Titanic (1997)

  • First order of business: Yes, duh, this is a re-watch. I have not made it this far in my movie-obsessed life without seeing TITANIC. Calm down.
  • Next, I’d like to comment on the fact that I did not see it in theaters when it first came out. I was too young to see it then – though I certainly had a couple of friends (same age as me) who did (and it upped their popularity for weeks). TITANIC was so huge, so watched, so praised – that it became one of those strange cultural things that people begin to like less, because seemingly everyone adores it, and that somehow makes it less appealing. By the time I grew old enough to see it – and really comprehend and appreciate it, in a way my elementary school friends most certainly did not – the movie had become something so commonly mocked & joked about that I no longer wanted to see it. To want to see TITANIC would be uncool! It’d have been silly! And y’all all know what I’m talking about – to this day, if the movie is mentioned in a semi-serious way, more often than not, the reaction is an eye roll. Or ten eye rolls. And maybe with a laugh or a groan thrown in, for good measure. Because that’s the way it is!

And I am here to say: that sucks. Because you know what, folks? TITANIC is really fucking amazing. I do not say this in jest. It is a damn fine movie, and the first time I saw it, it blew me away. I’m so tired of people rolling their eyes and groaning at this movie – because it is the very definition of epic. It is beautiful, it is brilliant, it is exquisitely crafted, and it is astoundingly acted. And I think people forget this too easily.

  • Moving on, though.
  • Let’s chat about the opening. Is there anything more beautiful than that music, played over that black & white footage? No, there is not. Chills, near-tears, the works.
  • “Oh, yes. The woman in the picture is me.” — Rose (Gloria Stuart).

Love the way she delivers that line.

  • Crying Moment #1: When Rose begins telling her story, and the present day underwater footage of the bow becomes flashback footage of the bow. That goddamn bow.
  • Bizarre back-to-back coincidence: The last movie I watched was HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (2003), in which Frances Fisher plays Jennifer Connelly’s lawyer. Here she is again, as Dopey McEvil’s BFF mother-in-law.

(Oh, shit – is that not his character’s name? My bad.)

  • I think I appreciate this movie more now that I’ve seen as many ’20s-era movies as I have. James Cameron nailed this period’s style. Perfection.
  • Oh, what’s up Théoden (Bernard Hill)? Long time, no see. Does the Titanic or do the Rohirrim travel faster, I wonder?
  • Kathy Bates as Molly Brown is phenomenal. One of the great performances that makes this film.
  • There are so many beautiful shots in this film, but one of my split-second favorites is Jack, laying on the bench on deck at night as Rose runs past – that moment when you’re below him, looking at the stars with him, and he blows out a puff of smoke. Absolutely gorgeous.
  • Sweet Jesus, that diamond is beautiful.
  • Leo in that long-tailed tux? Eeeeeeeeeeeeek. Ranks right up there with Cooper & March in their tuxedos in DESIGN FOR LIVING (1933).
  • Relatedly, Jack waiting for Rose at the bottom of those stairs always makes me stop breathing a little.
  • “He must have been nervous, but he never faltered.”

The good ones never do, Rose. The good ones never do.

  • “Make it count. Meet me at the clock” reminds me of “Under the clock at the Astor at 7!” from (obviously) THE CLOCK (1945).
  • The tiny moments of the dancing scene between Jack & Rose are exquisite. When they’re up on the table & they each surprise each other with their steps? Truly adorable. Truly fucking adorable.
  • “You jump, I jump – remember?” — Jack
  • Rose: It’s not up to you to save me, Jack.

Jack: You’re right. Only you can do that.

(And that is how you know he’s a real man.)

  • So at the end of that scene, when Jack sneaks up-deck and pulls Rose into that room to chat? She says he should go away and leaves, and…Leo puts his hand on the window as she does. So subtle! But so there!
  • The bow scene. It. Is. Glorious. It. Is. Breathtaking. I don’t care how many times it’s been parodied or made fun of – it is. pure. beauty. The music. The colors of the sunset. The camera angles (which are everything). Leo’s hands (which are also everything). Good God, it’s a perfect scene. That’s The Shot, and Cameron knows it.
  • The portrait-drawing scene is also brilliant, in so many ways. The closeups of Leo’s eyes, the way he uses fingers to blend certain parts of the drawing. Woof. Too good.
  • The ship engine scenes once the iceberg is spotted are amazing.
  • Crying Moment #2: When Jack & Rose are running through the ship to each other after Rose has jumped back aboard.
  • (Notice how my notes just skipped a huge section of movie? That’s how compelling & how goddamn gripping these sequences are.) James Cameron, you are a fucking beast.
  • You know what the lit water reminds me of, in all these scenes? The lit glass of milk Cary Grant carries in SUSPICION (1941). Hitchcock didn’t just “light” the liquid in the glass – he physically dropped a light in it, to give him the effect he wanted. These scenes in TITANIC with water in the background, foreground, whatever, of the ship’s interior – these are that. The way the water is lit from within adds so much to the way those scenes play on camera & really places an almost subconscious focus for the viewer on the water and the tragically & dynamically important role it plays in the story. Pretty incredible.
  • Oh, you musicians. Sticking together like the amazings that you are. Leave it to the band to trump everyone else’s dignity.
  • “You wanna walk a little faster through that valley there?” — Leo, with the sass!
  • James Cameron is a goddamn master, and that is final.
  • Mustache Man the Headline Obsessive is a twerp, and that is also final.
  • Leo’s performance in the ice is masterful. I don’t know that “masterful” even adequately describes it. It’s that good. That scene is where everyone, in 1997, should have stopped and gone, “Oh, shit. This kid isn’t fucking around. I think Leonardo DiCaprio is for real, y’all.”
  • Oh, also: Leave it to fucking Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) to be the one boat who goes back to the wreckage to save people. HE WOULD.
  • “A woman’s heart is an ocean of secrets.” — Rose (Gloria)

Maybe the dumbest line in the movie. I’ll bet you $1 million that a man wrote that line. Groan.

  • Crying Moment #3: When Gloria’s walking out on the deck in her white nightgown and her hair is blowing in the breeze. Oof.
  • Crying Moment #4: When the ship transforms back into its newness in Rose’s sleep, and you know Jack will be waiting for her through that shiny doorway. What a keeper of a moment.
  • Never disrespect Cameron’s (& Winslet’s, & DiCaprio’s) TITANIC. Ever.


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