Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jaws Week Finale: Lots of Posts

So here is a list of links to Jaws Posts that I have some connection to. To begin, we will review all the posts that I have put up on this site in the last five years. To sweeten the deal I'm posting some fan art I found on line that has nothing to do with the post, it just looks cool enough to draw attention to the links.

Video Preview of Jaws Weekend

This is just a short couple of videos in anticipation of the first Fourth of July Post on the movie. It includes what might be the only "Unboxing" video of a Laser Disc.

First July 4th Review

The original post on my Movie A Day Project on the Summer films of the 1970s.

Jaws 2

The only sequel worth bothering to watch. Not a great film but not an embarrassment like the others.

OK, this is not fan art but it was cool.

Video Preview of a Book Gift for Amanda's Birthday

This is an Ad for a great book, that was way too expensive, but with which I indulged my youngest child.

Robert Shaw Film Festival Jaws

During a week long project on some Robert Shaw films, I go off on the neglect by the Academy of this magnificent performance.

Roy Scheider gets Props for Jaws

I felt a little guilty all these years not mentioning the fine work of the lead of this film, here I try to correct that oversight.

Epic Vlog Link on a Screen of Jaws

You have to have some time to enjoy this. It's like a podcast with video and a couple of clips thrown in. One of the most fun projects I've done for the blog.

Jaws Diorama Picture

Random Crap on the Internet that I shared.

Getting the Jaws Log Signed

A story about meeting the Screenwriter and getting my book signed. Wow, am I geeking out or what?

OK, This is also not fan art, it is an Ad.

Steven Spielberg Directing Actors

Jaws is mentioned in this post that I did for a blogathon last year.

Moments Without the Shark

Last weeks list of moments that remind you that there is a shark in the story. View it on the Blogspot version of the site to be able to see all the video clips.

Robert Shaw and Brian Keith get Mugged

Another post where I rant about the neglect of Robert Shaw by those people who gave awards out in 1975. This was for a blogathon done in conjunction with this years Academy Awards.

40th Anniversary Links

10 Scenes Without the Shark that remind you there is a Shark.

Inside the Crest Theater Waiting for a Screening

Tee Shirt Marketing Lives
Crazy People
Everyone Likes Move Quotes

You Don't have to be a Star to Make Jaws Better

OTHER Bloggers

Here is some work on the subject from others that I admire.

Best Movie Ever

The genetic recipient of my disease shares her views on the movie.

Best Scene Ever

The Indianapolis monologue, treated with respect. This is from the only person I know who is a bigger fanatic than I am about the movie. She used the "Indianapolis" monologue as part of her admission essay to U.S.C..

The Following is a Poem by my On line buddy Eric. I love the creativity and the courage it takes to put your voice out there in this form.

 Look to the Summer of 1975
All of the ocean will come alive
Look to the water for the great white fin
And you’ll know what sort of trouble you’re in
Look at the shark’s eyes, lifeless and black
Look at the shoreline ahead and know you’ll never get back
Try to swim, try to scream, try to pray
The great beast just won’t go away
Close your eyes and hold your breath
And await the mighty jaws of death
But when you do open your eyes, that’s when you’ll know
It was all on the movie screen, just for show
So thank you Steven and Peter for forty years of great fun
‘Cause when it comes to summer blockbusters, JAWS is still the best one!

From "And So it Begins" a fellow blogger who is also a film maker, shares some notes on our feature.

I've read Alex's blog for two or three years. He is very sharp and well versed on movie techniques. I liked what he had to say here.

1001 Movies to See Before You Die
 Steve Honeywell took on a blogging task that I don't have the patience to do, he has written a post on every film from the book 1001 Movies to see before you die, and then he has added on top of that, hundreds more because he can't stop himself. He posts something everyday and is on of my daily stops. The above link will take you to his Jaws post.

Reblog of Fogs Post

This is a link to a link, I reblogged it on my site when Fogs put up the article. Dan Fogarty did a series of posts he titled "Movies Everyone Must See", this is his work on Jaws and I'm happy to share his efforts with you.

It get Wet
Michael from "It Rains... You Get Wet" is a gentleman when it comes to movies. He is thoughtful, polite and honest. I'm happy to say he is a friend. His story includes a period of time when he was sick of this film. He has since recovered.

Keith and the Movies

My on-line friend Keith posted an end of summer entry on images from "Jaws". Take a look see.

Digital Bits

Finally, I came across this epic post which has data and interviews galore and may be my new favorite past time. If you read any post other than mine, this should be it.

Happy Clicking everyone.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Faces of JAWS

Everyone knows the stars of the movie "Jaws". Between them, the three actors had Oscar nominations for five other roles and one win for best actor. All three leads had long and distinguished filmographies. I would never say anything to diminish the contributions that they made to the film. The movie however has a background cast that is made up not of necessarily great actors but great faces. When you look at the characters, most of whom appeared in only one scene and often without a line, you get a real feeling for the community of fishermen and tourist business owners and other locals that are likely to make up the population of Amity Island.

Robert Shaw's Quint is shadowed in his scenes on land by a mysterious, mute, slack jawed lackey with a dog. He may be Quint's usual assistant, but he apparently knows better than to get on the Orca with Quint in full Ahab mode. Ben Gardner's most famous moment occurs underwater and at night, but he lends credibility to the film as the charter boat captain that thinks all of the bounty hunting fishermen are looney.

Locals like Polly, the Chief's secretary, seem to have aged under the sun and the fog of the island. We only see the back of the irate store owner as he berates the jobber who failed to bring in the correct summer stock, but we can tell from his posture and the face of the man he is confronting, he expects people to listen to him. The harbor master is almost a parody of old sea captains from the area, and by the way he was a dead ringer for my Father in Law.

If you want to look despair in the eye and have it followed up by fury, glance at Mrs. Kitner as she confronts the Chief on his feckless handling of the original shark attacks. The local motel owner is scowling at the news that the beaches are closed and she drops the dead bird on the conversation when she tells the crowd at the public meeting that the joke about the bounty being in cash or check is not funny. Her eyes tell you she sees no humor there.

The collection of oddballs they gathered for the successful bounty hunters is hysterical. One guy looks like the kid from "Deliverance" all grown up, the other two look like bowling pros who are slumming for the weekend by fishing for shark. The media guys are played by real media guys, slightly out of their element. Benchly looks like a condescending elitist, pontificating on camera about the island being terrorized.  Screenwriter Gottlieb is mostly in the background but fits as the reporter who is more booster than newsman.

The stuntman who dies in the estuary looks more like he belonged in the little rowboat he occupied than any day sailing vessel. The poor kid on the beach who can't find his dog, victim number two who is often over looked, Pipet, has a nice forlorn expression. College boy drunk who missed out on getting with Chrissy and being dessert, has the long blond hair of a college crew member on Hartford's rowing team. Best of all, the two little stinkers who play the practical joke with the cardboard fin are perfectly snotty and whiny when they get caught. The speed with which the younger one throws his partner under the bus was amazing and he had the face of a squealer to match the performance.

None of these were big parts but they were all essential to making the movie entertaining as it sets up the confrontation that takes place in the last act.    

One last face to include from this evenings screening, TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz.  If you left before the credits were over, you missed a nice little coda that was also an ad for "Double Indemnity" next month.

 See you in July Ben.

Less Celebrated Lines from Jaws

We just finished our first of two screenings for Father's Day.
The time while people filed in was filled with a few trivia cards. Come on, you gotta find something a little harder than this.

Another Jaws List for you.

One of the myriad of things that Jaws is noted for are the quotes that have become part of the culture. The AFI has the most memorable quote from the film at number 35 on their list of 100 Greatest Quotes 

That's a little low in my view but still respectable.  Fans of the movie will have a dozen other quotes that they will harpoon you with if given a chance. 

Bureaucrats everywhere will be comforted by the rationalization of the mayor of Amity when he warns the Chief about being too proactive based on the first attack.

Mayor Vaughn: Martin, it's all psychological. You yell barracuda, everybody says, "Huh? What?" You yell shark, we've got a panic on our hands on the Fourth of July. 

It's awful hard not to smile with righteous glee when the truth gets flung back in the face of the sheepish police chief and the cow-towing medical examiner by young Mr. Hooper on examining the body of the first victim.

Hooper: Well, this is not a boat accident!

Of course  the misanthropic shark hunter Quint has no shortage of million dollar lines.

At the town meeting, after he gets a introduction worthy of Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood", he sums up his offer to all the locals succinctly.

Quint: $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

As Quint engages in the male ritual of one upmanship with the Chief by offering a toast with his own home made moonshine, he shows himself to be as crude as the Chief fears he might be.

Quint: Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women

Of course Quint also gets the whole monologue about the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. That five minutes has some of the greatest visualizations and quotes in it and star Robert Shaw delivered it perfectly.

Chief Brody has no shortage of good lines. One quote inspired Director Bryan Singer to name his production company.

Brody: That's some bad hat, Harry. 

Perhaps the greatest ad-libbed line ever created, comes from actor Roy Scheider, when he first gets a look at their nemesis. He backs of in fear and awe and tells Quint everything he should know about what is going to happen.

 Brody: You're gonna need a bigger boat.  


This post however, is a salute to some of the lesser lines in the film. They often convey a character or render a bit of humor in the first half of the movie. Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, who appears in the film as the local newsman Meadows, was a TV writer who added punch to most of the script which had a spine from novelist Peter Benchley. He is almost certainly responsible for the quotes that follow, many of which are spoken in the background of the scene.

The Chief's Secretary is in only one scene but she quickly conveys to the audience how mundane the work of the police department in Amity should be. Her big piece of news is the complaint from some of the local businessmen.

"It seems that the nine year olds from the school have been karate-ing the picket fences."--Polly

The mayor says it in more than one spot, Amity is a summer town, it depends on summer dollars.  When the Chief goes to the hardware store to get the materials for printing "Beaches Closed" signs, we hear in the background the local merchant complaining to the jobber who has failed to bring the requested summer product. You can tell from his language that he's an "Islander".

"This stuff isn't going to help me in August, the summer ginks come down here in June."--Store Owner

The Chief's Deputy conveys his sense of powerlessness, lack of status and personal insecurities when the Chief instructs him to let Polly do the printing on the signs. He demurs with an understated question.

"What's the matter with my printing?"--Hendricks

As the town selectmen announce support for closing the beaches, the Mayor tries to buy some calm with his pronouncement that the closure will only last 24 hours. The Chief says, "I never agreed to that", but from the crowd comes the fearful response.

"Twenty four hours is like three weeks."--Unidentified voice at the Council Meeting

The story is full of colorful characters who don't really get any development except their one or two scenes. When their attempt to catch the shark from a jetty on the opposite side of the island goes bad, you can hear the understatement of the year from the first guy out of the water:

"Charlie take my word for it, don't look back".--Denherder

Fisherman Ben Gardner has disdain for the outsiders showing up to collect the bounty put up by Mrs. Kitner on the shark. As he takes his charter out, he mutters a curse under his breath that sounds like it would come from the mouth of a local fisherman.  

"Wait till we get them silly bastards down in that rockpile they'll be some fun, they'll wish their fathers had never met their mothers."--Ben Gardner

Matt Hooper attempts to be helpful by identifying the shark that is caught by one of the cast of idiots that went out on an overloaded launch. The quote itself is not so special, but the way in which it was delivered results in a laugh that is still hard to explain.

"A What?"--Belligerent Fisherman Pratt

Here is one that is so understated that I'm not sure I've ever heard it before. Amanda pointed it out to me when we were watching the film last Sunday. After Hooper offers his help in identifying the shark, he discovers that the know it all does not always endear himself to others. He made the mistake of suggesting that the shark might not be the one who killed the little boy. The bounty hunters take umbrage and offer to stick his head in the mouth of the shark to prove their point

"What I'm saying is it may not be the shark, just a slight difference in semantics that I don't want to get beaten up for."--Hooper

Obviously the lion's share of great lines went to the three stars. When the characters interact they reveal more about themselves to each other and us. As they are searching the waters where the shark has been feeding at night, Hooper chides the chief about being afraid of the water but living on an island. The Chief gives the only rationalization that makes sense of his situation:

"It's only an island if you look at it from the water".--Brody

The Mayor played by Murray Hamilton, is often seen as a villain in the story. In truth, he represents a part of the fear that the shark presents to the whole community. His way of coping is to cling to the trappings of his office and the illusion that some degree of control is still in his grasp. He's not as worried about the shark as he is about nascent Banksyies moving into the neighborhood.


"That is a deliberate mutilation of a public service message." --Mayor Vaughn

It is always funny to me when we show how predictable we are as humans. One of the prime examples of our craven natures is our desire to avoid responsibility for our actions. The world is full of excuse makers and apologists. Kids are much more honest about how this is true. When caught, one of the two kids with the cardboard fin is quick to sell out his buddy in order to weasel out of paying a penalty.

"He made me do it, he talked me into it."-- Whiny Prankster

OK, those are my choices. If you have some that you like and I neglected to mention, feel free to add them in your comments, then we will either take it under consideration or hang you up by your Buster Browns.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Happy 40th to Jaws

Today is the actual date that Jaws was released in 1975. I will be seeing it twice tomorrow and I have posts to go along with each of those screenings, but I did not want to let the day slip by without an acknowledgement. Here is just a little reminder of the power of movie marketing the film has 40 year after it's debut.
This is my daughters wardrobe for the week. She has the rest of the month covered.

Inside Out

The pinnacle of the Pixar legacy happened five years ago with "Toy Story 3", the second sequel to one of their films. Both the Toy Story sequels were outstanding, so I do not subscribe to the theory that Pixar's decline is attributable to a loss of originality, illustrated by it's willingness to do sequels. While I have detected a decline myself in the quality of their films, there has been only one that I consider an outright failure: "Cars 2".  "Monsters University" has a lot to offer, and "Brave" although a lot more conventional than their other films, was still spectacular to look at and very entertaining. So five years and three films after their peak, Pixar is attempting to reach back to their greatest creative period with an original idea and some amazing visualizations, and they almost reach the brass ring but it falls just outside of their grasp with "Inside Out".

I think the film will work for most people and there is nothing in it that I can say fails. Every sequence is clever, the jokes all seem to work, and there is a line of thought that is trying to hold the story together so that it is coherent. Frankly, my wife loved it and I rarely challenge her on something like this because, well, she is usually right. I can't say she is wrong here, I can only say that it did not reach me the way so many other Pixar Films have. The fantasy elements get mixed in with the science theory ideas and they just don't fill in all the gaps the way I would want them to. This is not a negative review, but it probably will be much more muted than you will see elsewhere, and it's a little hard to put my finger on why.

One reason might be that the film is marketed to a younger audience, it is animated and it is Disney/Pixar after all, but the concepts seem to be a little more sophisticated than a family movie can handle. The idea behind core memories and personality and their relationship to emotions is a complex concept. It would be hard to explain in a psychology class over the course of a sixteen week semester, much less making it clear in a 94 minute cartoon. The function of long term memory and the personality islands that populate the scenery in this film is frankly confusing. I also thought that the story did not stay true to the rules it was creating as it went along. The memory dump is inescapable, until it isn't, and the personality islands get repopulated faster than a Disney character gets brought back from the dead in one of the traditional fairy tales. After having set up the complex workings of the brain, it just felt at the end as if those complexities don't really matter once we get our emotions in line.

The clearest message of the film is that we need all of our emotions. Joy does not mean much without sadness, and anger may be the only way to overcome fear at times. I think that if the film had followed the emotions interactions more and built a story around that community, the movie would feel more complete and there would be a stronger narrative. There are so many side trips that this movie makes that it is easy to lose focus of the main goal. By reducing all of the emotions to five characters, it cuts down on complexity there, but think of where the story could have gone if it was about the way all of the emotions had to try to live with each other while still doing their jobs. I really admire the creativity and orginality of the concept and the characters, I just thought the plot was confusing because of the roads those characters were sent down.

Kids will be afraid of their sub-conscious mind after watching this, and the notion of their dreams being turned into nightmares might also be a bit disturbing. I admired all the individual sequences and ideas, "the Train of Thought" is a great way to travel through the brain, but it does not seem to do anything but act as an obstacle for the two main emotions to overcome.  The different levels of abstract thought were brilliantly conceived, Picasso would probably sue. I thought the surface story of Mom, Dad and Riley was visually interesting as well. Apparently the folks at Pixar can recognize some of the faults of San Francisco thinking as well as the rest of us, broccoli does not belong on pizza.

When I see this down the road, I might have a different impression. Maybe my expectations were off, or my own emotions were asleep or lost in the sub-conscious during the film. Honestly, it is not hard to reach me emotionally. I have teared up at a Jackie Chan movie (the stuff that guy can do makes me cry tears of joy), but "Inside Out" left me with only a mild amount of pleasure and no deep emotional resonance. For a story about the emotions, that seems like a miss.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

JAWS List Number One for the Fourtieth Anniversary

Of all the films I have written about in the five years of doing this blog, none has received more attention and space than Steven Spielberg's "Jaws". The film celebrates it's 40th Anniversary this year. It came out just a week after I graduated from High School, and in the middle of a very weird decade, changed the way the movie business works.
Your Correspondent

I plan on celebrating the film several times this month. Today went to a screening at the Crest Theater in Westwood.

Crest Theater Interior

Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies are having screenings on June 21 and 24 at 500 theaters around the country. We plan on going to the two on the 21st and the final one on Wednesday the 24th. That's right, in an orgy of self indulgence, our plan is to see the greatest adventure film of the last half century on the big screen, four times in 10 days. I can't think of a better way to get the summer started.

As a change of pace for my writing on this film, I decided to try a sure fire strategy to make it easy for people to chow down on and digest some more "Jaws" material. So here is the first list for our 40th Anniversary Celebration.

Ten Times the Shark isn't working but still appears on screen in some form.

The notoriously uncooperative mechanical shark used in the production, forced the film makers to find other ways of putting the lead character into the story without actually showing him. Here are my favorite moments showcasing the shark with no shark footage.

Fishing off the Dock of the Bay, Watching your Roast Swim Away.

Two guys decide to go for the $3000 bounty offered by Mrs. Kintner by baiting a giant hook with a raw beef roast and then tossing it into the ocean, anchored to the small dock they are standing on. They do this at night, on the far side of the island to avoid detection by the Police Chief. What follows is suspenseful and hilarious.

The turn of the pier at the end of the clip says everything about the invisible shark.

Click, click, click

Once out to sea, Chief Brody and Matt Hooper are introduced to "sharking" Quint style. They are not really fishing, but the rod and reel are essential to Quint's process and it gives us plenty to fear without any image of the shark at all.

That's Ben Gardner's Boat

Hooper gets a drunk Chief Brody to go out on the water, at night and they discover the remains of a fishing boat that appears to have encountered our titular hero.

 Hooper goes into the water to investigate and everyone in the audience tightens their sphincter because this cannot go well. Spielberg was so meticulous on this piece of business that he went back to the scene after it was done and re-shot some footage in the pool of editor Verna Fields. The result was a scene that levitated whole audiences of hundreds, out of their seats simultaneously.   We won't give anything away here, but Hooper's face manages to say it all.

Foreshadowing, what foreshadowing?

Watching the start of the third act in the film, we get a transition shot that ironically shows the doomed Orca and the future that she is sailing into. It is a beautiful shot and it tells us to fear the shark, again without the shark being present.

Those proportions are correct. 

How big is the shark? Well, let me draw you a picture.

Roll Out the Barrel.

How can we give a sense of showing the shark stalking the heroes if we can't always use the shark, easy, we'll use a shark surrogate. Those barrels that Quint uses to bring the shark to the surface, well watch them transform into creepy shadows following the Orca.

After we see the barrels attached to the shark, the Orca follows them, and for a moment, the hunters are joyous in their pursuit.

Suddenly, after being assured by Quint that he can't stay down with three barrels on him, the barrels disappear as they pass under the boat. Oh oh.

And how do you know you are in deep trouble? The barrels start following you. This is not going as planned.

Research Man, get a book and do some reading.




Just the thought of the shark startles the chief and his wife.

Who Let That Shark into the Town Meeting?

All the Islanders are getting nervous about the beaches being closed. Quint shows up to make them an offer, but to get their attention he scratches a chalkboard with his fingernails and reveals a little doodle to scare them all.

The Most Iconic Theme of All Time.

Well before we ever see a shark, we know he is around because of the much parodied but perfect theme for the shark. Yeah, you know it.

Lets Go Swimming.

This scene catches you by the throat and the film never let's go after that. No sign of the shark, but your nightmares will never be the same.