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Jaws

Does Jaws belong on the AFI list?  

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  1. 1. Does Jaws belong on the AFI list?

    • Open the beaches
      9
    • That's a bad movie, Harry
      2

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  • Poll closed on 07/10/20 at 07:00 AM

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Amy & Paul take a bite out of 1975's blockbuster Spielberg creature feature Jaws! They take a close listen to John Williams' iconic score, praise the way Spielberg adds emotional stakes to the story, and ask whether Jurassic Park does much of what Jaws does, but better. Plus: Hannah Medd, founder of the American Shark Conservancy, weighs in on whether dolphins are bigger jerks than sharks.   Which AFI character do you think deserves their own thematic film festival, along the lines of Sundance? Call the Unspooled voicemail line at 747-666-5824 with your answer! Follow us on Twitter @Unspooled, get more info at unspooledpod.com and don’t forget to rate, review & subscribe to us on Apple Podcasts. Also check out our live Spool Party episodes on youtube.com/earwolf! Photo credit: Kim Troxall

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Been waiting since the start of this podcast to hear about this movie!

I think there's more depth to the mayor than Is often credited. He really does seem to act in what he feels is best for the town and not just selfishly. Like when Hooper wants to cut open the tiger shark, Vaughn  doesn't object as a means to cover it up, but out of decency. Or just before the 4th of July, when Brody and Hooper are arguing with him, he's not ignoring evidence, he asks to see the tooth and they don't have one. This is what copycats fail at and just have the mayor be a greedy SOB just for the hell of it. 

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3 hours ago, Sharky86 said:

Been waiting since the start of this podcast to hear about this movie!

I think there's more depth to the mayor than Is often credited. He really does seem to act in what he feels is best for the town and not just selfishly. Like when Hooper wants to cut open the tiger shark, Vaughn  doesn't object as a means to cover it up, but out of decency. Or just before the 4th of July, when Brody and Hooper are arguing with him, he's not ignoring evidence, he asks to see the tooth and they don't have one. This is what copycats fail at and just have the mayor be a greedy SOB just for the hell of it. 

I haven't read the book, but knowing that his motivation in the book is that he's trying to avoid getting in trouble with the mob . . . I'm glad the film changed that. It's more interesting that he's just getting pressure from the townspeople who don't want their local economy to crater. There's no outside evil preventing the beaches from closing, just the same kinds of issues we face today with COVID.

Anyway, this seems like kind of a no-brainer for staying on the list. Clearly a super-important American film that is also very well-made and iconic.

On the jaunty Williams score during the barrel chase scene, I will disagree with Paul and say that actually works well. It reflects a certain false confidence the three men are getting from thinking that getting a barrel attached to the shark will allow them to catch it. That confidence is quickly dashed as the shark pulls the barrel down with him.

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The Jaws ride at Universal is an extremely fun attraction and highly recommended. It's a boat ride along the lines of Disney's Jungle Cruise, in which an actor performs as your guide to Amity Harbor until, of course, "something goes horribly wrong" and you get thrilled by animatronic sharks, explosions, gunfire, and sudden stops, etc.    

One of my previous jobs was working with Universal Studios Creative, which took me to Japan during its construction of its theme park in Osaka. So I'm happy to say that "I wrote the book" for the Jaws attraction, or at least was heavily involved in the attraction manual. It is, in fact, still in operation in Osaka, in the middle of a nicely themed area straight out of New England, complete with shops, a fish & chips place, and a huge photo op of a hanging shark, like the movie. (I mean, it was over 10 years ago since I visited, so I'm not the most up to date on what it actually looks like.) 

Excuse me while I fall down a YouTube rabbit hole for a while...

The Florida attraction is, sadly, no longer there, as it not only had to make room for a more contemporary (and profitable) Harry Potter world, but it was also aging past its prime. It became a seasonal ride, only operating during peak months/attendance, as the effects were also quite elaborate. The Jurassic Park ride has similar issues, in that it takes a lot to maintain effects and show elements that are constantly submerged in water at the same time constantly exposed to the elements. Go figure, right?     

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The traditional "action adventure music" during the "barrel chase" is used on purpose. It's to show that trio chasing the shark still have the idea it's "just a big shark". Quints playful bragging about 2 barrels stopping a giant marlin shows even he thinks it will be like a normal shark hunt. 

But notice after those 2 barrels don't even slow the shark down -- and even Quint's face shows this realization -- the music gets somber and trails off, menacingly. The trio realize this is more than just a big fish. A simple "He-man action chase sequence to kill the monster" isn't going to work. This is a primordial monster and it will be a fight to the death. The action music after for the rest of the film is menacing, not rousing.

 

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Jurassic Park is plainly Michael Crichton revisiting his Westworld premise to greater success. The simplicity of Jaws elevates it above Jurassic Park in my book, though JP is a fine movie.

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So after finally hitting all five Spielberg films on the list, what are everyone's thoughts?  How many Spielbergs does the list need, and which ones?

Personally, I could live with only keeping JawsSchindler's List, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If I had to add another, it would probably be Close Encounters of the Third Kind rather than E.T.Saving Private Ryan, or Jurassic Park.

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52 minutes ago, bleary said:

So after finally hitting all five Spielberg films on the list, what are everyone's thoughts?  How many Spielbergs does the list need, and which ones?

Personally, I could live with only keeping JawsSchindler's List, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.  If I had to add another, it would probably be Close Encounters of the Third Kind rather than E.T.Saving Private Ryan, or Jurassic Park.

I think I agree with that, though I side with Paul & Amy with Jurassic Park over Jaws. JP, SL and Raiders would be my choices. Close Encounters is my favorite Spielberg probably, though, but I don't think it should be on the list over the others.

 

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Man, I love Jurassic Park, but IMO the dopey "It's a UNIX system!" scene alone drops it below Jaws. I'll agree that it does have better effects and better-choreographed action, but in terms of story/character/dialogue I don't think it's close, Jaws wins hands down.

I would keep every Spielberg on the list except Saving Private Ryan. Good movie, but there are enough war movies and this isn't so clearly better than the other ones.

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2 hours ago, sycasey 2.0 said:

Man, I love Jurassic Park, but IMO the dopey "It's a UNIX system!" scene alone drops it below Jaws. I'll agree that it does have better effects and better-choreographed action, but in terms of story/character/dialogue I don't think it's close, Jaws wins hands down.

I would keep every Spielberg on the list except Saving Private Ryan. Good movie, but there are enough war movies and this isn't so clearly better than the other ones.

I think the characters in Jaws feel like actual people. The characters in Jurassic Park feel like characters. There's an authentic feeling  with Jaws that I don't think it appreciated enough. I also think Brody is a really unsung everyman hero. He's overshadowed by Quint and Hooper to an extent, but he's a great character and his qualities are built up so well over time and so subtly. Like him throwing the tank into the shark's mouth. He knows about the tank's explosiveness thanks to Hooper, but he has the idea planted into his mind earlier when looking through the books. He's shown to be able to learn and pick up things quickly. Quint teaches him how to tie knots and after a couple failures, he gets it soon after. Even his fear of the water is slowly erased. When Alex Kitner is attacked, Brody won't even stick his feet into the surf to yell for everyone to get out of the water. Then Hooper gets him drunk enough to go out onto a boat, then for the 4th of July, Brody runs almost waist deep into the water to pull his son back onto shore. Then he spends the rest of the movie out on the open ocean. Even his clothes on the boat change. He starts out in a full slicker, then just in the pants and then he's finally just wearing his regular clothes. It's not called attention to either. He just changes naturally.

I also want to add in something about the Indianapolis scene and Brody lifting his shirt to reveal his scar. I think he's clearly envious at Hooper and Quint bonding over their shared stories and battle wounds and Brody has none to contribute. Hooper and Quint are together in one shot and Brody is off in his own shot on the other side of the cabin. He feels still distant from the others, which is interesting to me because Both Hooper and Quint do seem to like or at least respect Brody, but he still feels inferior to them, but then the laughs and the story finally bring them together until they are all singing together in one shot. 

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On the subject Spielberg's and lists, I'd be fine without any Spielberg, though I don't think that'd be too big of a shock. The burn about Spielberg not knowing how to write real people and how they'd respond, but rather characters from a 50's serial and how they'd act seems like it got more accurate with each passing movie - though ironically(?) I think Jaws is the movie of his I've seen that is free from it most (though I'd need to revisit Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

I will say I still think Jaws is at least a good movie and one I'd gladly rewatch - as opposed to any other one on the list (so, let's just say, I'm a "no" on Jurassic Park).

I'm not surprised there was at one point a scene referencing watching Moby Dick - when revisiting Jaws in October, I remembered thinking the whole shooting the shark with barrels with the idea of trailing it/tiring it out, only to have the target grock the boat is it's enemy, and thus attacks it - pretty sure that's in Moby Dick. But it's been close to a decade since I've read it, so maybe I'm misremembering it. Quint's clearly going Ahab at the end, obsessed with the shark, dooming them all. If you keep in mind Hooper was originally slated to die, I think, then you'd also have had the lone survivor of a sunken boat, paddling back to shore on a peace of the sunken boat (well, I think it was a coffin in MD, I guess it wasn't perfect).

 

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