Saturday, July 19, 2008

Two Movies That Changed The Movies.

The Last Emperor might have won nine Academy Awards but did it change the movies? No. It’s just a movie nobody saw that won a lot of Oscars. Today I recognize two movies that changed the way we watch movies and changed the way movies get made.

Jaws. In 1975 Steven Spielberg directed a movie about a shark. Not just any shark, but a great white shark that created panic in a fictional summer resort town, and it went on to scare the shit out of anybody who ever dared jump in any body of water after that. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss and Robert Shaw as police chief, marine biologist and shark hunter set out to kill the menacing creature as we nervously ate popcorn on the edge of our seats.

Jaws was the first blockbuster of summer. Without Jaws, would there be a Star Wars or Independence Day, Jurassic Park or Mission Impossible? Jaws was a game changer.

Jaws created such buzz during early screenings that studio execs decided to distribute it in wide release. It worked. Jaws was the first film in motion picture history to hit the $100 million mark. Every summer there will be another movie that studios designate as potential blockbuster. This year – there are at least two – Iron Man and The Dark Knight. These movies open on hundreds of screens simultaneously and the success of Jaws helped pave the way.

Pulp Fiction. In 1994, Quentin Tarantino directed an adrenalin rush of a movie with equal parts humor and violence. The film was Pulp Fiction and it’s nonlinear storyline and pop culture references caught the attention of the general public. The crime drama also proved to resurrect the career of John Travolta, who had reached great heights in Saturday Night Fever but had been wallowing in a career low with Look Who’s Talking.

Most significant about Pulp Fiction is that it is an independent film. The success of the movie, which won Best Screenplay and garnered many nominations, gave new hope to legions of aspiring filmmakers with access to a typewriter and a camera. It also served as a wake up call to major Hollywood studios that people will pay to see a great movie, no matter who makes it or how much it cost to make it.

Runner’s up: Enter the Dragon, Spinal Tap


Anonymous said...

Call me a fan boy dork, but I saw the new batman movie today. I'm going to add that to this list. I almost couldn't breath during some scenes. It was that dark. How it got a pg-13 is beyond me. Bloodless? Yes, but it was freakish, scary, and edge of your seat movie going. I haven't seen a 3:30 pm in the afternoon sell out movie that got standing applause in ... well, ever. Insane. A tad long, but other than that, it was perfect. And yes Piper, Ledger deserves the oscar buzz. Winner of one? I don’t know, but he’s electric. When that dude is on screen, it's like Joe P. in Goodfellas or Robert D. in Raging Bull. You freaked out wondering what he's going to do next. Absolutely hypnotic. You’ll know what I mean when you see the “pencil magic trick.” From there on it’s no rules. I’ll also add that it set the opening day record yesterday. Period. Over 66 million in one day. That’s not normal.

Anonymous said...

I should clarify: the reason I thing this movie is a game changer is that it will be the first borderline cop-crime-horror movie to be a summer blockbuster. Not since I was born has a film so dark played so well to the masses.

Anonymous said...

Yet another comment: Adding Enter the Dragon was a pretty damn insightful runner up. Seems normal to have a kung-fu action film as a crowd pleaser now, but that was the first big fight blockbuster. And still one of the best. Lee was a magnetic screen personality.

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piper said...


I don't want to speak for Brian, but maybe it's not "independent" it's more "art house". I think that saying that independent film is qualified as "maxing out your credit cars and getting your friends to make a film" is narrowing it a bit. And while Miramax has definitely released a lot of successful movies, this one certainly put it on the map.


I agree with you about The Dark Knight. It's a whole new comic book movie. And I think that The Dark Knight does it more than Batman Begins, because Dark Knight legitimizes Batman Begins. It makes it more successful.

Anonymous said...


You can speak for me anytime. I stand by my post - particularly when I mention that Pulp Fiction gave new hope to legions of aspiring filmmakers.

How many independent or art house films have borrowed from Pulp Fiction? Also, Pulp Fiction is about great writing more than anything else - which is why people who sell their own blood to make movies - are trying to copy the formula.

Pipes, is Ledger legit?

Piper said...


The Dark Knight is good. I wrote about it and it will post tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

Jaws changed the way movies were made, but did it change them for the better? Jaws effectively ended the 70s new wave of filmmakers (along with Star Wars and the flop of Heaven's Gate) as studios realised there was more money in blockbusters than personal films.

"Without Jaws, would there be a Star Wars or Independence Day, Jurassic Park or Mission Impossible?"

No way, and wouldn't the world be a better place for it?

Piper said...

What about Saving Private Ryan or Schindler's List or countless others?

Spielberg still made personal films and very personal films continue to get made today by many, many directors.

Some might argue that it's the big films that allow for the smaller films. That's how Orson Welles did it.

I'm not arguing for Independence Day, but Jaws was a well done blockbuster. Where we lost our way and ended up thinking Independence Day was good summer fare, I have no idea. But Jaws certainly wasn't to blame.

Anonymous said...

Jaws was great.
So was Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I hear that The Dark Knight is excellent.

There's room enough for blockbusters and small films, too.

whitney said...

I just went to a movie marathon yesterday that included Jaws (it was an Animals Attacking Humans marathon). It's better than I remember, not as boring, but I'm still so frustrated by the fact that there was a huge increase in shark killings after that movie was released. The dude who wrote the book is now a big shark activist because so many have become endangered. He did a video for the Monterey Aquarium on sharks.

I don't know...good movie...but the activist in me gets mad.


Kramer said...

I have a hard time talking about 1994. Because Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, and Quiz Show were nominated that year. And who wins? Freaking Forrest Gump.

I’ll add:

Toy Story - It was the beginning of the end of 2D animation at the box office.
M.A.S.H – R-rated comedy as blockbuster

Hugo Fuchs said...

I think Pulp Fiction is overated as a movie. I think it brought the genre to the modern audience, but I don't think it changed cinema.

I'm of mixed emotions with the "independent" label, the budget was $8 million, on the other hand, read the cast on that. But I will give it that it relaunched Travolta's Carreer.

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