Jaws is the only Fourth of July film that matters
Who needs fireworks when you've got a giant shark?
There are a lot of great, geeky Christmas movies. Halloween? Shit, that holiday was practically made for geeks, and the list of geek films tied to holiday is fantastic. But Independence Day? There's exactly one movie tied to that holiday that any self-respecting geek should give a shit about it, and it sure as fuck isn't Independence Day (sorry, Roland Emmerich fans, both of you). In fact, the sole geek film worth competing with fireworks and a vague sense of nationalism is the one-and-only Jaws.
You didn't even realize that Jaws was tied to our nation's birth, did you? It is. The film's early action takes place over the Fourth of July weekend, as vacationing city folk swarm the beach of tiny little Amity Island, only to run afoul of the big, bad shark. Think hard, and you can probably picture a few scenes with extras waving flags in the background. Bam, there you go! America!
Now, I could burden you with some tedious, largely fanciful theorizing about how the movie represents some version of the American dream, or how the shark is supposed to be the British and Roy Scheider is the Minutemen or some bullshit like that, but let's cut to the chase. Apart from the fact it takes place over the holiday, this film is the de facto standard for Fourth of July movies for two interconnected reasons -- it is rad, and the competition sucks.
Seriously, what else are you going to watch over the holiday weekend? Independence Day is a shallow, loud and painfully stupid exercise in explosions and incoherence. Watching it will drop your IQ by twenty points, and let's face it, there aren't many Americans that can stand to lose that. Beyond that, you've got ... what? William Lustig's meandering slasher/zombie/patriotism flick Uncle Sam? Maybe the original Red Dawn if you're looking for some masturbatory patriotic fantasy aimed at gun nuts and John Birch Society members? It could be the holiday's own damn fault -- fireworks and a vague sense that the place you were born is awesome aren't much to tie a film to, after all -- but it doesn't change the fact that pretty much every geeky film that can possibly be linked to the holiday falls somewhere between utter mediocrity and total shitshow.
All but one: Jaws.
It's a geek film, but it's also a certified classic, enshrined by the National Film Registry back in 2001. What's really great about it, though, is Jaws is a monster movie about an honest-to-god, real-life monster. It's a prototypical story of man versus nature, and if you're the philosophizing type, you can correlate to any number of stories of the American frontier or rugged American individualism or whatever other vaguely patriotic nonsense floats your boat. Or, if you're not, you can just enjoy what's basically the most high-quality exploitation flick ever made, full of naked women getting bit in half, tough fishermen getting bit in half and even a goddamn boat getting bit in half. It's also got some fine acting, a terrific score and at least one great monologue.
And if you need another point in its "fuck yeah, America!" favor, it invented the summer blockbuster, and there is nothing more goddamn American that the summer blockbuster.
So if you're the kind of person who feels like every holiday needs a good geek film to go with it -- and I am -- then take my advice. Forget all the obvious Fourth of July nonsense, with its over the top patriotism and terrible quality, and go for the little Independence Day shark movie that could.
See Jaws at midnight Friday, July 4 or Saturday, July 5 at the Esquire Theatre. Tickets are $9. For tickets and more information, visit the Landmark Theatres website.
Find me on Twitter, where I tweet about geeky stuff and waste an inordinate amount of time: @casciato.
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