Wargames vs Jaws

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Wargames vs Jaws

Post by pinback » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:44 pm

There were no two movies that defined my young life as a movie-lover more than Wargames and Jaws. I saw them both in the theater, first run.

I do have a vague memory that the year Jaws came out, everyone HAD to see it. I was unaware at the time that this was really the first time that had ever happened, which is why it's credited for being the first "summer blockbuster". But you had to see Jaws, and you had to be afraid of going in the water, and all that jazz. I remember thinking it was fun. I remember being grossed out and traumatized when Quint got eaten. It seemed cool, and it was interesting that absolutely everyone in the world was talking about it. I was afraid to go in the water. I also liked the part where they showed the shark-hunting videogame. Cuz videogames were way more important than movies...

Then Wargames came out, and it was ON. This DID speak directly to me on every level. It was ABOUT videogames. It was about dialing up strange computers when we were all getting our first modems. It had Ally Sheedy in sweatpants. It was by far the coolest thing that had ever existed in movie form, and represented everything I was excited about in life. I still go on binges re-watching it over and over now and again, deep into my forties, cuz I still feel that excitement, as that strange computer picks up the phone and starts listing out the increasingly disturbing games it's willing to play.

All this is preamble to say I saw them both again yesterday, back to back. 40-some-odd years later, let's look back and see what we still think about these films.

It's time to admit that Wargames is definitely stuck in its time, and I feel like it would be hard to convince any young people (or even old people, who had no interest in this stuff at the time) that this was the best thing ever. For me, it is still compelling. I still love the NORAD room. I still love Joshua. I still very much love Ally Sheedy in sweatpants, holy Christ. And even though it eventually dawned on me that this is a movie in which nothing actually ever happens, it's just great. But it's terribly clear how personal it is, and there is no way I'd be able, or even want to convince someone, here, here's a movie that you absolutely have to see.

Jaws, on the other hand... I cannot believe how great it is. I cannot believe how it gets better every time. Every part of every scene is magic. It's a movie of two halves. The first half takes a relaxed view of a sleepy New England town slowly coming to grips with something it was not ready for. Repeat viewings are almost a requirement here, as even forty years later, there's stuff going on in the background that you missed. There is a depth of scene here that would make Robert Altman blush. It excels best when the Brody family is involved, though, as Spielberg exhibits his singular talent for absolutely nailing the dynamic of parents trying to deal with both otherworldly forces, and also their own kids. Not to be missed, either, is the subtlety and hilarity of Hooper's late-night visit to the Brody household with two bottles of wine. It would be my favorite scene in the movie, if not for the second half.

The second half, which begins as soon as the Mayor signs Quint's contract, and Brody, Hooper, and Quint set out on the Orca, may be the most perfect hour ever committed to film. Yes, when the shark shows up, it looks ridiculous, but it doesn't matter in the least, and doesn't date the movie a day. In contrast to the movie's wide-angle lens on Amity, the Orca trip is hyper-focused to perfect effect. Quint getting eaten still bothers me. The Indianapolis speech is still the best monologue ever recorded. Every single fucking frame is wonderful.

I love both of these movies. Wargames is a special, personal joy which I know many of us share, coming from the same background. Jaws is arguably the greatest movie of all time.

Wargames came off pretty poorly in the double-feature, I guess was my point.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:16 pm

(I was dreamin' when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray.)

I think I'm three years younger than you, which shifts the age at which I first experienced these films. I was born in the summer of '73, and hadn't turned 2 yet when Jaws debuted. I don't remember life before that, obviously. My first memory of Jaws isn't even of the movie; it's of the board game, in which players took turns fishing old tires, anchors, and license plates out out a shark's belly before it eventually snapped it's rubber band-powered plastic teeth on someone. Even as a kid, it was easy to grasp the concept.

Jaws aired on ABC in the fall of 1980, which is probably when I first saw it. It definitely would have been the scariest movie I had seen in my life up until that point, and for several years to come. The very next day, I told my mom I would no longer take baths, as I was afraid Jaws would come up through the drain and get me. Even after she convinced me this would be impossible, I stopped adding bubbles to my bath water. If Jaws was gonna get me in the tub, I at least wanted to see him coming.

In the summer of 1982, my family attended the World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee. We got tickets at the last minute, and the closest available hotel we could find was in Gatlinburg, an hour's drive away. Just north of there is Pigeon Forge, a place my dad referred to as "a sideshow without a circus." They had dark rides and kiddie rides and Showbiz-like animatronics, but the thing I remember most strongly was a room full of different monsters kids and adults could take their pictures with. There was a gigantic King Kong head, Frankenstein's monster, and the one I remember most vividly, a lifesize version of Jaws. Looking at the photo now it looks pretty silly, but the thing terrified me. It took me several minutes to work up enough courage just to go near the thing. Eventually I got comfortable enough to stick my foot in its mouth. Don't let my grin in this picture fool you. For many years, I was scared to swim in lakes, creeks, and on occasion, swimming pools because of that movie.

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The year after the Knoxville World's Fair, Wargames was released. By 1983, I had already been using a TRS-80 for a couple of years, and ditched it for an Apple II. Unlike our TRS-80 our Apple came with a modem, so by the time I saw Wargames, I was already calling BBSes (and my dad was already running one).

The theme of Wargames, or at least what I took away from it at the time, was that even though adults may have built this new electronic world, kids were going to own it. In real life, if an adult told you to do something, you did it. When a grown up said keep your hand out of the cookie jar, you kept your hand out of the cookie jar. But in this new online world, all bets were off, everyone was equal, and everyone was anonymous. By the time I was twelve, much like David Lightman's discovery of his school's password, I had found where my dad kept the secret phone number he used to bill long distance calls to his office, and started using it myself. When I was thirteen, a friend of mine showed me how he was pilfering credit card numbers from his parents' tax business and using them to buy computer hardware. I was fourteen when I learned how to hack voice mailboxes and started learning about the workings of the phone company (and fifteen when the guy I ran a BBS with got arrested for hacking Sprint and ended up serving 10 years in prison). The point is, the adults were the ones who built these systems -- who set up security measures (or not) and hooked all these computers up to phone lines. And then it was us -- the kids who knew where to find the school's passwords and how to scan exchanges for modem tones who were having an absolute blast tearing it apart (and learning a thing or two in the process).

Every time I watch Wargames, my chin starts to quiver when "Joshua," undeterred by the end of the simulation, makes one finally attempt to find the launch codes and start World War III. I try to hold it together during the tic-tac-toe sequence, but as Joshua utters his final revelation ("The only winning move is not to play.") I break down in tears every time. Wargames is not intended to be a sad movie, and nobody would describe it as a tearjerker. But something in me connects to that scene; it's like the computer, an innocent computer named after Professor's innocent son, Joshua, realizes this universal truth and man, it hits me like a punch to the gut every time.

The thing I love about Wargames is that there's an entire adventure going on that the adults are oblivious to. The teacher had no idea that David Lightman gets himself to the principal's office intentionally (to get the password). His parents have no idea what he's up to in his bedroom while playing on his computer. Even the military officials are, for the most part, a step or two behind the kids. While I certainly never came close to anything like what happened in the movie, I remember being knee-deep in shady BBS activities only to have my mom barge into my bedroom with a frozen pizza on a plate and asking me what I was up to on my computer. I would just smile and shrug, which was good enough I guess. Then she would go back to the living room, sitting on the other side of a wall while I typed random passwords over and over into Pizza Hut's central computer, trying desperately to get that stupid thing to send me a free pizza. (It never did.)

While both of these movies contain a single conflict (man vs. computer, man vs. shark), I think the difference is that in Wargames, the conflict is overcome by a kid, whereas in Jaws, it's adults -- and maybe that's why the former hasn't aged as well as the latter. As a kid, it was exciting to think that a kid could outsmart the military and play war games on a whopper of a machine. As an adult, we know that long before that plot would have kicked into motion, that machine would have been disconnected from the phone line and powered off. In the movie, a goofy guard gets distracted and lets David Lightman escape before they have a chance to fully interrogate him. In real life... well, waterboarding.

But in Jaws, we're the old men. Whether you identify with Brody, Hooper, or Quint, those guys are us guys. They're who we are now, or at least who we want to be. We, or at least I, would like to think that when confronted with a decision that involved sacrifice and heroism, we would do the right thing. Because all of us would like to save our collective towns and blow up a shark in the process.

And so that's the difference, or at least how I see it. I think if you polled all of us in 1983, we would all say Wargames was the better film because none of us would have risked our lives to chase a shark, and all of us wanted to be the hackers who were smarter than the adults and saved the day. And today, none of us want to think that high school kids are smarter than we are, and things like honor and duty mean more to us now.

(I warned you it might go astray...)

PS: My very first alias was "Robbie Franklin" -- my first name at the time and the model of computer (Franklin Ace 1000) that we owned. In 1983, I briefly changed my alias to David Lightman -- me, and a thousand other kids. I alternated between the two for about a year until another film, Cloak and Dagger, was released...
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by pinback » Sun Jun 28, 2020 7:26 pm

That was a beautiful and stirring recollection, thank you. I would nominate you for MVP if I wasn't already pulling for myself.

I agree with everything you said about these two films, but I would put one last thing out there in the pro-Jaws camp: Wargames told its story marvelously, and did everything it set out to do, and I will always love it for what it is. Whether Jaws did that or not doesn't matter, because it's just a vastly, vastly superior movie in almost every sense imaginable.

Richard Dreyfuss is better than Dabney Coleman, and Robert Shaw is better than the best sex and meal you've ever had, combined.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Ice Cream Jonsey » Sun Jun 28, 2020 8:13 pm

I am ONLY posting this to give the people here and future generations perspective on what hit who when.

I am a year younger than Flack. Jaws didn't enter my consciousness at all. In fact, the first Jaws thing I was aware of that I have a memory of is when Jaws 3D was on free television. We had somehow obtained glasses and there was one part where I really did see a 3D shark swimming around. It was amazing.

I saw the homage scene in Chasing Amy before the scene it was based on in Jaws. (I don't remember when I finally saw it, but it wasn't too long ago, I don't think.)

Wargames I didn't see in a theater. I have no idea where I saw movies in the 80s, we didn't go to the theater much. Like Flack said, seeing BBS dialing was great. (But I didn't get on a BBS until 1989. So now I dunno.)

My memory is just bad, I guess.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Sun Jun 28, 2020 8:29 pm

I meant to mention this. A few years ago, I started picking up some of my favorite films on VHS. I don't have any plans to build my own video store, but I was thinking a small shelf with 10 great movies on it would be a nice tribute, just outside my movie room. Or maybe put them in a shadow box or something. To be honest, I never got that far.

But I did start scanning thrift stores and garage sales for VHS copies of my favorite movies. I found a copy of Wargames in a thrift store. A year later, I found another copy, forgot I had already found a copy, and bought it, too. The project never really got off the ground and so other than Star Wars, all I have to show for it is one copy of Blade Runner and two copies of Wargames.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Jizaboz » Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:42 am

I didn't see Wargames until I was an adult, and I think that by then the magic had kind of worn off. A lot of the things depicted seemed completely ridiculous, but I did like that it showed a few things I had already been doing for years such as "war-dialing" with TONELOC. I should watch it again though as I don't really have many memories of the movie.

Jaws was terrifying shit to me as a kid because my family did enjoy driving to the beach at least once a year back then. I saw the sequels before I saw the original which was probably for the best. I remember 3 completely freaking me out when the glass broke in that underwater aquarium thing. 4 freaked me out in the beginning when that dude gets eaten starting with his arm. Brutal scene back then! As an adult I can say the first one is my favorite. It really does capture a small by-the-sea town feel well. I watch it just about every time I notice it on when I am out at the coast. As a surfer, I def have a fear of sharks (and jellyfish). We do get sharks at our beaches. While nowhere near as large as great whites, they are large enough to take a chunks out of your limbs.

Jaws the NES game is still a classic! That was one of the first Nintendo games I ever played and was the 1st game I got for mine. Spent so many hours playing it and the day I finally killed Jaws felt like a huge accomplishment.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:43 am

Yeah, I definitely think Wargames had a stronger impact on people who saw it when those technologies were emerging. Looking at it now, people might say, "oh, they were wardialing." Of course, wardialing and wardriving got their names from WARgames. Back then, it seemed a lot more revolutionary.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Tdarcos » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:29 am

Flack wrote:
Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:16 pm
(I was dreamin' when I wrote this, forgive me if it goes astray.)
But when you woke up this morning you could have sworn it was yesterday?

I don't think Jaws affected me; I once punked my (older) sister Joan when I was talking to her on a long distance call how I was afraid to see Jaws, but hadn't had a problem seeing The Exorcist that my mother (who was raised Catholic) took me to see, which, at the time, I probably didn't understand. I was kidding; Later I saw Jaws, it did not affect me. I was never scared of going into the water.

Wargames probably had a bigger effect on me because I have always been interested in computers, and I've done all of the things phreaks have done: hacked a voice mail box (hint: don't make the password the same as the extension number); logged into other people's computer accounts; logged into the main system account and gave myself elevated privileges; tried various access codes to get free long distance. Even easier to get away with because where I lived was Long Beach, California, which was GTE, and they didn't share info with AT&T, the way Pacific Telephone, the major dial tone supplier for most of Southern California, and (then) 95% owned by AT&T would have.

In the summer of the Bicentennial I was visiting my sister in Denver, and decided to make a long distance call. So I dialed the number as 0+XXX-XXX-XXXX (I forgot what the number I was calling was) then when the operator came on (automated service was years in the future) I said I wanted to bill it to a third party: 213-520-1976. 520 is the "choke exchange" for Los Angeles' 213 area code; it's used for places getting very heavy numbers of incoming phone calls. In 1976, that number belonged to KHJ (AM), the most popular radio station in that part of the state, and the number was constantl6y busy with people trying to submit requests for songs. There was zero chance the operator would have been able to verify whether or not I was authorized. (I wasn't, of course.)

The phone stuff was illegal, of course; phone companies had had decades to get the legislatures to make "using a trick or device" to avoid payment of phone service illegal. But computers were too new; unauthorized use or access was not illegal back then. The worst they could do to you (if it was in school) was ban you from the computer room. I never really got caught on most of the stuff I did; when I did get caught it was on stuff where I was not doing anything wrong, just tried something that accidentally had disastrous consequences.

I think, in one way or another, Long Beach City College banned me from one department or another 3 or 4 times, so I slunk off and went to Orange Coast College (OCC), about 20 miles away in Costa Mesa, which, instead of running a Univac 90/60 (a mainframe similar to an IBM mainframe that Long Beach had), OCC had actual IBM clone mainframes (Magnusun, Itel, and Amdahl) running actual IBM mainframe operating systems. I stayed there for a few years until my reputation died down and went back to Long Beach.

When I went back, in effect, they more-or-less tried the "let the inmates run the asylum" method, and I got to have privileged access on one system, and on the other even permitted to enter the main computer room where the system console was located. Thing was, it worked; once I had privileges I wanted to keep them, so I was careful, and wrote a lot of useful utilities. My days of sneaking around were over. This was much more fun.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Billy Mays » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:31 am

Tdarcos wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:29 am
Later I saw Jaws, it did not affect me. I was never scared of going into the water.
Are you scared to go into the water now when losing a leg to a shark attack would mean losing the only leg you have left?

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Casual Observer » Mon Jun 29, 2020 11:16 am

Billy Mays wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:31 am
Tdarcos wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:29 am
Later I saw Jaws, it did not affect me. I was never scared of going into the water.
Are you scared to go into the water now when losing a leg to a shark attack would mean losing the only leg you have left?
Sharks don't eat whales.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Billy Mays » Mon Jun 29, 2020 10:03 pm

I keep thinking that Tdarcos would be more "ok" mentally with the aftermath of a shark attack than most people.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Jizaboz » Tue Jun 30, 2020 12:07 am

Flack wrote:
Mon Jun 29, 2020 8:43 am
Yeah, I definitely think Wargames had a stronger impact on people who saw it when those technologies were emerging. Looking at it now, people might say, "oh, they were wardialing." Of course, wardialing and wardriving got their names from WARgames. Back then, it seemed a lot more revolutionary.
Oh definitely man. I can see it. Your stories about the things you were doing at your parents house absolutely fascinate me, man. It only took a night or 2 at a friends house with a C64 that I maybe got 3 hours sleep when I was 11 for my brain to start churning on all the shit I wanted to do, but mom would not let me have a computer "yet" and she was hardcore about only getting the family (ha, family) an IBM compatible. So I was teased as shit for years around my neighbors TRS-80, the 8086 at the local library, and my Christian friend's Commodore 64, and another nerd who's mom hated me until Christmas of 1990 when I finally got a 386 16mhz machine to call my own.. but with one huge catch; mom convinced my dad I could not own a modem because if anything it would be "dangerous" to the fone bill. If I would have seen this movie back in the day I would have been chomping at the bit 4x as hard.

Image
(This is the closest I could find. Case, monitor, kb and all look the same but mine only ran DOS 5.1, had 1 MB total ram, and 40 MB hard drive.)

I remember thinking that thing was so majestic taking it out of the box. I didn't understand why my friends at the time said things like "Man why you want to mess with this ugly thing?" when they came over, despite it having superior graphics and sound to many other systems and computers at the time.

It's kind of weird how props that scared us so much as kids look so silly now. I wish I could see what was in that first haunted house or 2 I ran out of before I was 7 haha

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Fri Jul 03, 2020 10:15 pm

Here's to swimmin' with bow-legged women. Happy 4th.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by pinback » Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:17 am

Can totally see VAG in that scene, and it's rated PG.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:54 am

Yup. Totally saw Mariana's Trench.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by pinback » Sat Jul 04, 2020 1:55 pm

Are those your knees on in the bottom of the pic? I don't care what the answer is, or what anyone says, that picture is you wankin' it to JAWS VAG.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Flack » Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:09 pm

It's my shoes.
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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by pinback » Sat Jul 04, 2020 3:24 pm

Not anymore.
Above all else... We shall go on... And continue!

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Billy Mays » Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:25 pm

Flack wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:09 pm
It's my shoes.
That just makes it worse.

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Re: Wargames vs Jaws

Post by Casual Observer » Sat Jul 04, 2020 7:07 pm

Billy Mays wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 6:25 pm
Flack wrote:
Sat Jul 04, 2020 2:09 pm
It's my shoes.
That just makes it worse.
Apparently Hillbilly Mays is as kinky as the commander. Why did his mind go there? Our brains instantly make connections based on what we see. What has BM been watching for porn? I dont want to know please.

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