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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fishing in the Discount Bin - Titanic

Welcome to Fishing in the Discount Bin, my old podcast bit that I decided to resurrect on my blog because I didn't want my notes to go to waste.  As I've mentioned, this bit of notes came in the holiday season, so there's a lot of Christmas movies.  And now, we come to my arbitrary, completely-made-up, New Years tradition:  I watch Titanic.

This review is originally dated January 2, 2011.

Well, it seems like this time of year is for  honoring movie-time traditions.  As I've said, the Japanese tradition is December is when the new Godzilla movies come out.  In my family, the tradition is we watch The Sound of Music 'round Christmastime.  And so, it's time to end of this series of traditions with my completely arbitrary and made-up tradition.

On New Years Day, I watch Titanic.

You might be asking, "Hey Mark, why do you watch Titanic every New Years Day?"  And to that, I say, "What part of 'completely arbitrary and made-up' do you not understand?"  The long answer:  about 7 or 8 years ago, I was still living at home, and found myself home alone on New Years Day.  So I thought, "Hey, I haven't watched Titanic in a while.  Let's watch it!"  And I did.  One  year later, same thing.  Home alone on New  Years Day, so I decided to watch Titanic.  After that second time, I thought to myself, "Hey, let's make this a completely arbitrary and made-up tradition!"  It helped lessen the sting that I had yet been unable to start my completely arbitrary and made-up tradition of watching The Nightmare Before Christmas on Halloween.

I'm really not sure what more I can add.  I tend to blog out Titanic every year after I watch it.  Just head over to my main blog, do a search for Titanic, and read what comes up.

But yeah.  Titanic, as you may recall, comes to us from James Cameron, and as I said in my recent thoughts on Avatar, Cameron is a guy who loves to push the limits of movie-making technology, and it's on display in Titanic.  I think Titanic truly was the first movie to use cutting-edge special effects in a historical epic in order to bring that particular time and place back to life.  By "cutting edge," I should specify "computer animation," because right after I typed those words, I realized that classics such as Ben-Hur made good use of the special effects technology of the time.  But it wasn't just computer animation.  Cameron also built 80% of the Titanic in the world's largest water tank in Mexico.   Whole thing was built on hydraulics so he could sink it over and over and over again.  It was stuff like that that made Titanic the most expensive movie ever made...at the time.  I remember reading an interview with Cameron at the time about the expense.  "We're making a spectacle," said Cameron.  "Spectacle doesn't come cheap."

I remember 1997, when this movie was about to come out.  Because it was so expensive, everyone was convinced Titanic was going to bomb.  It was originally scheduled to come out in the summer of 1997, because they figured it could only make its money back by performing as a summer blockbuster.  But, production delays got it pushed back to Christmas of 1997.  When the studio started worrying about the budget overruns, Cameron decided to waive his director's salary for the film.  And we all know how this ends.  Titanic hit theatres, it became the #1 movie of all time, it won a slew of Oscars, and the studio decided to pay Cameron his director's salary...plus a hefty bonus.

Not bad for a film that was just an excuse to go deep sea diving, eh?

We all need hobbies.  James Cameron's hobby is that he's a diver.  He loves strapping on his scuba gear and go exploring shipwrecks and reefs and such.  He always wanted to see the wreck of the Titanic, citing that it is "the Mount Everest of shipwrecks."  So, since diving to the Titanic is expensive, Cameron came up with a wonderful idea:  why not make a movie about the Titanic, and film the wreckage for the movie?  That way, he could get the movie studio to pay for his dive!  So, he went to his buddies at 20th Century Fox and said, "I want to do Romeo and Juliet on the Titanic."  Fox threw a bunch of money at him and said, "Go make that movie!"  And the rest is history.

In case you lived in a cave in late 1997 and didn't hear anything about this film, it opens in the present day, with a treasure hunter by the name of Brock Lovett.  He's currently investigating the wreck of the Titanic because he believes it to be the final resting place of a legendary diamond called "the Heart of the Ocean."  While he doesn't find the diamond, he does find a drawing of a young woman wearing the Heart of the Ocean.  He displays the drawing on CNN, and is soon contacted by a 101  year old woman named Rose who claims to be the woman in the drawing.  Brock flies her out to his boat to hear her story and get a new lead on the Heart of the Ocean.

We then flash back to 1912, where we meet Rose as a young woman, about to return to America on the Titanic.  She's betrothed to the wealthy Cal Hockley, but it is a marriage of convenience.  Feeling trapped by her impending marriage and her station in life, young Rose is about to throw herself off the Titanic and to her death, but she's saved by Leonardo di Caprio.  Leo is the free-spirited artist Jack Dawson, also returning home to America.  He saves Rose's life, and they become friends, and friendship soon evolves into passionate romance.  Of course, this raises the ire of Cal (who's jealous of his finacee's new love) and Rose's mother (turns out the family's broke and they need this marriage to return to a life of luxury). 

But, when Rose is ready to tell everyone to piss off and go live happily ever after with Jack, that's when the Titanic hits the iceberg and the whole thing sinks.  Jack gives his life to save Rose, and Rose vows to live the rest of her days in the same free-spirited manner that Jack taught her.  And she lived happily ever after! 

Oh, and as for the diamond, Cal was to use it as an engagement present for Rose, right?  But when the Rose/Jack romance started happening, Cal framed Jack for stealing it.  And through some switching of coats and pockets, it wound up  in Rose's possession, and she kept it all those years. 

Thanks to DVD, Titanic is one of the few films where I frequently enjoy watching the deleted scenes.  I tend to always go back and watch the original ending.  In the original ending, in the present day, Brock catches Old Rose as she's about to toss the Heart of the Ocean overboard.  Old Rose gives Brock a "money doesn't buy happiness" speech and tosses the diamond overboard.  Brock, now able to let go of his quest to find the diamond, heads off to romance Rose's granddaughter.  Cameron says he cut it because  a)  by the end of the movie, people had become so invested in the Jack/Rose romance that no one cared about Brock anymore, and b)  people found Old Rose's speech to preachy. 

But yeah.  As I said in my ramblings about it last  year, this film has cutting edge special effects, a sweeping romance, and a naked Kate Winslet.  What better way to start a new year! 

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