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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

Jaws (1975)

This is one of the first movies I remember watching because it was an Important Movie. It must have been 2000 because TNT was running it daily, all summer long, for the 25th anniversary complete with Behind the Scenes factoids and interviews like an extremely disturbing interview with the actress who plays Chrissy, the first victim of the shark. She talked at length about doing the ADR (studio recorded audio used to clarify murky dialogue caught on film) for her death scene and making the sound engineer sick with her improvised drowning sounds. Memories! I don't know how many times I watched that summer but it was a lot. A lot a lot.


Jaws is a movie I think about a lot, for various reasons. I've watched a great number of discussions and analyses about the ridiculously good filmmaking and visual storytelling, which only make me love it more with each viewing. There's a fabulous video about the use of color and how Spielberg directs our eyes with yellow and red the whole film. He tells us exactly where to look and he trains us to do it from the get. It's so smart. I was blown away, in this viewing, by the use of camera motion. Camera angles can seem so gimmicky but Spielberg's use of fluid movement - both lateral and in terms of depth/zoom - is elegant and engaging and just plain incredible. I'm really hit or miss on Spielberg (this is one of three or maybe four of his films on the list) but when he's right, he's right. Aside from camera movement, his willingness to trust in stellar cinematographers is what makes his movies literally shine. Such jaw dropping lighting.


It is also a movie that scares the bejebus out of me. Not that I'm afraid of being eaten by a shark, or drowning in a sinking boat or whatever. I'm terrified of the mechanical shark. Possibly specifically because it was malfunctioning (quick shout out to the genius film making that built such suspense when the big expensive shark couldn't be seen - brilliant). I have never in my life been to Universal Studios, so I have never ridden the Jaws ride, but I have had so many nightmares about it. Just something about that shark shaped machinery lurking in dark water. Gives me the willies. (Like some people like ghost stories and horror movies, I watch youtube videos of dark water rides - I cannot and will not ever ride them - and read wikipedia articles about them. The internet tells me this fear is called submechanophobia. There's a nifty subreddit. But I digress.)


Thematically, this viewing landed a little differently. Throughout the pandemic, I thought of the Amity Island Mayor and his fabulous anchor blazer and how the real shark was capitalism all along. But watching today, I found myself thinking a lot about community and senses of belonging. The characters are primarily divided by whether or not they're "islanders." "You have to be born here!" one character crows at my personal hero, Ellen Brody. The Brodys are outsiders. Hooper is an outsider. Quint, the mayor, everyone clamoring for money (either through tourism or catching the shark): all islanders. Eventually, on the boat, the lines blur a little. Hooper and Quint have lots in common via the ocean (big ups to costume designer Robert Ellsworth for dressing them in matching color schemes: shirts match the sky, pants match the ocean) and Brody (clad here in mostly black) remains the outsider. Quint goes mad, Hooper and Brody keep their heads. There's some class discussion that once again separates them all from each other. It's a really remarkable ebb and flow of personal tension, mostly from societal divisions, that is just beautifully crafted.


I feel like I could write an entire doctoral thesis on the scar comparison/USS Indianapolis scene. It's such a wonderful, buoyant moment of camaraderie juxtaposed with absolute terror further juxtaposed with the tension of their situation. (Fun fact: I used Quint's monologue for an audition once. When I was 17. I'm not even embarrassed. What a classic Shannon bit of nonsense.) There is the full range of humanity in those five minutes and I honestly think the whole movie would be shot without it. Give Robert Shaw a mechanical shark's weight in acting awards for those five minutes. Starting with this shot:

Also no way will I neglect talking about John Williams' score. Just like the contrasting lighting, the use of building tension in the classic bass line ("duuuuh duh") with the typical William's soaring use of woodwinds and trumpets. I always think of his spritely motifs as "forward momentum motifs" - always used for moments of literal transport forward across landscapes. Always triumphant feeling. Really wonderful.


I also keep thinking about the use of glasses on Hooper and Brody throughout. Brody regularly removes his glasses around citizenry - one townsperson even being surprised to see him in glasses. Hooper fidgets with his constantly. Then there's the lovely, tender, almost vulnerable moment when Hooper goes in the cage and Brody gently asks for his glasses in exchange for the scuba mask. I'm sure there's something profound to be said of all that. Whatever that may be, I appreciated it all.


Oh gosh. Lots to list on this one.


Glass, resin, cardstock, balsa wood, acrylic paint, barnwood. "You're Gonna Need a Bigger Boat"

Love and appreciation to my partner, Ben, who built the stand for me.

These pictures are filler. My work is complete but there's some condensation I haven't been able to coax out of the bottle and I wanted to get pics up. I'll update once nature gets its stuff together.





Takeaways:

-This was a stroke of genius (if I do say so myself) but it really put me through my paces. It was a rough week in general and I struggled with just about everything.

-I started with lots of research on ships in bottles. There are very few helpful, illustrative guides so if you're into this awesome hobby, help a future girl out and make a kickass online guide, okay?

-I thought balsa wood was the way to go for the ship but I was WRONG. Then I tried cardstock and gave up on that. Then I tried sculpting it but that was horrid so I went back to cardstock.

-I work with miniatures for Dungeons & Dragons stuff all the time but this is about a quarter of that scale. The rear panel of the Orca is 5/8", for reference. It was fun, but the looming fear of not getting each piece into the bottle and then assembled was a lot.

-The ship was assembled in five pieces. Hull, mast (didn't go according to plan), smoke stack (broke upon assembling), quarters, steering housing. All done with loooong tweezers through the neck of the bottle. I thought I was prepared for how difficult that would be but I. was. not.

-I'm self delighted by the idea for the Apricot Brandy label, specifically because it allowed me to recreate my favorite still image from the movie, when the Orca is cruising past the sunset. Not perfect, but a solid idea.

-This was my first time working with resin which also has messed up internet help. Lots of doom and gloom. It took me forever to work up the courage to pour it because I was very concerned the glass would explode. But it didn't! Hooray!


Tomorrow is the fourth of July so we'll be celebrating with Independence Day!

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