Sunday, July 25, 2010

June 20, 2010: An Open Letter to ‘Jaws’

Dear Jaws,

It’s not your fault. For 35 years (happy birthday, by the way) you’ve been taking the blame for ruining serious cinema, for turning viewers into a horde of explosion-craving mush heads. You’ve been fingered as the culprit behind the tired “summer blockbuster” phenomenon that defecated True Lies, Speed, Independence Day, and Transformers (among many, many, many others) into cinemas. OK, granted, you were the first film to receive wide distribution, opening in 464 theaters throughout the country on a single date (that would be this date, 35 years ago, as if you didn’t know). You were the first movie to net more than $100 million at the box office. You even climax with a smartass one-liner (“Smile, you son of a…”) and an explosion. But I still contend that the treatment you’ve received over the years has been wholly unfair. The naysayers fixate on your special effects (which, let’s face it, were good but hardly spectacular), while ignoring your smart dialogue (“Smile, you son of a…” notwithstanding…), your flawless acting (Robert Shaw gives what may be the greatest performance ever seen in a horror movie), and your emphasis on finely detailed characters over splashy spectacle. Perhaps the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park were more impressive than your shark, but have any of that movie’s characters taken hold of the pop-culture imagination as Quint or Brody or Hooper or even Larry Vaughn have? Does Jurassic Park have a scene as riveting as Quint’s recollection of the sinking of the USS Indianapolis? Does any movie?


Compare the dialogue in that scene to the following, which is the first “memorable quote” on imdb from James Cameron’s record-breaking Avatar released last year:

That there is some shit writing.

Jaws, in my mind you will forever roost among the ‘70s smartest, most well-written, well-acted, and well-produced films. You should not be forced to sit at the other end of the cafeteria from A Clockwork Orange or McCabe and Mrs. Miller or Picnic at Hanging Rock or Don’t Look Now or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, nor did you destroy movies of this ilk. Just look at some of the films that followed in the few years after your release: Taxi Driver and Annie Hall and Eraserhead and Being There and Days of Heaven and Life of Brian and Apocalypse Now and Atlantic City and Raging Bull and The Elephant Man. So, the next time anyone tries to dismiss you for being dumb or for having a detrimental effect on cinema, you just refer them to your Rotten Tomatoes page where you enjoy a 100% fresh rating. And if that doesn’t work, just swim up under them and bite them in half.


Mike from Psychobabble

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