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In defense of Titanic...


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#1 of 77 Chuck Mayer

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Posted October 02 2001 - 06:35 AM

Hello fellow HTF'ers,

To start with, none of this is directed at any members of this forum, living or dead. It is merely a set of observations I have made for the last 4 years, and the reactions I face when discussing this movie.

1) Yes, it won the Best Picture award in 1997. And I agree that the award doesn't always go to deserving pictures. Sometimes the best aren't even nominated. At the time, it was riding an unprecedented wave of adulation and coverage.

2) Yes, it is the highest grossing movie of all time, both at home and abroad.

3) No, it won no screenplay awards.

4) none of the previous things should mean anything to someone who loves movies.

5) There are legitimate complaints about Titanic, as with any movie, be it Tomb Raider or Pulp Fiction or Schindler's List.

But let's start at the beginning (or better yet, late 1997)...this was JC's first movie after True Lies. It had a infamous and troubled shoot, considered by most to be as arduous as ever filmed. It had proceeded to go well beyond budget, forcing Cameron to forgo his directing fee (although not his screenwriting fee). Paramount and Fox were playing F'me, F'me games regarding the premiere since they both had distribution rights (Paramount - home and Fox - abroad) even though it was essentially Fox's movie. But as people saw the movie (critics mostly), the bad press become good buzz. So on December 19, 1997, it premiered against Tomorrow Never Dies. The SDTRK had been out since Thanksgiving, and was like all other SDTRK's...a mediocre seller. The movie made 27 million that weekend, not bad for a 3 hour running time. There was one book out. James Cameron's Titanic, a softcover book with photos and anecdotes, similar to many other blockbusters. I had to preorder one and B&N, because they weren't going to get any in.

So what does it matter? The point is simple...the movie was hyped just like any other holiday movie. On December 19, 1997, it was just another movie. One week later, everybody was talking about it and telling their friends to see it. Theaters were selling out. Young girls are falling in love with DiCaprio, and asking to go again. One month later, the SDTRK is number 1, and Celine's song has more airtime than commercials. Two months later, it is on the cover of every magazine, and every hack somewhere is trying to make a buck using the name or the story.

So why hate the movie? I know of several people who hate it, and haven't even seen it. Why? Principle? To maintain status as an aesthete, as a "true" lover of movies? Why condemn the movie for the phenomenon that followed it (as said in another post)? I have heard it called overrated and undeserving. Based on what? The power of movies is transportation, suspension of disbelief, and wonder. Titanic provided more of it for more moviegoers than any movie since GWTW, as evidenced by it's popularity and gross. How did it do that? DiCaprio? No, The Beach didn't do very well, and neither did The Man in the Iron Mask. Is the movie hated because girls loved him/his character?

To the movie...I am not going to make any trite defenses. There are those that have consciously seen it for the story/movie it is, WITHOUT preconceptions or a negative frame of mind, who did not care for it. Bravo! The fate of every movie. But the hate directed at this movie is unfounded and unjust. It is a technically accurate, brave production of a solid script. Again, it is not perfect. I am tired of people hating it to be trendy, or to set themselves apart for that reason alone. It is hated by some just because it is loved by others.

1997 had a lot of great movies...Face/Off, Contact, LA Confidential, Batman and Robin Posted Image (just making sure you are actually reading this), and so on. If you haven't seen it, or you saw if after the world took notice and showered it with attention, give it a chance on it's own merits. Both Janet Maslin and Roger Ebert have very positive (there are other negative ones if that is to your taste) reviews online somewhere. I feel that Titanic is a GREAT movie. I am eagerly awaiting a SE (which will be a LONG while) to do it justice.

If you made it this far, thanks for your time and open mind. Take care Posted Image

Chuck

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#2 of 77 andreasingo

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Posted October 02 2001 - 06:43 AM

I agree 100%.
Andreas Ingo

#3 of 77 Lou Sytsma

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Posted October 02 2001 - 07:08 AM

I agree as well.

At least the budget for this movie showed up on the screen.

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#4 of 77 John M Miller

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Posted October 02 2001 - 08:03 AM

I respectfully disagree.

I dislike Titanic because its characters are incredibly one-dimensional and the writing is trite. For crying out loud, why must every blockbuster movie have characters that are so completely good or bad? In the case of this movie, the evil rich people would rather chase the poor through the bowels of a sinking ship with a gun than get on a boat and get to safety. Even more than that, the supposedly good characters, Jack and Rose are enlightened while the bad guys are very myopic. For example, in the scene where Rose is unloading the artwork she bought, Cal remarks, “What’s that?” To which Rose replies, “Picasso.” Cal then smugly remarks, “Picasso? Uh he’ll never amount to anything.” Honestly, how dumb does this screenwriter think we are?

What is more disturbing is something slightly subtler. In one scene, Jack is barred from being in a church service where Rose is because this was exclusively for rich people. The fact is, there was no such thing as separate services for rich and poor people on the Titanic. The writer did this to make the rich look more elite and the poor more sympathetic. The fact that Rose, herself nuvo riche, will hobnob with the peons does not atone for this mistake.

That said, I am not saying that Titanic doesn’t have good qualities. Anyone with a beating heart should recoil in the scene of the sinking of the ship. In fact, I thought this was very well done. But it didn’t do the emotional damage on me as it did on others because I did not believe the characters were real, so I could not care for them. This is admittedly subjective. In addition, I also think Titanic was also a very deserving winner of Best Cinematography for Russell Carpenter, as well as Best Special Effects.

In the end, my view of Titanic is that some will enjoy it, but there are so many other great films out there to watch, so why waste three hours on this? If you want a story of love that can’t be, watch Lean’s Brief Encounter. If you want something that really tears your heart out at the end, watch:


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#5 of 77 MickeS

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Posted October 02 2001 - 08:11 AM

One more voice in agreement here. Great movie.
My only beef with it is that we lived in an apartment complex at the time of the video release, and the guy downstairs was a HUGE fan of this movie, and played the movie and the soundtrack constantly... at very loud volumes. So I grew rather tired of it. Posted Image

But it was and is a fantastic achievement, both artistically and technically. It manages to tell the story of the Titanic with a quick pace and very exciting action sequences, and yet make the movie focus around the love story between the central characters. The dialog isn't what it's remembered for, but the screenplay was nevertheless, IMO, very impressive, in that it effortlessly moved from scene to scene, and made the 3 hour plus running time fly by.

It will be interesting to see how people feel about it in, say, 10 years time. Another James Cameron movie, "Aliens", is still in my book the greatest action movie ever. DOn't know if "Titanic" will age as gracefully, but I see no reason why it couldn't.

/Mike
/Mike

#6 of 77 MickeS

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Posted October 02 2001 - 08:17 AM

Quote:
In one scene, Jack is barred from being in a church service where Rose is because this was exclusively for rich people. The fact is, there was no such thing as separate services for rich and poor people on the Titanic.

And don't forget the smoke from the chimney! This is the worst movie EVER!

Seriously, I can understand your other complaints, but whenever I read about these petty complaints about the accuracy of the script I can't help thinking of the COmic Book Guy from "The Simpsons"... Posted Image

/Mike
/Mike

#7 of 77 Chuck Mayer

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Posted October 02 2001 - 08:20 AM

John,
Although we may disagree, I appreciate the criticism you brought forth. I myself feel somewhat differently about the characters, but I can easily see where you are coming from. I started this thread to try and work against some of the backlash. Liking movies is a personal issue. I don't expect everyone who sees it to feel the way I do. I just didn't want to apologize for liking it. On a fact basis, you are right. It is an extremely well-made movie, and deserved WITHOUT QUESTION every technical Oscar it received. Again, thanks for the legit criticism.

Take care,
Chuck
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#8 of 77 Alex Spindler

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Posted October 02 2001 - 08:45 AM

I think from the perspective of the film as a whole, it will stand on it’s own primarily due to the technical achievement of the event itself. The movie, which is titled Titanic after all, is the story of the sinking of the ship couched between a love story that attempts to humanize the story and make it less a documentary.

While the historical merits of the film can be argued, especially about events that cannot be know for certain and had to be inferred, the amount of detail that is done correctly is astounding, and is virtually unknown in a Hollywood film. Everything from the physics of the disaster to the set design is meticulous and accomplished with talent and reverence. Truly a movie that uses special effects to further the movie instead of the other way around, it doesn’t have many other peers.

Now the outer story is pretty cookie cutter romance novel material, it takes a back seat at all the right times to the core of the movie. Could they have wrapped this movie in a more complex drama? Absolutely! But I have to wonder if a more complex love story would have made the film less accessible, hurting it financially. With a triple digit budget, I would think a more accessible story line may have been considered an asset, even if it earns snickers from the movie enthusiast and critical crowd. Especially when there is a lot of confidence in the true subject of the movie, the boat and the event itself. Pearl Harbor can’t have the same level of confidence and paid dearly for it.

So do I think the love story in Titanic will endure? No way. As soon as the target audience discovers stories with more complex plots they will grow weary of the one in Titanic.

Will the sections of the Titanic sinking endure? Absolutely. I believe that it stands as one of the most impressive depictions of an event of this magnitude ever filmed.

But what do I know?


#9 of 77 Brad_W

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Posted October 02 2001 - 09:10 AM

I can't help thinking of the COmic Book Guy from "The Simpsons"...

/Mike
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LOL! "I would like 100 tacos for 100 dollars, please."

anyway, I liked Titanic. That's my in-depth oppinion.

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#10 of 77 Bhagi Katbamna

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Posted October 02 2001 - 09:24 AM

Quote:
What is more disturbing is something slightly subtler. In one scene, Jack is barred from being in a church service where Rose is because this was exclusively for rich people. The fact is, there was no such thing as separate services for rich and poor people on the Titanic. The writer did this to make the rich look more elite and the poor more sympathetic. The fact that Rose, herself nuvo riche, will hobnob with the peons does not atone for this mistake.

My mother used to go by ship between India and Africa when she was younger and she told me that no one except 1st class passengers were allowed in the first class areas.

To educate a man in mind and not morals is to educate a menace to society.
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#11 of 77 Greg_S_H

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Posted October 02 2001 - 09:38 AM

John,

I couldn't have said it better myself. That's exactly how I see it.

Chuck,

I agree that it's annoying for people to hate something simply because everyone else loves it, but it goes both ways. There are people who will accuse anyone who doesn't like a movie of disliking it for just that reason. I understand that this is not what you are doing, but it does get frustrating.

I will admit that I didn't expect to like Titanic going in, but I think I was able to separate out my preconceptions and evaluate it on its own merits. I still didn't end up caring for it. Until this post, however, I don't think I've said a single ill word about the movie outside of my own circle of friends and family. And, I trust this post isn't too scathing. Posted Image

#12 of 77 TheLongshot

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Posted October 02 2001 - 09:49 AM

Well, let me explain why I haven't seen it, and why I won't anytime soon.

I think what killed it for me was that I didn't go in the first wave of moviegoing (happens a lot for me for movies I'm not absolutly dieing to see.) and the hype from everyone afterwards, combined with the awards, combined with that annoying Celene Dion song (Imagine, I used to like her...), really just scarred me in a bad way. Now, it might be a fine film, but right now, I wouldn't be able to get past the hype and just enjoy it. I'd still have that in the back of my mind.

Jason


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#13 of 77 Chuck Mayer

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Posted October 02 2001 - 02:36 PM

Greg (and others),
Not at all. Like I said, different strokes for different folks. As for the story, let me defend a bit. I think the idea that making it simpler worked for two reasons.

1) You are correct. It was more accessible. This is a director's choice to make his movie more appealing. Admirable in some cases, distasteful in others. A good choice in this case.

2) The love story was between a 19 year old girl and a 21 year old boy. Not two adults. They felt love like I felt at 19, and it is simplified. They were living for the moment, and were speaking more often from their hearts, not their heads. This is a writer's choice. And I appreciated it for it's honesty and compassion. The love story suited the entire structure admirably.

On to other items, real quick I promise. I frequently hear how much some people didn't like this movie or how overrated it is from people who have NOT seen it. You can imagine how interesting that is. They don't see it out of "principle." In the opening weekend-fueled atmosphere, this movie is a testament to passion and balls, two things every director requires, and very few have. You have to remember, no one expected this to make much money.

And lastly, accessibility can be a good thing. Many high-minded people feel that complexity of meaning and dialogue equate to depth. That is not always (or even often) the case. The sheer simplicity of a story can be beautiful on it's own. No, I am not talking about Titanic, just in general. Ender's Game has a great introduction by the author, Orson Scott Card, regarding how unpopular his book was with critics because he didn't play any literary games. He just wanted to tell his story.

Thanks for listening (and the kind comments),
Chuck
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#14 of 77 Neil Joseph

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Posted October 02 2001 - 04:14 PM

I love this movie and I don't care what anybody else thinks about that either. Anyway, my wife refuses to watch it. She is not too much of a fan of DiCaprio, she does not like mushy stuff (she says), and does not want to watch a bunch of people die as well as she already knows the outcome. These are things that have probably plagued this film. Some people just don't give it a chance.

There is an old saying that goes something like this... You know which trees have fruits. Those are the ones that get stones thrown at them.

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#15 of 77 John M Miller

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Posted October 02 2001 - 04:16 PM

Thanks for the compliment, Mike. I'll take it!

Chuck, I totally agree with your assessment of why so many people hate it. The fact is, some like to be different for almost no reason whatsoever. Films are very subjective and people should neither lambast films they haven't seen nor look down on those who don't fall neatly in line with public opinion.

In fact, I can't disagree with anything that has been written here. I respect others' views who are different than mine.

But you're not going to see me renting Pearl Harbor anytime soon.

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#16 of 77 Brad_W

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Posted October 03 2001 - 02:09 AM


Quote:
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The fact is, some like to be different for almost no reason whatsoever.
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The funny thing is, people always try to be different (myself included, just look at my Home Theater page and on the third page you'll see my picture) and end up being the same. Not the same as the norm, the same as all the people that are trying to be different. The problem with the trend of people trying to be different by hating Titanic, is that they are the same as other people trying to be different by hating Titanic. In the end, we're all the same.

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#17 of 77 Patrick Sun

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Posted October 03 2001 - 02:37 AM

Well, I liked the film. For those overwhelmed by the amount of publicity of the film, well, that's your prerogative to avoid such films.

For those who hate it, well, there's no accounting for tastes. No film is perfect, and if you want to nitpick each and every film and let that stand in the way of enjoying a film, that's also your prerogative, but I think you won't find too many "perfect" films out there.

I think the feelings that this film evokes are honest and to many, they were a combination of re-affirming life after tragedy, born from love.


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#18 of 77 Iain Lambert

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Posted October 03 2001 - 02:45 AM

With Titanic, there are also the detractors like myself. I've bought the film three times (VHS, then Laser, then DVD), so attempting to deny I loved the film on initial viewing would be pointless. The second time I saw it I was in tears by the time the opening sequence had finished. But while it will stand as a techinical achievement, the Titanic haters have infected me, and the more cloying elements of the film (Cameron's trademark cheesy dialogue, the excessive English-baiting) take away my enjoyment of the film these days. I'll have to see it again sometime, to see if I still have this problem, but its a pity really.
mmm, thats odd.

#19 of 77 Chuck Mayer

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Posted October 03 2001 - 03:16 AM

One of the best parts about seeing a movie is discovery. You only see a movie for the first time once. Repeated viewings do different things to different movies. In Titanic, there is not a lot of subtext (you get most of it on the first viewing), unlike say Memento. Repeated viewings often lead to noticing the movie more and the story less, unless you have other things to concentrate on. Simple, straightforward movies tend to take a beating on this. I myself couldn't watch Titanic very much because I know it so well, and like anything else, the more annoying parts start becoming more obvious. But that happens with lots of films. Look at Star Wars. Can you imagine seeing that for the first time as a 25 year old? The dialogue in that is horrendous, and yet I love it. I love it b/c I don't watch it much, and I remember how I felt when I watched it as a little boy.

As for Pearl Harbor, I liked it. I wanted to love it. But it's flaws were apparent, and not as forgivable. The movie's goal was simply profit (Disney, what else do you expect), and therefore was doomed early on. I still enjoyed the technical elements of the movie, and parts of it are wonderful. The joy of DVD will allow me to skip the other two hours of the movie.

Take care,
Chuck (again)
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#20 of 77 Gary Tooze

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Posted October 03 2001 - 04:28 AM

Quote:
I respectfully disagree.
I dislike Titanic because its characters are incredibly one-dimensional and the writing is trite
Took the words RIGHT out of my mouth... I agree with you John.

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