Sibling Revivalry: Watching ‘Jaws’ For the First Time
Quite ironically, while countless folks descended to beaches for the unofficial start to the summer season, Lindsay and I watched our next “Sibling Revivalry” film – the ultimate ocean-going horror movie: ‘Jaws.’
Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic gives me goose bumps to this day, but – unsurprisingly – Lindsay wasn’t nearly as affected. Chalk it up to her lack of patience with the film’s slow burn premise, or the fact that she couldn’t get Jim Carrey parodies out of her head – ‘Jaws’ made her laugh and yawn more than it made her scream.
But, for the record, it did make her scream. Once! We discuss which scenes she found effective, Lindsay’s new use for John Williams’ iconic score, her favorite kill, Hooper’s stupid decisions, and – yes – she manages to find a way to bring Tom Cruise into the conversation, yet again. Here’s our discussion after Lindsay watched ‘Jaws’ for the first time…37 years after its release.
So, next time you go to the beach will you be afraid to get into the water?
When the title card appeared in the beginning – before you even saw one frame of film – you said, “Oh, this looks old.” I’ll give you that the font is dated, but do you think the film itself holds up?
Yeah. It looks pretty good!
The opening scene is the scariest for me. It used to give me nightmares when I was little – the woman breathing in and out quickly after Jaws takes the first bite. Of course you ruined it right away by comparing it to ‘Ace Ventura.’ Thanks for that!
I mean, it was upsetting. But it’s a movie! To me it was super funny because it just reminded me of Jim Carrey.
But you were disturbed when the little boy on the raft got killed – you freaked out when there was a huge spurt of blood in the water. That shut you up!
Well, a) it was a child, b) you can see it better because the scene is shot during the day, unlike the first one, and c) there was no parody related to that moment that made you laugh when you shouldn’t want to be laughing.
And also, the moment where everyone is out of the water and his mom is on the beach, despondent and looking for him. Man, that’s a tough one.
Yeah, that was awful. It was like a roll call and her child was not there. However, if Jim Carrey made a parody of that, it probably would’ve been funny! [laughs]
You’re awful! There are a bunch of kills in this movie – which one was the most upsetting to you?
I’d say the little boy on the raft. He’s a kid! There’s so much blood!
But there were a lot of other moments where people don’t get killed that are also quite tense. That dock scene gets me every time.
Yeah! We were both freaking out during that part! That was crazy!
And then Hooper in the shark cage.
Oh, yeah. And Brody’s son in the pond! But the one that was the biggest nail biter was the two guys on the dock, definitely.
I completely agree. What about that jump scare with the dead guy in the boat, when Hooper is underwater and his head pops out of the opening? You jumped, like, five feet!
The other part that’s supposed to make you jump is the first time you see the shark – an hour and 21 minutes into the movie – when Brody is scooping the chum into the water. What did you think of that big reveal?
It was funny. Brody’s reaction shot! I laughed! What was best about the shot was his face, not even the fact that you see the shark. Because, you just knew that was going to happen. But obviously he didn’t, and you see it in his face. That’s a priceless look.
It’s a famous look – a classic moment in film. I love that you were all snarky about the fact that Brody insisted on wearing a lifejacket in the boat. You said, “I know he’s scared of sailing, but why bother? If he falls into the water with that thing it won’t make a difference!”
That’s what I’m saying! Dude, if you go down, you’re better off drowning than being bitten in 17 pieces by that massive shark. Let it go!
When Quint bit it, you yelled, “Oh that is just awful!”
It was the blood coming out of his mouth. I mean, come on. That is just not necessary!
It’s so necessary! Spielberg has been lauded for his masterful work in building tension without even showing you the shark. You go almost an hour and a half without seeing it! Yet there’s still this Hitchcock-like feeling of menace that builds. I think that’s why the film’s look and feel are still so effective today. But what do you think of the shark’s look? Still convincing, or dated?
No, it actually looked pretty good! It was just so massive that it was kind of funny at times. It was almost kind of phallic looking! [laughs]
You always find a way to bring it there. How about that iconic John Williams score? Two notes! Just two notes and you have a villain!
You know what’s interesting, too – it doesn’t take a genius to pick up on the fact that when you hear those two notes, the shark is coming. But they used it more frequently than people actually died – it teaches you at first to make you psychologically associate those notes with the fact that someone’s going to die, but – like during that dock scene that got us both – it created this great sense of dread and terror, but it never paid off with a kill. It’s insanely effective.
It’s one of my favorite film scores. I’m so glad you liked it!
Well, “like” may not be the word for it. I mean, I’m not going to put it on my iPod and play it while I go jogging! [laughs] But it did what it had to do.
You could put it on your phone as a ringtone for when mom calls.
Oh my God, you’re a genius. I’m doing that.
This movie was one of the first ever summer blockbusters. It was one of the first times a studio heavily marketed something, it was wildly popular critically and commercially. Do you see how this created a bit of a model for the traditional summer blockbuster?
I really have nothing to compare it to, since I don’t watch many blockbuster-style movies. But if we’re comparing it to the other big movies we’ve watched – ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Titanic,’ ‘Back to the Future’ – let’s just say: this was horribly long and massively boring.
It’s supposed to be a slow burn! You need to understand, in the context of the time period it was released – 1975 – people had different attention spans. They’d never seen anything like this.
It’s interesting. I felt like – in this, you know, you’re watching these three guys in the boat talk about their scars and their war stories, and it’s supposed to build an affinity for them, but I just felt like fast-forwarding through it to get to the action. It really wasn’t effective for me.
Would you consider ‘Jaws’ a thriller, action, horror or drama?
A thriller. Wait. A thriller is edge-of-your-seat the whole time. So no, I’d define it as boring.
That word wasn’t one of the options.
Fine. A drama. A boring drama.
That’s funny, because I consider it a horror movie. I guess it’s all about perspective with this movie. The all-too-real fear of sharks in the ocean is just too much for me.
For me, a horror movie is something like ‘Outbreak.’ Because that’s something that’s also a very real threat, but you can’t control it! I mean, duh – just stay the hell out of the water! Risk of death by shark: avoided!
I love that you got so huffed up about the montages where Brody was looking at books about sharks, to do research. And then I had to remind you that they didn’t have the Internet yet in 1975.
Yeah, that was a little embarrassing. It’s just funny to see a movie where people do research with books! So vintage!
You had some other bones to pick with a few scenes that you felt were impractically set up for nothing more than dramatic effect. Like when Hooper insisted on hopping in the water to explore the abandoned boat instead of just towing it to shore.
Yeah, it annoyed me. But at the same time, whenever something ultra-stupid like that happened, you were expecting him to get bitten and eaten, but he didn’t. The movie plays with your mind like that!
Yeah, the build and release of tension is completely masterful. But what about when Hooper was caught off-guard by Jaws while inside the shark cage? That enraged you!
I just didn’t buy that. How does a 25-foot shark sneak up on you? Like, what the hell was he doing? If you’re under the water with something that massive, that could easily swallow you whole – what are you doing that’s more important than making sure that massive thing doesn’t eat you? Just watch the shark, dude! That’s your only task – to watch the shark and hold on to the stick!
OK, so we’ll consider that a build and release of tension that didn’t work for you.
Well here’s the thing, maybe it’s because there were some really great things that were well done and then some things that were so asinine that they all canceled each other out and it’s why I was like, “Hurry up and get this s— over with.”
Another quote for the poster, apparently. So the ‘Jaws’ crew actually nicknamed the prop shark on set – they called him Bruce. If you could give the shark a name, what would it be?
Cruise. Because he looks like Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is very sharky.
You always bring it back around to Tom Cruise!
Is that a problem?