Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Goes With Shark?

From time to time, I'll have "movie nights" at the apartment.

Yeah, contain your shock at that one....

Recently, I set up a special event for a screening of Jaws with some folks who've never seen it. Yeah, I know, heathens, but we're trying to fix it. I mean, yeah, even my big TV and surround sound aren't going to compare to actually seeing it in a theater with a screaming audience, but we do what we can.

It's no joke that I find Jaws to be one of the greatest movies of all time. It's a truly brilliant melding of Roger Corman-style sensibilities with a absolutely awe-inspiring talent that emerged, almost wholly formed, out of Spielberg with this picture. It's fun, brilliant, and important cinema all in one fell swoop.


But what do you co-program with genius? The idea is that we'll watch two, or maybe three, films. I've done "trilogy nights," which are a sheer blast, and easy to set up. (Unless you're doing Lord of the Rings, or The Godfather, or the whole 6-film Star Wars cycle, then you run into some serious time crunch issues) This time, I'm just thinking 2 movies, any third would be picked on the fly.

Do you do an "Early Spielberg" evening? Follow up Jaws with the even more assured, and personal, Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Take the opportunity to show how The Beard uses the audiences expectations from Jaws to amp up the alien visitations, imbibing them with a dread that is masterfully turned in the final act? Not to mention the watching how Spielberg evolves even over just a couple of years.

Or do we co-program a film along similar lines? I'm not talking about one of the cash-grab rip-offs, like Tentacles, or Piranha, or even Kingdom of the Spiders. (I'm not often into bad films...It's gotta be very specific conditions. After one of the best films ever isn't it.) Perhaps an equally great film with a similar "predator" motif, where the makers used their skills to the fullest audience-manipulating glory?

Yeah, maybe Ridley Scott's Alien. There's certainly similarities, the monster preying upon our cast, picking them off, one by one, until the final confrontation.

 Or, perhaps, take a bit more meta approach to it? How about "brilliant films who's reputations are tarnished by weaker sequels?" I could co-program Rocky. I admit, Rocky has done better in the sequel game. Rocky II, III, and Rocky Balboa are all at least watchable, and sometimes brilliant in their own way. Jaws is the only Jaws film worth anyone's time. Trust me. Still, in both cases, there is a tendency to discredit or diminish the original because of the existence of sequels that strain credibility.

It has the advantage that I think both of those films are sheer genius.

Of course, along those lines, how about "second films of the beard twins?" I could offer up American Graffiti, George Lucas' second feature film, to go with Spielberg's. (THX-1138 and Sugarland Express being their respective firsts) That would be counter-programming at it's finest, and again, they're both great films.

AND you'd have the Richard Dreyfuss connection...Could even be a triple-feature with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Hmmmm.....

Really, when it comes right down to it, the best double feature would be a film I don't even own. Spielberg's 1971 TV movie, Duel. (It was released theatrically in Europe, and ultimately in the US as well...after Jaws struck box office gold) The Beard has been pretty clear that many of the techniques that made Jaws work so well started in Duel. (He even goes far enough to point out the titles of both films have 4 letters.) They certainly share the "behemoth hunts the everyman" theme. I think Duel is quite good, but it's no Jaws.

Ultimately, it's gonna be the pick of the people in the room, but I love trying to come up with interesting films to watch together.

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