The Two Jakes

I woke up before midnight and watched “The Two Jakes” on DVD. It is hard for me to believe that twenty-five years have passed since the release of this movie. Jack Nicholson still looked like a lively person, although heavier than he was in “Chinatown.” This sequel is a low-energy story compared with the first movie, and I kept noticing all the silence in the scenes. I found it hard to believe that there was a lot of money in private investigation. Jake had too much of the fat cat in him. One thing I look for in these movies set in the past is all the newly painted signs. They don’t ever look right in these movies. I also kept looking at the cars. This was supposed to be 1948. In the cast, we got Harvey Keitel instead of Burt Young, Meg Tilly instead of Faye Dunaway, and Richard Farnsworth instead of John Huston. The movie goes along at too slow a pace, and it looks like we’re visiting the people who were in the first movie. Jake took a long time talking with James Hong. Faye Dunaway’s absence is something you feel throughout this movie. I have to admit that during her heyday she was a powerful presence on the screen. It would be impossible to the script of this sequel to match “Chinatown.” It is definitely less interesting. There isn’t as much drive or intrigue to what’s happening. A lot of the conflict is with Jake not wanting to give up a wire recording to the authorities. I thought I detected a bit of Nixon and his tape recordings with this plot point. The Jake in this movie didn’t make snappy replies. I wasn’t convinced that he could prevail in a fight with a younger man. Jake suffered a nose injury in “Chinatown,” and he gets a concussion in this movie. The cinematographer for “Chinatown” was John A. Alonzo, and for “The Two Jakes,” it was Vilmos Zsigmond. Some of Alonzo’s credits include “Sounder,” “Lady Sings the Blues,” “Norma Rae,” and “Scarface.” There were times during “The Two Jakes” when I didn’t care for the camera moving and shaking. Alonzo died in 2001. Zsigmond worked on “Deliverance,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “The Deer Hunter.” In more recent years, he did Woody Allen films like “Melinda and Melinda,” “Cassandra’s Dream,” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.” What I remember about “Chinatown” was animals invading a building, the sun low in the sky, and a lot of driving around and movement. In “The Two Jakes,” I saw housing developments and pumping for oil. In “Chinatown,” we felt that we were right there discovering a mystery. In “The Two Jakes,” the drama isn’t as dramatic. There is the fate of the Harvey Keitel character, although we wait until everyone gets far away first. Everything happens a bit too slowly in this picture. Nicholson had directed “Goin’ South” years before. It seemed that he could have used a more disciplined approach to directing. This movie was interesting in showing the development of Los Angeles and what happened to people with the passage of time. Everybody slowed down, and they spent more time talking to each other. It’s a shame that the third movie in the series never came into being. It was supposed to be called “Gittes vs. Gittes,” and set in 1968, dealing with Jake’s divorce. It would have been interesting to see Meg Tilly return. I would predict that the third movie starts with photographs of adultery. I didn’t really want to see Jake playing golf in the second movie. The movie ends with the haunting notes about the past, that “It never goes away.” That is the one thing I remember most clearly about this movie. I would imagine that the memories of the past would still be right there in 1968. I’m not too sure that a movie centered on a divorce would end up being too good. I did like “The War of the Roses.” Robert Towne is now 80 years old. He’s worked on a lot of scripts uncredited. Apparently, he has denied that there was a third Jake Gittes movie planned. He wrote the first two Mission: Impossible movies. It doesn’t seem that he could ever write anything as memorable as “Chinatown” again. His four credits as a director were for “Personal Best,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Without Limits,” and “Ask the Dust.” He was supposed to do a remake of “The 39 Steps,” but that didn’t happen. It was too bad that Meg Tilly didn’t appear in “Amadeus.” She had a good career in the movie until “The Two Jakes.” She did appear in that Body Snatchers movie that I found rather forgettable. She got married three times. She moved to Toronto. What was the last good private detective movie that I saw? I find it hard to picture the private detectives of today researching on the Internet instead of harassing some annoying clerk in some city office. The Internet and cell phones are ruining movies, in fact. Is it at all interesting to watch someone use a computer or text? I read that the plots of “Deliverance” and “Citizen Kane” would have been ruined by technology. We’re headed for a world in which the vast majority of people have common experiences, and you’re a rebel if you do anything that doesn’t involve electronic devices. I managed to finish grading a stack of tests and give a tired lecture before returning home to watch a bit of television. I fell asleep after watching The Big Bang Theory. The security guard outside my classroom told me that she was sad to hear that Howard’s mother had died. I saw that my DVD set of the fourth season of The Partridge Family arrived in the mail, and it was in decent shape. I’m glad that I didn’t spend a fortune on it, especially since that season had Ricky in it. Some of the people who died on February 25 include Mark Rothko (1970), Tennessee Williams (1983), James Coco (1987), Haing S. Ngor (1996), and Darren McGavin (2006). Today is a birthday for Téa Leoni (49) and John Doe (61). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for February 25, “A Little Night Music” opened on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre in 1973. In 1983, Tennessee Williams was found dead in his suite at the Elysee Hotel in New York at age 71. In 1998, Bob Dylan won the Album of the Year Grammy award for “Time Out of Mind.”

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