Once Upon A Shark Week

Don't you love it when you're telling the truth about something, that to the uninitiated seems absolutely ridiculous and they insist you're pulling their leg... but for once you really are telling the honest to goodness truth? Like say for example, if an individual had never heard of shark week their ENTIRE lives (I know it's a stretch, but bear with me.... I mean WHO hasn't heard of shark week?) and thought we just chose a random creature to pay tribute to in a fake week-long celebration. Sadly, this exact situation actually happened just yesterday to an apparently sheltered friend, and to remedy the situation and pay tribute to the great beast we decided that a viewing of none other than Steven Spielberg's classic Jaws was needed

What a movie. And can I just say, as impressive as this film is.....what's even MORE impressive is that Spielberg was only 27 when making it!! Great. So now in 1.5 years if I haven't made a beloved cinema classic I'm pretty much a failure.... Oh well, we can't all be Steven Spielberg (no matter how hard many people try..) But back to the film itself and not its filmmakers: this is a truly solid film.....a film very deserving of all the accolades it has been given throughout the years. It is chilling, thrilling and tense.....just masterfully crafted in every way. I have seen the movie a few times before, but it had been a few years since. When I went to grab the DVD she advised that we watch it on the biggest screen possible to get the true effect.

Good call mom.

And there was definitely a reason for that. Some films were MADE for the big screen....and I mean truly made for the big screen. Yes, all feature films (well okay not all....but you know what I'm saying,) debut on the silver screen at a local cinema...but, not all were made to really utilize it. But Jaws did....and the people recognized it....so much that they stood in lines busting blocks (see what I did there?) just trying to get a glimpse of it. So how was it so different from everything else? Well, it was something that only REALLY came alive on that giant screen. Seeing that shark so massive, everyone can actually feel the threat it imposes...and because of that the tension runs high. And so upon its release in '75, the first blockbuster was born and the film began to be shifted from being the moody art pieces of the 1970's towards the rollercoaster popcorn spectacles of 1980's.

 However, I will admit this movie is probably not quiiiiiite perfect since the pacing of the boat scenes slows down an awwwwful lot in comparison to the wonderfully frenetic first half....but maybe that's just me. Even so though, on a first viewing basis the film flies by, and I definitely noticed how invested Ann was. Both for the audiences then and for anyone who watches it now it always manages to suck us in and hold our attention captive throughout. And really....it's so evident in the unforgettable scene below how you could just cut that tension with a knife...or a shark tooth.

So apart from all of Steven Spielberg's touches, (as well as his editor and cinematographer who were also fantastic..) it, of course, must be mentioned the giant contribution that John Williams' score added to the film. From reading all about the making of Jaws it seemed there were a lot of serendipitous accidents that really made the movie what it is now...one of which was a malfunctioning mechanical shark that forced Steven Spielberg to show the shark less than he planned....and this is where the musical score stepped in. The score personifies the shark and gives it character....it makes it clear how menacing it really is, it shows the shark without SHOWING the shark....in fact it might be  one of the most effective scores (along with Psycho) in all of film history. Also to the film's credit is the fine performances by the cast...in particular the trio of Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and Robert Shaw. Despite the kerfuffles on the set, their performances all work together seamlessly and have a very good chemistry that makes the movie work. The result of all of these efforts? The ULTIMATE shark movie.

Now to continue the tribute of the great beast I'll quickly mention a few other famous sharks and shark movies....and if I missed any you can take to the comments below. Other than Jaws, the most memorable film sharks I know are the friendly ones found in Finding Nemo...turning the stereotype of the vicious monster on its head. The lead shark that especially resembles the shark in Jaws is in fact even named Bruce, the nickname Spielberg gave the mechanical shark during the filming. Other animated sharks include the one Ariel from The Little Mermaid has a run in with as well as the ones from Shark Tale (does anyone actually remember them though?) Back to live action we have Deep Blue Sea (which I also have not seen....it has always struck me as the poor man's Jaws.) and then there's the 2003 film Open Water...which actually intrigues me a lot. The Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb scores aren't very much in sync though so I'm not sure what to believe! But the plot is this: Based on the true story of two scuba divers accidentally stranded in shark infested waters after their tour boat has left. Oh and, of course, there's Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus....now how could I forget that one? So what's your favorite?

ETA: Rottentomatoes has a good list of shark movies HERE


courtney wightman said...

jaws really is such a great film. that first half just reels (see what i did there?) you right in and the tension is sky high in those beach scenes. loved it! love shark week!

Movies For Lunch Guys said...

If you haven't seen Deep Blue Sea, you are missing out on a fun (I didn't say great) shark movie complete with Samuel L. Jackson AND LL Cool J (a winning combination if I ever saw one!!!) It's worth your time for Samuel L. Jackson alone. It's a little different than Jaws and even more of a stretch, but it's only a movie, right?

I thought Open Water was ok and way overhyped as far as how great it was. Just a heads up that there is completely unnecessary and gratuitous full frontal nudity. And for some reason there is a sequel to this movie that went straight to DVD. Honestly, if you haven't seen it already, you aren't missing much.

There are a couple of others that may be worth 90 minutes of your time, even if it's for no other reason than to mock them. The straight to DVD "thriller" Dark Tide starring Halle Berry, and Shark Night 3D that was released last year. Not that I have seen them yet, but you never know how much bad fun they can be unless you try.

-Dan from Movies for Lunch Guys

Sarah said...

I have caught Deep Blue Sea on cable a few times. It's one of my cable guilty pleasures. Not a work of art by any means. But highly entertaining. :)

Jaws, on the other hand, is a work of art. That is one classic film. And even though there was a lot of serendipity going on (I mean, the film is BETTER because the mechanical shark had problems and they couldn't show it as often as they would have liked...it builds the suspense to not see the shark until the end of the film), you've got to hand it to Spielberg. He did a GREAT job here. I hadn't realized he was only 27. Some people have such drive! I can't believe he was a full-blown director at that age!

Michelle said...

JAWS is the single reason for my husband's deep seated fear of the ocean. When he was a whopping six years old, his big brother put on JAWS and told him to pay close attention because it could save his life, then left the room and let the movie work it's magic. They were days away from a week long camping trip to the beach. My husband didn't set foot in the water the entire week and has refused to go further than waist deep since. Kudos to Stephen for an excellent film, anyone have any ideas on how to cure someone of a fear of sharks lasting nearly 30 years?

Emily said...

watch some shark week stuff where they talk about the true habits of sharks?

Joey said...

Niel will still tell you about the dead arm I gave him in the movie when we saw it when it came out. It as at a theater that was up on Parley's Way and the line went around the theater. I didn't really know what we were seeing, and I jumped three feet with the first tug of that shark. I didn't let go of his arm for the rest of the movie.

Truly a classic film that should be seen 1) LETTERBOX 2) Big screen. I've seen few movies that call for letterbox more, as SS made full use of that screen when he was telling the story. And the score and acting came together for perfection.

I like the slower pace of the boat scenes. I think it's interesting that he switches from this macro story where many are in danger and you aren't invested in any of the victims to an intimate little story where you come to know these three characters and care about them. I remember feeling so tense for them personally. It had switched from a general fear to a fear for the characters. Do you know what I mean? It made the ended so much greater for me and the mixture of relief and sorrow felt more earned than it might have otherwise.

Also, you kind of need a break in the tension. That scene where the three of them are talking about their scars is a classic. Seeing Quint move to an almost obsessive, Moby Dick type hunt was chilling on it's own. Watching the three of them with their varying motives and personalities was like watching a well-choreographed dance.

One of my all time favorites and a sweet memory with Niel.

Michelle said...

UPDATE: You need to review Sharknado.