My new thing is this:
Cheating on the internet.
Here is how it’s done:
You take something controversial or buzzed about, anything that is being subjected to the internet echo chamber/thunderdome.
You take that thing, and you engage with it (watch/read/listen to/etc.) alone. Alone!
You think about that thing. You form an opinion. Alone! Take however long you want! Days! Weeks! There is no deadline. Ambivalence counts as an opinion, as long as you can articulate it to yourself.
You have your opinion ready? Great! Don’t tell the internet. No matter how many opportunities arise, do not join the public conversation.
Here is what you do instead:
You find a friend, and you talk to them. In person, via email, however. You have a real conversation with a real person. Maybe you will both agree or disagree, but you will both talk, and you will both listen. In good faith, like regular people!
And that’s it. That’s the whole thing.
(I feel obligated to add, this isn’t a “shut up, people” thing. Sometimes your thoughts should be public, sometimes they very much need to be. This is just a gift, for you, when you need it.)
I read Jaws the book this week. I did it because I hadn’t, because Tully (tmills to us here on tumblr.com, which is not letting me insert hyperlinks for some godforsaken reason) said it was terrible (it is), and because in its wake, Peter Benchley has refashioned himself as a shark conservationist, and I can’t get mad at that.
So I read Jaws the book. I don’t think everyone should read Jaws the book, but I think people not yet dispossessed of that knee-jerk “the book is always better than the movie”* attitude should definitely read it. Sometimes subplots enrich a story, and sometimes they clutter it. Quint actually says something to that effect in the novel (it’s about chumming, but I’ll take my metaphors where I can get ‘em):
"Like I said, if the slick gets too big, it’s no good…The slick would be big and confusing, and even if [the shark] came up right up alongside and looked at us, we wouldn’t know he was there unless he took a bite out of us."
The limitations of film are often its greatest assets. A movie can’t give you paragraphs’ worth of background on Amity Mayor Larry Vaughan (well, it could, but it’d be a dick to do it), but it can show you the guy in an anchor jacket that gives you the gist of it.
The costume piece so good, it has its own Facebook page.
I think limitations can be good for artists in general, but for directors in particular. Watch a Spielberg popcorn movie now, and watch Jaws, starring a mechanical shark that didn’t work. Jurassic Park was the movie where everything went right, and it was the end of everything. We would never have to replace a shark with a barrel again.
R.I.P. Big-Budget Creativity.
The thing I perhaps missed most from the novel was Robert Shaw. DID U KNOW**: “Shaw based his performance on fellow cast member Craig Kingsbury, a local fisherman, farmer, and legendary eccentric, who was playing fisherman Ben Gardner.” Benchley’s Quint is an Ahab-like figure in that he shares Ahab’s eccentricities but not their source. He is a man with a past, but not a particularly haunted one. Can you even imagine Jaws without the U.S.S. Indianapolis monologue?
Jaws wasn’t the first aquatic menace movie, but it’s the one that defined the genre. Some elements of Jaws have become so intrinsic to this type of movie that they have transcended homage to become convention.
That Zoom is so ubiquitous it needs to be taken out of context to even read as a nod anymore. For example: Wayne Knight’s face at the police station in Basic Instinct, another movie about a gaping maw of [loses the will to finish making this vagina joke]. Speaking of maws, Maw was one of the many unfortunate titles Peter Benchley considered for his novel. I love writing titles, but trying to name Jaws would have given me a headache, too.
I’ve had recurring dreams about sharks, real and mechanical, for as long as I can remember. I find them equal parts frightening and comforting. Jaws was my first scary movie, an effective one at that, but the day after I first watched it, I went to the beach and swam.*** When I worked a demeaning job at Universal Studios Theme Park, the proximity of fake Amity Island and it’s animatronic leviathan brought me some modicum of comfort, like carrying a [barely functional] good luck charm in my pocket.
So yes, I read Jaws the book. And I’m glad I did. But it’s Jaws the movie whose frames and sounds have been so imprinted on me that even in the moments of greatest suspense, they feel like home. I could almost curl up in the Roy Scheider zoom and take a nap. There are dozens of movies I could call my favorite, but there are few that occupy the kind of beachfront property of my heart that Jaws does. Though I hear that prices are dropping. Something about a killer shark.
*This should be strictly the opinion of a precocious third-grader, not of an adult who has actually read books or watched movies.
**Via Wikipedia. I have spent so much time on the Jaws Wikipedia page over the years that we are now in a common-law marriage.
***My unofficial living will largely consists of me telling my parents, whenever it occurs to me, that in the event I die in a shark attack, to lobby for the shark not being killed, because damn, that’s just bad luck.
I found your look for summer, via Earth Girls Are Easy.
Aw no, you guys, I forgot to include this point in my Gatsby review, plz forgive me.
"GATSBY" reads the typewritten cover page of Nick Carraway’s account of the events of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby 3D AND THEN SOME before he goes in with a pen to physically handwrite the words “The Great” above it. It’s the last scene in the movie, but it’s also, you know, every scene in the movie. Putting more stuff on top of stuff is the Baz Luhrmann way—he has never been a light touch, but I’m sure I don’t have to remind you who else wasn’t either.*
The Great Gatsby is a novel that a lot of people have proprietary feelings toward because it’s one of those books that makes teenagers feel as though at last they are reading (and understanding!) Literature**. F. Scott Fitzgerald is not a subtle writer, but he’s a deft one, and that’s mostly good enough, especially for a story that is so much a guilty pleasure morality play. I definitely identify with Fitzgerald’s ambivalence toward parties and expensive stuff. The marriage of hedonism and consumerism is shallow and hollow and evil, but it’s also obviously Really Cool.
Did that scene with the shirts remind anyone else of the Rick Ross profile in GQ a couple of years ago where he brings all the one dollar bills into the strip club and half-assedly makes it rain thousands of dollars because he literally has nothing better to do? Because these scenes of conspicuous consumption are so woven into THE FABRIC OF AMERICA that we are doomed to watch them repeat over and over. I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts either.***
Gatsby is an incredibly expensive and crass movie, even more so in 3D, which has the effect of making everything look, if possible, even more like Disneyland. The Gatsby Reveal is one of my favorite movie moments in recent memory, and it made me cackle out loud in the theater (as so many other things in this movie did). There’s something truly dazzling**** about the level of earnest showmanship in layering a garish pinky ring over a coupe of champagne over a DiCaprio smile over fireworks over an indoor swimming pool over Rhapsody in Blue.***** Shirts on shirts on shirts.
My greatest criticism of Gatsby is its lazy as hell****** framing device, but the words floating over Nick’s face as he writes are an effect that the one girl in my high school who had a half-decent grasp of editing software and ended up fixing everyone’s video presentations would have LOVED, so I can’t get too mad, you dig?
Luhrmann treats Jay Gatsby with the same uncritical affinity that Spielberg does with Jurassic Park's John Hammond—leave it to a notoriously flashy director to pull punches when it comes to a fellow showman. I don't think Gatsby is the movie Fitzgerald would have made, but I do think it is the movie Gatsby would have made, equal parts earnest and artificial.
*Fitzgerald. It’s Fitzgerald.
**Full disclosure: I have read The Great Gatsby like five times because I can never remember what happens in it. I can hang with the broad strokes and a couple of select details, but the plot? There is a Gatsby-shaped hole in my head that makes the novel singularly unmemorable for me.
***What was UP with the womenswear in this movie?? I was relieved at the absence of fringe but jeez louise, Catherine Martin, there must be a way to express Daisy’s flimsiness without all the handkerchief hems.
****Nicolas Cage’s description of Deborah Foreman in Valley Girl.
*****Spielberg’s GATSBY. Richard Dreyfuss as Nick Carraway saying he’s supposed to meet with Gatsby. Roy Scheider, happily surprised “Oh for goodness sakes, I’m Gatsby! I’m Gatsby!” Anyway, this is a thing I like to imagine in my head.
******Both on the part of Luhrmann, shamelessly self-cannibalizing Moulin Rouge, and on the part of Nick Carraway’s psychiatrist, who it seems is really lying down on the job.
I had my first Doritos Locos Taco.
(vine by Geoff)