"I take orders from the Octoboss."


tn_jawsBrucethesharkiconWith IRON MAN 2 in theaters and on Slurpee cups I’d say Summer Movie Season 2010 is officially underway. And I thought a good way to welcome the season would be by watching some movies I haven’t seen before: the JAWS sequels. Only thing is, as much as I love it I never actually wrote a review of JAWS. And I’d feel like an asshole reviewing the (I’m gonna guess possibly crappy) sequels and ignoring the original masterpiece.

But wait! There may be an answer contained within the Outlaw Vault. I knew I had written something about it, I just hadn’t posted it before. Back when I was considering a book about summer movies I wrote a rough draft for part of the ’75 chapter. So even though I’m still alive I’m gonna clean it up a little and package it as new material, like a posthumous B.I.G. guest appearance.

mp_jawsJaws was the first Big Summer Event Movie. It was the first movie to make over $100 million at the American box office. It drastically changed the way studio movies are marketed and budgeted. It turned Steven Spielberg from promising new director to the very definition of A-list. It won three Oscars – best editing, original score and sound. But personally what I like about Jaws is that Jaws is a great fucking movie.

Spielberg will be showing up in this book a lot [note: no he won’t, because there’s no book – suckers!], having re-reinvented the blockbuster more times than anyone else over the years, and having directed even more popular and more celebrated movies than Jaws. And personally I think that between his trio of flawed but underrated sci-fi movies (A.I., Minority Report and War of the Worlds) and his brilliant, multi-layered thriller Munich he’s still on his game all these years later. There’s a reason why he’s the most famous American movie director of all time. But if you ever forget what that reason is, all you have to do is go back and watch what 26 year old Spielberg was doing on Jaws.

It’s a pretty simple story: huge fucking shark eats people in island resort community. Mayor won’t shut down beaches because of tourist money. Police chief knows better. Chief, oceanologist and hunter go out on a boat and kill the huge fucking shark. Float off into the sunset. The best-selling book by Peter Benchley was a little more complicated – Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss’s character) was having an affair with Ellen Brody (wife of Roy Scheider’s character), for one thing. More ridiculously, the real reason why the mayor wouldn’t close the beaches is because he owed money to the mafia! It’s funny because why would you need that type of motivation? When the mayor waffles about closing the beach you think of course, it makes perfect sense that they would be more concerned about business than about “bathers,” as they call those who enjoy water activities on Amity Island. Luckily, the producers and Spielberg wanted a more straightforward version, no backstories, no love triangles. There is something to be said for not being completely faithful to the source material. Spielberg figured Jaws was four letters like his evil truck movie Duel. He wanted this to be kind of a sequel. A simple, straight forward man-chased-by-giant-killing-machine tale.

Sometimes just the way a movie is directed makes you feel like all your senses are heightened, and Jaws is one of those cases. Spielberg makes you feel Amity Island all around you. As Chief Brody sits on the beach, watching the water, knowing in his gut that there really is a great white shark out there, you hear the overlapping sounds all around him, the conversations, the playful screams, the splashes, a radio playing somewhere. The threat has been established. We’ve not seen the shark, but we’ve seen his handiwork. We’ve seen what it looks like when a skinnydipper is jerked to and fro by an unseen underwater menace. And now we see the familiar sight of a crowded beach. Elderly sunbathers and energetic children “lining up to be a hot lunch.” And all we can do is what Brody does – sit and wait and hope we’re wrong.

The atmosphere is so authentic, so not-movie-like that at times it looks like a documentary about summer vacations. But the camera slowly, deliberately pans to Brody’s tense face, letting slip that it’s not just a crew haphazardly covering what’s going on, it’s a young director right in that zone who knows exactly what he’s doing, what to make you look at, how long to make you watch kids innocently splashing in the water before giving you the underwater camera and John Williams music that tells you that yes, your greatest fears were true, there is a shark out there somewhere and he’s gonna eat that dog and that kid and there is nothing anybody can do about it. Except blow him up later, but that won’t bring back the kid or the dog. At least not in a physical state that would be very satisfying.

So it’s a movie full of tension and suspense, but it also has momentum. Spielberg and friends cut directly from the death of the little boy on the beach to a crowded town meeting mobbed around a flyer advertising the boy’s mother’s bounty for killing the shark. Most of the important things are developed quickly and visually. We don’t hear Brody talking about all he’s learned about sharks, we see him reading books and being so involved that he jumps when his wife tries to embrace him.

But it also knows how to slow down and smell the roses. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is not really about the shark or even the hunt for the shark, it’s about the camaraderie between the three men as they sit together on the boat waiting to come across the shark. They drink, they loosen up, they start to share scars. Hooper seems to have proven his manliness to Quint (Robert Shaw), who had previously called him a “city boy” and a “college boy” and a “rich boy” and had cruelly called attention to the softness of his hands. Almost as an afterthought Hooper mentions Quint’s tattoo, which leads him to reveal his military background: he was on the USS Indianapolis, the ship that broke down and left its crew stranded, surrounded by hungry sharks. He tells the tale like an old ghost story, but he gets credit for not ever bringing it up himself. He was content to show off his scars without pulling out the old USS Indianapolis card. Which is good – imagine going out on a boat with a dude who can’t stop bragging about the old war-buddies-eaten-by-sharks incident! It would be a nightmare.

Hooper, of course, gains a new respect for Quint, but now everybody is bummed out and horrified, so Hooper slyly segues into a drunken group singalong. And it’s now, when true drunken friendship has been achieved, that the shark starts munching on the boat like it’s corn on the cob.

jawscostumeWhile the shark in the movie is scaring people away from summer resorts, in the real world he was luring them into movie theaters. In those days summer was considered a dead season, a dumping ground for movies that weren’t expected to do well. In the twenty-first century we’re used to crowded summer release schedules with expensive studio movies coming out one after the other, making it unlikely for any one of them to dominate. But nothing of note was released in the weeks preceding or following Jaws. The movies opening against it on June 20th, 1975 were a re-release of Walt Disney’s Bambi, a limited release of the Gene Hackman western Bite the Bullet, Jacqueline Susann’s Once Is Not Enough, a porno called Sex Fantasies, and the spaghetti western The Silent Stranger.

There were certainly other memorable movies made in 1975, but not of a type that would compete with Jaws. The second highest grossing movie that year was The Rocky Horror Picture Show, followed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shampoo and Dog Day Afternoon (the last of which made less than a fifth of the $260 million Jaws piled up.)

Some claim that it was the first movie to advertise on television, but Tom Laughlin actually pioneered that with Billy Jack, the top grossing movie of 1971. At any rate, Universal used the then-new technique to turn Jaws into an event, and they released it on an unprecedented 465 screens. It was adapted from a book that was only a year old, and had been on the top of people’s “summer reading” lists. I guess if you’re supposed to read trashy but fun books during the summer then there might as well be a cinematic equivalent. But by today’s standards there’s nothing trashy about Jaws.

None of the handicapping that people give “summer popcorn movies” apply to the grandaddy of the genre. Jaws has great characters, a great story, great acting. It did win Oscars. Every technical aspect of the movie is superb except the special effects, because they couldn’t get the damned thing to work. Now people will say that a movie like 2012 or Transformers is fun to watch only for the special effects, but here is a movie that is made all the stronger because of the total failure of the special effects and the creative ways they had of getting around that. It’s hard to imagine the movie being quite as suspenseful if the shark kept swimming up instead of being represented by the floating barrels.

Okay, I never really finished this review, because I was gonna segue into that year’s best picture winner, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. (This incarnation of the book was gonna compare each year’s top grossing movie to its best picture winner [which was a problem when they started becoming one and the same]). But I think you get the point I was going for. I hope you do. I was happy to have Yippee Ki-Yay, Moviegoer mentioned in the New York Post’s “required reading” column, but they wrote:

A chapter in which he ruminates on, among others, “The Terminator,” “T2” and “Mission: Impossible 3,” pretty much sums it up with the title “It’s Not Supposed To Be Hamlet.”

And I don’t think they got that I was being sarcastic with that chapter title, I was trying to rebut the people who use that excuse all the time. My point is that those movies do strive to be as good as Hamlet within their own genres.

We all have a capacity to enjoy crappy movies. It is our right and perhaps our sacred duty. But I hate when people say or imply that that’s all you can expect, or all you can even want, from a big summer studio movie.  It’s simply not the case, and never was. JAWS started this shit, and JAWS is not lacking.

To enjoy GI JOE is not a sin (if it is I’m gonna roast in Hell). But to refuse to hope for more is just plain dumb. It’s like when people now try to instill values in the U.S. that are not at all in the spirit of what the founding fathers intended. JAWS never intended for you to settle for any old crap that’s not trying to be War and Peace.

No, JAWS invented the summer movie. And JAWS is a perfect overlap of artistic and commercial. It is a great movie that also happens to be a mainstream crowdpleaser. That’s how the summer movie started and that’s what you gotta aim for. This is not negotiable.

This entry was posted on Thursday, May 13th, 2010 at 12:45 am and is filed under Monster, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

103 Responses to “Jaws”

  1. Great review dude. I know you don’t always like reviewing these unanimously loved movies because you feel like you don’t have anything new to say, but your bit at the end about Jaws being different from the kinds of films it begat is pretty cool.

  2. Great review, but you have my sympathies for your upcoming viewings of parts 2, 3 and 4.

  3. Easily one of my top 5 faves, and one that I make sure to watch at least once a year. I think part 2 is okay, it has a couple of belting set-pieces but tragically shifts the focus away from Brody to a bunch of kids who, to be fair, cannot act for shit. But a shark destroying a helicopter is the essence of silly/awesome. 3 and 4 are not worth the film they are printed on.

  4. Spielberg is the incarnation of the 30s ideal of “the magic of hollywood”, he is everything that is great about cinema as pure unpretentious entertainment, he is like the Beatles of cinema, incredibly commercial yet with an outstanding sense of quality. Between Jaws and Raiders of the lost Ark he could have easily sit back and never made another movie again and still be considered the ultimate master of fun movies.

    If I ever had to hold a course on movie direction, I think my 101 would be Jaws and Once Upon a Time in the West.

  5. Vern – Not just a few wins, JAWS also got a Best Picture nomination. Alas the Beard didn’t get himself a Director nod apparently because hey he must be a fluke here right?

    shalom82 – you know, people tend to forget that as a producer alone, Spielberg could claim that credit.


    Not bad Stevie, not bad

    *=Or can we claim that a directorial credit too? :)

  6. Two things.

    1) I’m not a huge “Jaws” fan.
    2) This has nothing to do with the quality of the movie.

    “Jaws” is essentially an extremely well-made slasher movie, but with the emphasis on the town sherriff instead of the kids. As Dirk has pointed out, this is a very good thing considering what happened when they DID focus on the kids. The trouble is that I live in a seaside town, and to me the characters and setting in “Jaws” are unrelatable. By contrast, I’ve never been in any kind of a mental institution, yet the characters of “One Flew” and their predicament instantly strikes a chord with me. I’m not sure whether or not that should worry me! Maybe not, since the point in “One Flew” was that the system to take care of the lunatics was as screwed up, or more so in some cases, than they were…

    Also, the head nurse in “OFotCN” is a far scarier villain than the shark, to me. Again, this has nothing to do with the respective quality of the movies, I’ve just found myself in more situations where I’ve come across someone in a position of power and thought, “This guy / woman should never have been put in charge of people” than I have where I’ve been attacked by giant sharks. (Yeah, that happens maybe once or twice a year, if that.)

    Seriously though, “Dog Day Afternoon” and “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest” and “Jaws” all being released within a short period of time? That’s a pretty damn good era for film right there.

  7. Great Unwashed

    May 13th, 2010 at 5:06 am

    My memory of Jaws is always going to be associated with my bad movie watching habits as a kid, which in this case meant that after we had taped the movie off tv, when me and my brother or friends rewatched the movie, we would just fast-forward to all the shark attack scenes – which we also routinely did with slasher movies, now that’s someone brought them up. However, in the case of Jaws, I think it’s a testament to the quality Vern was talking about, because as an 8 year old I could fully grasp the awesomeness of shark attacks, but the quieter character stuff completely went over my head.

  8. Murphy?! “Hi, Matt Hooper.” “Oh, yeah, hey, you’re the guy we called for, from Woods Hole!” “HOOPER! Stop playin’ with yourself and get up here!”

    Amazingly, Robert Shaw was Spielberg’s last choice to play Quint….He was the one they turned too after everybody else said no or dropped out. His first choice was Sterling Hayden, but Hayden was fighting with the IRS and couldn’t work in America in the early 70s. Spielberg then asked Lee Marvin, who said no way; he’d had to film for weeks in boats and on the water making HELL IN THE PACIFIC and talked about what a nightmare it was (and of course, nobody involved in JAWS paid any attention); then Robert DuVall wanted to do it and Spielberg ultimately decided DuVall was too young. (Spielberg offered him Brody, but he turned that down; he only wanted to play Quint.) I think Robert Mitchum and Paul Scofield turned down Quint too.

    There were a lot of interesting “what if” casting possibilities for JAWS, actually. Charlton Heston desperately wanted to play Chief Brody; Jon Voight was the first choice for Hooper, and then Jeff Bridges was gonna play it but dropped out to do I think STAY HUNGRY, then Timothy Bottoms was in the running; some other candidates for Brody were Joel Grey (?) Jason Miller and Peter Boyle.

  9. RRA- Don’t forget GREMLINS, that’s probably his finest “film that begins with “G”” production achievement. Shits on THE GOONIES anyway.

  10. Now, WLVI 56 Boston used to show JAWS it seemed like at least once a month. It was on local TV stations ALL THE TIME. And we kids growing up in Massachusetts back then watched it ALL THE TIME. Wholly aside from being one of the greatest films ever made, it was a movie made and set in New England and really FELT like it, it was utterly authentic.

    Very few films were shot in Massachusetts in the 60s, 70s and 80s, for a variety of reasons. Basically, a bunch of big productions tried to film in the Bay State between ’68 and ’75 and all of them ran into problems. THE BOSTON STRANGLER, THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, LOVE STORY, THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, JAWS, and THE BRINKS JOB all had a pretty rough time shooting in Mass. (LOVE STORY was such a mess for Harvard that they STILL, with very, very few exceptions, don’t let anyone film on campus, 40 years later. They turned down David Fincher just last year.) Supposedly the nightmare of THE BRINKS JOB (an even worse shoot then JAWS, in some ways) was the final straw and after that there was more or less a consensus in Hollywood, “Forget it, no more big location shoots in Boston or Massachusetts, it’s not worth it; too far away, the unions’ll rip you off, the locals are really hostile and unfriendly, and everything costs too much.” Too the point where Warren Beatty, who in 1979 and 1980 filmed all over the world making REDS, didn’t shoot in Provincetown but faked it on Long Island Sound. So Boston was like Chicago (where the first Mayor Daley locked out Hollywood for years), there’s a big block of American cinema history where it almost completely vanishes from the screen, or, stories set there clearly aren’t shot there. And the films that HAD been made in Mass, like STRANGLER and EDDIE COYLE, were never shown on television.

    So when we watched JAWS and heard the actual New England accents of the extras, saw the Cape light and New England seashore, we knew were were seeing Massachusetts and the world we knew on screen. I remember as a kid, in the early 80s, visiting a friend who lived on the Vineyard and he took us around to some of the locations where Jaws was filmed, particularly the beach where Brody’s son sees the guy in the rowboat get attacked, and Brody’s house. Brody’s house looked EXACTLY the same–the rusty swingset was still in the front yard.

  11. And, about nine years ago I found this amazing typo in TV Guide:

    “8 p.m. 5 – 6 – 9 JAWS **** (1975) Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw. A New England police chief, a shark hunter and a scientist have a detective who thinks she is the ice-pick killer he is after. Directed by Paul Verhoeven. (R) (127m)

    I swear, I swear on all that is holy, I am not making that up.

  12. I think Nurse Ratched gets a bum deal. Sure, she turns out pretty dreaful in the end, but I feel certain that we’re supposed to feel torn throughout most of the movie, that she’s maybe just trying to do a tough job, a job made all the more difficult by, let’s face it, the new asshole on the bblock. It’s too easy to say she’s a scary villain. She’s much more of an onion than that.

  13. JAWS is a very important movie in my life. When I was a kid, there wasn’t much I wasn’t afraid of. I was smaller than the other kids, I couldn’t watch horror movies, I freaked out at sleepovers, and I had some unfortunate domestic type shit going on (which I’m not going to trouble you fine people with) that made my house a nerve-wracking place to be. But mostly I was afraid of sharks. I wasn’t afraid that I was going to get eaten by one, since going in the ocean was one of the few things I wasn’t scared of. No, I just couldn’t bear looking at the toothy fuckers. Something about the gaping maw and the empty black eyes just short-circuited something in my brain. Sharks represented all of the monsters of the world, the real ones that didn’t go away when you turned the lights on. But when I was 12 I decided that I’d had enough. The local station, Channel 20, was showing JAWS as the 8:00 movie, as they did roughly 14 times a year, and I decided that I was going to stay up by myself in the dark and watch every frame. So I did. Yeah, Bruce looks fake now, but he looked real enough to me then. And by the time Chief Brody made that motherfucker smile I’d conquered my fear of sharks. It was just the first fear I’d conquer on my epic journey to becoming the confident, take-no-shit individual who’s typing these words right now. JAWS made me man up for the first time, and that’s why it is and will always be my favorite movie.

    That and the “drink to your leg” scene. Best. Scene. Ever.

  14. “JAWS is a perfect overlap of artistic and commercial. It is a great movie that also happens to be a mainstream crowdpleaser. That’s how the summer movie started and that’s what you gotta aim for. This is not negotiable.”

    This is what I have been saying at AICN, and for that, i get insulted and accused of not being able to enjoy movies. Very few things irritate and make me mad as that, to be accused of not being able to enjoy movies because i can’t settle for any damn shit, and expect quality from the movies, regardless of genre. JAWS is one of the perfect examples of this, no matter what kind of genre the movie belongs, one should try to make the best one can out of it. Expecting a movie to be good is not just the demand of one genre but all of them. Historical, drama, comedy, war, thrillers, action, adventure, police procedual, western, SF, horror, whathaveyou.

    As for the Shakespeare argument, it’s clear people who pull this are very ignorant. Anybody who knows about Shakespearea nd his work know that he was a crowd-pleaser himself. His pays were writen to be enjoyed by the largest audience possible. He wrote plays to make money, to pay his bills, to get rich. But he did it by delivering the best quality product he could. Shakespeare’s plays were the blockbusters of the day. But he didn’t dumbed down, and that’s the difference. His plays wrre populist form of entertaiment. For his mroe high-brow creations, his poetry, those were comisisoned by the rich noblemen, which Shakespeare wrote specifically for them under a personal contract, for the nobleman’s personal pleasure. The plays, they were made for the people.

    Whenever somebone comes up with the excuse “it’s not supposed to be Shakespeare”, then you can tell imediatly that person is an idiot, an ignorant, a dumb fool and an asshole.

    And on a personal note, in an era when a very smart movie made exquisetly like THE DARK KNIGHT gets to the the top earner movie of the previous 10 years, there just is no excuse whatsoever to justify dumb stupid crap movies like Mickey Bay’s TRANSFORMERS, or Emmerich’s 2012 or JJ Abrams’s STAR TREK. No excuse whatsoever. Even AVATAR is found wanting.

  15. Jaws was such a big movie that, in the small city I live in, lines were literally around the block. It’s also the only time I know of that the movie theater here had assigned seating.

    Jaws 2 – When I was a kid, I used to be able to tell by reading director interviews if a director was going to fuck up a movie. I had a weird sixth sense for it. I remember finding an interview with Jeanott Szwarc in an old Marvel comic where he said something like “Yeah, Jaws was good. But, let’s be honest, they’ll never show it in film school.” And that kind of pretension, to me, encapsulates everything about why Jaws 2 kind of sucks. The subtext of a statement like that is “I don’t get Jaws, I think it’s kind of stupid, and I don’t really want to be here because I’m better than this, but I like success and money so I’m going to make the movie”. It’s a movie made in bad faith.

  16. Holy shit, “drink to your leg”? I haven’t seen Jaws in decades, but that line to me means Mark Gor slinging his dead appendage onto the bar table in A Better Tomorrow (spoiler). Mayyyyybe I was out to lunch on its inspiration. Sudden revelatory insight time.

  17. Oh, and Vern, don’t sweat the Post. Much of its readership knows its biggest strength is ease of handling when one hand’s on a subway strap.

  18. BTW, Rocky Horror might be the second highest earner from 75, but it wasn’t the second highest earner in 75. Rocky Horror got trounced when it came out; nearly all its cash came from midnight screenings over the years. Which I’m sure you know, but might be lost on a younger generation of filmatists.

  19. I’m wondering at what age to unleash the greatness of this film on my Son? I was 9 and it was a good old scary time at the movies.

  20. First up I love Jaws and it’s one of the few American-made 1970s I like. I’m definitely not on the bandwagon of “The 70s was the greatest film-making decade ever!!” As Devin at Chud said By the end of the 60s Hollywood was forgetting how to make good movies. So then the kids who were bitter and obsessed with ‘realism’ and ‘issues’ took over and made a bunch of boring crap that it seems every film student and snob gobbles up.

    A select and vocal few of them (Troma’s Llyod Kaufman being one of them) is pretty big into the whole Spielberg and Lucas ruined movies forever with Jaws and Star Wars because the 70s were so awesome with their ‘realism’ and ‘issues’ and then those two came along and made movies people actually wanted to watch and were entertaining thus ceasing the maturity and language of film. I believe Goddard also has made many mentions of this as well.

    So anyone here entertains this theory/belief? That making movies people want to see is bad.

  21. @geoffreyjar

    I wouldn`t put it that way. As much as i love blockbusters, the succes of Jaws and Starwars definetly changed the hollywood system to the worse. It`s not a question about making movies, that people want to see. It`s a question of making movies people THINK they want to see. It`s about making movies, which are designed to please as many people as possible instead of making a great movie. George Lucas didn`t make starwars because he wanted to earn a lot of money. He made it because he loved the sfi-fi serials and cliffhangers. Nobody believed that starwars would be a succes, not even Lucas.

    Micheal Bay didn`t make Transformers because he loves robots or the cartoons. He made it so he could make a lot of money. And he knows that sfx brings the crowds to the cinemas, that`s what the succes of starwars taught Hollywood. I thing the results speaks for themselves.

  22. Jareth Cutestory

    May 13th, 2010 at 8:46 am

    geoffreyjar: Into which category would you put a film like CHINATOWN, in the “people want to see it” category or the “boring crap” category? How about DAYS OF HEAVEN or MCCABE & MRS MILLER? I’d take any of those films over JAWS without thinking twice.

  23. biomechanical bell end

    May 13th, 2010 at 9:03 am

    I think people are a little hard on the shark effects in jaws. Bruce only looks wrong when you start to see real shark footage towards the end of the movie. And i still prefer the real fakeness of a big rubber shark to the fake fakeness of most modern cgi effects, it never detracts from whats happening onscreen.

  24. I think I speak for some of the other posters here when I say: PLEASE VERN FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WRITE THAT BOOK!

    Oh yeah, Jaws, yeah, it’s OK I guess.

  25. Well, geoffreyjar, I’m definitely of the opinion that popularity rarely equals quality. JAWS being one exception. AVATAR being one example.

  26. I think saying that the 70s were when filmmakers forgot how to make movies that people wanted to see is oversimplifying it. The 70s happened because people no longer wanted to see the movies that Hollywood thought they wanted to see. I mean, by the late 60s when the world was turning into a very different place, they were still trying to sell Frankie Avalon and Rock Hudson movies to the public, and ticket sales were way down. People were tired of sanitized bullshit that had no bearing on their own lives, so when a new generation of directors started delivering films that seemed to take place in the real world, through the more naturalistic acting styles developed years earlier by Brando and Dean and the then-revolutionary practice of location shooting, people responded. These WERE the movies that people wanted to see. Of course, like any movement, what was once revolutionary eventually becomes stale, and by the time Star Wars and Jaws came out, audiences were ready to fantasize again, which led to the boom of escapist entertainment in the 80s. Of course, then the pendulum swung back somewhat in the 90s when indie films became popular amongst people who had once again become tired of phony films they couldn’t relate to. I’m not really sure where we’re at nowadays, but rest assured that the pendulum is always in motion. Breaking films down into “movies people want to see” and “movies about issues” is disingenuous and doesn’t take into account the ever-changing tastes of the audience.

  27. I guess this is bad form, and I hope it doesn’t count as spam, but I thought this was a really good think piece about the “Blame Steven” phenomenon (“Spielberg ruined movies, man!”) and how it’s bullshit.


    I might quibble with some of the details, but I think it’s pretty much right. I see “Blame Steven” as a kind of consoling fantasy that the Jeanott Scwarz’s of world embrace because it makes them feel better. It’s ressentiment masquerading as history.

  28. I’m working on something at the moment inspired by jaws iv.
    2 words. ghost shark. michael caine vs a see through shark.

  29. its non corporeal, so yes.

  30. Sold. But stay away from JAWS IN SPACE, that shit’s mine.

  31. I was thinking it would make a good hulk foe.
    also, I was thinking vampire hulk.

    but since I probably am not going to get to pitch the idea of hulk turning into a vampire and fighting a ghost shark in latveria to marvel, I figured maybe I could get some cash and ask michael caine if he was interested.

  32. I’m really like Jaws 2. You might appreciate some of it’s slasher film elements. It’s not great, but it’s fun…and it’s still got Roy Scheider.

  33. JAWS 2 is my least favorite of the sequels because it’s so ALMOST good that it’s frustrating. At least the other two sequels are just horrendous right from the start so they can be enjoyed simply as cheesy monster movies, the kind that the first JAWS stolidly fought against being. JAWS 2 has a foot in both worlds, and it suffers for it.

    I do like that its not good enough for it just to be a shark; it has to be a hideously scarred shark. After all, why would anyone be afraid of a 25-foot Great White? That’s not extreme enough. You gotta fuck up its face like it’s a Dick Tracey villain.

  34. Stuntcock-The sooner the better. (Unless the kids an infant. Then he probably won’t comprehend what’s going on.) Actually take back that first statement. I’d wait till he’s six or seven. I think I might’ve seen it prior to that age, but I’m not sure. I do know that my dad dragged me to Jurassic Park when I was five, even though I wanted to see some movie about a monkey. It scared the bejeezus out of me, but I’m glad I saw it. Your son will be proud to say that he saw Jaws at such a tender age. So get curruptin.

    I also saw almost every James Bond movie before I was in middle school, if that counts for anything.

  35. jaws in space, eh?
    it worked for leprechaun.

  36. one thing vern,
    your gi joe analogy doesn’t work 100%.
    if you were to change the concept of gi joe from men with silly nicknames and silent ninjas to something dramatic and important, it would cease to be gi joe.
    after all there is a movie called the story of gi joe starring mick from rocky.
    at some point you can change the source material so much to ‘the fans’ or whoever the target demographic is will disown it, so while yes, you can make an important movie based on gi joe, it would be easier to just make a movie called the hurt locker or platoon than to do that.
    so really, for the first time ever I must disagree, its stupid to expect a movie that is banking on it being dumb fun to be some exploration of the human soul.
    obviously while you can indeed make a huge explosion filled movie like akira or casshern that actually have something to say about the human condition, a movie that is designed to not be smart like commando or ninja terminator can’t have something to say because its designed not to.
    maybe I took what you said out of context and it is 7 14 am and I haven’t slept, but as far as I can tell, my revelation last year that actually, no, you can’t make a good movie if you are trying to make a bad movie stands, as long as specifically western studios make movies they think fans of cartoon and comic properties will want, nolan lucked out and got someone at wb who was smart enough to realise bb could be good.
    I must sleep, but really while summer blockbusters can be smart, that specific point of gi joe is a stickler.

  37. jaws in space is a damn good idea.

  38. WS – Thanks for the link. It’s nice to see someone pointing out all the massively successful movies that were around before Spielberg (and Lucas) somehow invented the blockbuster. That is one of those myths that gets repeated so often that people just accept it as fact. Like Citizen Kane inventing a brand new language of cinema out of thin air. I guess the truth of them building on what came before doesn’t make for as good a story.

  39. geoffreyjar: the only problem with post Jaws and Star Wars Hollywood is that for decades now you’ve had a bunch of jackasses who have tried to reproduce Spielberg’s and Lucas’ success, but not their quality and that’s no fault of Spielberg’s and Lucas

    anyway Jaws is without a doubt one of the best movies ever made

    I remember seeing it for the first time when I was like 5 years old on TNT, it freakin’ blew me away man, needless to say afterward whenever I would take a bath I would try to reenact Jaws with a plastic boat

    I saw Alien around that age too, what I remember most though is seeing Sigourney Weaver in her tiny spacewoman panties

    anyway on a related note, would you mind reviewing Jurassic Park one day Vern? I’ve always wanted to know your thoughts on it

  40. edc – I see what you’re saying, but I think there is a possibility of a “better” GI JOE that would work. The movie was enjoyable because of being such an endless barrage of silliness and ineptitude. But I can be down with ninjas and metal-faced guys. I think someone who is not Stephen Sommers could conceivably take the idea of the colorful gimmicky elite team and make it into a comic-booky-but-not-as-stupid movie with actual well choreographed action scenes, special effects that aren’t hilariously awful, etc. It could still have ninjas and jetpacks but it would be a little less Power Rangers and a little more PREDATOR maybe.

    But then again you could argue that the terrible GI JOE might still be more enjoyable than the good one. I don’t know. You raise an interesting point.

    Maybe another example for what you’re saying is CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE. I know I made that same argument for that one. That’s a movie I thought was completely misunderstood by critics, that would be irreparably damaged if any of it was taken more seriously. That’s one that’s completely on purpose. They could’ve found something better for Bernie Mac to do, but otherwise there’s not much room for improvement there in my opinion.

  41. Vern’s line about how Quint “cruelly called attention to the softness of his hands” is the funniest thing I’ve read all day! Great review!

  42. ha ha, just noticed the “BRUCE” icon!!!

  43. vern,
    brother, we’re on the same page, I think I was taking the you point out of context early this morning.

  44. I love how someone clumsily painted some blood (but not a lot of it) on Roy’s machete in that poster!

    Also, I’m disappointed to hear that comment from J2’s director, since my impression of that movie has always been that of a loving salute to the first film.

    (Incidentally, I watched and enjoyed J2 first many years before first watching J1, but I understand and agree why J1 is superior.)

  45. geoffreyjar, the 70s was the greatest era of american filmmaking. What you think it was, the 80s?? No way!

  46. I think expectations are a crucial factor for your enjoyment of a summer blockbuster or any flick for that matter. Last night, I went to see The Secret in Their Eyes,(El secreto de sus ojos), the Best Oscar Foreign Flick winner, and I thought it’d be something with important themes that took itself all serious like, but it was just another police procedural stirred up with an unrequited love theme that took itself all serious like. I mean thrillers are good and all, but I had higher expectations ya know? I’m totally a fan of Jaws. I think it’s a hugely entertaining movie with a lot of interesting themes you could go off on, but if I’d gone into it cold, expecting something deep itstead of a monster movie, I bet I’d have been disappointed.

  47. Y’all have demonstrated a saintly level of restraint in answering geoffreyjar. This is one civilized place. On most film-related blogs, a guy like him would be beaten, lit on fire and and dragged behind a car for his obvious trolling. He’s like someone insisting that Folger’s Crystals tastes better than coffee made in a French press from freshly-ground, properly-roasted beans and that everyone who prefers the latter is a snob who’s faking it.

    JAWS is greatness. Funny thing about the shark…if you saw the film when you were young, Bruce looked real and that impression got burned into your brain, so that even on repeat viewings, you remember it the way it looked the first time when it scared the shit out of you. Like how your dad still seems huge and intimidating, even when you get bigger and he gets older. But someone younger seeing the same film for the first time might find it laughable.

    It’s inconceivable to me that someone wouldn’t find JAWS scary, or at least exciting. It’s like hearing people say that HALLOWEEN or ALIEN are too slow or predictable — it’s hard to even comprehend what they’re trying to say.

  48. “Y’all have demonstrated a saintly level of restraint ”

    frankbooth – Well of course. Who you think this place was, AICN? ;)

  49. Frankbooth – oh boy. How do I put this tactfully…

    Jaws – although I don’t dispute its mastery, I won’t go out of my way to watch this. Maybe it’s because I live in a seaside town over here and find nothing at all recognizable in the one Spielberg has drawn, maybe it’s because I just don’t find the characters relatable for the most part. It just doesn’t ring my bells.

    Look, despite this, and my known reservations about just about every film Spielberg has ever done, I am not a Spielberg hater. Very often his work is the best thing in the films, even when they’re not that great. “Minority Report” is a case in point.

    – I hated “Munich”** and think it’s one of the most over-rated movies of the last several years (take note that one fantastic performance, some good cinematography and “serious” themes does not compensate for glaring deficiencies in script, story, action-direction, or terrible over-use of cliche in what’s supposed to be at least partially based on real events.) I know a lot of people who agree with me on this one, but the film seems to get a pass in the general press and in forums like this. I’m not sure why that is – perhaps because it was supposed to be “Spielberg’s return to form”.
    – I loved “Jurassic Park”, which is where I think his talents were best served.
    – I didn’t like “Minority Report”, but that’s more to do with the fact that Spielberg’s skill allows him to create a fantastic future world that he could do pretty much anything with and he wastes it on a story and characters that are forgettable and a central premise that had me pulling my hair out. Seriously, you have a world where everything anybody does is recorded and saved, creating a fascinating scenario where people’s actions could be “predicted” from their movements, hormone levels etc (as has already been discussed in a very low-tech way), and instead he goes for three psychics floating in a pool? Seriously, what the fuck?
    – I can’t watch “ET” for one reason only: the soundtrack by John Williams, which just ruins it for me. (SHUT UP WITH YOUR FUCKING HORRIBLE SENTIMENTAL VIOLINS!!!) But there again there’s nothing wrong with the work that Spielberg has done. It has a classic story and characters, and without the horrible violins I believe it would be as great as its critics claim.
    – I’ve never seen #4 but I can watch any of the first three “Indiana Jones” films time and time again and still enjoy them. Yes, including “Temple of Doom”.
    – I really liked “Duel”, thought it was a great tightly-made little thriller. Again, this kind of thing is where Spielberg excels.
    – I haven’t seen “Hook” since I was very young indeed, so I can’t remember too much about it. I hated “Jurassic Park 2”, but then who didn’t?

    Anyway, moving on:

    – I don’t like “Halloween”. The soundtrack is great but pretty much all of the characters in it just annoy me. Yes, including Donald Pleasance. I’m not even sure if I was supposed to care for the babysitter characters or not, but if so then the movie failed horribly, because I simply didn’t. I can’t get emotionally invested in characters I don’t believe in. Take that element out of the movie and you’re left with a few classic jump scares and a few “look behind you!” moments, plus a seriously fantastic creepy minimalist soundtrack (if ET’s soundtrack breaks the movie for me, then Halloween’s almost makes it.) Yes, the dog scene and the “coming out of the closet” kills are great, but hell, there aren’t many horror movies that don’t have at least one or two memorable bits. Seriously, kids, if you want to watch classic Carpenter, watch the damn “Thing”.

    – Alien, I can get behind, although I don’t think it’s aged that well. I also think it was surpassed by its sequel. Still a fantastic soundtrack, good cast of characters, and a very creepy movie though. I will happily admit that it’s about a million times better than “Halloween”, if that makes you happy.

    **I went to see “Munich” with two friends. All three of us came out agreeing that Eric Bana’s performance was fantastic but the movie sucked as a whole.

  50. Jareth Cutestory

    May 16th, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Stefaneechi: A few things about THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES:

    – the dialogue was often hilarious, maybe not as good as some of Bunk’s lines in THE WIRE, but close.

    – the stadium scene was an incredible piece of film-making, the best technical work I’ve seen since CHILDREN OF MEN; yet it reigned itself in to serve the story, not get all in your face with flashiness. As far as I’m concerned, it’s up there with the opening scene in TOUCH OF EVIL and the bamboo forest scene in HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.

    – deft handling of unreliable narration; the film undercuts Espósito’s motives for writing his book in a purely visual way, without the big dumb expository scene you’d find in almost any other Oscar winner.

    – the tension between the two timelines in the film has some powerful stuff to communicate about the possibility of knowing the truth about anything.

    – the way the script refuses to explicitly mention the 1974 coup and its resulting brutality, but hints at it throughout the film, creates a really ominous atmosphere, and the way this teases out a bleak message about the effectiveness of law is really skillfully done.

    – Soledad Villamil’s facial expressions are sublime.

  51. Jareth Cutestory

    May 16th, 2010 at 8:03 am

    Paul: I pretty much agree with you on Spielberg. I’m probably harder on SAVING PRIVATE RYAN than I am on MINORITY REPORT, but that’s mostly because I think MINORITY REPORT is too slight to care about one way or another (likewise CLOSE ENCOUNTERS). I can’t stand the INDIANA JONES sequels, but think that RAIDERS is pretty much the best, most heartfelt empty spectacle the man is capable of.

    But I think MUNICH in his best late-career film, and in some respects marks a huge breakthrough: the guy actually managed to make a film set in the past that had something to say about the present. My biggest complaint about Speilberg is that his expertly-crafted films have absolutely no depth whatsoever, or, even worse, succeed in sentimentalizing past tragedies (AMISTAD, SCHINDLER’S LIST) much in the way FORREST GUMP does. But MUNICH suggested to me an encouraging reversal of this tendency. Also, the script for MUNICH played the thrill of violent revenge against the emotional toll it takes with more nuance and tact than I thought Spielberg capable of. Compared to the moral oversimplification in his other films, the uncertain grays in MUNICH really surprised me.

    Of course, putting the World Trade Center in the background at the end shows that Spielberg just can’t completely give up the habit of ham-fistedness.

  52. The only problem with SAVING PRIVATE RYAN for me is that bookended structure. So unnecessary and oversentimentally floods what supposed to be a “frank and honest” war movie.* Its like pouring chocolate syrup on chocolate chip pancakes. You don’t need it. Unfortunately Clint Eastwood followed that same playbook on FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS.

    That and well I might have to agree with a criticisim Oliver Stone made, I might have to question Tom Hanks’ character making the tactical decision for his infantry unit to fight a tank. I mean I appreciate your motive and all, but so did that horseback riding Polish cavalry charging against Panzers in ’39. Nobody denies the courage, just the decision in the first place. And well the result.

    As for “sentimentalizing past tragedies,” I’ll disagree with your perspective. Whether one’s filmatic qualms at AMISTAD or LIST, both were made by the 1990s with that contemporary knowledge in dealing with the past. We both see those movies already knowing the ultimate outcome: Slavery (after a bloody attempted revolt) is abolished, and the Nazis are destroyed. thus those endings reflect that destiny. THE GREY ZONE though maybe is the better movie about the Holocaust because it lacks such an ending, which makes sense because how many trapped within that tragedy could what would happen?

    But I wouldn’t just dismiss LIST, not at all. that and AMISTAD, Spielberg highlighted average people, or people unremarkable in the grand historical scheme of things, who make their stand in their own fashion and ways against some societal/political injustice. It’s absolutely not easy, the stacks are greatly against them, the reward is morally nominal as merely a historical token victory, and the risk might be everything. I mean in times like those (and in ways today), many people just do nothing. Maybe who want to stop something bad hope for the best, but don’t because they feel it can’t be done, or that its not worth it.

    It’s liberal sentimentality, but its not the worst attitude to sport.

    Also we must remember the context. I mean only Spielberg perhaps could get comfortable funding for a 200 minute Black & White movie that doesn’t exactly pull back the punches of the brutality. Did many think Spielberg, Mr. E.T., could really go through with the content, much less kids getting shot up full of holes like swiss cheese?

    Even with that carthartic-release “upbeat” ending, its not exactly an inconsequential feel good time at the movies. Man I remember my audience damn cringing at that scene when the Nazis luring those kids to those trucks using children’s music. That’s good filmmaking.

    So yes I get your criticism, but I think Spielberg is at his best when he isn’t trying to play some sort of popcorn game or whatever stuff like INDY IV to keep his budgets and brand name valid. He is at his best when he doesn’t give a fuck if everyone isn’t with him or not. I remember that CHUD interview, or that SPIELBERG ON SPIELBERG documentary on TCM where he is actively pimping in passion for A.I. and MUNICH and EMPIRE OF THE SUN, movies that bombed in theatres and with many critics. Wish we get that Spielberg more.

    Or for that matter, maybe his most entertaining movie from the 2000s in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN, he only directed at the last minute after Gore Verbinski quit and no other director star (Fincher, Crowe, etc.) would step in to pinch-hit.

    *=Sorry Stevie but someone already beat you to the punch on that near definitive WW2 “real grunts on the ground” drama: THE BIG RED ONE, its entire budget probably couldn’t even cover the opening sequence’s cost in RYAN.

  53. Jareth Cutestory

    May 16th, 2010 at 10:28 am

    RRA: The framing device in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN also creates a small but entirely avoidable technical problem: Damon’s character “tells” the story, but it’s Hanks’ character’s perspective throughout the bulk of the film. So Old Damon is recounting a story he didn’t witness.

    I’m not the kind of guy to insist on literal narrative clarity above all else, but that framing device in SPR is just amateur hour from a story construction point of view, and it’s only there for the most manipulative, propagandistic reasons. Even veterans I’ve talked to said that they found the unequivocal chest-thumping a bit much to digest.

    But you make good points about SCHINDLER’S LIST. It’s more of a success than a failure for me.

  54. While I like “AI” and “Munich”, my personal favorite late career Spielberg movie is actually “War of the Worlds”, which I see as Spielberg’s version of “The Birds”.

    Ok, I’ll admit, there are a couple of wonky scenes; for example, why doesn’t Ray just get some food out of the refrigerator instead of making peanut-butter sandwiches for the kids? (Although the call-back to “ET” at the end of that scene is nice). But, ultimately, I think bitching about plausibility is missing the point. “War of the Worlds” is a fever dream movie that strips away layers of reality as it goes along. Near the end, the characters actually end up in this weird blood-soaked fairy tale. Some movie critic I read ingeniously compared it to “Mullholland Drive” and “Inland Empire”.

    Even as a movie about terrorism, I think I still prefer it to “Munich” because it’s less carefully considered. Unlike “Munich”, It seems to be made purely from the gut. Which I prefer. As far as I’m concerned Hollywood movies need more Id, less super-ego.

  55. WS – completely agree. Glad to see Vern and I aren’t the only ones that felt like that one was a really outstanding effort.

  56. I just watched e.t. last night, it was a lot of fun, especially to see a child getting drunk and giving a future baywatch babe her first panty moisting.

  57. Jareth Cutestory

    May 16th, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    WS: I never bothered with WAR OF THE WORLDS because I try to avoid movies with Tom Cruise in them. But your comparison to Lynch’s films kind of piques my interest.

    edc: I’ll just assume you saw the non-walkietalkified version of E.T. No one on earth, with the possible exception of Tipper Gore, prefers the second version, do they?

  58. @ Jared

    I enjoyed parts of Secret, I just don’t think it was as great a flick as I thought I’d be seeing. It was pretty corny, sentimental and predictable too, though the acting was good. I’d rather a more specific mention of the coup or something regarding the general lack of law and orderliness or whatever, because all that business about dude with his get out of jail free card and other dude getting shot, rather than being understated, came across as a simplified cartoon version of the violent political reality in Argentina’s past. Something they still have to come to grips with I think. Maybe that’s why it’s so maladroitly addressed. The best thing about the flick is probably the Rashoman like viewpoints of the 2 leads, one who looks forward and the other to the past. And what’s the decision? To look forward!! Bury all that messy historical murder and such, and just fuhgeddaboudit!! Yeah, the best thing about this flick is the political analogy you could wring out of it. I’m sure if I was Argentinian it would resonate for me, but I’m not so it just felt like a cheesy thriller. I did like that stadium scene. I actually pointed at the screen, saying “There he is!!!”, so I did get into the spirit of it all eh? The character I liked best was the alcoholic side kick, and main dude really reminds me of Alan Rickman.

    In any case, of the 5 nominated Foreign Language nominations, I’d already seen A Prophet and White Ribbon and I think both of those were better, and at the very least had more gravitas.

  59. Maybe somebody mentioned this already, maybe not, but Dreyfuss’ character is Hooper (first name Matt), not Murphy. Or maybe I missed something.

    Speaking of Godard…
    “Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film.” – Werner Herzog

  60. Every day I love Werner Herzog a little more.

  61. Jareth Cutestory

    May 17th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Stefaneechi: You’re right that THE SECRET IN THEIR EYES is sentimental. I haven’t decided yet if the sentiment was thrown at the audience as a bit of a red herring, sort of like the “cute” ending of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

    The film also suffered a bit in the way a few scenes were staged, particularly the office scenes. I think the director’s background in television did him no favors there.

    Apparently the stadium scene took three months of pre-production, three days of shooting, nine months of postproduction, and it used two hundred extras.

    Mr. Majestyk: I’d love to know what Herzog’s top ten kung fu movies are.

  62. Great job, Vern.

  63. So I saw SHARKNADO! I know some locals don’t deal well with fanboys/Internet going apeshit over movies before they get to see them, especially so called “movies so bad they’re good” which I kinda understand.

    But regardless, I kinda enjoyed it. It’s still your typical Asylum $200 Z-movie production, but the tongue & cheek humor seems to work more (or more intentional I guess) than your usual Asylum picture. I like how the lead hero gives a William Shatner-esque hamtastic performance fitting for a film like this. Not as funny as people are making it out to be (which I’m sure Vern will mention if he ever reviews this) but dammit, that ending made the movie for me. That’s how you climax a movie titled SHARKNADO!

  64. SHARKNADO’s last 20 minutes are gold. The rest of it you can just kinda keep on in the background while you do other stuff. As RRA said, if you’re the type of person who is on occasion known to watch shit like MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS or SHARKS IN VENICE then you’ve seen it all before. Your mind’s not gonna be blown. The whole SHARKNADO phenomenon feels like a bunch of normal people who usually watch whatever the hell is easy to find in the Redbox heard about this one wacky little piece of crap and decided it just had to be the craziest thing ever. I mean, a TORNADO with SHARKS in it?! #amirite If it’s not your first rodeo, most of it’s no big deal. But taking part in the phenomenon has been fun. It’s not every day the public at large seems to like ridiculous shitty movies as much as I do.

  65. I don’t like that kind of stuff because it feels so manufactured, what makes movies like TROLL 2 and THE ROOM great is that the people behind them didn’t know they were making an awful movie, the folks running the Asylum sure know it’s bad

  66. Mr. M – I dunno, I think there are amusing moments in the movie before the climax. I love that shot of the guy’s eaten off leg, then camera pans to his face and then he screams. Total Troma moment there. Plus dialogue like this.

    “Storm’s dying down.”
    “How can you tell?”
    “Not as many sharks flying around.”

    Overall I suppose if the movie had been more committed to the camp like the PIRAHNA remake, the film would’ve been better or more engaging overall. But I was amused none the less. Best summer 2013 movie finale outside of F&F6.

    Griff – Usually I would agree with you. You can’t “make” a cult movie. Either people respond to it and waste their lives talking about it or cos-playing it*, or they don’t. Shit like this is unpredictable. Why SHARKNADO! getting this attention and not, oh I don’t know, GHOST SHARK? I have no idea. But its not normal for Mia Farrow of all random people to tweet about SHARKNADO! I mean that’s….kinda impressively random.

    *=Could PAIN & GAIN the cult movie happen? Mr. Majestyk, which character would you cos-play as? I’ve got dibs on the ninja disguise.

  67. Happy b-day, S.S..

    That clapperboard!

  68. It’s over five years later and I somehow never noticed frankbooth’s comments. I will not defend myself, as Mr. Majestyk said I greatly simplified the situation. I did not write it with trolling in mind but to start a conversation due to Jaws’ entry in American cinema history.

    Reading it again it totally looks like trolling so sorry about that!

  69. The Original Paul

    October 12th, 2015 at 1:50 am

    Geoffrey – it’s kinda funny, because I went looking for the post you were referring to, came across an old one of mine, and thought “Man, I was harsh back then!” On two films in particular.

    ET… yeah, I still think the soundtrack makes it way too corny. It’s just so overdone. It’s not a corny film. But there are moments in that film that have managed to stick with me for over twenty years nonetheless.

    HALLOWEEN… all I can say is, since then, I’ve read the script; and it’s so clear exactly what was intended. The director and / or actors just missed the mark completely. That scene where the girl keeps saying “totally” over and over again, like a robot? Read the script without watching the performance and it’s instantly obvious that on the second-to-last “totally” she realises that she’s used this slang too many times, and the last “totally” is making fun of herself for doing it. None of that comes through in the film – nobody has ever talked like the girl does in the actual finished product. So yeah… I used to blame the script, but like Halle Berry and Ray Park in X-MEN, it’s actually all about the performance. (That and the “teenagers” all look like they’re in their mid-thirties, especially Jamie Lee and the guy with glasses who gets nailed to the wall. That guy looks like he’s been a professional bodybuilder for the last decade.)

    But all of that aside… HALLOWEEN, at least when Donald Pleasance or the teens aren’t wittering on about something, is creepy as hell, with an iconic score and great atmosphere. I said it was my favorite HALLOWEEN film in the recent HALLOWEEN 2 thread, and I stand by that (although H:20 has always had a spot in my heart because it was actually the first HALLOWEEN film I ever saw, and also the only one I’ve seen in a cinema.)

  70. The Original Paul

    October 12th, 2015 at 1:53 am

    Oh, and I didn’t bring up SCHINDLER’S LIST. Which is probably the best thing Spielberg has ever done, at least out of what I’ve seen.

  71. Paul- H20 was the only film in the series I saw in the cinema as well, so I´ve always had a soft spot for it. Hearing the theme thundering in the speakers (even if it´s just John Ottmans version) gave me chills. I find it very solid entry. Way more enjoyable than any other HALLOWEEN sequel.

  72. @Paul Funnily when I re-read my comment I kinda of said to myself oh man I pulled a Paul (in that I said something really controversial (I say that with love by-the-way). The difference is you make your case and back-it-up and defend it, my post pretty much says “Y’know that 70’s era of director-driven Hollywood movies that you guys love so much? WELL THEY ALL SUCK AND THE CORPORATE MOVIES THEY WERE REPLACED WITH WHERE BETTER!!” and then I left and never came back. I wasn’t trying to say that at all but that is how it came off.

    Even when I posted that I didn’t believe that, also since then I’ve read the very excellent book EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS by Peter Biskind, a real good behind-the-scenes of the 70s director-driven era. Btw @Jareth Cutestory, I’m not big Mallick fan but I’d have to re-watch Days of Heaven to tell you and I’m not in love with Altman like so many are (I do not dislike him though) but I really like McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Altman’s other 70s output (funnily except for M.A.S.H. and then I become an asshole by saying I like Popeye the best for being such a unique marriage of Altman, 70’s director-driven Hollywood and and big dumb spectacle Hollywood). I’d still have to be an asshole and admit I’d watch Jaws almost any other time over them though.

    PS – I was never a big E.T. fan, though I’d probably like it more now if I bothered to re-watch it which I will someday. I still really love Halloween, I finally saw it on the big screen two years ago and even the two assholes who heckled the movie from beginning-to-end didn’t (completely) ruin it for me, I think it overcomes it’s casting “problems” (which do not really bother me as they do you). I remember liking H20 but I’m afraid of re-watching it in case it hasn’t held up. Schindler’s List is still good even though there is a movement by the anti-Spielberg crowd to say it sucks, like most everything from those guys, they are wrong (funnily those are the types I was railing against in my original post that went so totally wrong).

  73. Meant to say that I know EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS is very entertaining but it’s accuracy has been called into question many times. Still, even if fictional, I think it gives a good handle on what made and drove that movement. Made more special because it is doubtful we will ever it again here in America.

    I know I said I wouldn’t defend myself so I do not mean the following to come off as one: but I will say I think when I posted that awful comment above I was just coming off reading Joe Eszterhas’s The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood, which is really but entertaining but has an axe to grind something fierce. In it Eszterhas has a strong anti-director stance and as such has few, if any, nice words to say about the directors of said 70s films (he says they are great but feels that the director’s stole too much of the credit from the writers). That book left an impression on me and along with being tired of The Llyod Kaufmans of the world crying about how Spielberg and Lucas RUINED EVERYTHING I posted the way I did when what I meant to ask was “What do you think about Jaws being the death knell of the director-driven era of Hollywood?” not “Those great and unique movies you love suck! Long live Money-driven producer-run products!”

  74. Spielberg and Lucas didn’t ruin anything, they made the movies they wanted to make, what “ruined everything” was the corporate mindset takeover of Hollywood, the treatments of movies as nothing more than products same as detergent or shoelaces.

    Hollywood has always been about the money, but the people that ran it used to understand they were doing something fundamentally different than any other business, the whole “dream factory” thing, today the people that run it are the same bean counting corporate assholes that run any other business.

    And absolutely none of that has anything to do with Spielberg and Lucas.

  75. Old news – this is still one helluva great movie. More iconic moments and dialogue in two hours than in twenty post-millennial cgi blockbusters. First kill is beautifully terrifying, those guttural screams as disturbing as Janet Leigh’s shower-time demise. Quint’s nails on the chalkboard, and his take-down of the towns ignorance – “I’ll kill him for ya, but it ain’t gonna cost no measly three thousand”, and his subsequent salty you-are-all-idiots-and-are-gonna-die swagger. The corpse in the boat. The hand in the sand. Brody shelling out chum off the back of The Orca and Huge Motherfucker suddenly rears his head.

    “Shark in the pond!”, and the first proper view of beast gliding sideways toward a capsized sailor with jaws open, shot from above – holy fuck it’s huge! Primordial Terror might be the technical term, but Shitting In Pants is the physical response.

    Nice little Spielbergian family moment with son mimicking dad at the dinner table, mimicked by E.T. and Elliot a few years later. Capital/Corporate greed overriding public safety under threat of Rogue killer with collateral damage = Jurassic Park.

    The momentum Vern mentioned is intoxicating. References to a ‘Rogue’ killer shark. Dialogue understated – “We’re gonna need a bigger boat”, spoken casually by an excellent Scheider. Character information fed bit by bit, like audience chum – Brody hates the water, a near-drowning incident is implied but details withheld. Hooper is geek-boy fascinated with sharks because as a boy his boat was torn apart by one. Quint, well, USS Indianapolis…

    I also like the final credits longshot, how you kinda have to look hard to make out Brody and Hooper at the top right of the screen, drifting to shore, all is right with the world as the sun goes down.

    In conclusion – “Here’s to swimming naked with bow-legged women!”

  76. This week was the annual outdoor showing of JAWS at a beach park in my area. I was pleased to hear the audience cheer at the end. This is still a great movie.

    For the record, though, Richard Dreyfuss’ character is named Matt Hooper, not Murphy as he’s called in Vern’s review. I suspect Vern was thinking of ROBOCOP, which is understandable.

  77. Thanks Curt. That is embarrassing. I fixed it.

  78. I watched this film earlier this week for what is probably only the second time ever. The first time I couldn’t have been more than 10, so, I didn’t remember anything beyond the basic premise and cast.

    Vern’s review is spot on. I can almost smell the saltwater and feel the sand. It’s that kind of an immersive, expertly crafted experience. Spielberg in full command of his craft for sure. It’s also really something for me to think of a time when there were no blockbusters, no tentpole event films, no summer movie season. Wild stuff.

    It’s a great film. A great buddy film. Very interesting characters, none of them heart-throbs or conventional heroes. Dreyfuss, Scheider, and Shaw: A spoiled rich boy dork, an uptight and ineffectual sheriff (afraid of the water, in thrall to the town council), and a crusty, drunk ,old weirdo. Hard to believe Shaw was only late-40s in this. The dude looked 60 and died just a few years later.

    It’s a very well-constructed and satisfying film that is not just a shark-as-slasher film but is also a sea adventure epic a la Moby Dick. The two halves of the film really couldn’t be more different.

    Another little bit of historical perspective that blows me away is that, in the pre-PG-13 world, this film somehow is rated fucking PG! It’s got full nudity in the first 10 minutes and multiple scenes of people getting devoured by sharks, including a particularly grisly scene near the end. The animated film ZOOTOPIA is rated PG, my friends. Unbelievable.

    p.s. Would you believe that what inspired me to watch this film is a single scene in the objectively execrable Dana Carvey film MASTER OF DISGUISE. I have no defense for my guilty pleasure enjoyment of some parts of that film, but I will say that Dana Carvey does a mean Robert Shaw.

  79. A bit timely to bring this up since they finally found the Indianapolis.

  80. I was worried you were not going to like Jaws. Dodged a bullet. I didn’t want to hate a fellow slasher movie fan.

  81. This and the original HALLOWEEN are still neck and neck for my favorite horror movie. I’m gonna borrow so much from the JAWS blueprint when I start writing I don’t give a fuck. Script was so tight you’d never believe it was based on such a mediocre novel.

    Oh and don’t feel bad Skani I have seen THE MASTER OF DISGUISE more than I’d like to admit and it was always worth it for that scene with Carvey as Tony Montana. Probably the last time I genuinely laughed at his Pacino impersonation. That and the weird ass turtle bit.

  82. Also meant to say I had a similar experience with THE THING recently. Saw it the first time when I was like 7 or 8. Unlike Skani though I watched it again a couple of times after. Last time was ’99 cause I remember I took that entire summer and spent it rewatching nothing but horror from all eras. Everything from FRANKENSTEIN to NEAR DARK and NIGHT OF THE DEMONS got a watch that summer.

    Anyhow I always liked it well enough but never saw what others did. That is until a couple weeks back. I watched it as a 34 year old and it completely floored me. Don’t know how it took so long but I finally understand it’s greatness and am really glad that I do.

  83. The Pacino scene is always great, Broddie. Like your experience with THING, It took me some time to warm to HALLOWEEN, because so many of my slasher expectations were shaped by subsequent, less-restrained slasher films (including the HALLOWEEN sequels), but HALLOWEEN definitely proves the less-is-more principle. It’s a true work of art.

    This review of Vern’s effectively captures the essence of his critical ethos, this quote in particular:

    “We all have a capacity to enjoy crappy movies. It is our right and perhaps our sacred duty. But I hate when people say or imply that that’s all you can expect, or all you can even want, from a big summer studio movie. It’s simply not the case, and never was. JAWS started this shit, and JAWS is not lacking.”

    Vern is more charitable than I am to some films, because he’s always focusing on what works, and championing what is original, or daring, or shows potential even if that potential is not fully realized or the execution falls short. Although I still find value in the more conventional evaluative thinking about films (ratings, letter grades, thumbs up/down), Vern’s ability to see beyond such dualism also allows him to see more deeply and that is a true gift that has helped me learn to see films and life differently. What I like about the above quote is how it illustrates that championing and appreciating weird, under-developed, forgotten and even conventionally shitty films is not incompatible with recognizing true works of greatness for what they are. Vern is always looking for embers of excellence or potential excellence wherever he can find them.

    Reading reviews like this and revisiting films and dialoging with you all improves my capacity to enjoy and be moved by films. I also do think aging plays a role, too. As we age and go through different experiences, or perhaps simply as a function of whatever mood or mind-state we happen to be in when we watch a film, we are able to see and appreciate different things. We see things we didn’t see before, or things connect with us in ways they didn’t previously. Cool stuff!

  84. There’s another timely reason for this being brought up now. It was reported that last weekend was the worst grossing one since September 2001, obvious as to why. Summers have been getting worse and worse lately in the movie business lately, what with cable stepping up their game with original programming, and studios relying entirely too much on the formulas that worked once before but are starting to wear thin. And with THE BFG turning into NBD, and the looming READY ONE PLAYER coming and not inspiring a lot of awe and confidence, it seems like even the granddaddy himself is losing his magic touch.

    Skani: What’s even more amazing is that this is still PG. AFAIK it’s never been re-submitted to the MPAA which seemingly means it’d get a PG-13. My go-to about this is how 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY is still rated G despite having, according to Martin Scorsese no less, one of the greatest death scenes in all of cinema when HAL disconnects the life support of the 3 astronauts (not to mention the monkeys killing animals each other in the beginning). I was thinking recently, when it was announced that BLADE RUNNER 2049 would be rated R, how the original (with a few insignificant cuts) could have skated by and gotten a PG-13 if it were just released a few years later or if the MPAA had implemented it a few years earlier.

  85. otw, it didn’t occur to me that a film would ever get re-submitted to the MPAA. Is that thing, outside of a film getting re-released in theaters?

    I would love to see something truly innovative and enjoyable from a major studio and that is not a sequel, universe, or franchise deal. Not getting my hopes up there. Fortunately, there is still some good, smaller-budgeted stuff out there. There are still people innovating and getting their films out there, just not typically getting major theatrical releases or big budgets.

  86. Skani that’s a reason I often revisit. Even something that I initially loathed. Perspective gained through life experience might definitely help you find something there that you likely never saw before. More often than not; and that’s the real beauty of the arts.

  87. Man, so many great and heartfelt comments today, about so many topics, here and in the BLOOD FATHER thread. Thank you all. I’m so glad you come here.

  88. Thank you for opening up and maintaining this dojo, Sensei Vern.

  89. We’re all equally glad to be priviliged enough to have you share this beautiful sanctuary with all of us Vern. This community is 2nd to none. I genuinely have nothing but the greatest love for you all.

  90. This is all making me happy because people I respect also respect movies that I highly respect. I saw The Thing for the first time in college in like 1999 and it immediately became one of my favorite movies ever. I’ve seen in a ton since, big screen a couple of times, and it never gets old. Even though I know everything that is going to happen, I still get a rush during some of the big scenes.

    Also, I saw Halloween on the big screen a few years ago and that movie totally needs to be seen on the big screen. I really hope that John Carpenter gets some inspiration to make another classic film but if all he does is make music, I’m ok with it. I’m hoping to go see him perform live in Chicago in November.

  91. Skani: I did the opposite of you, earlier this year I rewatched all the JAWS sequels for the first time since my youth. I remember not liking any of them but now I’m on Vern’s side with them. None of them come close to the original but like the TEXAS CHAINSAW sequels, each of the sequels offer something of their own that makes them unique and at least semi-entertaining/worthwhile.

    Broddie: Sounds like your Summer of ’99 was awesome! I totally agree with you on revisting stuff. I’ve recently had very good retrying things that I once really didn’t like. Either I wasn’t ready for them or I was just being an ass refusing to engage with the movie/comic/art on it’s own terms. I find I’m a much happier now even when I end up not really liking it.

    I first saw the Howard Hawk’s THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD before the Carpenter one. Didn’t even know there was a remake/another version until I got one of those Crestwood House monster books by Ian Thorne which went over the movie story. Don’t think it was the first gory movie I saw but it was a shock to my system when I rented it considering my age at the time.

    As far as I know an older movie only gets resubmitted if they did a new cut of it. Only one coming to mind though is STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, the original was G-rated but the Director’d Edition released on DVD got upped to PG (I guess modern MPAA finally agreed that the poor saps on the failed teleportation is kinda a bit much for the typical G-rate fare).

    I did get to see HALLOWEEN on the big screen a few years ago, unfortunately I was stuck next a couple who kept giggling and heckling the movie the ENTIRE time. Taught me to never go to BYOB screenings. With my recent trip seeing T2 on the big screen and have an asshole kid taking selfies the whole time, then someone bringing a screaming baby to a screening of CASTLE IN THE SKY, I’m starting to hate the idea of seeing classic movies the way they were meant to be seen on the big screen (luckily my nephew and I were the only ones in the theater for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND last week).

    Naturally, I second the love to you Vern for allowing us to converse like this and everyone else who posts here.

  92. JAWS 2 and TCM 2 are going on my watch-soon list. Maybe I’ll get ’em before the Halloween season ends. I still need to finish up URBAN LEGENDS, and I’ve got a few others in the queue. PIRANHA remake is one I’m overdue to see, so that’s happening. Likewise, with the CRAZIES remake. I missed both of those, so I’ve gotta double-back and close some of these loops. Still have to finish up the TERROR TRAIN revisit. Gonna watch THE GUEST again, as well as maybe DUEL. Also planning to watch THE BURNING, which will be a first-time watch.

  93. Watched VALENTINE last night, really enjoyed it, posted my thoughts in that movie’s thread.

    JAWS 2 is a fun lesser-retread of the original
    TCM2 is a masterpiece upon masterpieces
    I haven’t seen URBAN LEGENDS since it came out but I remember really not liking it, never bothered with the sequels.
    Wasn’t as crazy about PIRANHA remake (or the original for that matter) as everyone else is/was. They’re okay I guess, never bothered withe sequel 3DD.
    I liked THE CRAZIES remake but haven’t seen it since theaters.
    Watched TERROR TRAIN last October for my Halloween viewing extravaganza and enjoyed it.
    I really liked THE GUEST and and it makes me sad what has happened to it’s director.
    DUEL is excellent (I assume we’re talking about the Spielberg DUEL and not the HK movie THE DUAL or the anime DUAL?).
    THE BURNING may not be as good as reputation I think and be fore-warned that it is MUCH slower paced that most slashers but I do still like it. The killer chasing the kids as they try to escape their primary is still oddly a bit unique and helps give us changing scenery (at least somewhat, I mean it’s still the woods and building made out of logs but still).

  94. Yo Vern, let me chime in with the thanks for creating this place in the first place. The way how you handle things here, both in the way you look at movies and how you treat the people who comment here, even the annoying ones, definitely shaped this comparibly small community we got here.

    And shoutout to my fellow movie lovers and comment writers on here, even if you make me feel stupid on a regular basis, just by observing, analyzing and saying things, that are much more intelligenterer than what I would ever come up with.

    I’ve been burned by several other online communities that were all fun and happiness for a while, but then either got deserted or turned into something not as much fun, so I’m glad that at least this place exists and I hope it will stay like this.

    Group hug? Group hug?

  95. CJ, I frequently find your comments enlightening. I think it’s all about a genuine appreciation for these genres and for the Vern code, and as long as that is in place, it doesn’t matter how erudite or articulate one’s comments are. Or at least I hope not, because mine are full of typos and word salad that often undermine the very points I’m trying to make. :)

    I’ve been Verning on and off for probably 10 years now, and I like to think I’ve grown as a result of the site. It’s certainly seen me through some important transitional points in my life. I enjoy it all. The insights, the jokes, the occasional dust-ups and squabbles, but most of all I appreciate the sincerity and honesty people bring to the discussion of film. I like the personal touch, where people are willing to share what a film means to them personally or how that meaning has changed over time or been shaped by their lives. It’s also refreshing to be part of a discussion community that is not primarily about trying to score points for vocabulary, punsterism, or trollish zings. It’s primarily about the love of film and how our lives inform our experiences with film and vice versa. Also, gore and roundhouses and periodic graphic nudity.

    I think Vern has implicitly and by example set a tone and a code of civility, and for the most part, that’s self-sustaining now. The site has a strong immune system to trolls. At this point, a troll will get bored pretty quickly, because there’s no positive reinforcement for it. You’ll either bail out or, more happily, turn from your trollish ways. I like to think I’m now 80% less of a dick than when I started with this site, which means I’m still pretty much a dick, but getting better with time.

    It’s interesting to see commenters come and go over time, and I can’t say where this site will be in another 5 or 10 years, but I tend to think that as long as Vern is doing his thing, I’ll keep reading, and as long as there are at least some folks like you here, I’ll keep commenting (you’ve been warned!). I think Vern keeps getting better and wiser, so I can’t see myself ever tiring of reading. I can’t say whether Vern will ever get the wider social recognition or cheddar he deserves for it, but then I don’t think there’s much of any correlation between merit and clicks or upward mobility. I certainly hope to see him get a wider platform. The humanity, substance, perceptiveness, and superior humor and writing skills shine through and give him the staying power that lesser “fanboy” hack reviewers and professional snark-a-holics just lack. I mean what I said above: Vern sees more deeply into films and the level of thought and care is obvious, and he’s continually sharpening his darts.

    Geoffrey, yes, I meant Spielberg DUEL. I saw it once about 10 years ago and enjoyed it a lot. JAWS has put me in the mood.

  96. Skani: I think it happens in certain cases when older films before the ratings were implemented are being prepped to be released in theaters again. I don’t know if the process is any different now but sometimes ratings changed over the years. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST was given a PG-13 when it was re-released in theaters in 1984. It still carries that rating to this day. Funnily enough when THE WILD BUNCH was resubmitted in the early 90’s, it was still given it’s original X rating.

  97. Very interesting. I didn’t know that. JAWS is the kind of film that could use a re-release, and I see they’re doing a short-run re-release of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. I’d be very curious to see what JAWS would be rated today. It’s hard for me to imagine it not being an R.

  98. I talk here all the time about re-ratings of movie in Germany, so you know the stories of how former banned or heavily cut movies like TEXAS CHAIN SAW or EVIL DEAD are now available everywhere with a 16 rating. (Even STARSHIP TROOPERS got recently downgraded to a 16, because after 20 years our ratingsboard finally realized that it’s satire.) The fastest re-rating I’ve ever seen was Peter Berg’s underrated directorial debut VERY BAD THINGS, which originally got an 18 rating, but was around 10 years later downgraded to a 16.

    But of course since re-ratings are pretty costly here (I think you have to pay a fee per minute of your movie, but I might be wrong) and especially older non-horror movies don’t really commercially benefit from a new rating, there is a shit ton of old, but actually very harmless classics that still have their way too high rating of yesteryear. My mother was for example very amused when she recently was watching TV at night, the “The following movie is not suitable for audiences under the age of 16″* warning appeared and GOLDFINGER started playing.

    *instead of the little thingy in the corner that you have on American TV, we have that at the beginning of every movie with a 16 or 18 rating.

  99. Fair point, CJ. I was definitely coming at it from a United States MPAA-centric perspective and had not really factored in how the rating systems vary in other countries. My bad!

  100. No problem. I figured you were talking about the US-side of ratings.

    Not sure if it’s really clear from my post btw, but the only way that a movie gets re-rated, is when a label decides to send it to the FSK (German ratings board) again. They don’t just randomly look at a movie and think: “Oh, that rating from 40 years ago is definitely wrong by today’s standards. Let’s change that!”

  101. Funny that someone mentions the director of part 2 saying “It’s not like they’ll play Jaws in film school”, because through this latest rewatch all I kept thinking is “Holy shit they should play this in film school”. This is a masterclass in directing; a tour de force where Spielberg confidently and aggressively puts his stamp on the film like Hitchcock or Scorsese or Tarantino, but miraculously without hurting the story or the characters or the acting. It’s simultaneously showstopping and invisible at the same time. (Believe it or not I think De Palma might have cribbed alot of his tricks from the beach sequence – the leisurely pace, Brody’s slow and methodical voyeurism, the playful fake-outs. There’s even a classic De Palma split diopter shot in that scene!) I know it’s weird to say Spielberg might be underrated, but I feel his work here is next-level auteur moreso than solid craftsman.

    Even though it’s an amazing movie, I have to admit the second half drags a little (especially after the breakneck pacing of the first half). It doesn’t help that Quint is kind of unintelligible (maybe my ears are getting old because I feel like I could understand him when I was a kid, but now he feels like a wacky Benicio Del Toro character and I probably should have turned those subtitles on because I missed half of what he was saying). Still, it’s a damn near perfect movie, and probably Spielberg’s best directorial effort. And yes, there’s no way in hell this should be PG, even without a PG-13 in existence. Quint’s death alone is pretty hard-R material, I don’t know how Spielberg got away with it.

  102. When anyone sees Trump on TV talking about Corona, is it just me or does he morph into the mayor desperate to keep the beaches open?

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