Continuing my favorite films of all time, presented in no particular order, “JAWS.” I will say a bit about this one. We do an annual re-watching of this film before Summer sets in. There are plenty of water-going safety tips and wisdom here, and tons of quotable lines. “Jaws” is a horror story, a monster movie, however, it is one that is built around a story, built around characters of some depth, and not without humor. Chief Brody is completely human, he lives on Amity Island, but he doesn’t go in the water. His wife looks like she could be anyone’s mom, mature, attractive but not a supermodel, a sense of herself, but a nervous wreck, understandably, when it comes to worrying about her family. Martin and Ellen’s interaction with each other as a couple is relatable, believable, normal. Her: “You wanna get drunk and fool around?” Him: “Oh yeah.” They adore their kids. Quint is in love with killing sharks, but he might be more in love with Quint. His ego is both his strength and his weakness. Hooper is also believable as the somewhat smug rich kid turned passionate sharker studier, oceanographer. ( I love the scene where he helps himself to the rest of Martin’s dinner, and you have the sense from the way that one moment is played that they’re going to know each other forever after.) It’s one of the things I love about films from this era, in particular, story, plot, relatable characters, the horror in the story doesn’t overshadow the story, the massive monster in this monster movie doesn’t steal the show from the characters. We want to know that Chief Brody gets home to his wife and sons.
Somewhere around the turn of the 21st Century, a few years before or after, movies changed. Perhaps it was a trend that began in the mid-nineties, though saying what film I think it was that began this change (Pulp Fiction) in this instance, that kind of makes it sounds like blame when in reality, times change, I think often driven by what people were/are hungry for, whether they know it or not, and that hunger changed at that time from relatable characters to the fantasy of wanting to be the slickest, coolest, whoever in the room. (Something that everyone cannot be, as that would negate the concept.) Characters in movies started to become too cool for their own good. Everyone had to look cool, talk cool, be cool, wear the thousand dollar suits, drive ridiculous cars that the average person never could, say the perfect thing, have the spot on comeback remark, and so on. Either that or characters became too cliche so that even the cliched characters ended up coming off as too cool. Vulnerability and character depth were lost to every character (actor?) having to look cool on screen. Too polished, too perfect, becomes too boring when everyone in the film is too cool. “Jaws” though, well Roy Scheider as Chief Brody is every man. He’s flawed. He makes mistakes. He’s still a decent human. And he’s got to rise to the occasion. This film holds up so well, we forget it’s from more than forty years ago. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”