It’s been a while since I started this, but my attention had to go to the new school year and my oldest started school as well. I needed to finish an interview. Follow the links, if you’re interested, to Parts I, II, and III.
Jaws is more important to me than Star Wars (1977). I had never thought about that before. I might be considered better-adjusted if the opposite were true. Growing up, I wrote every paper on sharks until sixth grade, where I started writing about horror movies, Edgar Allan Poe, serial killers, and Delta Blues. There was one paper in third or fourth grade about the Lakota Sun Dance (a ceremony with at least one variation that involves a warrior being pierced and hung by the skin). I learned about that from watching A Man Called Horse (1970) with my grandmother. All those shark papers came from Jaws. I wanted to be a marine biologist so I could study sharks. I watched the few pre-Shark Week docs available at the time like Blue Water White Death (1971).
As a kid, I watched this movie for the shark. As I get older, I admire how a fairly young Spielberg deftly handles the human element of the film. It’s this element that can get saccharine and off-putting in his later films, or films of this ilk, like Super 8 (2011).
After shark scientist, the next two jobs I thought about were either comic book artist or stop-motion special effects artist, like Ray Harryhausen. Later, I wanted to be Tom Savini. I’m just realizing how much time I’ve put into movies and movie culture.
I watch Jaws every summer, on the Fourth of July if possible. Admittedly, this year felt different. Maybe when the kids get older, we’ll have fun watching this during summers.
Here’s a quote from the book: “Hooper ladled chum, which sounded to Brody, every time it hit the water, like diarrhea.”
I’ve never been a fan of the large ensemble Linklater work like Slacker (1991) or Dazed and Confused (1993). Around the same time, I saw Robert Altman’s Short Cuts (1993), which I liked pieces of, but didn’t like as a whole. I had tried to find Nashville for a while, though I didn’t have much hope for it. All of these movies were ones I wanted to like, by the way, they had all come with encomiums by various friends. It’s like most performance or conceptual art, I suppose, the idea seems great, but often watching or standing in front of these things isn’t. I still admire the concept of Slacker, though I don’t enjoy the film.
I don’t think Nashville is a perfect film, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s my favorite of these large ensemble pictures so far.
Here’s a 40-year-old movie that seemed ahead of its time and maybe seems quaint now that we have a part-time TV host and all-the-time businessman in office and Nazis marching in the US. Maybe it can still help us understand the media and money machines we now have. Maybe. Either way, it’s worth the performances, particularly of Ned Beatty and Peter Finch.
So all that I said about disliking sentimentality in Spielberg and then I go and put Rocky in this list? Yeah, I know. Though it’s not really an equivalence, I regularly watch more Stallone than Spielberg, including Death Race 2000 (1975), Nighthawks (1981), First Blood (1982), Rhinestone (1984), Cobra (1986), Over the Top (1987), Rambo (2008), and Creed (2015).
As a fan of spaghetti westerns, and evidently of westerns in general, since they keep coming up on this list, I had little to no interest in this film when it came out and just forgot about it over the years. A friend who was slightly interested in my viewing projects, recommended Unforgiven and brought it to me. I watched Pale Rider (1985) and this back-to-back and about a week later watched Gran Torino (2008). There are interesting ways that these films talk to each other, but that’s for another time. I’m sure plenty of others have beat me to that anyway.
Gene Hackman delivers one of the saddest and funniest lines I’ve ever heard: “I don’t deserve this. To die like this. I was building a house.”
The Complete List of My Top 20 of the AFI Top 100+
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
City Lights (1931)
King Kong (1933)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Sunset Blvd. (1950)
High Noon (1952)
Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
On the Waterfront (1954)
The Last Picture Show (1972)