Monday, March 4, 2013

Jaws Through a Kid's Eyes

One night, my Whovian wife and I planned to sample the Russell T Davies/David Tennant Casanova miniseries on Netflix. 

Due to the whimsical and ever changing nature of Netflix availability, we suddenly found the need to make another choice.

I hadn’t watched Jaws in a very long time and had been thinking about it since I learned from the Lord of the Rings commentary that John Rhys Davies’s performance in the drinking game from the extended Two Towers cut was a tribute to Robert Shaw’s similarly drunken performance below decks in Jaws.   Remembering that scene led to memories of how fantastic it, and a majority of others in that film, were.

In the often times untrackable patterns of my brain, movies usually lead to other movies.

I suggested the film, and my wife’s initial response was that she’d seen it.

This is the one large area of entertainment she and I disagree on. 

For me, the emotional connection to a movie lasts well beyond watching it, and many films permanently occupy a portion of my consciousness and personality.  Multiple viewings are both to celebrate the moments enjoyed previously, and to discover new details.  

My wife tends to accept the plot of a movie as seen, and doesn’t feel the same NEED as I do for return engagements.  That isn’t to say she doesn’t have emotional reactions on repeat viewings, She’ll still develop visibly strong reactions to, and involvement in, the story when it is on screen, but won’t actively seek out that return viewing.    Although to be honest, a well made and cute commercial can also generate a sizeable emotional response from her, which is excessively cute in and of itself. 

With a little detective work, I discovered she had seen:
“One of them - There was a shark in it, and it blew up at the end.” 

This rendered only a twenty five percent chance that it was the original movie she saw, although the fact that she didn’t claw her own eyes out probably ruled out Jaws IV as well. Considering she watched it before we met, it was over a decade previously.  Therefore, I felt comfortable in treating it as a first time experience for her.

We got the important spoilers out of the way quickly:
“Don’t get too attached to the rude guy with the boat.” 

It’s much safer for me to do this.   She had read Watchmen a few years before the film, hence my not thinking any warnings were needed. (Outside of the obvious, “Don’t look when Rorschach saws the guy’s arms off/buries an ax in the guy’s head.”) I didn’t know she had forgotten about it, and her opinion shifted from deeply interested involvement to, “This movie sucks!” as soon as a certain glowing blue naked guy followed a disturbed blotty faced vigilante out into the snow.

However, when she asked about Richard Dreyfuss’s character in Jaws, I said, “He died in the book,” to preserve the happy surprise of his survival at the end. 

This is because I do try to keep certain spoilers held back that are crucial to experiencing the intended art of the film.

That tactic can still cause problems.

We were sitting in the classic “gal clutching her guy’s arm” suspenseful horror movie pose as Matt Hooper slowly swam through the dark and murky depths, exploring the wreckage of Ben Gardner’s boat.

Then came the scene added after filming was complete because the director felt he needed another jump scare.  When the aforementioned Mr. Gardner’s head made an unscheduled appearance through the hole in his boat, my arm was nearly wrenched from its socket as my wife leapt into the air off of the couch. 

Mission accomplished there, Mr. Spielberg.

She also let out a scream that I am amazed did not wake our daughter out of a sound sleep…

At Grandma’s house in the next town.

I believe, going forward, it would be safer for everyone involved if I just tell her the entire plot before we put any disc in the player from now on.

“But wait!” I hear you cry.  (I hope I hear you cry, anyway.  I would be really crushed if I was giving up all this sleep and no one was actually reading the stuff I spew out twice a week.)

“This is supposed to be “Jaws Through a Kid’s Eyes” not “Jaws Through a Wife’s Eyes.” 

What gives?

Simply, her reaction gave me a vivid flashback to the first time I saw Jaws.

Dad agreed to take me to the Denville Theater when I was at the ripe old age of six to see this shark film that the whole world was talking about.  Considering I was terrified merely by hearing spooky music coming from a movie in the other room at that age, I don’t know why I was possessed to ask to be brought into the belly of the beast itself.

I was already wound tighter than Speedy Gonzales’s maypole when Ben Gardner’s decapitated peek-a-boo popped up.

Game over, man!

I needed to leave the theater in ridiculous haste. 
Indeed, I may have carried my father all the way down Broadway to get him back to the car more quickly.

For that entire summer I was absolutely terrified to go swimming…

In the lake.

I was also terrified to enter in a pool deep enough to have a ladder.

Hell, I was terrified to stand close to a toilet for a couple of months.


longbow said...

First movie I ever saw on a VCR. A friend of the family's on Betamax. He was a lawyer and also had a Jaguar. Left feeling scared and poor.

All my latent fictional shark related fears of water got washed away about 14 years ago when training for an open water swim.
Went to a place before work to swim in a bay. There was no wind, no people, and no sun poking through the total cloud cover. The little cove was flat, black, and opaque.
As I walked out zipping up my wetsuit and cinching my goggle strap, the theme from Jaws started playing in my head. I dove under the surface, came up, and did a full 53 minutes back and forth along the pilings with that damn track on mental repeat.
Every passing seabird or odd turbulence stream caused me to flinch. But I finished without exiting early. And when I emerged from the cold, cold water my irrational paranoia stayed behind.

Of course, a few year after that I surfed at Bolinas where there actually are Great White sightings so that fear was totally rational.

Jeff McGinley said...

I did find my swimming to be exponentially faster that summer, you might have wanted to hold on to the irrational fear to use in the race.

You know what they only have to be right one time for paranoia to be worth it.

thanx for posting!

Linda said...

I only saw Jaws a few months ago after I mentioned at some event that I had never seen it. The chorus of WHAT?? arose and a dvd of it was forced upon me.

It was a good movie....

Jeff McGinley said...

Wow, I'm surprised that person wasn't me.

Yes, it was a good movie, as evidenced by the fact that even though it emotionally scarred me as a child, I still actively sought it out when older and had it become a favorite.

Thanx for sharing!

longbow said...

Approximately half of the comments I've made on the internet have been a variation of "Cage goes in the water, you go in the water. Shark's in the water. Our shark. "

Jeff McGinley said...

Hmmm. That may explain your trouble with on-line dating.


Thank you, try your waiters, tip the veal.

longbow said...

Expanding on my last comment,

Jeff McGinley said...

Something like that actually happened to Peter Benchley after wrting Jaws. I just finished his, "I'm sorry I made the whole world hate sharks," non fiction book.

thanx for sharing.