One of the greatest film achievements belongs to James Cameron and his historic Titanic, tied winner of the most Academy Awards, eleven in total. While the film’s prestige seems to have waned since the director’s cheesy “I’m king of the world” speech at the Oscars, it remains a moving romance and an unparalleled spectacle of magnificence brought low.
While it didn’t win any acting Oscars, both Roses were nominated, the lovely Kate Winslet as young Rose and the trauma-wearied Gloria Stuart as elderly Rose. Though not outstanding, the acting is uniformly good, from Kathy Bates as the unsinkable Molly Brown, Billy Zane as Rose’s arrogant husband-to-be Cal Hockley, Bill Paxton as modern-day treasure seeker Brock Lovett, and Bernard Hill and Victor Garber as the ship’s captain and designer, respectively, both overwhelmed with the grief and guilt of helming a deathtrap. Leonardo DiCaprio found his first big budget role here, and though he’s gone on to ever greater fame, it wasn’t until Inception that I saw him as anything but artist/lover Jack Dawson.
It’s a sad fact that, just as The Hunger Games is most entertaining when the blood sport commences, the best part is the massive ship’s epic floundering, both realistically tragic and awesome to behold. The couple’s wandering through the dying vessel allows multiple perspectives, from the gradually slanting upper deck to the water-logged lower levels, the desperate passengers behind locked gates and the former splendor of state rooms being swallowed from below. The Oscar-winning visual effects are indeed wondrous, giving a sense of the astounding size of this vanquished metal beast. Even so, I find it almost humorous how many times Jack and Rose trade each other’s names; from when Rose finds Jack below to her rescue, I counted 48 Jacks and 32 Roses.
In addition to winning Best Picture, Director, Visual Effects, Cinematography, Art Direction, Film Editing, Costume Design, Sound, and Sound Effects Editing, it truly deserved wins for James Horner’s majestic Celtic-infused score and for the song “My Heart Will Go On,” sung by Celine Dion over the end credits (earning a place in my Hall of Fame). The music adds much to the film’s beauty and grandeur and deepens the characters’ emotions. The romance itself is not the very best, so perhaps it was the music that put it over the edge for me. Titanic holds special meaning to me because I probably saw it too young; I cried harder at this film’s finale than at any other movie before or since, to the point that I swore I would never again watch it. While that oath obviously didn’t stick and the film doesn’t touch me quite as deeply, it’s still sublimely sad, with a final scene worthy of a meet-‘em-and-move-on reunion, even if the film doesn’t fit into that mold.
Though not the first film about the Titanic (which was 1912’s Saved from the Titanic, starring an actress who survived the sinking) nor the last (the recent 2012 miniseries Titanic featured quite a good ensemble), James Cameron’s Titanic will forever be the film version for the ages, against which all others are compared. With real underwater footage of the wreck and an epic depiction of the film’s floundering, its flaws are easily overlooked (among them the unnecessary language and nudity and the absence of any heroism among the wealthy passengers; also my VC feels the throwing away of the diamond was pointless). Even so, it deserved every one of its accolades and is still a truly spectacular experience.
Best line: (Jack, after they’re in the water) “I don’t know about you, but I intend to write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all of this.”
VC’s best line: (Jack) “I figure life’s a gift, and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count.”Rank: 60 out of 60
© 2015 S. G. Liput
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