Friday, November 4, 2011

Titanic.


Titanic (James Cameron, 1997)

So! The blog is appearing on the Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions today. We will soon know whether or not the words "Taste My Sad" made it into the broadcast. (If not, here's one last search optimization attempt: John Jeopardy sad movie blog awesome cool dude single?) I hope you enjoy my appearance, and am excited for the possibility that knowing me personally will no longer be a prerequisite to reading this blog.

Category: Sad movie that was an overwhelming critical and commercial success. Titanic is the second-highest grossing film of all time (second only to Avatar, James Cameron’s follow-up to this film), and the first film ever to make over a billion dollars. (Not normally the kind of film we deal with here on Taste My Sad, by the way. I’m far more used to watching movies that no one would ever have any desire to see.) The film also tied the records for most Oscar nominations (fourteen) and wins (eleven) in history. I vividly recall watching Billy Crystal’s musical homage to the film, to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme song, during that year's Oscar ceremony. A more innocent time. Nowadays, I can imagine a perky Anne Hathaway desperately trying to sell a few bawdy iceberg-related puns as James Franco, high as all get-out, desperately tries to stay awake.

My familiarity with this issue: First, let me note that I am pretty familiar with the disaster itself. I have a morbid curiosity for these kinds of things (I used to spend hours at work reading Wikipedia articles about plane crashes, which may explain both my fear of flying and current lack of a job). The most interesting thing about the Titanic disaster, for me, is that it was the maiden voyage. Even leaving aside my well-known fear of boats, I would never want to be on the maiden voyage of anything. I like my modes of transportation to be battle-tested. Let’s see this baby plow through a few icebergs first, and then, sure, sign me up. But too much can go wrong the first time around.

Friends of the blog will know that I only write about films that I have not previously seen, and thus it is no secret that, until today, I have not seen Titanic. This fact often stuns people at dinner parties (especially people of my generation). I don’t really have a good answer as to why I haven’t seen it. While I don’t remember turning down several invitations to see the film with friends/the ladies when it was released, I know I must have, because I was absolutely not an unpopular, socially awkward nerd in sixth grade. That was definitely not the case.

(Side note: I see a direct correlation between the fact that most of my friends stayed away from drugs and drinking and other temptations when we were in sixth grade, and the fact that all anyone did at that time was see Titanic over and over again. There was no time to get into drugs. Literally. The movie is like forty hours long.) 

And I guess the reason why I haven’t seen it since then is that I like having facts about myself that will stun people at dinner parties. Now I’m down to Jeopardy and the fact that I am both nearsighted AND farsighted. 

Of course, one might argue that it’s due to my lack of desire to conform with the rest of society, or some other pretentious nonsense like that. And while I don’t really think it’s true, the numbers seem to bear that theory out: for a supposed cineaste (and four-time Jeopardy champ), I have seen precious few of the top ten highest-grossing films of all time. For more information, see the handy chart below:

Rank Film Times Seen Comments
1 Avatar 0 My distaste for 3D movies and large blue things prevented me from seeing this film. But I do think I’ll give this one a shot someday. I did really like Pocahontas, after all.
2 Titanic 0 See: the rest of this post.
3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 0 I’m not up to date on the HP films, sadly. I’ve seen 1, 2, 4 and 5 (I skipped 3 because I heard there was a giant scary dog in it). And before I get yelled at by 90% of my friends, I hasten to add that I do like these movies and I plan on watching them all. And maybe even reading the books one day!
4 Transformers: Dark of the Moon 0 Boycotted due to Michael Bay’s poor treatment of Megan Fox. No but srsly, I haven’t seen any of the Transformers movies, because I suspect they are all awful.
5 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 1 For three years running, it was a Krizel family tradition to see the LOTR films during winter break. It was also a Krizel family tradition for me to fall asleep during said films. Although to be fair, I did really like the ending of this movie. And the forty-five minutes that came after the ending.
6 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 0 Friend of the blog Rich Martinelli saw a midnight screening of this film on the day it opened. I awoke the next morning to find several angry/profane text messages from him, sent at around 2 AM, telling me how awful it was. So I’ve skipped this one and #8 on this list.
7 Toy Story 3 5+ BRB crying just thinking about this movie.
8 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides 0 See #6. Even Johnny Depp doesn't know what's going on in these movies, by the way. Not worth it.
9 Alice in Wonderland 0 There was never a moment in my life during which I even remotely considered seeing this movie.
10 The Dark Knight 8+ Greatest. Movie. Ever.

Here now to provide her perspective on the film’s appeal is FOTB Ellen Barr, who is currently foraging for roots and berries in the wilderness of Alaska. Ellen will be speaking on behalf of those people who have seen this film at least once, aka everyone else in the world. She is the 99%.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Beginning with genuine footage of the departure of the Titanic on its fateful voyage, this epic movie tells the events of that tragic night from the perspective of fictional survivor Rose. As an old lady of 100 she recounts her story of duty, love and disaster to a salvage crew searching for a lost gem.” I realize this isn’t the most evocative plot summary, but the four others on the IMDb site are each about as long as the movie. (Yes, I know it's rich for me to complain about other people prattling on for too long on the Internet.)

What FOTB Ellen Barr thought of the movie: I have seen Titanic probably over twenty times. The movie came out when I was in fourth grade, and almost every girl I knew with a birthday that winter decided to see Titanic in theaters for her party. Needless to say, I probably saw it in theaters five times in fourth grade alone. When I found out that John has never seen Titanic, our Gchat conversation went like this:

John: You know, I never saw Titanic.
Me: TITANICCCCC!
John: There was a boat involved, I hear.

And you know what? That's one of the reasons why I love this movie. There's no big secret – everyone knows the ship sinks. Everyone knows that a lot of people die. And yet, James Cameron was able to make everyone nervous and invested in the outcome while watching the movie. Does Jack make Rose fall in love with him? Does Rose realize what a jackass her fiancé is? And possibly most importantly, do Jack and Rose ever do the do? (SPOILER ALERT: Yup – and it's actually not when he draws her like one of his French girls, but later when they are pretending to drive a car and then the car becomes the steamiest sex car ever in a movie.) [Editor’s Note: I am interested to see how this sex car compares with the famous Minnesota Vikings Sex Boat.] All these years later, I'm still sitting on the edge of my seat watching this movie, waiting for the answers to the questions.

I also like Titanic because it's actually two movies: you've got the love story, and the story of the Titanic's magnificence/sinking. Although the love story doesn't interest me as much anymore, the latter stuff gets me more and more every time I watch it. So what do I, Ellen Barr, think of Titanic? I remember watching it in the theaters with my mom, being ungodly uncomfortable when Rose got naked. [Editor’s Note: I now remember the real reason that I did not see this film in theaters.] I also remember grabbing her arm when the ship cuts in half and starts to sink for real. Then I remember going to Target with her so I could buy the soundtrack. You be the judge of what I think of it.

What I thought of the movie: I really liked it! It was, as advertised, a staggering cinematic achievement. The effects are, of course, what stand out at first watch; they’re incredible, and never for a second are you too conscious of the fact that they obviously didn’t build a huge ship and then wreck it. The love story between Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (Kate Winslet) was, on the whole, very nice as well. A bit conventional, perhaps, but as Roger Ebert wrote, “you don't choose the most expensive film ever made as your opportunity to reinvent the wheel.” So overall I was very pleased. Having said that, of course, I’m about to criticize it for like twelve paragraphs.

The movie’s major shortcoming was, as expected, the script. While James Cameron may be the HMFIC, he’s certainly no Shakespeare. (He’s barely Nicholas Sparks.) It can be charitably said that Cameron’s dialogue is not the most natural: for example, hours after Rose (Kate Winslet) tries to kill herself, she attributes her suicide attempt to to “the inertia of my life, plunging ahead, and me, powerless to stop it…” OOOO YOU FANCY HUH? Nice try, Cameron.

(Tangent: The whole suicide attempt itself bothered me as well. I know Rose is supposed to be this petulant teen who felt trapped by this oppressive man, but still, It didn’t feel nearly justified enough. And even if it could be justified, it does kind of destroy our sympathy for her at that point in the movie. I mean, c’mon now. She’s the 1%! [Second #Occupy reference of the post. The blog does nothing if not capture the zeitgeist.] Although to be fair, her breasts were EXTRAORDINARILY well-lit during that suicide attempt. Nice work, Cameron.)

The film is also guilty of piling on a bit (a common crime for Taste My Sad films). Rose’s rich fiancé Cal (Billy Zane, who makes his own luck) is the main villain of the film, aside from the iceberg. Cal is also about as one-dimensional as the iceberg. (In terms of their character/motivations, that is. If the iceberg were actually one-dimensional, the disaster probably could have been avoided.) Obviously Rose was all but forced to marry the guy, but he’s so loathsome that we wonder why she didn’t run off with some street urchin long before the voyage. Furthermore, Cameron really lays it on thick during the shipwreck scenes: there were a few too many narrow escapes from crowded steerage areas, near-drownings in flooding stairwells, and angry rich fiancés chasing after the two lovers with guns blazing (oh yeah that happens) for my taste.

Honestly though, it’s about as good a historical epic as I have ever seen. With few exceptions, it effectively communicates the size and scope of the tragedy through the lens of two star-crossed lovers. I totally get it why everyone else in the world has seen this movie already.

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: Listen. We all know I wouldn’t have been on the damn boat in the first place. If I’d somehow found myself in Jack’s position (having won tickets in a card game minutes before the ship debarked), I’d have done my best to scalp them for an outrageous markup. Then I’d have been free to faff about in Europe for a few more months. Maybe I’d even head back to Paris and draw a few more naked prostitutes. (Speaking of the prostitutes, and I don’t know if someone’s already suggested this at some point in the past fourteen years, but what are the chances that Jack, shall we say… transmitted something to Rose in the back of that sex car? If he had, I’m sure Rose wouldn’t have told Bill Paxton about it in the present day, because that would have ruined the whole thing. Hey speaking of ruining the whole thing, sorry for just doing that.)

How I felt after the movie ended: Spent. I still haven’t really talked about the film’s framing device (the Bill Paxton-Gloria Stuart stuff), but I should note that that’s very well done as well. I also haven’t talked about that goddamn song and the goddamn pan-flutes and the fact that it’s used like thirty times in the movie (even before the Celine Dion version over the credits). I don’t really want to think about it right now because it will ruin the whole movie for me.

But honestly, even that horrible song doesn’t detract from how good the movie is. All of its faults fade away in light of the fact that James Cameron made a movie that appealed to literally everyone: a genuinely thrilling, genuinely sad romantic adventure. The haters may call it contrived and silly and all that, and it’s not that they’re wrong, just that they’re really missing the point. In the end, Titanic was just a good old-fashioned potboiler, and I’ll be goddamned if it didn’t boil my pots.

30 comments:

  1. Not nearly enough of this post is spent talking about Billy Zane

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  2. I thought I was the only person morbid enough to read wikipedia articles about plane crashes. This made me feel better about it.

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  3. As said mother who accompanied Ellen Barr to Titanic in fourth grade, I remember that the blood was cut off from my lower arm by the grip. Except for the wretched song I also loved this movie. You led a weirdly sheltered childhood.
    PS I was reminded to read this blog on Jeopardy today. Nice.

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  4. You can thank Jeopardy for at least one new reader..

    But I'll be honest, I stopped reading after your handy chart. Not because I lost interest, but because it was distracting and then it freaked me out. I read it and realized I would only have to change one thing if I wanted to make it completely accurate to myself; up the number of times seen to 25+ under The Dark Knight to help emphasize it's flawlessness.

    I like your blog. I'll probably keep reading.

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  5. Yep, I found your blog by doing a Google search for "John Jeopardy sad movie blog." And I'm very happy to have found it and especially to see Titanic (one of my favorites) as your most recent blog topic. I'll be following your blog for sure. Thanks!

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  6. I found your blog while watching Jeopardy after you stated that you will get a lot of hits on your blog now. I have to say I find this blog kind of interesting. I will definetely follow it.

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  7. Hey ya! I found your blog by google...I found your whole name on the Jeopardy website. Anyway, I can dig it. I am going to follow you. Keep it up dude.

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  8. I love Pocahontas too! I hope there isn't a question mark behind 'single' :) and Algonquin round table?! I had NO idea either.

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  9. Thank you, "john from jeopardy sad movie blog champion"! I am thoroughly enjoying this commentary. Congrats +1 stalker.

    I haven't snooped around enough yet, but if you have not already reviewed it...I recommend Eternal Sunshine-- the ultimate cry yourself to sleep at night because it is so beautiful movie.

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  10. You are so dorky and awesome. I will follow your blog and now follow you on twitter (I'm @ShannonClouter). And yes, The Dark Knight is clearly one of the greatest movies. Ev. Er. Bummer about Jeopardy, but seriously those were bunk categories...

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  11. Wow you suck at Jeopardy and at blogging... Go Joon!

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  12. Another new Jeopardy fan/blog stalker. As a fellow writer I was rooting for you, but Joon's a beast. It was a noble loss.

    I have also never seen Titanic , but I just might be motivated to finally get on it now. Looking forward to more entries.

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  13. Jeopardy stalker, here!I didn't catch the name of your blog on there but I did hear you talking about it. I googled jeopardy sad movie blog. :)

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  14. Watching Jeopardy and I'm here! Nice job John!

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  15. I actually did the exact search string you mentioned (John Jeopardy sad movie blog awesome cool dude single?)!

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  16. Another Jeopardy watcher here. Nice blog. I will definitely keep reading this!

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  17. i apologize for my boorish anonymous fan of 8:19 pm. this blog is awesome, and you were also awesome on jeopardy. the world is a better place now that people are finding it.

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  18. For those who, like me, never felt like investing the time to see this movie, here's a summary:

    http://www.angelfire.com/fl2/email1/titanic.html

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  19. found you from jeopardy! you're adorable. this was the best show in a long time!

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  20. My wife thinks the fix is in and Joon (if that's his real name) had some inside help on Jeopardy! today.

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  21. Another Jeopardy fan checking in. I've been a fan of your blog ever since I found out what it was called. I'm not going to lick your eye or anything, but I love a good AD reference.

    I enjoyed the beginning of this post a lot, but what you wrote about Lord of the Rings is the truest thing ever written about that movie and it took the entire entry to the next level. I'm a fan now. Keep up the great blogging.

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  22. Hello, John. I also was directed here by your plug on "Jeopardy". As a big movie fan myself, I love what you're doing here.

    My younger sisters were only 9 years old, but they fell really hard for Leonardo. They went to the movie at least 10 times with my mother and plastered their walls with clippings of Mr. DiCaprio.

    Sometime in 1998, I was at the local cemetary with them and our mother. I walked a ways away and said, in all seriousness, that I was looking at a grave that said J. Dawson (a reference to Leo's character in the movie). They both looked at me and one of them said, "Are you serious?".

    Inevitably, a Leonardo backlash started. When I was working as a caregiver, I picked up the guys' mail. One of them had a subscription to Cracked magazine and on the cover was a picture of Leo with his head about to be taken off on a tree stump and titled: Leonardo Decapitated. I have to say I got a chuckle out of it.

    In the end, "Titanic" was my favorite movie of 1997. The runner-up: "Face/Off".

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  23. Another Jeopardy fan here and fellow blogger.

    I enjoyed what I read, so far.

    I'm one of those females who blubbers and cries through sad films. There are several I'm glad I saw, but never want to go through the emotional turmoil to view them again. ("The Color Purple" "Sophie's Choice" and "Schinldler's List" come to mind.)

    In my own life, I rarely cry ---can't remember the last time I did, however movies stimulate my tear ducts, but then I often cry when I watch the news, too.

    My husband and I are retired and watch a film every night. We have eclectic tastes: film noir, documentaries, drama, comedy, old horror films ---but we never saw Titanic ---have seen only 3 from that top-10-grossing list ---all 3 loaded with special effects.

    Although it isn't always true, we generally find films with so many special effects to be about the effects and not about the plot or characters. Also, the number of big-name stars is usually indirectly proportional to the quality of a film.

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  24. I also searched for jeopardy sad movie blog on google and TastemySad was like the first 10 or so, lol...good SEO. And you weren't too bad on Jeopardy either.

    I've seen Titanic several times and cried each time.

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  25. You have to see the documentary Every Fucking Day of My Life. It was Originally titled as One Minute to Nine. I know the full film can be found online. Its very depressing and surreal.

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  26. Remarkable! "John Jeopardy sad movie blog awesome cool dude" IS how I found your blog!

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  27. I'm behind on Jeopardy.
    My search terms were
    sad movie blog jeopardy

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  28. If i'd read your name in the opening, I could have been here faster, but I only heard it and guessed it might be spelled Craisell. Oops.

    Once met a guy who didn't want to tell me his name cause it's odd and "you won't remember it."
    Tell me - who forgets Zlotnick?

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