,000

J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Nicholson), a former L.A. cop, spends his days and occasional nights as a private investigator, hired mainly to catch cheating spouses in the act of, well, cheating. An elderly woman hires Jake to find the women her adulterous husband, Hollis Mulwray the chief engineer for L.A. Water and Power, is fooling around with.  Jake photographs Mulwray in the embrace of a young woman and the next day the pictures are on the front page of the newspaper. Mulwray is found dead by drowning in a city reservoir the same day. The wife of Mulwray (Dunaway), who it turns out, is not the women who hired Jake the day before, sues him for publishing the pictures. Jake realizes soon enough that he was set up and Mulwray was murdered. He is determined to find out why.

The movie’s story, set in 1937, is a mixed-up, mashed-up telling of the L.A. water wars in the early 1900s. By the end of the 19th century L.A.’s growth was outstripping its water supply and the city fathers, politicians, started looking for alternate sources that would quench the city’s ever-growing thirst.  They found it 250 miles northeast of L.A. in Owens Valley, a high valley nestled between the Sierras to the west and the beginnings of the Basin and Range region to the east, containing a very nice, thirst quenching river.  The voters in L.A. approved 2 bond measures in 1905 and 1907, totaling $26 million dollars, to build a 233 mile long aqueduct from the Owen River to the L.A.’s Lower San Fernando Reservoir,  which was later renamed the Lower Van Normans Reservoir.  The city along with numerous investors negotiated the water rights from the farmers in the valley, some say swindled, and the aqueduct was built by L.A. Power and Water between 1908 and 1913. The project was supervised by William Mulholland (Hollis Mulwray in the movie), who along with the mayor, Fred Eaton, acquired the water rights to the valley by purchasing the land for a fraction they paid to other land owners outside of Owens Valley.  They told the owners that they only wanted a small part of the rights but by 1928 the city owed 90% of the water. The water diversion to L.A. effectively destroyed farming in Owens Valley and by 1924 Owens Lake, which was fed by the river, dried up to a throat-choking plain of dust. That same year farmers in the valley dynamited some of the diversion gates, allowing the water to return to its natural course, at least for a short while. It was an ineffective revolt and by 1927 the farmers were mostly bankrupt and defeated.

Robert Towne wrote the script for Chinatown, winning an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay, using the L.A. water wars and Raymond Chandler as inspiration.  He originally envisioned the story to be a trilogy, all starring Jack Nicholson.  The second part, The Two Jakes, involving shady oil deals within the city, was directed by and starred Nicholson. The movie did poorly causing everyone to lose interest in the third movie. Roman Polanski had an uncredited part in the Chinatown screenplay, shortening it and changing the ending.

Roman Polanski, celebrated director and rapist, directed Chinatown, winning a Golden Globe for Best Director by creating a beautiful film noir that elevates the genre to heights not seen since the 1941 The Maltese Falcon or the 1958 Touch of Evil.  His homage to the genre even includes 1940 style rolling credits; a charming touch. While his Rosemary’s Baby was horror within your mind, Chinatown was in your face with political cynicism and sexual debauchery.

Jack Nicholson, winner of two Academy awards for Best Actor and nominated for 10 others including Chinatown, provides the glue that takes this picture from good to great. His role of an aggressively suave, former gum-shoe, propelled him to the heights of a true legend in Hollywood. A couple of pointless points: Nicholson was in a serious, sometimes, relationship with John Huston’s daughter, Angelica, during the filming of this movie and he also lived on Mulholland Drive, see above, in Beverly Hills.

This is another movie that should be on your “Must See in My Lifetime” list.  A true masterpiece of writing, directing, music, and acting.

Grand Forks, ND Housing Market: March 2018

RE Number April 2018Trends from February to March 2018:

1) Number of  homes on the market is flat.

2) Median price per square foot is essentially flat.

3) Median days on the market is increasing. The decrease for homes greater than $500,000 is an anomaly caused by one house coming on the market at the end of the month.

4) Median home prices less than $500,000 continue to increase.

Data is for single family, single lot homes.  Does not include apartments, condos, mobile homes, townhouses,  twin homes, etc.RE All April 2018RE 499 April 2018RE 500 April 2018

Gold to End Dollars

The Good, The Bad, and The UglyM Good 1967

Theaters:  December 1966

Streaming:  November 1997

Rated:  R

Runtime:  177 minutes

Genre:  Action – Adventure – Western

els:  9.0/10

IMDB:  8.9/10

Amazon:  4.7/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  8.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.0/5

Metacritic Metascore:  90/100

Metacritic User Score:  9.1/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Sergio Leone

Written by:  Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli (screenplay), Luciano Vincenzoni and Sergio Leone (story and screenplay)

Music by:  Ennio Morricone

Cast:  Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef, Eli Wallach

Film Locations:  Spain and Italy

Budget:  $1,200,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $25,100,000

In 1862, 3 gunfighters, prowling the New Mexico Territory for easy money; the Good (Eastwood), the Bad (Van Cleef), and the Ugly (Wallach) hear tales of Confederate gold buried in a Civil War cemetery. Pairing up when convenient, going alone when it wasn’t, they set out for the golden grave at Sad Hill Cemetery but only the “Man with No Name” knows which grave. Their travels and adventures to the final resting place of Blue and Grey casualties leave a trail littered with the excesses of betrayal, brutality, deception, extortion, and death.  Honor and friendship are vices that will get you killed, according few serviceable distinctions between the good, bad, and ugly.

The movie ties its tale around the events of the Confederate Army’s Civil War New Mexico Campaign in 1862. Confederate General Henry Sibley convinced the president of the southern slave states, Jefferson Davis, to invade the western states and territories from the east side of the Rockies and continue on to California.  The goal was to capture the gold mines of the Colorado Territory, a major source of revenue for the Union’s war efforts, and the California ports.  The ports would provide additional resupply bases for the Confederates or at a minimum require the Union Navy to divert scarce resources in attempting to blockade them.  Sibley’s initial thrust, beginning in early 1862, came from Texas and continued up into New Mexico towards Santa Fe and Fort Union. The Confederates, initially successful, were eventually forced to retreat back into Texas, because Sibley’s already thin supply lines were destroyed.  Skirmishes continued for another year but the South’s New Mexico campaign lasted less than 6 months and General Sibley was demoted to logistic details, ironically the major drawback of his southwest strategic, invasion planning.

Sergio Leone may not have invented Spaghetti Westerns but he certainly raised the genre to a high and profitable art form. As a director his credits are few, just 11 movies, but his 2 trilogies, Dollars and Once Upon a Time, were critical and financial successes. Leone, additionally, has  screenplay credits for most of the movies he directed along with a second unit director credit for the 11 Oscar award-winning, 1959 film: Ben Hur. His trademark long view shots of uninviting background coupled with intense close-ups of emotion filled eyes gave his westerns a barefaced, grainy look of realism in a land of little opportunity except for those who created their own.

Ennio Morricone made his name and fortune composing the scores for Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy. Creating an iconic sound of wolves howling, punctuated with Indian drum beats portending events to come.  None of the Dollars movies had a large budget to work with causing Morricone to creatively improvise, using ricocheting bullets, whips, and trumpets to fill in for the missing orchestra.  His film scores eventually earned him an honorary Academy Award in 2007 and the Best Original Score Academy Award for the 2016 movie: The Hateful Eight.

Then there was Clint Eastwood. Initially reluctant to do the final movie in The Man with No Name trilogy, he agreed to it after Leone met his hefty financial demands, $250,000 plus 10% of the profits.  In the mid-1960s these were demands that stars made, not the unknown Eastwood, who previously had just played bit parts in forgettable movies.  Leone must have seen something in him though because A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly made Eastwood an international star.  In these westerns Eastwood plays the part that he would reprise many more times throughout his career. That of a loner, willing to push morality and law to the limits and beyond, but showing compassion and tolerance when needed.

This movie should be on your “Must See in My Lifetime” list. If you have seen it, watch it again. A true masterpiece of writing, directing, cinematography, music and acting.

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