Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jaws

The Spielberg Blogathon is an event devoted to the career of the titular producer-writer-director, hosted by Outspoken & Freckled, Citizen Screenings & It Rains... You Get Wet. For a complete listing of participating blogs, visit the links at the host sites.

The Blind Spot is an ongoing series hosted by The Matinee in which bloggers watch and write about movies they've never seen before. For a list of past entries, visit the home site.
Jaws
seen on TV @ AMC
8.20.14

This was a totally last-minute post! When I watched Jaws earlier this week, I hadn't planned on writing about it at first, until I realized I hadn't seen it before, and so I thought it would make for a good Blind Spot post for Ryan. Then I remembered there was a Spielberg Blogathon going on this weekend, which I had completely forgotten about! Add it all up, and I knew I could slay twice as many avian creatures with the same hunk of earth. Isn't it great how these things work out sometimes?

I totally thought I had seen Jaws at some point or another in my life. It's one of those movies where if you're a film fan, it's kinda considered part of the unofficial canon, so to speak. So imagine my surprise when I realized about a half hour or so into the movie that no, I really hadn't seen it.



I wish my first time had been on a big screen. There are numerous outdoor movies that play all over the five boroughs during the summer, and Jaws is a fairly regular staple. Granted, not all of the screenings are on large theater-style screens, nor are they all on 35mm film, but still, if ever a movie needs to be seen on the big screen, it's this one. I honestly don't feel like I got the total experience seeing it on TV.

I kept thinking as I watched it that "Oh, yeah, the shark's totally fake." I'd read about all the problems Steven Spielberg had with "Bruce" during filming and his eventual decision to just hide the shark for most of the movie. I'd say this is common knowledge to film fans, bordering on film lore. So I didn't expect to be creeped out by the shark, and I wasn't - much. Yeah, there were moments that felt real, but I think my knowledge of the making of Jaws might have gotten in the way of surrendering to the make-believe, another reason why I wish I had seen this on the big screen instead.



So history shows that Jaws was the movie that begot the blockbuster era of filmmaking, yet looking at it in 2014 for the first time, it strikes me as a far cry from Transformers or The Fast and the Furious or Avengers, and not just for the differences in technological advances. Jaws feels more character driven, for one thing. Even while Brody, Hooper and Quint are out on that boat looking for the shark (I figured out where Kevin Smith got those names from long ago, by the way), Spielberg still finds time for them to share a quiet moment together, swapping stories about brushes with death (a scene Smith parodies in Chasing Amy!).



Also, when [SPOILER] dies, it isn't telegraphed in any way. It just happens, and when it did, I was caught totally unprepared for it. I was like, "Wait, he's not really dead, is he?" even though getting chomped in half by "Bruce" would seem to provide a definitive answer to that. There was a recent article (don't have the link) about how movie deaths have lost their meaning and surprise, and indeed, I was hard pressed to think of the last movie death that surprised me - until now.

Obviously, there's something to be said for using actual, physical objects that actors can interact with as opposed to CGI. This is something I've harped on so many times before that it scarcely bears repeating, and Spielberg deserves all the credit in the world for taking a mechanical shark that gave him no end of difficulty and making it look menacing in the finished product.



I'd say that this looks like a Spielberg movie. Something about the cinematography, the editing, the interaction of the actors, feels like 70s/80s-era Spielberg, in ways that writers better versed in film technique than me could describe. The best way I can describe it is by saying that if you showed Jaws and one of the first three Indiana Jones movies back to back to someone who had never heard of Spielberg before, I'm willing to bet that this person would recognize the two as being made by the same man.

So yeah, I like Jaws a lot, but I won't consider myself having really seen it until I see it on a big screen one day. Also, did anyone else have the Jaws home game growing up? I loved that game (even if it's not fondly remembered anymore).

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Other Steven Spielberg movies:
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
E.T.
War Horse
The Adventures of Tintin
The Terminal
Lincoln
Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Previous Blind Spot movies:
Gone With the Wind

6 comments:

  1. So happy you finally dipped your toes into the JAWS waters, Rich! No longer a JAWS virgin, eh? Thanks so much for joining along with us for our Spielberg blogathon!

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  2. I'm just glad I remembered there was one!

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  3. I saw Jaws in its first release (1974?), then saw it for the second time last month, forty years later. I'd say it holds up. It seems more adult, dramatic and willfully slow-paced than the same story would be filmed today. In many ways, it was filmed more like a Hemingway story or early David Lean film than the horror movie it would be today.

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  4. '75. Close enough.

    A Hemingway story. That's a great comparison, and one I've never heard before about JAWS, and it makes sense, especially with regard to Robert Shaw's character. Good call.

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  5. Very fine write-up for the blogathon, Rich. Still the quintessential blockbuster film. Thanks for this :-)

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