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The Film List Project #26: Jaws, Brick, and Aliens

This was one of those rare weeks that I got to watch not one, not two, but three movies from the list. If you've looked at the titles, you know that one of these films is not like the other.

I'll break it down for you: two of these (Jaws and Aliens) are classic blockbusters. The other (Brick) is a low-budget teenage caper flick. These movies have nothing in common except for a one-word title.

Despite their differences, I loved all these films. Watching and loving all three made me realize just how much my taste has changed and expanded over the course of this project. The fact that I can admire a detective film, a sci-fi classic, and, well, Jaws says a lot about how much I've learned over the last few months.

Jaws has gone down in history as the first blockbuster, but at the end of the day, it's really a classic story of people fearing the unknown and not knowing how to adapt to change. In this case, the unknown is actually pretty dangerous.

A great white shark is nothing to mess with, but those willing to figure out what it was and tackling the problem from there are the ones who succeeded. Maybe I'm attaching too much meaning to a movie about a killer shark, but I don't think so. Thousands of people wouldn't line up around the block for some cheap thrills. The movie would have to be good.

Aliens definitely deals with similar themes, but what I was interested in was seeing a female protagonist tackle creatures that came from my nightmares. In preparation, I also watched Alien, where I saw Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) take over for her dead superiors and survive above everyone else.

In the second movie, we see a more broken Ripley, struggling to trust those who put her in that dangerous situation in the first place. When she's betrayed, she admirably tries to be the person she wishes she had on the Nostromo: someone who knew what was going on and tried to protect those more vulnerable.

Despite her character growth over the course of the two films, I still prefer Ripley the survivor to Ripley the protector. In the first film, Ripley sticks to her values in the toughest of situations, and that's arguably what saves her. I still really admire Ripley in the second film, especially because of her determination to protect and survive. She's a fast learner, a quick thinker, and a survivor, making her one of the most iconic female characters ever. That's why both films hold up to this day.

I really don't know why Brick isn't a more well-known film. It takes all the classic elements of a caper film, throws in some western-style visuals, and plays out the story with adolescent criminals. It doesn't sound like it would work, but it does beautifully, creating a beautiful homage and original film at the same time. What I love most about this film is its characters. Every one is well-crafted, and the protagonist is intelligent, sensitive, and quick all at the same time.

Using adolescents to tell this kind of story paints them as real people. There's no condescension because these characters are young. They all think like adults, feel like adults, and behave like adults. These characters are respected by the filmmaker and the actors, and that's what makes it work.

Thanks for your patience as I've missed these last couple of weeks, and, as always, thanks for reading.

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