I don't remember a lot of specifics about watching Titanic in theaters inbut I was 15 years old, which means my two biggest concerns were 1 locating romance, and 2 not dying in a nautical catastrophe. So I think we can safely assume that I fucking loved that movie. I watched Titanic again on TV with my sister a few years later, making sure to switch it off right before that whole stressful iceberg thingy—a strategy that turns the movie into a pleasant romp about two teenagers who take a perfectly safe boat ride and then bang in a jalopy.
Right up until its premiere on December 19,Titanic was expected to be the biggest disaster since the actual ship went down. The CGI-laden movie, which was wildly over its original budget, got bumped from summer to winter. January Saturday Night Live runs a sketch about fifth-class black passengers trying to evacuate from the Titanic, starring Tracy Morgan and guest host Samuel L.
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Everything about the movie annoyed me to no end: the cardboard characters, the cheesy dialogue and, most of all, the egregiously bloated running time during which writer-director James Cameron dawdled with his dippy young lovers while we all just wanted to watch the damn ship sink already. This meant that about once every hour I had to grab a broom and go sweep up popcorn, candy wrappers and used Kleenex while stepping over sobbing teenage girls, all to the tune of that cloying, ubiquitous Celine Dion song. I had a few hours to kill downtown between press screenings and was curious to see how the IMAX blow-up and 3D conversion had worked out, but if I can be brutally honest with you folks, I had no real intention of sitting through the whole movie again and had kinda planned on bailing out and heading to a bar after the nude scene. Cut to minutes later and I am bawling.
The first time I saw Titanic, my father left the theater in the middle of the movie to get a haircut. One of my friends had briefed me on what to expect: Jack and Rose fall in love, the ship sinks, and Jack finds a piece of wreckage floating in the sea and helps Rose clamber onto it, saving her from the freezing death that claims him before the lifeboats return for survivors. I was 9, but I already understood he had a habit of wandering off when he got bored.
Not because of the scale of its success, nor because of the records it notches up week after week for takings and audiences. Nor yet because of the contrast between the dire warnings of failure and the glorious reality. Almost three months after the film's release, the surprise comes from the complexion of the audiences.
Rose amazes the partygoers by performing a party trick of standing directly on her tiptoes, then dances merrily with Jack and shows the crew and passengers that a first-class girl can drink. This scene contrasts nicely with the stiff, unpleasant dinner that Rose has endured earlier as a first-class passenger; down in the hull with Jack, she can finally be gloriously free and have a fantastic time. The 13th and arguably most famous scene in the movie shows Jack and Rose on the bow of the ship.
The general gist is: boy and girl go on boat boy super attractive but poor, girl super attractive but uncomfortable richboy and girl meet, boy and girl fall in love, boy thinks he's flying, boy paints girl, iceberg uh-oh! Titanic was written and directed by a man, so in my period of late-night movie watching, I never thought to check it out—that is, until now, on the film's twentieth anniversary. Fresh off a year and a half of exclusively consuming art created by women and femmes, I sat down with my grandma's Amazon Prime account to review the film.