2019 Annual Jaws Event Jaws/Hard Ticket to Hawaii

Screenshot of the Facebook Page of the Egyptian Theater Last Night

As you can see, the fanatics were out last night to see the movie that many of us contend is the greatest film of all time. There were a lot of enthusiasts and a fine time was had by all with a brief interlude.

Every time I see Jaws,  which is usually three or four times a year, I pick up a little something extra. Last night for instance, I noticed the floral style center piece on Ellen Brody’s dining room table for the very first time.

The screening was an actual 35 mm print, struck from a wet gate negative [whatever that means] and frankly, it looked spectacular. The sound in a theater is also impressive and you can catch snippets of dialogue in the background that will be mostly lost even with a sophisticated home theater set up.

Nothing has changed in my evaluation of the film. It is Spielberg’s greatest accomplishment, even with the somewhat limited practical effects of the mechanical shark. Ben Gardner still manages to make me jump, even if it has happened a hundred times before, I’m not kidding, this is the film I have seen the most in my life and it is at a minimum a hundred times.

The brief interlude I mentioned before was the 7.1 Earthquake that happened in Southern California last night. Just as Hooper is arriving at the Brody residence for dinner, the Earth moved substantially.

The above is a small piece of plaster that fell from the ceiling on me during the quake. I did not see any big chunks, just some flakes here and there, this is maybe a 1/4 of an inch in size.

A few people got up and left the auditorium for a few minutes, most of us just covered our heads and rode it out. The projectionist stopped the film, rolled it back to the start of the scene, and after a ten minute break for us to collect our thoughts, the film started again. Still the biggest cheers in the audience were for Quint’s entrance at the council meeting and his exit from the Orca. The movie continues to work.

Before the film ran, the Cinematique played a bunch of Jaws related material, including trailers for all the sequels, several inferior knock offs, and some ads that used shark themed concepts to sell products from both 1975 and 2019. We also got a Baby Shark Sing along video.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii

I had never heard of this movie before, and I was only vaguely aware of Writer/Director Andy Sidaris, but now having experienced it, I am a fan. It is as cheesy as the trailer suggests and just as entertaining. Everybody seems to be having fun making this ridiculous secret agent film. Come on, it’s not enough that the snake is venomous, but it is also contaminated with chemicals fro cancer ridden rats that it ate.
Star Dona Spier was present to introduce the film and she signed books before the movie. I wish I’d gone out and bought one and had it signed, but not having seen the film I was hesitant. Now I will just live with regret. Also present was Arlene Sidaris, the producer of this movie and widow of the legendary film maker. She had some nice words about the movie and they introduced one of the behind the scenes tech crew who was in attendance at the screening.
This film is not politically correct in anyway. Andy Sidaris lampoons his previous role as a Wide World of Sports director, with the most insane interview of a quarterback you are likely to see on screen, and it has nothing to do with the story, it’s just funny in a pre-social justice world perspective.
Gloriously insane characters and hilariously awkward dialogue make this a must see for fans of cheepo action films. Unfortunately it has already been covered on “Exploding Helicopter” , I wish I had been the one to join Will in talking about it.

The Meg

So i have been away from a movie theater for a couple of weeks and I have missed some films that I hope to catch up with soon. This weekend’s big release is something that I did look forward to, so as soon as I got the chance this weekend, I took a dive into South Pacific waters, along with Jason Statham, in search of “The Meg”. Director Jon Turteltaub is not so much of an auteur as he is an audience serving professional. The story of a giant, pre-historic shark suddenly being let loose on the world doesn’t call for a cinematic light touch. It demands that you push the right popcorn buttons, and as the guy who brought us the two National Treasure movies, Mr. Turteltaub seems to be a good fit.

In terms of entertainment value for your summer dollars, which Hollywood depends on, “The Meg” is on a par with the recent Dwayne Johnson vehicle “Skyscraper“. In fact, I was thinking of another comparison when this came to mind. Back in the 1970s, Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood were regular faces on the silver screen, especially in the summertime. Both of those guys had big charisma that carried films that were not always great but were worthy because of their presence in them. Burt had a whole host of summer films in the 70s ; “The Longest Yard“, “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings“, “Smokey and the Bandit“.  Clint of course was the cowboy of the 70s but his summer output included films; “The Eiger Sanction“, “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” as well as “The Outlaw Josey Wales“.  Together, those two icons dominated several of the summers of my youth. In forty years. this generation will look back on the films off Statham and Johnson in a similar way. Although Dwayne Johnson is the natural heir to the Schwarzenegger/Stallone mantle, he has a comedic persona that those two never managed to quite get, despite “Kindergarten Cop”.  Statham is more closely connected to the Charles Bronson mold of tough guy. What I think is effective for both Statham and Johnson is that they appear in a variety of films but their persona and personality are what makes the movies work. That’s why I like the analogy to Reynolds and Eastwood. “The Meg” is Jason Statham’s summer film an the same way that “Skyscraper” is Johnson’s entry for the hot season.

Fortunately, Jason Statham’s tough guy facade is just right for this movie. He is a reluctant deep sea rescue expert who gets called upon to effect a rescue that he wants nothing to do with. Just like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard” and Johnson in “Skyscraper”, Statham’s character Jonas is the right guy in the wrong place at the right time. While he is not required to spin kick the shark in the face, he actually does end up going toe to fin with it at the climax of the movie. In a sort of Ahab with kung fu skills moment, Statham manages to make the completely ridiculous seem reasonable and fun. That is why they hired him. He does get some chances to act as well but since the rest of the story is paper thin, you are not going to pay much attention to any of that.

The film riffs on several elements from other shark based movies. “Jaws” has the greatest number and the most obvious tribute/ripoff moments. When the Megalodon does make it to a beach, there is a whinny kid who wants to go swimming, a frustrated mother, a selfish guy willing to roll over others in trying to escape from the shark and even a dog named Pippen, just a switched consonant away from the sacrificial dog of that great film.  We also have a pig headed billionaire, who has financed the project which brings the Megladon to the surface. Rainn Wilson may not have Samuel Jackson’s vocabulary. but he does have a similar story line to the one in “Deep Blue Sea”. There is also an L.L. Cool J stand in with moments of comic relief.

This movie does not aspire to be an adventure film like “Jaws” was. It is closer to the action film of “Deep Blue Sea”, with a science fiction component and a “Jurassic Park” mindset. There is a little bit of lip service paid to the notion of man screwing up Mother Nature, but frankly Winston Chao is no Jeff Goldblum and the screenwriters are not collaborating with Steven Spielberg for character ideas. This is a simple movie that is closer to the chase the victim plot of “Jaws 2” than the man aginst nature brutality of the original “Jaws”. Plus Jason Statham can swim and beat up a shark a thousand times bigger than him. Extra butter on the popcorn will help. I chose to see this in 3-D, because if you are going for the cheese, you might as well add the mayonnaise.

 

Jaws In Concert: Part 2 of the 2018 Jaws Posts

Every year we manage to cross paths with some special screening of our favorite film, the Spielberg Masterpiece “Jaws”.  I’ve managed to see this movie on the big screen dozens of times and I never tire of it. Last night was another example of finding a special way to celebrate the film. This was “Jaws in Concert”, but not only are we getting a live orchestral accompaniment, we are getting it in the most beautiful setting imaginable, The Hollywood Bowl on a summer night.

Since this is primarily a concert, it seems right to focus on this “Jaws” related post, on the music of John Williams as used in the film. The shark them is famously simple and even more famously iconic. In two notes, people know the film reference and they are looking around for a fin. Surprisingly, the theme is used almost as sparingly as the shots of the mechanical shark. After the initial attack on Chrissie during her moonlight swim, we hear it once more when Alex Kintner is attacked, and then moodily substituting as the two inept fisherman go trolling with the holiday roast.

The Hollywood Bowl Orchestra had some long on stage breaks because the first half of the film is filled with ambient noise, things like ; kids playing on a beach, radios on baseball or top forty stations, or motorboats speeding across the ocean, trying to cutoff another motorboat chumming for the shark.

There are other themes in the film of course, but they are often forgotten when people think of this movie. As The Orca sails off to her destiny there is a slightly ominous movement. When she is chasing down the shark, there is a joyful exuberance in the music as we follow the vessel and the three excited men who think they are getting the upper-hand.  As Quint is laying out the tragedy of the USS Indianapolis, at first there is silence and mere ambient ocean background. As the story builds, the music is layered in very subtlety and the story is darker as a result. You are probably aware that the film is two hours long and never had an intermission. A concert experience is different however. the crowd needs a chance to stand up after picnicking and listening to the first hour plus of the movie and the orchestra needs to break as well.

The start of the final act where we pick up after the break, involves Chief Brody chumming off the back of the boat. The first up-close sighting of the shark comes a few minutes later and Williams has a great jump scare chord ready for us. The two big jumps scares in the film continue to work to this day, even when people know they are coming. I still saw 12,000 people bounce out of their seats when poor Ben Gardner makes his final appearance, and Brody utters the one swear word in the movie and before we can laugh, the collective breath of 12,000 people could be heard being sucked in.

The whole evening was a spectacle at times. Early on, Jaws related clothing was rare, but as the amphitheater filled in, more and more indicators of fandom could be observed.

Here early and dressed for the occassion
The Number One Fan of this Movie
Just before the national Anthem
This is why you let Polly do the printing.

This event ran two nights, which means about 30,000 people came out to see a 43 year old film and paid top dollar to hear the fantastic music played by a live orchestra. That is all the proof you will need to show that “Jaws” is a true classic.

I hope all of you get an opportunity to see a movie you love, in a setting like this, with the special extra that we got. Until then, you can remain a little jealous.

A little extra flourish to send you on your way.

Entry One in the 2018 Jaws Posts

As long time readers of this blog know, JAWS is the “Quint”essential Independence Day movie at this site. I’ve shared a number of posts on this greatest of adventure films, and there is always something to add each time. Last night gave us two distinct experiences to add to the memory file.

 

First of all, this was a film presentation, not a digital screening. This was a personal print provided by director Sacha Gervasi, a friend of the American Cinematique. It was worked out by an organization called  Cinematic Void,  which has been presenting a series of films on New England Nightmares. The print is from the 1978 re-release of the film and it has not been cleaned up or re-mastered. The host mentioned that it was extremely difficult to find film prints for Jaws, everything now being digital. They asked their personal friend Director Gervasi who accommodated them. Much like the print we saw last year of John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, there is a lot of red hue in the color palate as the film stock fades and bleeds over when projected. Never the less, it is always great to see a “film” and not just computer images masquerading as film. The grain and imperfections do diminish the look of the movie, but they also induce memories of seeing films from the time period, which do wear down after thousands of screenings.

Now second, the guys introducing the film, and many of the audience, made the mistake of describing “Jaws” as a horror film. People, this is an adventure film with horrific elements but it is hardly “horror”. While it uses some of the “B” movie tropes of horror films, like the opening scene or the jump scares when sharks and bodies appear, the vast majority of the movie is taken up by a struggle of a common man to face down political, cultural and natural obstacles in overcoming a problem. The second half of the movie is pure sea-faring adventure.

This movie is 43 years old, and yet, 600 plus people paid to see it in a sold out presentation last night.

The power of this film continues to draw in fans, as it has done for this family for forty years. This is my daughter Amanda’s favorite movie, and we dressed appropriately for the occasion.

Check out these kicks. The tie ends of her shoes are the barrels Quint uses to bring the shark to the surface. The inside sole of the shoe also has an image of the Beach Closed signs from the film. Saturday was her birthday, and she considers the movie to be a continuous gift that she receives every year. To feed that animal, check out the bed set that was one of my gifts to her .

 Sweet Dreams Kid.

(We have another Screening scheduled later in July at the Hollywood Bowl, see you there.)

My Slate of Films from the Spielberg Draft on the Lambcast

 

OK, tell me that getting Spielberg’s Biggest Blockbuster of the 1970s AND his Biggest Blockbuster of the 1980s isn’t going to help me win this draft. Plus I have the sequel to his biggest Blockbuster of the 1990s to go along with it. This should be in the bag, but only if you do your part and vote for my slate in the Draft.

Jaws

There are plenty of posts on this site for this film. Here is a list:

40th Anniversary Jaws Week Posts

My Original Post on the 70s Summer Movie Project

Book Signing with Carl Gottlieb

Last Years Great Screening in a Great Theater

Others:

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Spielberg Blogathon Entry

While I don’t want to support Heather’s Team of films, I do have a link to my vigorous defense of

Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Vote at this link.

When you look at the choices, you’ll know the right thing to do.

 

UPDATE! Victory!

 

Draft Update

Thanks to everyone who voted.

Jaws: 2017 Annual Post

As regular readers know, “Jaws” is an annual event at the KAMAD site. I probably watch the film two or three other times in the year, but when summer shows up, and the Fourth of July is on the horizon, I look for a big screen presentation of this family favorite film. It will be playing at the Egyptian on the holiday weekend, but we are traveling so that was out. Lucky for us, the L.A. Conservancy is hosting a screening at the historic Orpheum Theater in the “Downtown” area this evening and there are several bonus elements to be had.

Two years ago, I went all out for the fortieth anniversary of the film, with four big screen visits in a ten day period.You an access those posts, here, and here and here.  Sadly, there will just be the one screening in a theater this year but it will be packed with goodies, including a rendition of the soundtrack of the film on a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ.

This was pretty much the same panel we saw at the L.A. Film Fest debut of “The Shark is Still Working” back in 2009. They told a couple of the same stories and once again gave credit to Bob Mattey, the creative consultant they remembered from “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. It turns out that the fact they were pushed off the lot by higher priority effects for “The Hindenburg, Airplane 75 and Earthquake” gave them the opportunity to be more creative. Roy Arbogast was able to use new urethane products instead of latex and that made a big difference.

Joe Alves was on the project longer than anyone else. His production drawings had a huge impact on the look of the film, and even though they were not embraced by all the executives at Universal, the right guy found them to be very promising. Alves was on the movie before Spielberg was and later directed “Jaws 3D”.

Carl Gottlieb showed once again why he was an important part of the crew. As the principle author of the screenplay, he helped build the beats in the story that keep it involving. Last night he did the same thing, contributing a comment or correction at just the right moment and almost always getting a laugh as he does so. He was in the lobby before and after the show, selling and signing copies of his book. I already have “The Jaws Log” signed, and you can read about it there.

Jeffery Kramer is the actor who played Deputy Hendricks to Roy Scheider’s Brody.  He does get elevated to Chief in Jaws 2. He has been a producer in television for a number of years, but the blogging community will all love the fact that he was also in “Clue”.

The screening was part of the L.A. Conservancy program “Last Seats Remaining” , earlier in the day they did a screening of “E.T.” so it was a Spielberg day at the Orpheum. A couple of months ago we went to a live  podcast  at the old United Artists Theater now known as the Theater at the Ace Hotel. It is just down a block from the Orpheum. There are eight or nine old movie palaces on Broadway, and a few of them have been restored and are used for special events and historical purposes.

There was a beautiful flyer distributed to patrons, which explained a little about the conservancy but also listed the program.

One of the biggest pleasures was seeing this film with a huge live audience in a classic movie palace.  These theaters put to shame the new multiplexes which are long on modern technology but often short on style.

The fantastic neon accented marquee out front looks glorious at night, who would not want to go in and see way mysteries will be revealed beyond the door.

As was mentioned, the organist entertained for an hour before the program started, and while the whole Jaws Score was not presented, there were a number of John Williams pieces that were shared with the enthusiastic audience.

Steve Markham, a longtime member of the Conservancy, a WW2 veteran, and a collector, shared some of the beautiful backdrops he has. My Dad actually had two or three backdrops like this that he sold with the Thurston show. I did not take pictures last night but there is a nice video that includes several of the pieces we got a chance to see.

The theater itself has a magnificent lobby and there is a three level mezzanine to view it from. We might have been tempted to watch the film from the balcony or from the Opera Boxes on either sides, but getting up there would have been a little complicated for our group. There were bars on all the levels, including the lower level where generous lavatory facilities are located. There was also a lounge where one of the traditionally garbed ushers was answering questions for guests before the show had started. This is the kind of luxurious presentation of films that made movie going in the golden age of Hollywood a real special event. You did not simply see a film, you took your time soaking up the atmosphere, lingering over the opportunity to share a night out with other like minded patrons. The theaters were also used on the vaudeville circuit so live entertainment would also be on a program on a regular basis.

The world has changed, and maybe if we look around a bit more we will appreciate some of the things that have passed a bit more.

I’ve said it before, I miss the days when music filled the air before the show and then curtains parted to reveal the screen. I’d be happy to pay extra for these kinds of amenities if I could skip the half hour of commercials that precede most theatrical presentations these days.

The props and costumes were not elaborate by any museum standard, but they were a nice bonus to the evening. The movie was a complete hit with the audience. It was great listening to 1500 people scream and laugh together. There was spontaneous applause after a number of scenes and once again, you could hear a pin drop as Quint tells us his story of survival on the U.S.S. Indianapolis. Robert Shaw has to be remembered forever for this five minute sequence.

 

The movie “Jaws” has mesmerized audiences for forty plus years, it is one of the great accomplishments of the cinema. If you think the effects are old fashioned, you need to watch the film with an audience. No one is longing for a CGI shark, we are all holding our breathe as the practical effects and live footage take us into the story. When you add in the surrounding environment to the experience, I can say we got one of the best presentations of the film in a theater ever. I know I have seen this film more than a dozen times on the big screen, and that is just in the last dozen years. This will be one viewing that will never get lost in my memory.