Sunday, April 15, 2012

Epically Epic: Titanic

100 years ago today, the Titanic made history as the unsinkable ship hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic. And ever since that fateful day, people–and Hollywood–have been fascinated by this tragic event. Just 29 days after the sinking, a silent film was released called Saved From the Titanic starring actress Dorothy Gibson, who actually survived the incident. That was just the beginning of countless film and television movies have been made since about the tragedy (including the latest that aired last night and tonight on ABC from Downton Abby's Julian Fellowes. The first season of Downton even begins with the event.) But, the most poplar telling of the story, by far, is James Cameron's 1997 film that won 11 Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and became the highest grossing film of all-time (it has since been replaced by another Cameron film, Avatar). 

I saw the film the day that it opened on December 19, 1997. Thanks to her performances in Sense and Sensibility and Heavenly Creatures, I was a huge Kate Winslet fan already and told my friends that we had to see her latest performance in Titanic as soon as possible. I was in High School at the time and the film definitely had a huge impact on me. I lost count how many times I saw it in the theatre (it's somewhere around 12) and I don't even know how many times I've seen it in total. I haven't seen the theatrical release in 3-D that just came out, yet. But, I plan on it. Even though over the past 15 years it has become fashionable to bash the film (I'll admit, the dialogue isn't the best, but it's a lot better than Avatar's), it still has a hold on me as a film lover.
"Just pretend you're listening to James and then, when he's not looking, run..."
In honor of the 100th anniversary, I decided it would be a perfect time to take another look at the film. (It's also the start of a monthly series I'm starting called Epically Epic, in which I'll explore some of cinema's most sweeping epics. Next month Giant). So, join me as we explore the film that launched Leo and Kate's careers into the stratosphere, revolutionized the way computer graphics were used in film, and gave us a song so good, it makes Kate wanna puke...

Are you ready to go back to Titanic?

• I think a big part of why the film has such an emotional impact is that haunting voice in the score. And when you hear at the very start of the film, after you've seen the movie before, it just takes you back to when Leo dies (Spoiler Alert? Nah, y'all have seen this) and still gets me a little choked up.  

• James Cameron is doing a series on National Geographic Channel about his explorations of the real underwater Titanic. In the promos he says that he wanted to explore the ship more than he wanted to make the movie. Um, then why didn't you just make a documentary about it instead? I mean, I'm glad you didn't...

• Bill Paxton (or is it Pullman? Have we estibalished if they're the same actor?).  Well, at least he looks good in a pirate-like gold hoop earring.

• The little machine that they use to explore further into the ship has always reminded me of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit.

• I just love the underwater shots of the real wreckage. It looks like something Ariel would have explored in a macabre version of The Little Mermaid...

• This is something I just know thought of in this viewing. But if they're in the state room of Billy Zane's fictional character, looking for a fictional safe–but in the actual wreckage–did James Cameron place a fake safe among the artifacts? He has that kind of power?

• "You know boss, the same thing happened to Geraldo and his career never recovered." 
In 1986, Geraldo Rivera did a live television special where he explored the hidden vault of Al Capone. It was supposed to contain treasures but, ultimately contained nothing. Do you think anyone remembers that today? I hope the world will never forget the mustachioed-brilliance that was Geraldo. 

•  Jack's drawing of Rose wearing La Coeur de la Mer! All of Jack's drawing were drawn by James Cameron. Do you think he made kate pose for him for this picture? Is that how she got the part? He had wanted Gwyenth Paltrow as Rose. She must have refused to do nudity. Prude.

• So far the most dated thing about this movie is Suzy Amis' Mom jeans.

• Gloria Stuart! Do you think Kate Winslet will end up looking more like her or Judi Dench when she actually ages?  

• I don't really love Gloria Stuart's performance in this. I can't believe it was nominated for an Oscar. Some of her line deliveries are just odd. Like when she shouts "No" when Suzy Amis suggests she go down for a nap. Calm down, Joan Crawford. Bring it down a notch.

• Finally, after 20 minutes of set-up, we're getting the actual story. I've always enjoyed the way the real footage dissolves into the movie version.

• Kate as Rose DeWitt Bukater! Such a dramatic entrance. It always reminds of that line in Gypsy, "What am I gonna do when big hats go out?" 

• Billy Zane! In eyeliner.

• Leo! The face that launched a thousand 'Teen Beat' covers. God, he looks so young. And really feminine. Why do teenage girls fall for such girly men?

•  In retrospect, I bet Sven and friend are really happy they lost those tickets in the card game.

• Godspeed, Titanic! Safe travels...

• How does Rose own every important painting of the last half of the 19th Century? I'm pretty sure they didn't sink with the Titanic because I've seen a lot of them in person. "Something Picasso..."

• Kathy Bates! How come there was no Oscar talk for her in this movie? Not that she's amazing or anything, but she ain't bad. And a lot better than Gloria Stuart. Also, who knew that Kathy Bates and young Debbie Reynolds were the same type?

• The CGI people walking around on deck make me laugh. But, I do love that Cameron has said that (unlike George Lucas) he won't go back and change things on the film. It's of its time–where technology was at that time and what he was able to achieve. For a rerelease of ET, Spielberg changed some shots of the alien with CGI shots. He said he regrets doing it and in subsequent releases, the original footage was put back in. 

• I've never been a cruise ship, but they really just allow passengers to just hang out at the bow of the ship?
"I'm King of the World!"

• I heard that Leo really didn't want to say that line, but Cameron made him. After all, he needed it for his Oscar speech. And what else are people supposed to say whenever they go on a boat now? God, it's so bad...

• Victor Garber! As I was watching the miniseries on ABC last night, I kept wondering why they kept calling this random guy, Mr. Andrews. Because he was clearly not Victor Garber.

• Do you think it was love at first sight for Jack and Rose, or do you think he was just distracted by the bright orange sash on her acid green dress?

• There was originally a scene right before Rose runs off to the stern where she starts freaking out in her room and stabs her arm with a fork. It seems unnecessary when you're about to jump off a boat.

"Sorry, you just seemed like an, you know, indoor girl."
• I never realized how ridiculous Billy Zane's wig looks. It must be the John Travolta line...

• What better time to give a girl a heart-shaped diamond necklace than after she's almost plummeted to her death. 

• Kate and Leo's scenes together have such a natural easiness about them. You can tell that they really formed a special bond while filming. 

• How convenient that Molly Brown's son, who isn't with her, just happens to be the same size in tuxedo's as Jack...

"I saw that in a Nickelodeon once and I always wanted to do it."

• Now it's time to meet all the real-life people on Titanic: The Countess of RothesJohn Jacob Astor (the richest man on the ship), Benjamin Guggenheim and his mistress, and Lady Duff-Gordon (who designs naughty lingerie, among her many talents).  

• Rose, if someone hands you a secret note, don't be so obvious about it.

• Oh, the party below deck. A place for a girl to drink some beer, dance to Irish music, and stand in your stockinged feet on tip toes (Kate actually has really big size 11 feet. She and Leo used to switch shoes on set because he could fit in hers). Those poor sure know how to live!

• Rose getting her corset tied by her Mother as she's been told what to do–symbolism, y'all. Remember when they inserted film dialogue into the radio version of "My Heart Will Go On", but it was the most random lines like from this scene, "Oh, stop it, Mother. You'll give yourself a nosebleed."

• In this movie, they won't let Jack into the first class chapel, but on the miniseries last night, apparently everyone from the ship was allowed at the service.

• It always bothered me in this scene with the last shot of Rose singing "those in peril on the sea" because it looks like the top part of her lip doesn't have lipstick. But, it's actually shine. They made a special waterproof lipstick that wouldn't come off for her, so it wouldn't make any sense that it wouldn't be there when she isn't doing anything. 

 "I'm flying!"

• In the scene where Jack sketches Rose, only one breast was allowed to be shown at a time to get the PG-13 rating. Because, you know, seeing two breasts at the same time, as they occur in the wild, is too much for young eyes. In the release in 3-D in China right now, Kate's breasts have been removed altogether. Apparently, they were afraid that people would try to reach out and touch them in 3-D...

• Kate always talks about how difficult nudes scenes are and how they terrify her. Here is a short list of movies she has done nudity in: Jude, Hideous Kinky, Holy Smoke, QuillsIris, Little Children, The Reader...As you can see, she really hates doing them.

See, this is what happens when you start hanging out with a lower class...

• I do love Kate's costumes in this. But, now we only get this same dress for the rest of the film. When they run through the boiler room in slow motion, didn't you always get the feeling that her train was gonna catch on fire...

• It's great how assertive Rose is during the love scene, ordering him to put his hands on her. She really seems more mature than he does and wiser in the practice. The way he's trembling, I kinda always got the impression that this was his first time.

Taken out of context, it almost looks like it's from a horror film.

• "Iceberg! Right Ahead!" If only they hadn't been watching Jack and Rose make-out, maybe they would have seen it sooner...

• I always felt bad for those two guys who die in the cargo area looking for Jack and Rose. 

• Kate sounds so British when she says, "Absurd".

• I have to put in the second disc now. If they can fit 9 hours of extra features on one disc, how can they not fit the entire 3 hour movie on one? 

• Whoa, I never realized the second disc starts with Rose getting slapped. Certainly gets your attention.

• "Mr. Andrews, I saw the iceberg and I see it in your eyes. Tell me the truth." Yikes, how do you make that line sound believable? Kate just barely does.

• Poor little Irish family. They don't stand a chance.

• "You unimaginable bastard". I really should use that phrase more often in my everyday life.

• Rose's spit on Cal is really messy. She said on 'Oprah' that it was a glob of KY jelly that they put in her mouth because her mouth was getting dry take after take. I wonder how many times Billy Zane got a face full of KY that day.

"Is my eyeliner running?"

• I think some of Kate's best acting in this movie is when she's trying to find someone to get Jack out of handcuffs. I love the part where the lights fade on and off and she just leans against the wall, knowing things are hopeless.

• The train on Kate's dress kept getting tangled up in the water, so James Cameron went and cut one of the many dresses at the knees to use when her legs are underwater. It was dubbed the Bo Peep dress because of the way her bloomers picked out beneath it.

• This is the part of the movie where they just say each others name a lot. I'm keeping a tally of how much and shall reveal it at the end of the action part...

• Apparently Leo complained about the water a lot. David Letterman asked Kate about years later and her responds was, "Well, Obviously, he's just a big girl's blouse." I'll have to use that phrase more as well...

"Now there's something you don't see everyday."

• Did people really say shut up in 1912? This is the second time in 20 minutes that they've said it. It seems so modern.

• "Music to drown by? Now I know I'm in First Class."

• The second time I saw this movie, after I already knew what was gonna happen with Jack and Rose, I really indulged in the melodrama if it all and kinda wallowed in the sorrow. Like the scene where she jumps of the lifeboat to be back with Jack, I used to start weeping. Oh, they were so in love–Why?!? How could this happen?

Slow motion running leads to funny faces...

• Where exactly is that little doomed Irish family at during that montage of people dying? It appears they're snug in their steerage cabin, but there's no water anywhere and the First Class cabins are already flooded. 

• The part where the stern is sticking u right before it snaps is probably the reason James Cameron wanted to do it in 3-D. It still looks pretty amazing.

• "Jack, this is where we first met!" That's great, Rose, but there's kinda more pressing issues right now...

• Don't you always take a breath with them when Jack tells them to?

• So, Jack/Rose count: Kate says Jack 27 times and Leo says Rose 25 times. Huh, I actually thought it would number in the hundreds...

• Sorry, I had to wipe the snot of my keyboard. I wasn't sure if I would still be affected by Jack's death since I've been stopping for screen grabs and research, but damned if I didn't just cry like I was 16 and watching it for the first time. I remember very distinctly just weeping when that woman's voice starts singing. The music just breaks your heart. And I remember being taken aback by how emotional I was. 15 years later it still has the same affect on me. All the cynicism and snark aside, it really is a powerful film.

"Can I take your name please, luv?"
"Dawson. Rose Dawson."

• God, that noise Gloria Stuart makes when she drops the necklace into the ocean is so silly. And I get the symbolism of her dropping it into the ocean and all, but don't you just feel like Indiana Jones and shouting to her, "It belongs in a museum!"

• Don't you want to see Kate in a movie version of all the things she's done in the photos next to Old Rose's nightstand? 1920s Silent Film Star, 1930's Female Aviator, Horseback rider in Coney Island...

• I have a question: So, when Old Rose dies and goes to Titanic heaven to be reunited with Jack, why is everyone else there? You mean to tell me, that after these people died, the thing they most wanted to have happen in their life is for Jack and Rose to get back together? Also, if you were a servant or poor don't you think you would want things to be a little different in the afterlife? At least be able to wear something that isn't a maid's uniform or rags. Even Rose gets to wear a sparkly white dress that she never wore in real life.
The End

And cue the Celine Dion song! You know what to do, Kate. Thanks for joining me on this journey. It's been fun, although now I don't really feel the need to see it so recently again in 3-D...

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