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Welcome to my movie blog, containing reviews and articles. I've been writing since 2004 - with a short break during 2009.

der-dum....der-dum...


Jaws was one of those classics I was expecting to dislike. Fondness of 60s/70s films often stems as much from nostalga as quality; and as a benchmark monster movie and creator of the summer blockbuster, I felt it could feel old in light of its imitators (example: Alien. Sorry, fans, I just missed out on what made this great for very much the same reasons)


Not a positive way to start a review. I wouldbn't have dared say it if I'd turned out to be right. Jaws truly suprised me - not only was it good, I really really enjoyed it. And haven't stopped thinking about it since.


The main reason for this is the characters. Take a bow Rod Schnieder, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw - you may have two of the hardest to spell names in the history of cinema, but I forgive you. Hollywood legend tells us the reason they're amazing in this is that Rick and Rob really did loathe each other, and Rod really did dislike boats, but that cheapens their achievement: all three play pretty recognisable characters - the hero with the theory nobody believes, the tetchy lone hunter with a grudge, the scientist who gets ignored - but they give them an entirely fresh edge.


I was most impressed with the development of Brody...normally heroes are heroic, period. Brody shrinks from this mould. He fails to secure the closure of the beaches initially, he (almost) fails to keep his kids safe, and once on the boat he crumbles from an upstanding hero-guy into virtually useless compared to his companions - he can't sail, he can't hunt sharks and he's scared of the sea. It's just beautiful to watch a properly flawed character, reacting the way most of us normal bods would. It reminds me something I once read about Bond and Indiana Jones - they both spend most of their films making mistakes. Their talent lies in getting out of emergencies through quick thinking. Similarly, I suppose, Brody pulls success out of the bag at last minute, in rather an expected fashion. Was I the only one who'd already thought "use the explosive oxygen"?


Robert Shaw is so good that I even forgot his Indianapolis speech was a Rubber Duck* until this very moment, two days later. And I normally pounce on them instantly, because I have a single minded loathing for them. I suppose it's the Tim Roth factor. You can read a line, and deliver it the way a hundred people would. Or you can hit on a way of saying it no one expects (and Mr TR is particularly amazing at it). There is a "way" you speak Ducks, with a grim resiliance and distant pain e.t.c. yawn. The wonderful thing about that speech in particular, is Mr Shaw drags something entirely new out of it, something more complex than "it was a sad experience". At times he's even smiling. And that's the wonderful thing about Quint - he's not just a tormented, dedicated hunter as goes the cliche we've seen a thousand times before. He drinks, he laughs, he sings. He's got a human edge, occasionally verging on the sheer insane. And that scene was amazing.


*Rubber Duck: the gruff, unfriendly character explains (for the benefit of the audience) that the reason he is gruff and unfriendly is that his mother took away his rubber ducky when he was three. OK, it might be an important facet for us to understand him, but as he's gruff and unfriendly it'd be out of character for him to actually tell anyone about it. You'll be amazed how many films use this cheap shortcut now you know about it. Even "good" films think they can get away with it. Blood Diamond...come on now...


I even liked Richard Dreyfuss, an actor in that group of actors I have an irrational dislike for. He really, really loves sharks. Every now and then you can see it twinkling through, even as they talk about what an evil beast the shark is.





One of the frustrating things about horror films is that the characters don't know they're in a horror film. Obvious, eh? Example: at the beginning of Jaws, two hippie kids decided to go skinny dipping in the dark. We know that that's a stupid thing to do, and if they knew they were in a film about a massive killer shark they would too. It doesn't increase the tension, it just makes it a very frustrating experience because they are acting in (what looks like) an insanely illogical fashon.

It's a problem of too much marketing. Another film that suffers badly from this is Pitch Black - if I were to give you an idea what it was about, I'd actually have summarised 4/5 of the film. As soon as you describe something as a "romance", you know those two strangers are going to end up as a couple for at least some of the film - and normally, within about ten minutes, you can tell whether or not it'll have a happy ending. If you describe something as "rom com", it takes even more of the guess work out of the equation.


Jaws has the good sense to engage with this mentality. It knows exactly what it is. In another brilliant scene, the beaches have been reopened, even though the shark could still be out there...our hero is sitting on the beach with his wife watching the swimmers. Dog...boy on life raft...overweight woman...canoodling couple...dog...it's a great, great moment, because the film is thinking exactly what you, and the character are both thinking. Who's going to be next? Incidentally, mum put her money on the dog, I suggested the couple and said they couldn't possibly kill the kid.

I like my endings bleak and downbeat and...it's a tribute to how much I was enjoying this that the "nick of time" escape from the, er, jaws of fate didn't jarr as much as I thought it would...and my sister loved it. Incidentally, last year they showed this on a massive screen at the beach. Brilliant! This year they've opted for Ice Age 2, Dirty Dancing, the Mr Bean movie etc...

2 comments:

Will said...

I really like Roy Scheider in just about everything he has done, Have you seen All That Jazz? I think you would like it. Richard Dreyfuss is okay in most of the stuff I have seen him. Robert Shaw is great, but I haven't seen him in much.

The thing that I think really made this movie work is that it really isn't a monster movie. It is more of a buddy movie, I mean the whole second half of the film is just these three men on a boat and how they interact with each other. I am very happy that Bruce (the shark) didn't work because it probably changed the way the film came out. Speilberg had to concentrate more on the characters, and the fear of the unknown is always 10 times greater then the fear of the known.

This is one of my favorite movies.

Ninquelosse said...

"is that it really isn't a monster movie. It is more of a buddy movie"

Definitely, and that's what suprised me. I had fairly low expectations, even though it's a classic, because I have limited patience with monster movies. And then half way through, it turned into one of my favourite genres just like that.


I normally dislike Richard Dreyfuss a lot of the time, like whenever I'm not watching Rosencrantz. I'm not sure why, it's very irrational. Ditto with Robert Shaw actually...they were both great in this though. I've not seen All That Jazz, I'll look out for it.

 
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