81 Days With Oscar And Me

Every Academy Award-Winning Movie, Back to Back, Starting With the First

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October 28th, 2009 · No Comments · 1997, Bernard Hill, Celine Dion, Color, Composer: James Horner, Drama, James Cameron, James Horner, Kate Winslet, Nudity, Original Screenplay, Sex, Tearjerker, THX, Titanic, Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

Titanic Most of the movies in the 1990s have something in common: they’re tearjerkers.

Epic tearjerkers at that.

Dances With Wolves is emotional. Schindler’s List is emotional. Forrest Gump is emotional. Braveheart is emotional. The English Patient is boring, but emotional.

And then there’s Titanic

Ah, Titanic. It jerks enough tears to fill the Atlantic Ocean, where the real ship sank on its maiden voyage, 14 April 1912.

Confession time: I choke up just watching the opening credit scenes of Titanic. Seriously. The Celtic-tinged vocals and the slow-motion images of the people waving from the deck immediately put a lump in my throat. Celtic music does that to me, anyway. But combine such music with images of people you know are going to die and, well, fetch me the Kleenex. It’s cryin’ time.

While I’m on a roll with confessions, here’s another one: I love Celine Dion’s Titanic theme song, “My Heart Will Go On.” I used to stand and watch the music video whenever I’d go to Target to browse the CDs. The music swells, her voice soars, and my heart leaps. I can’t help it. I’m an old softy.

Come on. Take the Celine Dion challenge. Watch the video below and see if you don’t feel all squishy inside. Go on. I’ll wait.

See? You like it, don’t you? Yeah. I knew you would.

For some reason people are apologetic when they admit they like Titanic, often speaking in hushed tones and only after glancing left and right to make sure no one is listening. Like they’re selling hot Rolexes, or admitting they have a fetish for crossdressing or something.

One more confession: Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is hot. She’s a vivacious, dancing, laughing, smoking, drinking, wild-maned party girl. That scene of her being sketched by Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) as she wears only the Heart of the Ocean necklace is quite something. If I remember the special features correctly, that was the first scene director James Cameron shot. And when Jack stammers and tells Rose to sit on the “bed..er, the couch” that was ad-libbed. Leonardo was truly surprised to see her standing there, naked. No kidding.

The editing and direction are astounding. Truly inspired. The cross-fades from the present day to the exact same image or setting in the past (or vice-versa) are profoundly moving.

The first two hours of the movie are about Jack and Rose falling in love, leading up to the RMS Titanic hitting an iceberg, and its subsequent sinking. (The sinking resulted in the deaths of 1,517 of the 2,223 people on board. For more information about the Titanic, click on the link. It’s fascinating reading.)

Once the ship hits the iceberg, the pace of the movie accelerates. The tension slowly builds as the corridors fill with water and the ship begins to sink. What happens next constitutes some of the most dramatic scenes ever filmed.

The crescendo of this particular “movement” occurs when the string quartet on the deck starts to play “Nearer My God To Thee.” Watch for it starting at the 42:18 mark on Disc 2.

The images of the Titanic sinking are so realistic, and so emotionally heart-wrenching that it’s almost as hard to watch as some of the scenes in Schindler’s List. The old couple in bed. The mother telling the bed-time story to the children. The water rushing up over the sides, forcing the people to seek higher ground.

At the 45:35 mark, the water pressure crushes the glass where the captain stands in the wheelhouse. That’s when all hell breaks loose. The ship sinks like a brick. (Or, as Mr. Andrews, the designer of the ship says, “She’s made of iron, sir. I assure you she can. And she will.”)

From then on, it’s one amazing visual image after another. The site of the ass-end of the massive ship rising into the air is breathtaking – as riveting as the site of the people careening off the propellers as they tumble into the sea.

The ship’s hull splits in two and the entire ship is sucked down.

(You should see my wife right now. Her eyes are as big as saucers and she’s biting her thumb nail. And I won’t even mention the sniffing. She’d hate it if I mentioned that.)

Incidentally, according to the entry on Wiki, “The majority of deaths were caused by hypothermia in the 28 °F (−2 °C) water. At this water temperature, death could be expected in less than 15 minutes.”

The scene that chokes me up the most is at the end when Rose, as an old woman, tosses the Heart of the Ocean over the side of the exploration ship, then dies, warm in her bed (as Jack told her she would). She is then reunited with Jack and everyone else who perished in the sea that night. Jack, at the top of the stairs, turns, and extends his hand to a now-young-again Rose. Everyone claps when Jack and Rose kiss at the top of the stairs.

Okay. Now who’s sniffing?

All of this spectacle came not without a cost, however. According to its entry on Wikipedia: Titanic became at the time the most expensive film ever made, costing approximately US$200 million with funding from Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox.

The film was originally to be released on July 2, 1997, but post-production delays pushed back the film’s release to December 19, 1997. Upon release, the film turned out to be an enormous critical and commercial success, winning eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It became the highest-grossing film of all time, with a worldwide total of over $1.8 billion (it is the sixth-highest grossing in North America once adjusted for inflation).

The behind-the-scenes features for Titanic are mind blowing. I couldn’t believe how many scenes in the film were created by computer, even simple scenes of people sitting sipping tea. I always try to watch making-of features, anyway. But for movies like Titanic they are essential.

The Cast
Leonardo DiCaprio (1974- )…………………Jack Dawson
Kate Winslet (1975- )………………………….Rose DeWitt Bukater
Billy Zane (1966- )……………………………..Caledon ‘Cal’ Hockley
Kathy Bates (1948- )…………………………..Molly Brown
Frances Fisher (1952- )……………………….Ruth Dewitt Bukater
Gloria Stuart (1910- )………………………….Old Rose
Bill Paxton (1955- )…………………………….Brock Lovett
Bernard Hill (1944- )…………………………..Captain Smith
David Warner (1941- )………………………..Spicer Lovejoy
Victor Garber (1949- )………………………..Thomas Andrews
Jonathan Hyde (1948- )……………………….Bruce Ismay
Suzy Amis (1962- )…………………………….Lizzy Calvert

Written and Directed By
James Cameron (1954- )

Titanic was nominated for 14 Academy Awards, and won 11: Best Art Direction-Set Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Director (James Cameron), Best Effects, Sound Effects Editing, Best Effects, Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, Best Music, Original Dramatic Score (James Horner), Best Music, Original Song (James Horner, Will Jennings), Best Picture (James Cameron), and Best Sound.

Near. Far. Wherever you are. I believe that the heart does go on.

Titanic is a phenomenal movie.

And I don’t care who hears me say it.


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