- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2007

‘Perfect’ fear

“ ’Jaws’ truly is a modern American classic. It is a prime example of Hollywood entertainment at its best, a pitch-perfect balance of style and spectacle, of great storytelling combined with visceral filmmaking, a splendid marriage of art and commerce. It is, as I have said many times before, a perfect movie. This is not to suggest that the film does not contain plot holes, logical errors or just good old-fashioned movie mistakes. … Not at all. Jaws is ‘perfect’ for what it was intended to be. It is not ‘perfect’ in the sense that it is free of mistakes. … In art, there is a difference between doing the ‘right’ thing and doing the ‘correct’ thing. …

“The cultural impact of ‘Jaws’ can be seen not only in the overwhelmingly positive reception by critics and audiences but in the influence it held over people’s minds and actions in the summer of ‘75 and even ever since. People who were unafraid of swimming now thought twice about going into the water and people who were already reluctant to do so only had their resolve to stay dry strengthened by the film. To this day I would venture to say it is impossible to be in water without hearing John Williams’ sinister two-note motif that has become so associated with danger in general and with sharks in particular.”

Damian Arlyn, writing on “Jaws,” Aug. 6 at damianarlyn.blogspot.com

Private truth?

“The purpose of biography, [Meryle] Secrest says, is ‘not just to record but to reveal.’ That’s what many people would say: that there’s no point in writing, or reading, the life of a famous person if it doesn’t uncover some previously unpublicized piece of personal information. This is because the premise of biographies is that the private can account for the public, that the subject’s accomplishments map onto his or her psychic history, and this premise is the justification for digging up the traumatic, the indefensible, and the shameful and getting it all into print. … Still, the premise poses a few problems.

“For one thing, it leads biographers to invert the normal rules of evidence, on the Rosebud assumption that the real truth about a person involves the thing that is least known to others. A letter discovered in a trunk, or an entry in a personal notebook, trumps the public testimony of a hundred friends and colleagues.”

Louis Menand, writing on “Lives of Others,” in the Aug. 8 issue of the New Yorker

Short prejudice

“The law has accepted that discrimination on grounds of race, disability or sex is illegal and has recently added age to the categories of prejudices that are not only socially unacceptable but can result in legal consequences. The photographs of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes taken with the Beckhams and the Smiths in Los Angeles … all emphasized the relative size of Tom Cruise to Katie Holmes. There was a subliminal message that size mattered, and wasn’t Cruise lucky to have done so well despite being vertically challenged? …

“The prejudices, biases and unfairnesses of judging people by their height, a relic of prehistoric mankind, are ever-present.”

Thomas Stuttaford, writing on “The big issue,” July 26 in the Times of London

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