Wednesday, April 8, 2015

When "Titanic" Ruled the World

When “Titanic” Ruled the World

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Every generation has at least one landmark film that becomes so popular that it changes the industry entirely.  Films like “Gone With the Wind”, “The Wizard of Oz”, “Psycho”, “Jaws”, and “Jurassic Park” are all considered to be films that changed the industry, and were so popular that people lined up around the blocks to see them again and again.  Another one of those Blockbuster Films is the film I’m going to talk about today, James Cameron’s 1997 film “Titanic”. 
What is it about “Titanic” that is so special?  James Cameron wasn’t the first director to write and tell a story about the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912:  In fact, there were 3 silent films released about the sinking of the Titanic the year it sank!  Cameron is actually the 8th Director to make a film about the Titanic.  In 1943 the Nazi’s released a highly fictionalized propaganda film called “Titanic”.  Ten years later, in 1953, there was an American film released called “Titanic”, and only 5 years later in 1958 there would be another film about the sinking of the Titanic called “A Night to Remember”.  There was even an IMAX Documentary (nominated by the late Leonard Nimoy) called “Titanica” that was released 2 years before James Cameron’s “Titanic” was released in theatres.  So again I ask: what makes James Cameron’s “Titanic” so special?  Well there a few things that stand out in my mind about what makes this film so special.        
Yeah, we a part of the "Framing Device"
              For one thing, “Titanic” (1997) was—in my opinion—the last true Great American Blockbuster.  In this High Tech day and age, we have a greater access and knowledge about upcoming films than ever before.  There was no Netflix, no Youtube, and no Social Networking at the time, and the idea of illegally downloading a movie onto your computer wasn’t even a possibility at the time.  If you wanted to see a brand new movie you’d either have to wait until it was out in theatres, or you’d have to what until it released on VHS and either buy your own copy of it, or rent it from your local video rental store.  I was 8-years-old when “Titanic”, and it believe me it was a big deal.  My mother and grandmother tried to take me and my older sister to see it in theatres when it was released and it was impossible!  I remember every time they’d drive us to the theatres the line to see the movie would be out the door, and then we’d go inside only to find out that all the showings for that day had been sold out (and movie ticket services like Fandango would not exist for another 3 years).  So every time we’d go to the theatres, we’d either go home, or we’d see something else that wasn’t sold out like “MouseHunt” or “Mr. Magoo”.  To this day, I have never seen a film so popular that it was that difficult to see it in a regular theatre because it was always sold out!  Actually, that’s not entirely true; I did get to see “Titanic” in theatres when it was re-released in 3-D in 2012 for the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.    
    The first time I got to see “Titanic” was when it was released on VHS, and my grandmother bought a copy of it (Again, technology was just on the verge of changing.  DVD’s came out in America 1997, but didn’t gain popularity or favoritism over VHS until years later.  The thing I remember the most about the VHS release was that it actually came with 2 VHS cassettes.  I remember as a kid thinking that was crazy because I had never seen a movie that was so long that it needed two VHS cassettes to play.  I watched it with my older sister, and thought it was amazing, and you know what: so did the rest of the world too.         
     At the time of its release there was a lot of skepticism over the film.  At the time it was the most expensive film ever made (costing over 200 million dollars!)  Many believed that the film would be a massive flop, and was possibly going to bankrupt multiple film studios.  However, the exact opposite took place.  It was beloved by critics and audiences alike.  It not only made back its massive budget, but went on to be the first film to gross over 1-billion dollars at the box office, and was the Highest Grossing film of All-Time (until it was surpassed by “Avatar” another film made by James Cameron).  Titanic was nominated for 14 Oscar, and Won a record-tying 11 awards including Best Director and Best Picture.  Oh, and that was just the start.                     
The Face that made Millions of Girls lose their G.D. Minds!
     Upon its release “Titanic” made a star out over actor Leonardo DiCaprio.  Leo-Mania was an insane time for everyone who lived through it.  Leonardo DiCaprio was on the cover of every teen magazine, and he made scores of young girls and women scream!  Every girl wanted to be with him, and every guy in the world—myself included—resented him.  I was so annoyed with Leo-Mania that I claimed I “hated” and “couldn’t stand!” Leonardo DiCaprio until I saw him in “The Aviator” for the first 2008...11 years after “Titanic”.  That was a lot of jealousy and pent up rage I held towards him, and now he’s one of my favorite actors.  So go figure, right?                    
She made a man out of many of us
Then there was the leading actress of the film, Kate Winslet.  She didn’t become as popular or beloved as Leo following “Titanic”, but was responsible for a cultural phenomenon of sorts.  Like I said, when this film was released everybody saw this film.  It didn’t matter if you were eight or eighty-eight, EVERYONE saw “Titanic” when it was released, and there is one scene particular that stood out in this film.  The scene where Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, asked Leo DiCaprio’s character, Jack, to draw her like “one of [his] French Girls”.  For a generation of young boys between the ages of 8-16—again, myself included—Kate Winslet was the first woman they ever saw naked, and by association bring many of us into manhood.  I remember being on the playground in the 3rd grade, and anytime a boy said that he finally saw “Titanic” all any of us could talk about was how we saw a girls boobies.  To us, it was the biggest deal ever.      
     The last thing, from “Titanic”, I’m going to talk about is the Theme song.  Originally, the film was going to be all orchestral and feature no actual singing, but somehow or another it was decided that the film would feature a song sang by Canadian singer, Celine Dion.  The name of that song: “My Heart Will Go On”.  There was a time in America where you could not go anywhere without hearing “My Heart Will Go On”, on the radio, at the mall, or from one of the millions of CD copies playing across the country.  Like all things from the movie “Titanic” the song was inescapable, and just like Leo-Mania, “My Heart Will Go On” began my deep resentment towards Celine Dion.  It is a resentment I still hold in my heart, and to this day, I still believe that there is a good chance Celine Dion is in fact the Anti-Christ.               

I'm still pretty sure that she might be the Anti-Christ
     As the 103rd Anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic approaches, let us take a moment to reflect on how this tragic even led to a cultural phenomenon that changed film, music, pop culture, and indeed the entire world.  James Cameron’s masterpiece film “Titanic” is a remarkable and landmark film, the likes of which I do not think will ever be seen again.