Throwback Thoughts – Titanic

Since today is Valentine’s Day, and love is hopefully in the air for you wherever you are, I thought it would make sense to write about a movie that features a classic love story.  A love story doesn’t have to always be the cliché “boy meets girl – falls in love and they live happily ever after.”  In fact, I tend to drift more towards the more realistic love stories.  Life isn’t perfect, and neither is love.  Because of this, some of the best love story films also involve tragedy or love lost.  Films that come to mind include Atonement, Closer, 500 Days of Summer (even though you could argue that it’s more about the evolution of a man from his first true love) and the obvious, Romeo and Juliet – which defines true love on so many levels

With that said, I thought of another film that fits the aforementioned mold.  It entangles a deep, passionate love story in the midst of a historical tragedy.  Like Romeo and Juliet, it has undertones of a class war between the “haves” and “have-nots”.  Also like Romeo and Juliet, it’s one of the most popular love stories of all-time.  And yes, although I already mentioned the imperfections of love, this movie is as close to perfect as you can get.  That movie – is Titanic.

For what seems to be forever, whenever I tell people that Titanic is my favorite movie of all-time, I get surprised facial expressions in return.  I guess it isn’t common for a man to share my high opinion on this movie?  I’m not really sure and I honestly don’t really care.  Aside from this being a Valentine’s Day themed blog, it also serves as an official and long overdue explanation of my adoration for this movie.

Who would’ve thought that Titanic, a movie about a tragedy in 1912, would become the biggest movie of the 1990s?

It’s been almost 20 years, and i can still remember it like it was yesterday.  The year was 1997.  I was a 12-year-old boy in 6th grade.  At first, I didn’t know what to think of the movie, but I remember I wanted to see it because I always was fascinated with the real story of the Titanic as a kid.  I remember the hysteria like it was yesterday.  I remember turning on the nightly countdown on my favorite radio station every night and hearing “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion.  Everyone at school had seen it – one girl saw it in the theater 12 times!

I remember it came out around Christmas, yet I didn’t see it until March.  It was in theaters forever!  I could be wrong, but I think it was literally in theaters from December 1997 until September 1998.  I remember the feeling I felt once the screen went black at its conclusion – mind blown.  I realize how cheesy it sounds, but this movie in several ways changed my life.

This was the movie that made me appreciate and understand real love for the first time.

This was the movie that made me legitimately love movies.  To this day, I hold this movie up on the highest pedestal.

This was the movie that made me and millions of other boys fall in love with Kate Winslet – much like how all the girls fell in love with DiCaprio.

On a light-hearted note, this movie made me realize that going on a cruise is not for me. But in all seriousness, this movie also carries a heavy dose of nostalgia with it.  Every time I watch it, I’m taken back to my childhood and to those same emotions all over again.

Titanic revolves around not just a love story, but a story nonetheless, that William Shakespeare would surely have endorsed.  I have always believed Shakespeare shows up everywhere in this film, starting with the main characters.

Jack, a bottom of the barrel teenager who has nothing on him but the clothes on his back, and nobody in his corner except for his best friend, Fabrizio, both winning a golden ticket onto the ship’s maiden voyage via a lucky hand in cards.  To quote Jack to Fabrizio, “We are the luckiest sons of bitches in the world!”

Rose, a teenage girl marrying into wealth in hopes that she and her mother will be able to sustain a happy life through the successes of others.

Cal, the typical chauvinist early 20th century rich man and antagonist, privileged with wealth and good looks but shows no signs of a soul.

There are several Shakespearean-like scenes all through the film, as well.  The meeting and build-up of Rose and Jack’s relationship – finding ways to sneak off and be together despite their cultural and class differences, is comparable to Romeo and Juliet’s story.  Titanic’s audience is enthralled with the emotional tennis match of frustration from the obstacles against Jack and Rose, and a vicarious envy for their real love.

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio displayed the epitome of on-screen chemistry as Rose and Jack.

Heartbreaking scenes that also come to mind are the band members playing together as the ship sinks, the old couple embracing in their bed preparing for their imminent deaths together, and the preacher holding on to the boat with one hand and grasping on to several other doomed passengers with the other while praying one final prayer to his final congregation.  And, of course, the ending of the film – with Jack and Rose stranded in the middle of the frigid ocean on a floating door (a door that would NOT have fit the two of them on it together for longer than a minute or two, I might add) with Jack giving up his life so that Rose can go on to survive and have a full life of her own.

That’s real love, but also a real tragedy.  Shakespeare was always the best at blending the two together.  I mean, it doesn’t get more heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time than Rose saying “I’ll never let go, Jack” as she rips away her frozen hand from his and kisses it goodbye as he descends to his grave.

Titanic is timeless in more ways than one.  Not only is its core content a classic story that can always be molded into a relatable, current time frame, but also it’s a film that’s historical in itself from winning 11 Oscars (including Best Picture), which is tied for the most ever with Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  It was nominated for 14 Oscars, which is also tied for the most ever with All About Eve and now La La Land.  The most expensive budget ever for a movie at the time ($200 million) truly earned every reward it received.  It also was the highest grossing movie of all-time until Avatar, another James Cameron classic, broke its record in 2009.     

It’s constantly on TV all the time, which helps extend its shelf life and become exposed to new generations.  Twenty years later, when Titanic shows up on my TV guide menu, it’s always a click-and-stick.  In fact, AMC is airing it non-stop all day today in honor of Valentine’s Day.

It also helps that its two stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are two of the best actors of this generation and arguably all-time.  At this point, if you still have never seen Titanic, then I would love to know where the hell you’ve been for the past 20 years and how have you’ve managed to turn a blind eye toward it for this long!

Titanic is often wrongfully categorized as a “chick-flick.”  It’s really far from it.  It has everything that anyone, chick or bro, could ever desire in a film – love, tragedy, comedy, action, drama, history, etc.  This film makes you laugh, it makes you cry – it makes you think and it invites you to dream.  For one single movie to have one of the most amazing casts (it doesn’t get better than DiCaprio and Winslet together), best special effects (in addition to the Hollywood explosions and floods, they literally built an exact replica of the ship with its exact dimensions), and perhaps one of the best endings ever (believe it or not, some people never put it together that Rose dies in her bed at the end and the final scene of her and Jack isn’t a flashback, but rather a heavenly view of the two and the others who perished) is hard to imagine.  James Cameron managed to achieve this feat when he gifted us with this gem.  To make a movie about a fascinating historical tragedy and somehow mold it into a wide-range, but organized story linking its historical present-day value with an equally fascinating recount of a survivor’s memory of a love lost shows Cameron’s brilliance.

I love all types of good movies across all genres, but I will gladly take Titanic over any of them any day of the week.  So, if you’re looking for a good movie to cuddle up to tonight with your significant other and get all caught up in each other’s feelings, turn on AMC and enjoy Titanic, one of the greatest movies ever made.