30. 'Chinatown' (1974)
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As private investigator Jake Gittes, Jack Nicholson gave a career-changing
performance in this brilliant 1974 film. Director Roman Polanski's love of film
noir and of cinema in general shined through in every frame of this story (that
had almost nothing to do with Chinatown). Robert Towne's Oscar-winning
screenplay explored the issue of water rights in 1930s Los Angeles, but that
description hardly does justice to this taut psychological drama of betrayal,
abuse and political corruption. Watching this film as a kid made me desperate to
live in Los Angeles, but when I moved there years later I realized what I really
wanted — to live in Polanski's gorgeously stylized 1937 version of that city!
Bing: Watch clips from 'Chinatown'
As the mysterious and alluring Evelyn Mulwray, Faye Dunaway fully captured
the look of the period and the dynamic between Evelyn and her wealthy but
oppressive father (played to perfection by director John Huston) was chilling.
As a kid I admit that Dunaway's climactic admission ("She's my sister AND my
daughter!") flew right over my head, but as I got older, I marveled at the
multiple layers present in this masterful tale. Towne originally intended
"Chinatown" to be the first in a trilogy of films featuring Nicholson's
character, but after the lackluster response to "The Two Jakes" in 1990, plans
were scrapped for the third film. — Danny Miller What's
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(Jack Nicholson & Faye Dunaway in