Tag Archives: movies

“Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard”

On a recent visit to Martha’s Vineyard, I was browsing through the books inside the A Bunch Of Grapes bookstore in Vineyard Haven, when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted it. It was a large coffee-table sized book with the title, Jaws – Memories From Martha’s Vineyard. Being a longtime Jaws fanatic and knowing that much of the movie was shot on Martha’s Vineyard (and in the waters off the coast), I began poring through the pages of this gorgeous 296-page masterpiece of a book.

I was only 15 when the film was released, and looking through the pages of this exciting new Jaws book took me instantly back to those teenage years, not to mention the incredible heart-pounding suspense of Steven Spielberg’s seminal film about a Great White Shark that wreaks havoc on a busy, beach community and just won’t go away.

The book was compiled by author Matt Taylor and Jaws expert and memorabilia collector Jim Beller. For the first time ever, the two men have put together a shark-sized, treasure trove of behind the scenes photos, drawings, production notes and stories from the folks who were there during the making of the film, both Islanders and filmmakers who came to Martha’s Vineyard to make a movie of Peter Benchley’s best-selling novel Jaws. According to the Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard web site (www.mvremembersjaws.com), this is a “one of a kind collection sure to please even the most diehard Jaws aficionados.”

The pictures of the making of the film are absolutely riveting, like this one of a young Steven Spielberg filming one of the attack scenes from the front of the bow of the Orca, the boat that eventually tracks down the Great White Shark in the film.

Hundreds of locals had to be hired as actors, extras, production assistants and laborers. And the book includes eyewitness tales and tidbits along with interviews with many of the Islanders who participated, many of whom became movie actors for the first time in Jaws. Also interviewed in Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard: Jaws Production Designer Joe Alves, Screenwriter Carl Gottlieb (who also acts in the movie), Location Casting Director Shari Rhodes and many more.

The book features countless stories about Bruce, the first name of Spielberg’s attorney and the name given to the mechanical shark(s) that were used to create the special effects, back in the days when directors like Steven Speilberg insisted on shooting on location with as much authenticity as possible. When Jaws premiered, it set just about every box office record and became not just a blockbuster of a film, but a part of movie making history. Plus it made “going in the water” an unnerving endeavor for quite some time.

Now all of the memories of the making of Jaws have been compiled into one huge coffee-table book (the book’s website features the warning: You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Coffee Table. Indeed, this is being called the greatest “making of a film” books ever compiled. The book is available in two formats, a softcover version and a special signed and number “Limited Edition” hardcover copy that also includes a DVD and an actual 1″ by 1″ piece of the Orca II, used in the film.

This is truly a must-have book for any fan of the film Jaws. As temperatures continue to soar into the 90s and higher, this book is a tremendous way to revisit a time and a place long ago. All you have to do is buy the book, and then simply find yourself a nice cool spot where you can “really sink your teeth” into Jaws: Memories From Martha’s Vineyard.

For more information on how to purchase your copy, visit http://www.mvremembersjaws.com

(I think I might need a bigger blog!)

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Win Win – Wrestling With Life

Win Win is a victorious little film that wrestles with some of life’s unexpected twists and turns. It’s a humble but lovable little lesson of how we unknowingly entangled ourselves and the difficulty of finding a way to straighten things out.

At first glance at the promotional poster, one might think that this is just another cliche high school sports stories like the formulaic and overrated The Blind Side, and dozens of others just like it. And without fine acting performances by Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan (Holly from The Office), and nifty newcomer Alex Shaffer, this movie could easily have descended into that same mold. But instead, Director Thomas McCarthy (who also directed The Station Agent and The Visitor) has created a quirky and ultimately uplifting tale about a not-so-nuclear family simply trying to make it through the trials and tribulations of modern life. Win Win is a movie that refuses to run away from the betrayals and complications that every family must tackle. And the ultimate redemption that these characters find is won not with the typical bravura of most sports films, but with simple, straightforward solutions.

Paul Giamatti plays a middle-age attorney, husband and father of two daughters struggling to pay the bills and keep the wolf from the door. By day, he’s working various cases in court. At night, he moonlights on another kind of court as the coach a losing high school wrestling team. The problems begin when Giamatti’s character attempts a sly move. He’s presented with the opportunity to bring in some badly needed cash by caring for an elderly gentleman (played with gusto and by Burt Young of Rocky fame) who is clearly incapable of caring for himself. So the coach agrees to become his guardian, and eventually places him an assisted care home.

All seems to be fine until the appearance on his doorstep one day of a slightly strange, teen named Kyle complete with bleached white hair looking for his grandfather. The teen, played by newcomer Alex Shaffer, is adrift in the world, while his mother remains in rehab for substance abuse problems. Oh, what a tangled web the coach has weaved, especially when the mother appears, demanding her son along with custody of her father and the money that Giamatti’s character was pocketing. Meanwhile, Giamatti’s Coach Flaherty has discovered that Kyle is, among other things, an exceptionally talented wrestler, who could carry his entire team to victory.

More complications ensue when Kyle disappears, and Coach Flaherty’s elderly charge decides that there really is no place like home. Giamatti is pitch perfect as a guy who is just trying so darn hard to do the right thing and always ending up doing the wrong thing. But in the end, while Kyle leads his wresting team to victory, a solution is found and the film ends in an uplifting manner.

Win Win may not win any awards for greatness, but if you’re looking for a film that will warm and cheer you up while we wait for the long overdue Spring you could do a heck of a lot worse.

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Backgammon, Bootlegs and Best Friends

In 1978, I was 17 and newly arrived at Syracuse University. SI can still remember how nervous I was that first day, as my Dad and I drove up the long driveway to Mount Olympus. That’s where my dorm was – Flint Hall. I didn’t know a soul in Syracuse. But I was fortunate to meet a guy in those first days who became my best friend in the world. His name was Kevin and from the time we first met, we were inseparable.

Kevin had it all and was everything a guy could ever hope for in a friend. He was incredibly kind and polite; he was deeply considerate, sensitive and sometimes shy. But what was most important was that we loved the same things. Kevin and I loved the same music, the same books, the same movies. And Kevin was from New Jersey, that mystical place in my mind from whence hailed my rock and roll idol Bruce Springsteen. Kevin also shared the same passion for Springsteen and he taught me all I needed to know. From then on it was Kev and Kel (me) and we made quite a team.

Except for when we were in classes, or on certain weekends when Kev would drive to visit a girl he liked who was going to school in Springfield, Massachusetts, we were always together. Whether we were going to see a film on campus, or spending some time being recruited by the fraternities that we secretly swore to never join, Kevin and Kel were pretty much one. We go to all the frats and drink their beer and eat their pizza while we secretely vowed to never join one. We’d go to “floor parties” in the dorms, where we met other great friends. Guys who lived on my floor like Mike and Eric, not to mention the girls who lived on the upper floors of Flint and all over Day Hall.

And the one thing that we both loved to do in those quieter hours after finishing with studies was to play backgammon.

I remember we played mostly in Kevin’s room (his room being “cooler” than mine that freshman year) and we played all the time! We were both about equally good (or perhaps equally bad) but we just loved to play. We played to beat the band and the band of course was Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band.

Of course we had to have a soundtrack on those halcyon evenings, and Bruce and the boys delivered on that. We had all of Springsteen’s regular releases and his bootlegs too. We’d listen to them over and over wearing out the grooves in the vinyl. He had an old fashioned turntable and stereo that he and his Dad had rigged up and it always sounded great. And when it came to bootlegs he had his favorite and I had mine.
His was a show from the Paramount Theater in Passaic:

Many Springsteen fanatics, like myself believe this to be his greatest recorded show of all time. But for me, well, I had another favorite that I found down on Marshall Street in the grimy, dusty used record store. It was know by just one word, but it was a thing of beauty and joy forever. It was “Winterland.”

And so there we were. The world could be coming to an end but it wouldn’t bother us. Kevin and I had our backgammon, our Bruce and our friendship. We’d sit and play game after game and talk. We’d talk about the girls we liked and some who liked us. We’d talk about our classes and goofy professors. We’d talk about our pasts, presents and we’d talk about our futures. Kevin swore that one day he would own his own Taco stand in San Diego (while he hardly owns a Taco stand, he currently lives just outside San Diego…how prophetic!).

Life was good. The wicked ways of the world hadn’t had their chance to turn us back. We were young, and free and having a hell of a time.

And the first snowflake hadn’t even fallen.

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