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“Jaws” production designer Joe Alves talks CGI, 3D and the film’s legacy

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For a movie that’s almost four decades old, “Jaws” has aged remarkably well. A lot of that can be attributed to Joe Alves, the production designer responsible for creating the movie’s titular shark.

Universal Pictures is honoring “Jaws” during the studio’s 100th anniversary celebration by releasing the Steven Spielberg classic on Blu-Ray for the first time ever. Lovingly converted frame by frame from 35 mm to the digital Blu-Ray format, this new release is sure to continue to wow fans for generations to come. In anticipation of the Blu-Ray release on August 14, IFC was invited to chat with Alves and some of the other people involved in the project and its restoration.

The interview with Alves took place on Jaws Lake, the area of Universal Studios Hollywood where the film’s great white shark has been terrifying theme park attendees for years by jumping out of the water accompanied by a burst of flames. It was the perfect opportunity to reflect on the legacy “Jaws” has created ever since its release in 1975.

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“I think the legacy is the simplicity of it,” Alves explained. “It’s the three men fighting this beast, which is not a beast, it’s a real thing that’s out there, a white shark, just a little bit bigger. Fear. Fear if you go in the ocean it will get you any time. And so I think it’s that. It’s not like a monster movie, not like a real horror movie. It’s like a very realistic something that could terrorize a community. Could hurt you if you’re there at the wrong time.”

It only helped that Alves’s shark looked like something that could easily be spotted in the ocean around Cape Cod. That fear is still prevalent today, where as recently as a few weeks ago a shark was spotted off Massachusetts’ coast.

“We created something that’s realistic, so there was no exaggeration. It wasn’t like we had strange monsters, Transformers and stuff. It was a fin and if you look at [a real shark] fin, it looked like our fin,” Alves said.

Of course, at the time he and Spielberg made the movie it was a lot more difficult to convince people that it was a great idea. Alves got to work on the shark for “Jaws” before Spielberg was even on board, and he admitted that he had quite a few struggles making it. The studio wasn’t too thrilled about the movie when they finally wrapped, because — as Alves puts it — “we had gone way over budget and schedule, so we weren’t heroes.” Everything rode on the movie’s opening night premiere in Long Beach.

“[The crew] used to laugh there when the shark didn’t work. You know, it made funny noises, because of the valves and things,” Alves said of the major cause of his nervousness during the screening. “So if it didn’t work, the crew would laugh, and so, take away those sounds, add other sounds, add John Williams’ music, the best editing, and we showed the movie and we’re sitting there going, ‘Oh god, I hope they don’t laugh.’ And they didn’t laugh. And they went crazy.”

He continued, “If you’re really dedicated to what you do, sometimes you do pictures where the script’s not so good, but you always try to do your best, because you take it personal. And some of them work, and some of them don’t. And ‘Jaws’ just happened to work. And it went on and on and on.”

At the time “Jaws” was created, there wasn’t much of a reliance on computer generated technology to make films look better. Alves and Spielberg had to find real-life solutions to the effects they wanted to create in the film. We asked Alves how he thinks “Jaws” would be different it was created in today’s Hollywood, and he had a very clear idea.

“There’s no question: a lot of CGI. You may do some close-ups with a real [shark,] mechanical, some prosthetics and stuff like that, but I think you’d heavily rely on computer-generated images. Why not? It makes it easier,” he said. “I think you get a script and you take the technology that you have available, and you say what works best for this? A prosthetic would work better, actor could react to it, or do it totally green screen and CGI. Those are the decisions that you make for creative reasons and financial reasons, time elements.”

Alves also directed “Jaws 3D,” one of the major 3D films of the ’80s. Obviously 3D has had a huge comeback in recent years, and Alves reflected on the struggles he had directing a 3D movie in that day and age.

“When I made ‘Jaws 3D,’ I did it to take the [emphasis] off the ‘3,’ because they weren’t making ‘3’s or sequels. And I like the underwater quality of it, but I had no idea that when I made this decision and the studio jumped on it and I was going to direct it that the equipment was all so old,” he said. “So we had to make equipment and so we were fighting technology, and so it was really difficult. And the convergence and get all that. And then the glasses were bad, cardboard glasses. Today you get these beautiful glasses and you’ve got all this technology, so it’s easier.”

Who knows — maybe “Jaws” will get a 3D makeover next.

Do you plan to pick up “Jaws” on Blu-Ray when it comes out Tuesday? Tell us in the comments section below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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