Category Archives: Review

Real Stories at Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema

We experienced some success last weekend when Emmi was selected by two film festivals (one in Belgium, one in London). Whilst browsing festivals over Easter, I spotted something called ‘Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema’ in London looking for ‘real stories’ to shown. Being as Emmi is inspired by a real story we decided we should give it a go – I’m glad we did!

Susie and I set off to London for the event (wrestling rush hour traffic, underground cancellations, problematic ticket barriers – arriving with 5 minutes to spare). When we arrived we were greeted by Ashley Jackson the festival organiser. There were seven films in the line-up (we were programmed to be the last film before the interval).

Lo-No Pop-Up Cinema postcard

The quality of the films shown were great, it’s nice to think that our rather personal little film might be considered alongside some of these. Let’s go over them one by one:

Grandmas Big Schlep:
Hannah finds out that Grandma wasn’t actually Jewish and can’t be buried next to Grandpa as planned. She must go on her journey with her sister Rivkah to make things right before it’s too late.

Although this was the longest film of the evening (20 minutes), it was also the most uplifting. The time bristled by and there was a lovely warmth and humour to the film. Both of the girls put in great performances and the whole thing had a polished and lavish feel. Nice to see it was made by a female team also.

 

Girl:
An Experimental drama about a young homeless woman who spends her days chasing a feeling.

From the longest film shown to the shortest, I found this particularly interesting to contrast against our homeless short film “Spare Change”. A couple of minor details were lacking authenticity (indeed the same is true of Spare Change), but I liked the overall message of the film. It was also interesting that it was shot in “Portrait” rather than traditional Widescreen which helped give the “Girl” a sense of isolation and a different perspective.

 

Husky:
Marcus, a boy on the brink of adulthood struggles to decide where his loyalties lie.

In some ways this gritty drama was a little similar in tone to our film, although the canvas felt slightly larger and the end result is more cinematic. There are two great performances in this short: the antagonist Dan (suitably loathsome) and the downs syndrome character Mary (who is the true standout of the film). Extremely well made and at a couple of points an excruciating, a testament to its power. I’d say this was my favourite film during the evening and again nice to a female team at the helm.

 

Emmi:
Keeping with the darker theme, we were next. We were pleased about being just before the interval as it gave us an opportunity to invite feedback. It was also a good opportunity to see the film on a different system (note to self: dial down the sound mix for future screenings). It was amusing to hear one audience member humming Emmi’s main theme at the end of the film.

 

Kitty’s Fortune
Based on Kitt Hart-Moxon’s first night in Auschwitz when Kitty encounters a palm-reading Gypsy who hones in on her lifeline. The film is a glimpse into a touching encounter between two people amidst the brutality of their surroundings.

On a technical level this was by far the most polished of the films shown, it was beautifully filmed. Yet despite the haunting performances/worthy subject matter, something didn’t quite click (not just me – Susie thought the same). We found the atmosphere in the first half extremely moving and well paced with a palpable sense of dread. This isn’t sustained after the initial gypsy encounter and the film felt like it needed a stronger ending. That said, this is still an impressive film, especially in terms of what was achieved for the budget.

 

A Six and Two Threes:
Two kids from different sides of the tracks meet when one goes in search of their father.

Again there was some very impressive cinematography in this piece. Some of the dialogue in the film was difficult to hear, but what I really liked was the authenticity of the film. The performers felt genuine and were around the right age. The two main performances were nicely handled and the younger kid in particular is a hoot. The language was also very crude, I was thinking Emmi would easily win the swear count until this film’s colourful language took things to the next level! Very well done and strangely touching.

At this point we had to leave to get back, but during the interval we caught up with the Writer/Producer (Ellie Gocher) and Director (Jimmy Dean) of the final film ‘Offside’. We spoke a bit about finding funding and what they had planned as their next project. They also told us that the film was online (so I’ll share it below).

 

Offside:

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2017/03/28/offside/

Offside tells the story of 11 year old Kirsty who struggles to accept her looming femininity as she learns she will soon lose her position on the local boys football team.

Having now seen the film, I’d say that the film was slower paced than many of the other films shown during the evening, but the pacing was deliberate and the story works on multiple levels. The central performances felt genuine and authentic and it particularly resonated being as I’m father to a 10 year old daughter who also currently enjoys playing football. Of course being as the film is shared online you can make your own mind up!

The programme for evening can be downloaded here.

This was a great evening and I’d like to extend my thanks to Lo-No for selecting our film and making us feel welcome. We hope to return for the next project!

Not so super

The other night I watched the latest Spiderman film (The Amazing Spiderman 2), Spiderman 2.2 if you like. There was a lot to like about it on some levels: it looked fantastic, it was exciting + well paced considering the two and a half hour runtime, the lead characters (Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone) were superb and had genuine chemistry. In fact I’d even go so far to say that Garfield is pitch perfect as both Peter Parker and Spiderman (especially if you are familiar with the comics). Yet despite having much in its favour, there was an awful lot “off” about it.

Spidey

1. Some scenes were far too convenient for their own good. Plausibility was beyond breaking point in the same way Silva calculated all of Bond’s moves in Skyfall (and interestingly one such scene is also set in an abandoned subway station).

2. The baddies were all under-developed (a shame as Dane DeHaan did some fine work here). Everything plotting their fall from good to evil felt rushed, incomplete and false. It appears they tried to juggle too many baddies in a single installment again, generally a recipe for disaster (even if it is isn’t anywhere near the disaster Batman and Robin or Spiderman 3 were).

3. It seems the script-writers were ticking boxes for the studio. The actors are let down by a clunky/poor script which is more interested in setting up merchandising and future installments rather than actually telling a good story (Iron Man 2 syndrome)!

4. The core problem (which ties in with the other points): it was really two movies masquerading as one. So instead of having two good movies with genuine punch/pay-off we end up with a frustrating mess of a movie.

5. Inappropriate music. Songs are shoe-horned in but they don’t fit the tone of the film (the end-credits in particular). Hans Zimmer (the “new” Danny Elfman?) turns in another bland super-hero score – the “wub-wub” stylings trying too hard to be edgy and cool (no – it’s like every other damn action trailer I’ve seen in the past two years). Shouldn’t it be “ELECTRO” rather than “DUBSTEP” anyway? The score feels a mixed bag (much like the film itself) despite a nice rousing brassy-blast for Spidey’s theme and suitably sinister motif for Osborn (which is itself ripping off Inception and Inside Man). Personally I like more consistency in my scores. The last three Spidey films in the franchise have all had different composers/themes, time to give Mr Elfman a call again!

Ultimately what is my real problem? I’m suffering Franchise fatigue towards Superhero films (which seem to be all that play in cinemas these days – thanks very much Marvel!). The initial blame could perhaps be leveled at The Dark Knight. Now we have Marvel setting up The Avengers universe and releasing a new film each year, DC trying to get in on the action with Superman/Batman/Justice League. X-men has already had spin-offs with Wolverine, there is a new X-men film out this summer. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Mystique film in the near future. Now there is Spiderman setting up The Sinister Six. The Spiderman franchise was already rebooted in its relative infancy and everything still feels a retread of the Raimi films. I’ve just read that Daredevil will be the next to get the reboot treatment. Great, we all want that one!

To be perfectly blunt – this genre is becoming dull and clichéd. Even the marketing falls into cliché: the director of the current installment always announced in advance as being the director of future installments (ala Captain America 2/3, Man of Steel/Superman vs Batman/Justice League, X-men, The Amazing Spiderman 2/3) as if to create a false sense of spectacle. Of course the next installment will always be bigger better etc. and will end in yet another destruction of some city. And please remember to stay for the end-credits if it’s a Marvel film (This new Spiderman film features perhaps the most bizarre “Easter Eggs” ending of all – completely unrelated to the franchise). I’d love to see this genre take a sabbatical and come back when it has something which is fresh and new to say. Sadly this doesn’t appear to be the case and it looks like we are going to endure many more years of spin-offs and “the same old”. Hmm – perhaps Batman and Robin wasn’t so bad after-all!

Everything Or Nothing review

I’ve just had the good fortune to catch up with the new Bond documentary Everything or Nothing. The film was showcased in selected Odeon cinemas recently to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond series. Everything or Nothing, for those unaware, is the name which the Bond producers adopted when the began making the films in the early 1960’s – EON Productions, which is still the company producing the series to this day.

The documentary charts the journey from the literary origins of Ian Fleming’s super spy – right up to the recent films – Sean Connery to Daniel Craig. It is primarily interested in charting the ups and downs of the series producers and could be one of the criticisms I could aim at it – it turns into “the Broccoli show”. The Broccoli family who produce the films are notoriously guarded about how they are portrayed in the media. This ultimately makes some issues feel a bit too rose-tinted and sanitized at times. You will not find a single bad word about Cubby said here. That said, this is perhaps one of the more refreshingly open and honest documentaries I have seen about Bond. There are a few revealing candid moments here, mostly from former Bonds and how they were unceremoniously replaced. Another criticism might be that many prominent characters appear and are then dispatched of in much the same manner. You could also argue that many diehard fans will already know the majority of stories and anecdotes on display here.

Everything or Nothing DVD cover

Everything or Nothing DVD cover

This said, it is still extremely well made and for this fan it offered plenty of new behind the scenes footage and new unseen interviews. Naturally Sean Connery declines to get involved as per usual, his notorious falling out with the producers being covered along the way. Despite Mr Connery’s notable absence, the Bond actor interviews are where this documentary really soars. As Pierce Brosnan notes, it really is an exclusive feat playing Bond and more people have walked on the moon. It’s great to hear them talking candidly about the subject. Keeping things interesting are some nicely timed intercuts from the films and superb use of the music in the series. The documentary is fast paced, informative and whistles by before you know it – much like the films themselves. This feels like the natural companion piece to the “Inside” making of documentaries by John Cork which feature on the films up to 1989. If you like those, chances are you will like this. Therefore I would argue this makes a far more worthy addition to the otherwise brilliant Blu-ray collection than that disappointing bonus disc they produced. All in all, this comes highly recommend – especially to fans of the series.

2012 Year Review

Just had a look back at my list of things to achieve for 2012.

How did it go?

1. Finish editing Etiquette.
We made the 10th February deadline and the film played at BAFTA in February. This was a fantastic experience! One thing outstanding is that I need to produce a proper DVD (apologies to anyone still waiting). I’ve spent a fair bit of time creating bonus material (eg. several versions of the film to show its evolution, image galleries, interview clips, plus a making of documentary). Hopefully the extra wait is going to be worth it.

2. To do more editing/composing.
This I feel particularly happy about. I smashed last year’s record of a lowly three tracks (of which I only really liked one). This year on average I’ve composed over a track per month. Plus I’ve edited and scored Legacy (aka. the short formerly known as Dad).

3. More camera tests (eg. lighting, green-screen and special effects).
Generally on this one, I’ll admit failure. I haven’t done nearly enough experimenting. Perhaps this will be the focus for 2013. I did get to play with a Black Magic Camera earlier in the month however.

4. To make at least one other short.
Spare Change filled this gap. Okay, the original time-lines did slide drastically, but we got there! This is now in the same as Etiquette last year (ie. a rough cut in need of finalising). I also spent time helping Sean Langton make his debut (as co-producer).

5. To find an elusive feature to consider.
Still looking! Any offers?

6. To continue blogging and networking.
The 10 questions interview only happened once. I should perhaps concentrate on this more. However I have continued blogging and networking, so I’m going to claim overall success.

7. To remain being a good Dad to the kids whilst doing all of this.
Obviously this is highly subjective. My children continue to be a constant source of delight and inspiration. Admittedly they sap up the majority of my time and energy – yet I find the benefits tremendously rewarding!

The other big change (feeding into the point above) is that I’m now working a four day week in my day-to-day job. This has not been an easy transition by any means, but it does allow me to spend more time with family whilst they are still young. Ultimately I am hoping it will allow me to take on some additional film-work.

So to sign off for 2012, I wish all readers of this blog the very best for 2013 – I hope  you all have a great one!!

Below there is an overview of the things this blog has covered during 2012:

January:

February:

March 2012:

April 2012:

May 2012:

June 2012:

July 2012:

August 2012:

September 2012:

October 2012:

November 2012:

December 2012:

Thomas Newman Skyfall Soundtrack review

Yesterday was a good day! Two Bond music related goodies arrived at my front-door. John Burlingame’s book, The Music of James Bond (which I can’t wait to read) and the new SkyFall Soundtrack.

Bond Music

If you weren’t already aware, Bond has a new sound courtesy of frequent Sam Mendes collaborator and eight time Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman (son of the legendary composer Alfred Newman). Series regular David Arnold sits this one out after a run of five consecutive movies. Whilst this may not be the popular consensus, I’m actually very grateful Bond has a new contemporary sound. I must confess, I was initially somewhat weary of Thomas Newman getting the gig, his brother David would seem a much more natural fit for this film.

David Arnold is clearly respectful of late composer John Barry and whilst his work is definitely serviceable, his work has a tendency to be somewhat derivative of his first Bond score (Tomorrow Never Dies). John Barry was a master of creating atmosphere by using specific orchestral styles or instrument types (even creating a new sound for each Bond actor – Connery: Guitar/Brass, Moore: Strings/Brass, Lazenby: Moog/Synths,  Dalton: Bass/Drum-loops). David Arnold on the other hand tends to throw in the entire kitchen sink. Subtle it aint! Some of his work is often loud, overblown and occasionally bloated. Once you have thrown everything at a cue, you don’t really have many places you can go (although he falls back by throwing a hanging trumpet chord before repeating all over again). The exception to this rule was his more introspective score to Quantum of Solace – which I think holds up as some of his strongest Bond work to date (even if the film itself doesn’t).

Newman takes his own approach. It won’t sit well with everybody, as it is at times very minimalist, but still has the power when required. The difference is he generally doesn’t tend to over-blow just for the sake of it (although there are instances where it still happens – including one “Thunderball” moment – although this mostly brought a smile to my face). Generally this is not what we have come to expect for Bond score (ala Eric Serra), and whilst I believe it fits the film like a glove – some will dismiss it as “not David Arnold”, “not Bond” or “sonic wallpaper”. Time will tell.

Newman is a composer I rarely “get” upon a first listen, some of his work here is no exception. However there are definitely stand-out tracks which broke this rule, most notably Severine (a beautiful lush romantic track which harks back to John Barry) and Komodo Dragon (which is more David Arnold in style and also quotes Adele’s Bond main-title). Talking of which, the Adele track isn’t on this album which it is at pains to point out on the back of the album. This is a dire trend which started with Casino Royale and the omission of the Chris Cornell’s rather good You Know My Name track (if only they did this with some of the less than good tracks such as Another Way To Die or Die Another Day). If you want Adele’s song you will need to buy the single separately. Personally I rather like the Adele track and it works rather nicely in the film, albeit it with seemingly softer vocals. One other track you may or may not get is Old Dog, New tricks, which is an iTunes exclusive. Two other tracks I’d like to single out as enjoying early on are Enjoying Death which had a nice cryptic 60’s spy-flute swagger about it and Mother which has a more emotional tug.

For the most part however, Newman’s style of pulsating chromatic percussion and guitars keep the momentum going without ever drowning things out ala Die Another Day. There is definitely a large ethnic/turkish influence felt through-out the work which starts right from the opening track, a rather exciting action cue. You can hear three full tracks from the album here (including the exquisite Severine track) – courtesy of Cinema Musica and Sony Music:

Criticisms? Sure! Thematically it could be a little bit stronger and the music tends to be rhythm based. There is thematic material to be found however such as a melancholic yet regal  M theme (as witnessed on both Voluntary retirement and Mother), Severine’s theme (also in Modigliani, Komodo Dragon) and of course the James Bond theme (Breadcrumbs). As I said, Newman’s material doesn’t always hit you between the ears on the first listen. Only now am I starting to appreciate some of the density. It could also be argued that for a piece largely revolving around Britain, things sound too ethnic. However for the most part, the album sits together well as a listening experience. The tracks are out of sequence and I’m pleased to say that the track names don’t contain any obvious spoilers. Only the last track seems somewhat out-of-place – mostly a mix of the action cue Newman infuses elsewhere.

Not everyone is going to agree with this assessment, but I commend Newman for bringing his own style to Bond, and for me this sits quite highly amongst the non-Barry soundtracks. Of course it is still nowhere near the great John Barry (even on an off day), but I  certainly wouldn’t be upset to Thomas Newman return for another adventure further down the line. I highly suspect David Arnold will return back for Bond 24, and I hope the break has given him some fresh inspiration.

Meanwhile, to tie things up nicely – why not watch a clip of Thomas Newman, David Arnold and John Burlingame talk here?

Let the Skyfall (no spoilers)

So here we are at Bond’s 50th Anniversary. I have to be honest and say that Mr Bond is looking in a lot better shape than I do and I’m younger.

Skyfall poster

I was originally planning to structure this in two parts: one spoiler free and one covering more ground (whilst trying hard to hold back on some of the bigger details which haven’t already been seen online via trailers, production stills or clips). I may do this at a later point, but for now – here are my initial reactions.

Spoiler Free version

So the big question people may want to ask is: is it better than Quantum of Solace? Will it help if I can morph that question into: how does this stack up against Daniel Craig’s debut – Casino Royale?

The fact I can mention it on the same breath as that film hopefully speaks volumes. The answer would be extremely well indeed, although as is customary for Bond, people have their favourites. Some will prefer Casino Royale, some will prefer this entry. Myself? It’s still a bit too early to call.

But I can say Daniel Craig now completely commands this role and is clearly the only other contender to the Connery/Moore * throne.  (*delete as appropriate)

Daniel Craig with gun

Since resolving some of his “issues” from the previous two films and getting slightly deconstructed here – he comes over as less thuggish, more suave and not beyond the odd quip. Actually there is a lot of sly humour in this film if you observe closely (albeit not as obvious as it was during Roger Moore’s tenure).

Shanghai

It has the usual Bond cocktail ingredients: exotic, glamour, excitement and a completely squirm inducing main villain. Speaking of which, the villain (Javier Bardem) is perhaps one of the most memorable in the series. He makes his character Silva very “showy” but is also both a physical and mental match for Bond. Things glisten every time he is on-screen. If I had only one complaint it would be that he didn’t have any memorable henchman.

Javier Bardem

The ladies (Bérénice Marlohe and Naomie Harris) are of course stunning. This said these ladies take a bit of a back-burner to make way for the real lady in Bond’s life – M, who is once again superbly played by Judi Dench. It is her story which drives the plot. It was a nice touch to set things on home ground for a change with London taking up a fair chunk of the screen time (which feels right considering the 2012 Olympics).

Bond observes London

Technically the film has some of the finest pedigree in the franchise history. It has a standout cast including the aforementioned Javier Bardem and newcomers Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Albert Finney and Naomie Harris. Behind the camera American Beauty director Sam Mendes takes over the reigns proving he is capable of delivering a big crowd-pleaser just as easily as his usual art-house fare. He concentrates on character and story over action. There is of course the amazing pre-title opening sequence. However there is notably less action than some of the more recent entries making action scenes feel all the more exhausting when they do occur. They never feel shoe-horned in and unlike Quantum of Solace you can appreciate them without getting a headache. This is in no small part because of three essential team members: the editor Stuart Baird, the director of photography Roger Deakins and the composer Thomas Newman. Let’s quickly go through their contributions one by one.

Judi Dench filming with Sam Mendes and Roger Deakins

Baird also edited Casino Royale. Like that film, this film also runs long (146mins – the second longest in the series). Casino Royale felt like a film of two halves – the opening action packed half, and the slower casino half. Tonal he hits the balance better this time and the film seems to whiz along more evenly. I’d go so far as to say the film felt significantly shorter than Quantum of Solace (which considering it is the shortest film in the series, feels like it goes on a bit). The editing is so much more assured and confident than the twitch shaky-cam style editing which all but destroyed Quantum of Solace. In particular there is one brief action beat which is done in a single glorious shot (Quantum probably would have covered the same ground in at least 20 separate shots).

Deakins is a true master who is at the top of his craft. This is the first digitally shot Bond and it looks terrific. There is real verve in the colour/lighting choices (with plenty of shadowy subtext) and the framing/camera movement are all top notch.

Regular composer David Arnold sits this one out, and I have to say Thomas Newman stepped up to the job admirably. Whilst neither are in the same calibre of John Barry’s in his heyday, Newman goes his own direction but still tips his hat at the appropriate moments. He also doesn’t overload the proceedings and his constantly tapping percussion makes some action scenes seem suitably exhausting.

One hopes they come back for the next in the series. Daniel Kleinman also returns after a one film break with some inventive main-title visuals to accompany Adele’s more traditional Bond song.

Berenice Marlohe and Daniel Craig

All in all, this film has pretty much all a Bond fan could wish for with one foot in the past and one pointing towards more contemporary issues. There are some nice 50th Anniversary nods, which are handled in a much more subtle manner than they ever were for the 40th Anniversary in Die Another Day.

Daniel Craig Dark

Of course there are still a couple of minor nits to be picked, but to be honest, I really can’t delve too much further without giving away details, so what I will say is go and see this movie and make your own mind up. If you get the chance – go and see it in IMAX!

Bond is back! And yes, it’s much better than Quantum of Solace.

You’re going to need a bigger screen

Amazingly I’ve managed to find some time to visit the cinema a bit more recently, a rare treat! I’m not entirely sure why I dedicated an entire blog post to rant about Prometheus when I have seen two far better films on the big screen. The first of which was The Raid, a film that is developing a bit of a cult following. It is an Indonesian action film made for £1million by Welsh director Gareth Evans (who also wrote and edited the film – superb work that man!). Now as an indie film-maker I find this terribly inspirational stuff!

It is frequently getting mentioned alongside Die Hard but to be honest it is perhaps closer in tone to the John Woo’s Hard Boiled. It still has the siege elements, but also the ridiculous body count, the slimy despicable baddie who hides behind security monitors, a few twisted alliances, even a bad guy called “Mad Dog” who steals the show (and the actor who plays mad-dog also does the action choreography just as in Hard Boiled). The other film I’d perhaps compare it to is Ong Bak, but instead of showcasing Muay Thai it showcases the equally visceral and seemingly more deadly art of Pencak Silat. Wow!

It’s pretty brutal stuff at times, but massively entertaining. There are two versions of this film, I’m going to have to track down the non-Westernised original version with an alternate score. I don’t want to give too much more away about this film, but for action hounds – well worth a visit!

During the showing there was a trailer for my favourite film of all time, which I have never seen on the big screen,… until now.

Jaws.

Yes, it’s all this film’s fault. Not only is it my favourite film, it is also the film you can credit for making me want to become a film-maker. I aspire to craft something as perfect as this film, I probably never will – but that’s the goal.

I have so many memories of this film as a child. The first was my parents putting me to bed early so they could sit and watch it on their own. I was told I was absolutely not allowed to come downstairs. The second was a couple of years later when returning from a fishing trip from my Dad. We came back late and it was on telly. The scene in question was where Robert Shaw is strapping himself in to do a spot of fishing himself. This scene fascinated me with the way that the suspense built, I’d never really seen anything quite like this before. Just as I was getting into it, I was once more shown the door to my bedroom and told I wasn’t allowed to watch. I was a bit miffed this time! So skip forward a couple more years. Once again the parents told me I couldn’t watch. The big difference this time was that they had recently put a TV in their bedroom. I duly sneaked off in the dark to watch on their bed whilst they watched it downstairs unaware. Of course, the opening sets the tone nicely, I was gripped. It was all going rather well and (in Scooby Doo tradition) I might have gotten away with it until “that scene” reared it’s ugly head! You all know the one I refer to, arguably the biggest “jump” scene in cinema history! I yelped and was busted shortly afterwards. Thankfully during the advert break, my parents said “Okay, you can watch – but at least watch it with us downstairs”. And of course, I loved it!

To be fair, Jaws clearly appeals to kids but it is debatable whether it should be for smaller children.  In the States it was originally rated R before being given a PG certificate. Different children have a different tolerance/threshold, the film has since lost it’s PG rating and is now a 12A in the UK, perhaps a more appropriate rating (again I’d mention that Murder by decree as another good example of where this is also more apt). I remember watching Piranha (an 18 at the time) several years later, thinking Jaws had much stronger content.

I can’t believe this film is 37 years old already and it holds up amazingly well. I got goosebumps hearing the atonal weird underwater noises, followed by those low strings and the names appearing on-screen. There was a slight touch of melancholy when seeing the names of the actors who are no longer with us (Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Murray Hamilton) and many of the crew as well (Peter Benchley, David Brown, Verna Fields).

There are so many highlights to this film, I really don’t even know where to begin. The great acting from the cast (including many of the smaller roles), the tight script (which amazingly was being re-written in many cases the evening before the next day of shooting), the atmosphere, editing, music, direction and some wonderful use of real locations – I can go on and on. I won’t go into specifics as I have at least one friend who has never seen it (we need to rectify this when I get the Blu-ray). Every time I watch this movie I take something different away. I hadn’t seen the film in a few years, perhaps it is the fact I am a father now but the beautifully played scenes by Lee Fiero hit especially hard. After her final scene, we are treated to a lovely family moment between father and son.  For me, these scenes and indeed the first half of the film is absolutely pitch perfect. The second half is “almost perfect”, the tone changes into a boys own adventure with it’s three main characters (Shaw, Scheider, Dreyfus) against the might Great White.

Jaws Characters (C) Universal
Image: Wikipedia, image (C) Universal Pictures

Perhaps it’s that something gets lost once the shark is fully revealed, or the fact the pacing isn’t quite as slick despite some exceptionally fine editing. This is me being nit-picky in the extreme saying “almost perfect”. There are still so many stand-outs, the shark cage, the finale and of course that wonderful Indianapolis speech (co-written by a favourite of mine – John Milius with a lot of help from the brilliant Robert Shaw). Apparently the scene was performed twice. Once when Shaw was drunk to get the full-effect and once when he was sober after apologising profusely to Spielberg about his terrible drunken performance and behaviour. The end result is a mixture of both.

Jaws won three Oscars (Best Film Editing for Verna Fields, Best Music Score for John Williams and Best sound). It was also nominated for Best Picture which ultimately went to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest. In my opinion it’s a crime of “Annie Hall/Star Wars” proportions that Spielberg wasn’t even nominated for his direction. This film clearly took an awful lot out of him, it was without question the hardest film production-wise of his career. It almost destroyed him! Thankfully Verna Field’s superb editing aided by John Williams’ ominous score (can I drop in the potentially controversial comment that Jaws 2 is actually an even better score) helped to save the day to make the masterpiece that it still is day.

And so the Hollywood Blockbuster was born!