Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy 40th Birthday "JAWS"!

Oh Jaws.  It's been 40 years since we last met in a darkened theater.  I've changed, but you have remained so beautifully the same.  Your sparkling white serrated teeth still shine with promise. And shredded bits of Captain Quint. Our first summer together was filled with hope and youth.  I was a teenager, heading off to college....most likely to major in English lit or Marine Biology. I thought I would be the next Jacques Cousteau, or at the very least a best selling hack writer. But you changed my life, didn't you.  You changed everything.  Your impossibly young director Steven Spielberg invented the monster summer blockbuster and delivered it to the world on your gleaming gray 25 foot back.  

Today I went to the 40th Anniversary for the movie Jaws (thanks very much TCM for being a host along with Universal).  At today's screening, there were only three things the same as they were in 1975.  The theater was packed.  Everybody screamed.  And when Chief Brody said, "We're gonna need a bigger boat", it got the biggest laugh. Absolutely everything else is different.  We sit here in our smart phone buzzing, soul crushing, digital world.  We're stunned by our climate changed, middle class evaporating, dystopian reality.  In 1975 we had just finished multiple landings on the moon.  Today we don't even have a space shuttle anymore.  But hey, it's still awesome, right.  We've got Twitter and stuff.  And Fitbits.  And our theaters now remind us on a big sign that a junior popcorn has 550 calories and 15 grams of fat.

That's why movies like Jaws are so important.  For two hours we can sit in the dark and forget about everything except for that special 4th of July weekend on Amity Island. 

And we cringe in terror at the brilliant opening scene, all the more terrifying because we never actually SEE the giant shark.

And we see the early talent of the great director who has always been so exceptionally gifted with child actors.

And we laugh at the ever present humor that gave us "bad hat Harry", and the best tracking zoom of all time.

And we hear Captain Quint (the magnificent Robert Shaw) give his absolutely riveting soliloquy about surviving the U.S. Indianapolis sinking during WWII ("well anyway...we delivered the bomb")


The whole movie is stuffed to the gills with groundbreaking cinema innovation.  John Williams' Oscar winning score.  The great Verna Field's heart attack inducing editing (she won the Academy Award for Best Editing of the rare times it has gone to a female).   
But most of all, Jaws has a special place in my heart because it is 100% responsible for my career spent in media.  Because the day I saw it for the first time, I watched an audience become completely unhinged. A little theater in upstate N.Y. was the venue for an audience losing their shit at a movie for the very first time. They were shrieking.  They were running for the lobby.  One little 12 year old girl stood on her seat during Quint's bloody demise and screamed over and over, "He's eating him...he's eating him...Oh dear God he's eating that man!"  An usher had to lead her away.

I've never been so transfixed in my whole life, before or since.  A little epiphany explosion went off like a roman candle over the head of Jane K. Collins.  I decided right then and there to go into a business that can make people go off their rockers. Coolest thing I ever witnessed.  Buh bye biology major.  So long literary dreams and pretensions.  Hollywood, here I come.

So thank you Steven Spielberg.  For my 35+ years spent working in television and social media and music and the Internet.  For decades in a business where I've been able to get into the brains of an audience and figure out why entertainment makes them go crazy.  For a career that gave me the chance to meet media giants like Rupert Murdoch and Leonard Goldenson and Bob Iger and Gene Autry.

It would have been cool to swim with dolphins, but I've got no regrets. I got to swim with the sharks in Hollywood instead.  Thank you Steven Spielberg.  Thanks for the memories.


Lisa said...

Awesome, Jane!!!!

Jane said...

Lisoid, I was absolutely stunned to see how many people turned out to see this movie which has been available for decades on VHS or DVD or endlessly playing on TV. There were enough folks to fill a good sized theater. The magic of cinema. May it last forever!