As I entered into the last week of 2018, I was fortunate enough to be able to see one of my favourite movies of all time on the big screen once again; Jaws! I had the added bonus of sharing the experience with my youngest son (14yo) who had only ever seen this film with me on the small screen at home. He was introduced to seeing this with a live audience and with huge sound and screen, the way it was originally intended. It was a late showing (9:45PM) but still an almost full theatre with people who collectively hadn’t all seen (or possibly remembered) the scary parts because there were audible gasps and jumps at some parts. How refreshing! This is a classic story for me, told in two parts. The first part is establishing our new police chief in small island town (Amity) Roy Scheider and his family (wife and two boys). This tourist town prepares for the summer high season and when a shark stakes a claim off its shores and injures some bathers and the town politics enters into it (the scene with Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) trying to talk about the shark tooth to the town mayor (Murray Hamilton) in front of the town billboard is priceless). The stronger half for me is the adventure on the ocean as three men go out to find and kill this great white shark. They are lead by Quint (Robert Shaw) who is a survivor of the USS Indianapolis, and has taken his life’s work to avenge the deaths of fellow sailors from that ill fated ship in WWII in the Pacific. Quint, Hooper and the Chief have a terrific chemistry. The music adds so very much to the tension and the story. John Williams is brilliant in adding to the sense of where the shark is (and isn’t) along with the chase scenes. In big sound, it takes on added importance.
Even after dozens of viewings, this movie still holds new things for me to see, or at least view them differently. For me this viewing showed me more of the deep seeded impact on Quint of his war years and the ship sinking. He takes it to a manic stage through his actions with the radio on the boat as well as driving the boat in such a way as to ensure that it is inoperable. All of this taking place with full protest by his captive ship mates, Brody and Hooper. He’s a colourful character and delivers the most memorable lines in the film from a Steven Spielberg perspective (USS Indianapolis speech, which Shaw himself helped to craft). I also had not remembered the very end scene with Chief saying out loud “show me the tank”. Finally, this was a very clear and bright print of the film, and the opening beach scenes have always been darker and hard to see more clearly. This print allowed the viewer to see Crissy and the young man more clearly as they ran the beach to go swimming. Adam liked seeing the two live shooting stars that are in the film too. This is a movie that ushered in the summer blockbuster age, and I left feeling charged and excited for both me and my young son. He finally saw one of my favourites as it was meant to be seen. Jaws is on the big screen at TIFF Lightbox Wed Jan 2.
On Netflix, I saw the new film from Sandra Bullock Bird Box. It has an impressive cast, adding in John Malkovich, Tom Hollander, Sarah Paulson, and Jacki Weaver. This is a suspense-thriller in the same genre as A Quiet Place. In fact, I feel as though without the success of A Quiet Place, that this project doesn’t get green lighted. The structure is basically the same, but this time people around the world are seeing something and then going crazy or having mass suicides. It begins in Russia and Europe and is reported in the US where Bullock plays an artistic woman who is pregnant. The father has absconded and she is not really very enthusiastic about having a child. She through flashbacks is seen before the incidents as the creatures (unseen in any meaningful way as opposed to A Quiet Place) enters and force people indoors and avoid seeing the outside world. Things happen, both expected and unexpected. Bullock goes on a perilous journey which is the opening scene in the film as she heads down a river in a metal rowboat, but without the ability to see where she is going. There is a level of disbelief that one has to have here, and some aspects just didn’t make much sense. If you want to see a suspense-thriller set with an invading species, the better movie to me remains A Quiet Place. Still there was some interesting scenes here with some good supporting roles.
A quick word while on the topic of horror about the Canadian A Christmas Horror Story from 2015. This stars William Shatner, as a radio personality who is broadcasting on Christmas Eve in this small town. Strange things are happening and there are scenes with a family going on a road trip, and another group of teens looking to explore a recent killing of fellow students at a school. Then there is the scenes of Santa Claus himself looking to deal with elves who have turned in a tragic way. This is not classic cinema, but it held my attention. I think that the genre of the Christmas themed horror movie could be explored much more deeply. The Krampus character is introducing something I have not ever heard about before. But once again it is interesting. If it pops up the small screen somewhere, it might be worth a little light-hearted fun.
Turning the page on 2018, I look forward to Awards season and there are more films I want to see in the theatre. It was a good year for film, although maybe not as strong as 2017. Wishing one and all a very prosperous and fun 2019 with plenty of good movies.