The Set of 400: #296 – My Favorite Heart of the Ocean

Today! Because I’d rather be his whore than your wife –

Titanic (1997)

Directed by James Cameron

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x2), Kate Winslet, Billy Zane (x3), Bill Paxton (x2), Kathy Bates (x2), Frances Fisher, David Warner, Bernard Hill, Victor Garber (x2), Gloria Stuart, Suzy Amis, Danny Nucci, Ioan Gruffudd, Jonny Phillips, Ewan Stewart, Bernard Fox, Jason Barry

First off, let me begin by saying SHUT UP. I am fully aware of the awesome shortcomings of this film. The dialogue is often atrocious, some of the poor actors forced to play ethic stereotypes get completely mangled in the gears of this film (we forever honor you, Fabrizio!), and the plot – the driving romantic engine of the film – is the most hackneyed, retread, unimaginative piffle they could’ve lit upon. I get all of that. It’s way too long – like, a good forty to fifty minutes too long – and in retrospect can be viewed as pretentiously so, given everything connected to this film that was to follow – Oscar speeches, no follow-up Cameron film for a dozen years, etc.

Ugh, this guy

All that being said, people who regularly slam this movie – then and now – are you seriously telling me you don’t think the second half of Titanic is an amazing movie? I know, it’s half a movie, and you’ve had to slog through nearly two hours of set dressing and nonsense to get there, but once they hit that iceberg straight until that old lady is tossing her baubles overboard, it is as impressive a piece of moviemaking as exists.

And that’s why it deserved all those awards. That’s why it made all that money. Sure, some people can be entertained by even the stalest of plots, propped up by more than competent performances, and solid, mannered directing – but then add in its transformation into a technical marvel of an action movie halfway along, and literally everyone was rushing out to see this thing. It was the number one movie in the country for months, in an era where that sort of thing didn’t happen anymore. And in the 20+ years since this film came out, only one movie has stayed in first place at the box office for more than five weeks (not surprisingly, the other big Cameron flick – Avatar). Titanic was in first place for 15 weeks!

America saw Fabrizio die so many times!

But it’s not just the popular opinions of its time that keep this movie watchable – hell, if that was the case, people would still at least mention they like Avatar once in a while, wouldn’t they? Those effects are still incredible, and the visual narrative is so strong that it weathers any bit of dialogue Billy Zane spouts along the way. I’ll admit, the fact that this movie seems to find its way into theaters every few years helps – this is a tremendous movie going experience on a big screen. Most epics lose something in the transfer to television, but Titanic suffers with the added issue of having its flaws magnified when you aren’t distracted by the hugeness of it all.

To put into perspective the gigantic discrepancy of quality inside this film, consider the fact that Titanic was nominated for the most Oscars ever – fourteen – and won the most ever – eleven – while not receiving a nomination for screenplay. Screenplay! The written form of the entire structure of the movie, which is apparently impressive enough in all regards to be nominated for basically everything, but critics were still like “That romance? That dialogue? Meh.” That’s Titanic.

But seriously, shut up. This is a way better movie than most people make it out to be, and it’s a far more entertaining one to boot. A decades-long backlash has pushed it to almost punchline status, and that’s solidly unwarranted.

Still, L.A. Confidential should have won Best Picture. It’s way better.

Having all the money and awards in the world, what more does Titanic deserve? Best Loogie Competition, for starters! Best Cedar Rapids Burnfor another! Remember in the framing sequences, Bill Paxton’s pal Lewis comic-relief-ing it, slamming Cedar Rapids? Why?

A definite case could be made for Danny Nucci’s Fabrizio to be named the film’s MVP, as he’s got a pretty thankless task with his terrible dialogue, but instead I’m going with everyone’s favorite doomed passenger – the propeller guy.

We will never forget you!

And yes, the Extreme joins the Two-Timers list, as Bill Paxton follows his work in #306 Tombstone here, along with Kathy Bates from #385 Bee Movie, Victor Garber, Jesus himself from #386 Godspell, and Leo from #388 The Wolf of Wall Street, but it’s Paxton’s Tombstone co-star who becomes one of the more surprising Three-Timers yet – William Zane of #344 Back to the Future Part II fame is the 20th inductee! Spotlight!

Fun fact – I saw Billy Zane play Captain Von Trapp on stage in The Sound of Music in Chicago. Be jealous!

Coming tomorrow! Now, I am 65 years old, and yes, I’m sick, and I need to have a conversation with my son –

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