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'Forget It, Jake - It's Chinatown'
By Douglas Herman
Exclusive to Rense.com

What makes some movies better than others? The story, the dialogue, the acting, lighting, sound and directing, correct? Suppose a movie is good because of what it says over time. The best movies withstand the test of time, like Shakespeare, and what they have to say remains as pertinent today as it was 30, 40, 50 years ago.
We live an amazing, personal action movie every day. Part drama, part tragedy, with predictable yet entertaining comedic moments even; with a cast of six billion people, all of us performing our parts with convincing passion.
Bernie Madoff? An amazing comedy that even Woody Allen would not have dared to write. An extremely wealthy swindler convinces other extremely rich people to invest billions in his get-rich-quick investment firm. Unfortunately for Bernie, he swindles the wrong kind of people. Not Mafia types but perhaps members of the Bilderberger group and CFR members. If I were writing this movie, these powerful people would find a way to get even with the swindler. In the last scene of my Madoff movie, a morality tale really, we see huge stacks of money (Close Up on the money) being transferred from one secret offshore bank to another as the credits roll and the old swindler trots off to jail.
Since I'm now a film student, at the age 59, I watch a lot of old films. A foreign friend of mine who had never seen Easy Rider wanted to see this road movie. I told her that during the Sixties, folks just hit the highways by the tens of thousands, like the pair of colorful gypsies portrayed here. If you've seen the film, you may remember Captain America (Peter Fonda) and his sidekick, Billy (Dennis Hopper), astride a pair of beautiful choppers.
Perhaps you saw that movie. But what you may not remember is what Jack Nicholson's character (George Hanson) says to Billy as they're camped out in the forest.
George Hanson: What you represent to them is freedom.
Billy: What the hell is wrong with freedom? That's what it's all about.
Hanson: Oh, yeah, that's right. That's what's it's all about, all right. But talkin' about it and bein' it, that's two different things. I mean, it's real hard to be free when you are bought and sold in the marketplace. Of course, don't ever tell anybody that they're not free, 'cause then they're gonna get real busy killin' and maimin' to prove to you that they are. Oh, yeah, they're gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it's gonna scare 'em.
Billy: Well, it don't make 'em runnin' scared.
George Hanson: No, it makes 'em dangerous.
What YOU represent to some people is freedom. You see, you've had your eyes opened and your mind expanded, not a lot but a lot more than most folks. You're like Tom Joad, (Henry Fonda) in The Grapes of Wrath when his character says: "If there was a law they was workin' with maybe we could take it, but it ain't the law. They're workin' away our spirits, tryin' to make us cringe and crawl, takin' away our decency."
Taking away our decency.
We are ALL a part of this big movie. A personal Grapes of Wrath or Robin Hood or A Man For All Seasons. Some play the villain and some play the hero. Sometimes the roles get reversed. The villain becomes the hero and who we perceived as the hero suffers some injustice. Meanwhile the villain gets away and lives a rich and wonderful life surrounded by other scoundrels.
Perhaps you saw where that Iraqi shoe thrower got three years in prison for throwing his shoes at George Bush. He represented freedom and if enough people followed his example, well that might be dangerous. Meanwhile the former president, who threw a whole lot more than a pair of shoes at the Iraqis, will get six figure speaking fees.
Like that Iraqi hothead, what YOU represent to most people in power is danger. You're dangerous because you ask too many questions about freedom and justice and privilege and the abuses of power. You have the nerve to question why the average American citizen is cross examined at the airport by TSA but wealthy foreign duel citizens working for the US government in Washington are never cross examined? At least never cross examined about their motives like one Charles Freeman.
We watched that classic movie Chinatown again. The story recreates how Los Angeles officials cleverly hoodwinked, some say stole water, from the folks in Owens Valley. Once again, Jack Nicholson, as P.I Jake Gitts, portrays an average guy who gets sucked into conflict with a powerful conspiracy headed by a greedy and lecherous businessman, named Noah Cross, portrayed perfectly by John Huston.
Jake Gitts: I just want to know what you're worth. Over ten million?
Noah Cross: Oh my, yes.
Jake Gitts: Why are you doing it? How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford?
Noah Cross: The future, Mr. Gitts, the future.
I imagine those lines perfectly mimic similar lines that every powerful person says everyday. In pursuit of a better planet of course. At every Bilderberger or Council on Foreign Relations meeting, I imagine the members must truly believe their motives are right and just, whether in Africa or Iraq or Indonesia. If a few thousand or million or billion people must suffer for their vision of the future, well too damn bad.
Towards the end of the movie, Jake/Jack tells the tormented heroine: "Evelyn, put that gun away. Let the police handle this." Evelyn replies: "He owns the police!"
Most viewers were perhaps surprised that you could have the hero say that in a Hollywood movie. The notion that a wealthy, perverted old conspirator could actually "own" the police must have seemed, well, dangerous. Didn't the good guys always win in Hollywood movies? Didn't virtue get rewarded? Didn't the underdog prevail?
No. Rarely in reality.
Recently top investigative reporter Seymour Hersh described an 'Executive Assassination Ring.' Was anyone truly surprised? He said of the assassins: "In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America ." Pretty much what I wrote about the patriotic yet programmed assassins in my novel: The Guns of Dallas.
Nearly as surprising was what Hersh admitted about the US presidency: "The beautiful thing about our system is that eventually we get new leaders, (but) it's really amazing to me that we manage to get such bad leadership, so consistently."
Amazing? Not really. We consistently get bad presidents on purpose, not by accident. Only a truly naïve, ignorant or disingenuous person would believe that US presidents are chosen by happenstance and not vetted long in advance. Like the villain Noah Cross, those who choose the presidential candidates know well in advance exactly what they are getting. The future, or their views of it.
Any troublemakers or idealist, like JFK, MLK or RFK are erased and replaced by people who dictate to the president what he should or should not do, like bailout banks or escalate unpopular wars.
After Evelyn is shot, in the movie Chinatown, Jake tries to intervene, tries to right the wrongs, save the innocent, bring the perpetrators to justice. A colleague grabs Jake and drags him away: "Forget it, Jake; it's Chinatown ." As the credits roll, you cannot help but become cynical or sullen. Rarely does real life offer a happy Hollywood ending.
Whenever I witness another abuse of power in America or the world, another banker being bailed out and rewarded, another mass murderer honored, another foreigner promoted, another injustice ignored, another blatant destruction of the Bill of Rights, I cannot help shake my head and say: Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown.
Longtime Rense contributor Douglas Herman lives in Bullhead City and believes in the idealist, the underdog, the activist and the decent streak in every man and woman.
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