Scene Sound Off: Jaws

Though there are countless memorable scenes in Steven Speilberg’s summer blockbuster Jaws one of the most famous is Chief Brody witnessing the shark attack of the little boy Alex.

The scene begins with a shot moving left following an overweight woman going into the water.. This shot is a red herring, for she is what the audience would assume the most appealing victim to the shark. Next to her is a young man playing fetch with his dog.

jaws 2A young boy enters the frame wearing red shorts (not so subtle color choice there, once we realize the outcome) and the camera follows him to the right. We learn his name is Alex Kintner. We have a set up for the scene where he asks his mother if he can go out into the water for a little while longer. The camera follows the little boy until we see and focus on Chief Brody, who is watching the beach intensely. From his POV, we see the next few shots of our established three main potential victims – a dog, an overweight woman, and a little boy. We see shots of Alex diving into the water on his yellow raft, the young man playing fetch with the dog, and the overweight woman floating on her back.

This leaves the audience questioning just who is our potential victim? Would Spielberg really go as far to kill the child? One of the reasons this scene ends up being so terrifying is for the fact that the shark takes a young and innocent life.

The camera zooms increasingly closer and closer to Chief Brody following wipes of extras walking past the camera. These shots give you a sense of just how crowded it is on the beach. The more crowded it is, the more potential danger there could be. The shots heighten the suspense and give you a sense of Brody’s heightened anxiety and fear of impending doom.

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There are several little scares from Brody’s POV- a shape moving closer to the overweight woman, a girl screaming. All little things that prove to be nothing but beachgoers having fun. However, the audience continues to get a sense of Brody’s anxiety which is at an all time high. He can see the potential danger in everyone and everywhere, and the audience does as well. Is it going to be that girl? Or will it be the overweight woman after all? Chief Brody and the audience are simultaneously guessing and on the edge of their seat.

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Brody deals with several distractions. We have an effective and wonderfully used over the shoulder and split screen shot as beachgoers try to break Brody’s concentration by making small talk with him. Brody’s focus is always on the beach.

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jaws 1The next shot we’ve seen several times before in this scene- with various beachgoers changing in the background. Brody’s wife talks to him as we see children getting up in the background ready to go into the water. Brody is unable to control his environment.

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Shots follow of kids splashing and playing– the audience can sense that the scene is now building to a head. The frantic cuts and excitement is gives a sense of bubbling up and overflowing to the final moments. The next shot is a sure sign of trouble- the young man established from the beginning calls after his dog. There’s a shot of the fetch stick floating in the water. Trouble is here.

One of the most infamous shark POV shots follow, the shark moves closer and closer to the boy’s kicking legs as the infamous theme song builds and builds.

jaws 7We see the attack from afar- the POV Chief Brody.

Jaws 8The famous dolly/zoom combination shot follows, and is indeed an effective one. All of Chief Brody’s anxiousness has not been for naught. He was fearful that something would happen. The zoom shot represents Cheif Brody being thrusted into reality- all that he feared did come true. He sees clear as day what he has been waiting for, what he has imagined happening in every situation he saw that day. At that moment, Brody knows he should have listened to his gut instinct in order to close the beaches.

jaws 9The frantic and frightened beach goers rush out of the water, leaving Alex’s mom to helplessly call after him. In an eerie shot, his ripped yellow life raft floats ashore.

jaws 10This is why this is one of the most terrifying and emotionally effective sequences in film history. Every shot engages the viewer, we experience the same emotions as Chief Brody. We are as helpless as he his- everything happens before our eyes and there ends up being nothing we can do about it. It was too late.

The tactics used in each shot not only illustrates the suspense that Chief Brody is feeling, but heightens the suspense for the audience as well. We fearfully wonder who the victim (or victims) will be? We wait in terror as we know this tranquil summer day will be destroyed by one of the most fearsome animals in nature. One of the many taglines of Jaws was “You’ll never go in the water again!” After seeing this scene, it’s easy to see why many audiences felt that way the summer of 1975.

Watch the scene at the link below!



Top 10: Favorite Movies

It’s really hard to narrow down my exact favorite movies, there are so many I love that it’s hard to choose from. Sometimes these picks change throughout the years, but most of these have remained constant.


1. The Lord of the Rings

I was in 4th grade when the trilogy began, but I wanted nothing to do with them. I wasn’t a fan of Harry Potter (I know, blasphemy…) so I didn’t think anything fantasy would be up my alley. But one day I borrowed them from a neighbor’s house, and now nearly ten years later they still remain my absolute favorite films of all time. (I count them as one, because after all, that’s what Tolkien intended with the books!) As a whole, I really am not a big fan of the fantasy genre. But something about this good vs. evil story absolutely captivates me. I can’t put into words how much Frodo’s journey means to me.


2. King Kong

A lot of people don’t like Peter Jackson’s remake of the classic monster movie. Perhaps I am a bit biased, with him being one of my favorite directors, but I absolutely love what he does with the story. Jackson creates a deeper relationship between Kong and Ann.The classic monster movie is turned into a beautiful love story. The CGI technology is absolutely breathtaking, Andy Serkis’ incredible motion capture work as Kong allows for an infinite range of emotions for the character. I can’t help but cry at the ending every single time.

Tom Hulce in Amadeus.

3. Amadeus

I first saw parts of this in high school, on a whim during a vocal class. When I rented it at home I was floored by the story of Salieri’s jealousy and Mozart’s incredible music. I had never really explored his music before, and it is quite a marvel to hear it in this film, along with Milos Forman’s exceptional directing.


4. Raging Bull 

Something about Raging Bull really captivates me. Not only is the directing so artistic, nearly operatic at times , but Robert De Niro’s performance is nothing short of stunning. I’ve written about it before here, but that scene where Jake LaMotta is in jail touched me for so many reasons. Robert De Niro does an incredible job of portraying the lonely boxer that spirals into his own self-destruction.


5. When Harry Met Sally

It’s one of the most charming and funniest romantic comedies of all-time, what’s not to love? And Billy Crystal is absolutely adorable as Harry Burns. I think everyone wants a relationship like theirs.


6. Big Fish

I think this is one of Tim Burton’s best work, perhaps because it is so un-Tim Burton-y. I saw it when I was younger, but loved it upon rewatch. The scene where Billy Crudup tells a story to his dying father, after hating his dad’s stories for so long, will always touch me. Big Fish is fantastical fun but also an emotional story of family mortality.


7. Jaws 

As I wrote in my childhood movies post, Jaws was one of the first movies that really got me into the movies. The perfect summer movie, I watch it every 4th of July. This classic never fails to thrill, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.


8. Paper Moon

Paper Moon is a mix of an old-fashioned caper, funny road-trip movie, and a heartwarming family drama. It is the perfect mix of all those different genres. Ryan O’Neal is a charming thief, and has such sweet chemistry with it’s daughter. It’s actually quite heartbreaking to watch if you know their real life relationship.


9. The Godfather

I had put off watching The Godfather for a really long time, and I don’t know why. I obviously knew about it from the hundreds of pop culture references in other films or television shows. I knew it was highly regarded, (It was #1 on the IMDb Top 250 for years, has 100% on rottentomatoes.) But I just never got around to seeing it until I  was in college. I quickly grew a great appreciation for Al Pacino’s work and the film itself. With incredible filmmaking, and a powerful story on a captivating Mafia family, it’s a cinema classic for a reason.


10. An American Werewolf in London 

For as many of the scary moments this film has, it has an equal amount of hilarious moments. Making this not just a horror film but a black comedy was a perfect choice, because the film does both so well. You can also appreciate Rick Baker’s incredible makeup work and practical effects. That ending nails the perfect genre mix – a tragic death cut to The Marcel’s bopping “Blue Moon”.

Top 10: Childhood Movies

Here is a mix of some classics and family friendly films that shaped my childhood and cemented my passion for the movies, thanks to what I picked out at my local Blockbuster.


1. Jaws

Jaws led to a fascination with sharks, especially the 1912 shark attacks in New Jersey. (read the book Close to Shore) Jaws is the quintessential summer blockbuster, a thrilling ride with an incredible cast. I watch it every 4th of July, and used to read the book too.


2. The Little Mermaid

I have The Little Mermaid to thank for all the mermaid fantasies I enacted in my pool. The animation is gorgeous, (I miss 2D Disney so much) the songs are unforgettable, the characters are charming. My favorite Disney princess hands down. And no, Ariel did not want to be human just because of Eric. Did you even listen to ‘Part Of Your World’??

3. The Mummy

Maybe they’re a little cheesy, not very scary, and some of the effects are dated now, but my love for The Mummy series (which ended at two…we’re not gonna mention Tomb of the Dragon Emperor) is strong. It’s just so damn fun. Also, it was made when Brendan Fraser was really hot.


4. Jurassic Park

One of the most ultimate thrill rides, with a heart-pumping plot, captivating characters (Jeff Goldblum’s shirtless scene is really more than enough) The raptor kitchen scene is my favorite, intense and gripping, left me holding my breath the entire time. The special effects were mind-blowing for that time, and they still are. Despite the advances made in CGI, the animatronics used for the T.Rex looks so much better. The entire T. Rex reveal is just the ultimate bad ass moment. And who can forget her satisfying roar of revenge?


5. Titanic

Yes it has cliches, a melodramatic story, cheesy dialogue and some Billy Zane overacting. But frankly, the story works. It’s an old fashioned Hollywood romance. It has sweeping visuals with breathtaking effects that perfectly capture both the ship’s wondrous awe and the heartbreaking devastation of the tragedy. Titanic will always make me cry. How could you not with the flutes somberly playing ‘My Heart Will Go On’ over the dark bottomless ocean?


6. Spider-Man

It’s hard to believe with the twenty something Marvel movies being pumped out all the time, but superheroes were not a big thing back in the early 2000s. They were pretty much killed thanks to Joel Schumacher’s Batman series. But the 2002 Spider-Man ushered in a new day for the superhero films, making them popular again. Now it is the new age of gritty superhero movies. (which is pretty much a retaliation from Joel Schumacher’s godawful choices) Spider-Man was a pure popcorn flick and comic book schmaltz. I know Willem Dafoe’s insane monologues to his reflection are stupid, but I love it. There may be a lot of cartoony moments and eye-roll inducing dialogue, but it’s fun.


7. Kiki’s Delivery Service

My mom came home with this on VHS, leading my 2nd grade self to convince everyone my name was Kiki and I had magical powers. As I grew older, I grew to appreciate the film even more. Kiki’s Delivery Service is heartwarming Hayao Miyazahki masterpiece with a timeless story of the trials and tribulations that come with growing up.

Film: Back to the Future (1985)  Shown from left: Christopher Ll

8. Back To The Future

Back to the Future is infectious, a playful and lively time-travel adventure that will always be a classic. Seeing it led me to explore other films from the 80s, and there are tons of iconic films from that decade. Back to the Future is what sparked my passion for film, for that I will be forever grateful. And I completely agree with Lea Thompson, Michael J. Fox is indeed a dreamboat.

HOCUS POCUS, Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, 1993

9. Hocus Pocus

Halloween is not complete without this cute Disney romp. Another thing that sticks out is that this is one of, if not the only, Disney movies to talk so explicitly about virginity. I will be in love with Tracery Binx far longer than it is appropriate.


10. A Christmas Story

The leg lamp, the mall santa, seeing if the tongue really does stick, it’s hard to choose a favorite moment from this Christmas movie staple. Every year my family watches it on Christmas Eve, and plays the 24-hour TBS marathon the next day. This will always have a special place in my heart, probably long after I’m older when that family tradition may no longer be done, but always remembered.