Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Ship of Dreams

Ok, so I had every intention of writing this this past weekend but I was pretty busy with the show I was doing and trying to entertain my loving and ever so patient I simply didn't have time to open ye old notebook and write.  It's probably appropriate that I chose to focus on my special guy rather than other things at hand though, because the film I chose to write about this week was one in which the lead characters do just that.  The importance of loving someone, being loved back, and giving that person your focus is something our cynical world would rather tease and make fun of than to take seriously (heck, I do it myself) and so "Yucky love stuff" becomes something of an embarrassment.  However, I think that films such as this help to remind us of the simple importance of love and can unite large audiences in a way that no other medium can.  I dunno if my guy will appreciate that I'm using him along side this, cause he doesn't care much for the film, but I hope he'll appreciate the sentiment.  For now, however, let's transport ourselves back in time to this month in 1997.  James Cameron was making headlines again, but this time it was not for success.  Rather, industry pundits were predicting a disaster of massive proportions when his latest film was released.  It was already several months past release date and several million dollars over budget and few people had seen any real footage from it.  Little did we know then that Cameron was about to unleash one of the 90s best loved (and best hated) pop culture phenomenon...and to think it all began with a simple pitch, Romeo and Juliet on a ship.  So now, while I'm still in the throes of the yucky love stuff, allow me to give my two cents about Titanic.

It is present day (1997 that is) and a treasure hunter named Brock Lovett is taking yet another dive to the site of one of the most famous nautical disasters, the Titanic.  Lovett has been, for years, hunting for a lost diamond necklace called The Heart of the Ocean which has been said to have gone down with Titanic when it sank.  On his latest dive he discovers not the stone but a drawing which places the necklace with a young woman on the night of the sinking.  When this picture is shown on television, an elderly woman named Rose Calvert calls him and tells him that she is the woman in the drawing.  Rose is invited to board Brock's ship and to share her story in the hopes of illuminating the location of the lost necklace.  Instead, Rose enchants the crew and her tag along granddaughter with a tale of romance.  Suddenly it is 1914 again and Rose Dewitt Bucater is boarding the Titanic with her wealthy fiance and mother to go home to America to be wed to this man she doesn't love.  Meanwhile, a drifter named Jack Dawson happens to win a ticket aboard Titanic in a lucky hand of poker.  Jack, a third class passenger, and Rose, a first class passenger, should never have cause to meet and yet, during a suicide attempt by Rose, the two of them begin a friendship that very quickly races toward love even as the ship itself races toward the fated iceberg that would sink her.  Soon the star-crossed lovers are thrown into a situation of dire circumstances and must fight for survival aboard the ill-fated unsinkable ship.

Lemme just say it, I love Titanic and I don't care how unpopular it is to say so.  It's a predictable and cliched story and has some atrocious dialogue and yet I cannot dislike it due to the sheer amount of care and craftsmanship involved.  It was a labor of love and passion and that love and passion is infused in every shot and detail.  Cameron was fascinated by Titanic when he dove to see the wreck himself and he began to imagine a way he could resurrect her on screen.  When he dreamed up his own Romeo and Juliet, he discovered the perfect way to justify a film about her and her sinking.  If the film took place within a fictional disaster, I don't believe it would have carried as much weight or affected so many people.  However, since Cameron so beautifully captures both Titanic's majesty and the waste of life it's arrogant creators caused, we are able to be much more invested in the story.  The fact of the disaster manages to trump the story's cliches and dialogue inconsistencies.  I still get teary eyed when the ship finally vanishes beneath the waves and the hundreds of passengers left in the dark have nothing to do but panic and freeze to death.  The fate of our heroes elicits some marvelous emotional moments, such as when Titanic is beginning to go down and Jack and Rose have been forced to the stern.  Rose looks at Jack, smiles almost madly and says "Jack...this is where we first met."  Gets me everytime.  And just like that, audiences responded marvelously to an old-fashioned love story in a time of growing cynicism and coldness.  That may actually be my favorite thing about Titanic...the fact that it's so apologetically old-fashioned.  It's the kind of big budget spectacle only possible in the days of films like Ben Hur and Gone with the Wind and yet, Cameron managed to repeat that kind of spectacle and update it for the 90s.  Titanic is big, bold, and beautiful and it dares you to ignore it.  Still, as Cameron himself said, under all the spectacle and set-dressing Titanic is simply a love story.  I suppose that is why I enjoy it and why I dedicate it to my special guy....we all, universally, want to be loved.

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