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PCR #325. (Vol. 7, No. 24) This edition is for the week of June 12--18, 2006.
Mike's RantMike's Bust
Hello, gang! Summer baseball has started which means a short one this week. Shall we begin?

The Tampa Film Review For June  by Nolan B. Canova
A Ghostly Tour of a Jungle Prada  by William Moriaty
"Nacho Libre"  by Mike Smith
The Dark Side Winds Again....Speak Up....My Favorite Films -- Part 24: "Jaws 2"  by Mike Smith
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Congratulations to actor Ian McDiarmid, who this past weekend won a Tony award as Best Featured Actor in the play, "Faith Healer." McDiarmid becomes the second Lord of the Sith to win Broadway's coveted prize, joining the voice of Darth Vader himself, James Earl Jones, who won two awards for "The Great White Hope" and "Fences."

This week two 911 operators in the Detroit area were charged for not taking the frequent calls from a then 5-year old boy seriously. According to records, Robert Turner, now 6, called 911 twice to tell them that his mother had collapsed and needed medical help. On the tapes made from that day, one dispatcher is heard telling the child that he shouldn't play with the phone and that he would send the police if he didn't stop dialing 9 1 1. Despite having tapes that sound loud and clear, the president of the phone dispatcher's union says that the women ignored the little boys pleas for help because they were pretty certain the child was playing a trick on them. Also, the rep indicated that the headsets used by the operators were not state of the art and possibly garbled the boy's message.

Starring: Roy Scheider, Lorraine Gary and Murray Hamilton
Directed by: Jeannot Szwarc

FIRST SEEN: General Cinema at Britton Plaza, Tampa, Florida
FAVORITE LINE: "Don't give me that shit, POINT!"
FAVORITE SCENE: Marge is eaten

June 16, 1978 was a date I could not wait to arrive. As a huge fan of the film JAWS, I knew that June 16 was the day that JAWS 2 would be released. During the winter of 1977, my friend, Matt, and I would often stop by the local cinema playing "The Greek Tycoon" and ask to use the restroom. Of course, we tended to stop in about five minutes before "The Greek Tycoon" was scheduled to start. We used that time to sneak into the auditorium to watch the trailer for "Jaws 2." Just thinking about the booming voice of Percy Rodriguez announcing"....just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water." What a classic ad campaign, still borrowed from today almost 30 years later. I can still remember heading down to the Britton in Scott Gilbert's car (I had wrecked mine earlier that week in an accident in the rain) and seeing one person in line in front of us. At first he refused to let us get in front of him but was finally persuaded to do the right thing. Once inside the 900 seat auditorium, our group waited anxiously for the film to begin. As the lights went down and the opening credits rolled, you could feel the anticipation in the auditorium. When Roy Scheider's name hit the screen, there was great applause. When "Jaws 2" hit the screen the audience exploded with cheers. One memorable moment in the film came when the helicopter pilot, landing to help, yells across the water, "throw me a line." I can still hear Scott Gilbert yelling out, "two guys are walking down the street!"

But don't take my word for it. Joining me this week is fellow Jaws buff Lou Pisano:

Jaws 2 by Lou Pisano

I have always thought that Jaws 2 had a much heavier load to carry that did the Original classic. Jaws was the first film of it's kind and, as such, did not have to live up to any particular standard. It also enjoyed the luxury of almost unlimited, creative freedom for the same reason. What the audience saw they had to accept as there was no precedent. Then in 1978, Jaws 2 is released. As with most sequels, the luxury of creative freedom is gone. The shark had already been seen (which was a MAJOR plot device making the Original such a smash hit) and audiences knew what to expect- an important element not applicable to Jaws. Obviously this takes a tremendous amount of steam out of a film's impact. Jaws 2 critics tend to use words like "rehash", "retread", and a host of other adjectives that suggest that Jaws 2 was nothing more than a money-making scam that attempted only to copy the Original film. This is where I totally disagree. Jaws 2 was, by no means, a cheap film thrown together just to make money off the first film's success. It also was not even close to a copy of the first film's formulas. In the first film, almost from the get-go, the entire town was aware there was a shark but they wanted to simply ignore it. Brody eventually worked with the town to eliminate the problem. In Jaws 2, only the audience is aware of the shark for much of the first act of the film. Once Brody does begin to suspect another shark, his facts, this time, are ignored because the townspeople simply think he is just crazy and paranoid; thus setting up the major conflict in the main character of Brody not present in the first film. It also solidifies the progression of the character of Brody from the first film as he now seems to be alone in his obsession-perfectly illustrated by townspeople's dismissal of his suspicions. This time they truly do not believe there is another threat, again, unlike the first film.

Secondly, Jeannot Szwarc's decision to show the shark from the outset was another good decision-not only because, as he states, the shark's first appearance already happened-but it is an additional device that makes this film different. I also would like to note that Brody was involved in the first shark hunt intentionally as part of his civic duty as Police Chief. In Jaws 2 Brody had no intention of facing the second shark. His only concern going out to sea was rescuing his sons. It was circumstance that he wound up having to kill the shark. So yes, this a story about a shark terrorizing Amity...and that statement certainly does conjures up opinions of "retread" or "rehash". Jaws 2 goes deeper however. Whenever possible, the film branches out beyond the scope of the first film. Whether it be the new shark photographing techniques; Brody's solitude in dealing with the issue; or the shark doing more elaborate things (like attacking the pontoons of a helicopter.) Being a sequel, it is natural to expect many critics to exclusively rate the film as it's compared to the Original. I choose to look a bit deeper than that superficial mind set. This is a film that had the weight of what was the greatest film ever at that time on it's shoulders. Spielberg simply eliminated his production problems to some degree by simply not showing the shark. Jaws 2 could not do this. Jaws 2 production problems could not simply be hidden by clever tactics to get the film done...as did Spielberg. That meant more shark, and more headaches. So what we have seen here is a sequel that had none of the "easy" luxuries that it's predecessor had. This in and of itself ensured that Jaws 2 would not be a copy of the Original. It is also interesting to note that many of the criticisms that Jaws 2 sustains are equally applicable to the Original film. Jaws 2 was a fine sequel to Jaws. It was made with an incredible burden on it's shoulders that Jaws did not have to contend with. It diversified the plot to create new and original conflicts as discussed above. It featured the shark throughout the film in the interest of NOT copying the Original. Is Jaws 2 perfect? No, of course not, but neither is Jaws. For a film that had such enormous shoes to fill however, Jaws 2 blended the necessary old familiar ground (to establish a kinship with it's predecessor) with new conflicts and more shark. Artistic filmmaking and sound direction are also prevalent in the film. Considering the myriad of issues that essentially could have doomed the film from the start, which is all the things that plagued the first film PLUS the new burdens discussed here - I believe a fellow critic said it best, "Jaws 2 was much better than it had any business being."

Next week I get back into the baseball mood with Kevin Costner in "Bull Durham".

Well, that's all for now. Have a great week. Happy Father's Day. See ya.

"Mike's Rant" is ©2006 by Michael A. Smith.  Webpage design and all graphics herein are creations of Nolan B. Canova. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2006 by Nolan B. Canova.