Blu-Ray Review and Ode to JAWS

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It’s already Shark Week early at CHUD, so be sure to check out all of Josh’s JAWS video interviews.

Jaws Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb talks Spielberg, and Bruce makes a cameo!

Jaws Producetion Designer Joe Alves on creating Amity (and directing Jaws 3D!)

The Shark Is Still Working documentarian J. Michael Rody on his Jaws doc.



120 minutes

* Digitally remastered and fully restored from high resolution 35MM original film elements to get the most from your HDTV
* Digital Copy of Jaws (download by 12/31/2013)
* UltraViolet Copy of Jaws (download/redeem by 12/31/2013)
* The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of Jaws
* Making of Jaws
* Jaws: The Restoration
* Deleted Scenes and Outtakes From the Set
* Marketing Jaws
* Jaws Phenomenon
* Original Theatrical Trailer
* pocket BLU: App for smartphones and tablets – take content on the go! BD-Live: Internet-connected features
* My Scenes: Bookmark your favorite scenes

The Pitch

Okay, imagine the movie Grizzly… but with a shark!

The Humans

Actors: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss, Lorraine Gary, Murray Hamilton
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writers: Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley
Producers: David Brown, Richard D. Zanuck

The Nutshell

Come on, don’t make me waste my time. You know what Jaws is — even if you haven’t seen it. Universal has now given us the definitive Jaws home video experience. This excites you. I refuse to acknowledge the possibility of a world where this Blu-ray does not excite you.

Missed opportunity Steve.
If you’d gone ‘middle-finger’ this picture would be on every film student’s wall.

The Lowdown My Personal Wank
Forgive me, but because I most certainly plan to cover the Jaws series in my Franchise Me column, I’m going to forgo any analysis or critique of the film itself. It is already an exhaustively covered topic as it is. But this is a film that I’m nonetheless excited to talk about whenever, where ever. So forgive me once again as I jerk anecdotally all over the place…
As the majority of film fans know, the question – “What is your favorite movie?” – is a futile one. I can barely decide what my favorite film of any given year is. My favorite movie ever?! Fuck off. I once pointlessly made up a list of my 100 favorite films, and Christ on a bike, even that was nearly impossible to narrow down. So I tend to give anyone who does have a definitive favorite film a squinted glance. I just don’t see how you can have a favorite film, unless it is because of personal attachment related to your viewing experiences (yes, if it was the film you always watched with your father, I get that). But regardless, for the ‘normals’ out there, “what is your favorite movie” seems to be the stock question to ask anyone discovered to be an aficionado of the moving pictures medium. Over the years, as I would valiantly humor this question (often out of my own interest in naval-gazing indulgence), the answer would inevitably change from month to month. But one film kept routinely finding its way back to the top, until I eventually just got lazy and decided to let it stay there. Well, curious person sitting next to me on the airplane, Jaws is my favorite movie. This is of course not actually true, because I don’t truly have a favorite movie, but if there were some manner of algorithm that broke down my movie-watching history, Jaws would very likely win mathematically.
Jaws is probably the movie that I have seen the most times, and rewatched the most consistently from childhood to the present. It also represents two critical benchmarks in my development as an appreciator of the cinematic form: 1) Jaws was the film that caused me to re-evaluate how I fit into popular opinion. One attribute that I think defines all film fans (and is probably necessary to even become one) is the desire and will to become unstuck from your generation. The average person has no interest in seeing films made before they were born — hell, most people don’t even like watching something more than ten years old, even if they already lived through the time period. This creates an ongoing re-contextualizing of relevancy for most people. For me: Jaws was released before I was born. Like many people born after 1975, I discovered the film on TV, when it was aired in equal rotation with its sequels. This was the late-80s, long before the Internet and DVD featurettes would help perpetuate anything akin to a collective view on popular or cult cinema. And I wasn’t old enough to be hanging out with people who saw Jaws in the theater. Most people I knew were far more familiar with the shit sequels than the original film, and regarded the original as a famous but cheesy movie (by 1990 the shark FX were already extremely dated; and after Jurassic Park? Forget about it). My point is, most everyone I knew seemed to like the film. But talking about Jaws as though it were quality cinema felt like you were trying to champion Transformers as quality cinema. No, no, Jaws isn’t a good movie. It is a fun movie. I mean, its so dumb! When the shark attacks Sea World? Oh, that’s Jaws 3? Well, whatever. What’s the difference.¬†Despite being met with equal shares of indifference, confused looks, and mild derision, it was over Jaws that I decided to break with popular opinion (as represented in my microcosm). All because…
2) Jaws was the first film where I discovered filmmaking technique completely on my own, unaided by a review, or book, or class, or documentary. At the time I had no way of knowing there was a huge swath of the population that revered the film as a brilliant piece of filmmaking. In my suburb of Minneapolis, it was just a fun movie about a giant shark. If you wanted to sound like you knew anything about cinema, you were tossing around Goodfellas or Unforgiven. Bringing Jaws to the party kind of made you seem like a fanboy (long before I had any idea what the word meant or implied). But any time the film would appear on TBS or TNT, I’d always end up watching the whole thing. And the more I watched it, the more the strata of “fun” and “thrills” stripped away and I started to see all this artistry beneath the veneer of an expensive B-movie. Shot compositions were suddenly smacking me in the face. I was seeing things I had taken for granted. The layered dialogue. Robert Shaw. The Indianapolis speech. John Williams’ score that¬†wasn’t the shark’s theme. The use of non-actors to create a sense of reality to the fictional Amity; the movie lived and breathed. I watched and watched until one day I just sat back and thought, “Fuck. This movie is a goddamn masterpiece.”

Yes, I punched CHUD’s Devin Faraci. And I’d do it again.
My love and obsession with Jaws never outpaced my overall love of movies (or my love and obsession with countless other films), but the love always seemed to poke out in unique ways. In college I gave a wildly successful 45-minute class presentation on the film, and also made a feature length student film which featured a character who spoke almost entirely in Jaws quotes (ugh; oh, film students). And if you went out drinking with me in my early twenties, more often than not you would probably wind up singing “Show Me The Way To Go Home.” None of this has anything to do with anything. But I suspect there are a lot of CHUD readers who feel the same way about the film, with a variety of different back stories and personal experiences. Jaws is a rare film that not only stands up to repeat viewings, but blossoms further with each pass. It really was lightning in a bottle and about as close to perfection as any movie can hope to be.
The Package
Jaws has had several releases on DVD, but this is the Mother Lode. For starters, the film got Universal’s full attention in the restoration department. Of all the Blu-ray restorations I’ve seen, only Alien looks better. The film is goddamn gorgeous now. I wanted to lick my screen. Even if you already own all the supplemental material, it is worth at least a rental just to get a look at the restoration. The restoration crew walked a questionable line in their decision to “fix” elements of the film, like continuity errors in the brightness of the sky viewed through the Orca‘s windows. But honestly, even as someone who has seen the film more times than he can count, I didn’t notice any of these tweaks. In any case, this isn’t replacing guns with walkie-talkies in E.T. These are sincere changes that would have been made if they’d possessed the tech to do so in ’75.
The special features are amazing, especially if you don’t already own one of the aforementioned DVDs. I previously owned the 25th anniversary edition, which contained a drastically abridged 50-minute version of Laurent Bouzereau’s two-hour retrospective documentary (originally released on LaserDisc). The Blu contains the entire two-hour version, plus the new feature-length doc “The Shark Is Still Working” which shockingly manages to dig up entirely fresh material. It is so good. Ever wonder how that iconic movie poster came to exist? Well, they talked with the artist who made it. They talked with Percy Rodriguez, who narrated the original theatrical trailer. They talked with the Martha’s Vineyard locals who appeared as bit players in the film. It is the ultimate addendum to Bouzereau’s film — and in a way, far more intimate and loving to the film itself (God help me, but the dorky cover of “Show Me the Way To Go Home” that plays over the end credits actually left me a little misty-eyed). I walked away from the Blu-ray with almost no remaining questions. Dammit. Now I want to pop the disc in again…

Out of a Possible 5 Stars

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