Valentine’s 2014. Movie #90: Titanic (1997)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Kathy Bates, Bill Paxton, Gloria Stuart, Frances Fisher, Bernard Hill, Jonathan Hyde, David Warner, Victor Garber, and Ioan Gruffudd

Academy Awards (1998):

Best Art Director – Set Decoration: Peter Lamont (art director) Michael Ford (set director)

Best Cinematography: Russel Carpenter

Best Costume Design: Deborah Lynn Scott

Best Director: James Cameron

Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing: Tom Bellfort, Christopher Boyes

Best Effects, Visual Effects: Robert Legato, Mark A. Lasoff, Thomas L. Fisher, Michael Kanfer

Best Film Editing: Conrad Buff IV, James Cameron, Richard A. Harris

Best Music, Original Dramatic Score: James Horner

Best Music, Original Song: James Horner (music), Will Jennings (lyrics) for the song ‘My Heart Will Go On” performed by Celine Dion

Best Picture: James Cameron

Best Sound: Gary Rydstrom, Tom Johnson, Gary Summers, Mark Ulano

Academy Award Nomination:

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Gloria Stuart

Best Makeup: Tina Earnshaw, Greg Cannom, Simon Thompson

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Treasure hunter Brock Lovett (Paxton) finds a drawing of a young Rose (Winslet) while searching for ‘The Heart of the Ocean,’ a diamond that supposedly sank with the RMS Titanic on April 15th, 1912.  Rose Dawson Calvert (Stuart) is flown out to Lovett’s boat and proceeds to tell her story on the doom maiden voyage of the Titanic.

17 at the time of Titanic’s voyage, Rose DeWitt Bukater is a young socialite engaged to Cal Hockley (Zane).  Feeling trapped by a controlling mother, and seeing her life as a prisoner within, Rose considers jumping off the back of Titanic and committing suicide.  Jack Dawson (DiCaprio), a third-class passenger who won his ticket in a poker game, stops her, and the two fall in love.  Their love blossoms and is described throughout the fateful iceberg crash and sinking of the doomed ship.

titanicjackroseThe story of Titanic’s sinking is one that has been told time and time again.  What is it about this movie that launched it into the record books as the highest grossing film of all time (until Avatar of course), tying Ben Hur for the most Academy Awards with 11 wins?  Though this isn’t something I’ve lost sleep over, it’s a question I’ve asked myself a few times over the years.  I must admit that it’s been a long time since I’ve watched Titanic, possibly a decade, and I think this viewing of it helped me understand why this movie was as successful as it was.

At its core, this is a love story told through the backdrop of Titanic’s tragedy.  I don’t think I was able to appreciate that at a younger age.  The romantic elements of this film were cheesy in my opinion.  Both DiCaprio, 23, and Winslet, 22, were young when this film was released, and seeing them in more grown up roles has helped me appreciate their acting talents.

James Cameron has created a true masterpiece with Titanic.  Investing his own money and having a passion for shipwrecks, Cameron brings the audience into the state rooms, dining rooms, cabins, the engine rooms and helps create a complete picture of this boat for the audience.  And then it sinks.  The combination of build up and the following detail as the ship slowing approaching its fateful plunge to the ocean floor.

Telling a story like this, and adding the love story between Jack and Rose, requires acting leads that work well together and come off as believable, albeit unlikely lovers.  DiCaprio and Winslet pull this off flawlessly.  Though I used to see this part of the film as cheesy, their quick progression as lovers with deep passion for life and adventure is both believable and endearing.  The only problem with doing a film like Titanic is that you get the sense that these two could never work together again.  I watched Revolutionary Road a few years ago, and it just felt like Jack and Rose Married with Children rather than its own movie apart from Titanic.

titanicbatestitanicbillyzanetitanic-captaintitanicioan-gruffudd-and-titanic-gallery

Though DiCaprio and Winslet carry this film, there’s a lot to be said about the supporting cast.  Kathy Bates has always been hit or miss for me.  She nailed Molly Brown in this film.  Her quick wit and strong will make her memorable and enjoyable.  Billy Zane portrays the jealous and overly confident Cal to perfection.

A number of the crew members do great, but two stick out in my mind.  Bernard Hill’s portrayal of Captain Edward James Smith is one of tragedy as this competent capable leader tries his best to maintain order as the ship sinks.  Though it was a small role, I enjoyed Ioan Gruffudd’s portrayal of Fifth Officer Harold Lowe.  It’s not that Gruffudd was far superior to the other crew members, it’s more that I didn’t realize he was in this until my most recent viewing.  It also helps that he was the only one who went back to try to save the passengers in the water.

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As I said before, Titanic is at its core, a love story set in the tragedy of Titanic’s maiden voyage.  James Cameron’s attention to detail in bringing the audience into the ship and bringing out the emotional connection as the ship sinks make this film great.  Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s chemistry create that emotional romantic connection that can appeal to a wide audience.  Titanic is a film that I could watch every once in a while, possibly another decade like it’s been before this viewing.  I think it’s once that anyone who hasn’t seen it should at least see it once.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Here’s a funny video that sums up this movie in 5 seconds: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuSdU8tbcHY

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