This movie to me is epic poetry in cinematic form. No, not ‘epic’ in the Lawrence of Arabia definition, nor the Scott Pilgrim definition. It’s ‘epic’ in a way that it has a heroine and that it portrays an action that changes both the heroine and the nation she belongs to. Director James Cameron’s last films, Titanic and Avatar, shows main events both real and fictional. A ship sinks. A tree is toppled. Yet Cameron chooses a daunting historical event and can extract so much human drama and detail from those deceivingly simplest of plots. It’s what Milton would have done with a camera.
Even the voices screaming out of the ocean and the icicles building in the hair of the dead floating haunts by every viewing of the film. As with the epic and the poem, Titanic captivates its viewer its images. The pre-Raphaelite references when we see both women floating inside the ship, of our heroine Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) waiting for rescue, of the red-headed Winslet’s casting itself, of Jack sinking down or when we see the elder Rose (Gloria Stuart) walking in the end of the film. Or images reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch when the remaning working class passengers try to hold on to the ship as it sinks. Or Fritz Laing’s flood scenes in Metropolis. There are also images that Cameron can call his own, as the ship becomes a soulless leviathan china float on the water, luxury deemed insignificant while facing harsh nature.
I suppose arguments against Titanic‘s epic style can be derived from the romance in the main plot, shrinking the thousands of stories into one or two. That Rose and Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio) are conveniently there when the iceberg strikes. Or that, on a Tolstoyan tradition, supporting characters either die or disappear in order of importance. But I watched this every three months or so for the past two years, at a time of my life when I view mortality seriously. The film’s third act is its strongest, when my attention goes to the priest saying prayers, or the people who speak different languages stuck in the third class levels who are unable to get out to safety, or anyone else falling to their deaths. Cameron dedicates a lot of time to distract us from the main romance and does his best to allow us to contemplate each person’s death without making them inhumanly excessive.
Another problem with this film belonging to the epic genre is that is doesn’t allow gray areas for the characters. Rose Dewitt-Bukater (Kate Winslet), this film’s Scarlett O’Hara, always hates her gilded cage, is always decided on who she likes and dislikes. The film then strikes a clear line, the people she likes are always good like Molly Brown (Kathy Bates) or Mr. Andrews (Victor Garber) and the ones she dislikes always treat her terribly, like her mother Ruth (Frances Fisher) and her fiancée Cal (the underrated Billy Zane). The ship’s sinking also delineates those lines, the characters acting consistently to which side they’re on and making mostly new heroes and some villains out of the bit players. With the exception of Jack, but her love-hate feelings towards him are really feelings of love repressed because of class differences.
Repeated viewings also make me honour diCaprio’s performance. When I saw it in its original theatrical release, I saw him as an annoyingly boisterous boy. But now I can see how altruistic his character is. His career is full of characters who would go places no one would dare to, often acting as our tour guide. It makes sense that the same actor who would climb a water tower in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and the actor mentoring the audience through the dream worlds of Inception is the same actor who can make a safer thrill ride out of a sinking ship. Jack assuring Rose everything’s all right, even making jokes while he’s freezing on the ocean. The elder Rose tells a younger generation that she doesn’t even have a picture of Jack, because it was unnecessary, at the time thinking that their future was for them to live together.
What also, to my opinion, makes the film more poignant than Avatar is that this is about the small victories that characters try to claim in times of defeat, that the survivors will still dwarf compared to the mankind’s failed infrastructure. Despite the little love story, the film doesn’t try to lie to us, not trying to convince us that they’ll fully regain their romance. That in reality, a lover’s sacrifice is a bit painful for both parties.
This movie won Best Picture between 1995 and 2001, arguably the Academy’s most misguided era. Nonetheless, the horde of mostly girls and some boys who will watch this movie, can quote it, will drop whatever they’re doing to rewatch the movie, and can even remember the names of Jack’s friends. There are also other, slightly more ‘observant’ minds who see the humanity in this film will say that it still holds up.
Coming out of the 90’s my lists would have sucked. I was twelve, I grew up on HBO Asia and Kristie Alley. I’ll be harsher towards the pictures than the actresses, because honestly, every woman in this list did some great work, but ten years after the 90’s, I had the chance to see better performances and films. Here’s what my list looks like now. Italics indicate Oscar winners for said categories.
- Jodie Foster (Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
- Linda Hamilton (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991)
I don’t understand how James Cameron’s campaign for her failed.
- Irene Jacob (The Double Life of Veronique, 1991)
- Emma Thompson (Howards End, 1992)
- Patricia Arquette (True Romance, 1993)
- Julianne Moore (Safe, 1995)
- Brenda Blethyn (Secrets and Lies, 1996)
- Demi Moore (G.I. Jane, 1996)
- Pam Grier (Jackie Brown, 1997)
- Kate Winslet (Holy Smoke, 1999)
- Silence of the Lambs (1991)
- Last of the Mohicans (1992)
- The Age of Innocence (1993)
- Heavenly Creatures (1994)
There’s a few people in my social circle who thinks this movie is ‘ugly.’ I will one day square off with them.
- Casino (1995)
- La Haine (1995)
Changes yet still romanticizes my perception of Paris.
- Twelve Monkeys (1995)
- Fargo (1996)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
If anything, the advantage it would have had against Thin Red Line is how varied the colours are in this film.
- The Thin Red Line (1998)
Then come the lists of what I thought then. This is probably a mix of what you guys think as overrated AND underrated.
Old Best Actress List
- Nicole Kidman (Far and Away, 1992)
The performance is less complex but more lively than her work a decade later.
- Winona Ryder (Little Women, 1994)
- Kate Winslet (Heavently Creatures, 1994)
- Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility, 1995)
- Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet, 1996)
Still has the best rendition of the ‘what’s in a name’ soliloquy. Too bad she sucks now, Temple Gradin.
- Madonna (Evita, 1996)
I’m still glad this went to Madonna. It would have been just another notch on Meryl’s belt.
- Demi Moore (G.I. Jane, 1997)
- Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth, 1998)
- Sarah Michelle Gellar (Cruel Intentions, 1999)
I don’t understand how she hasn’t made the ‘best evil teen’ list they make once a year.
Old Best Picture List
- Hook (1991)
What? It has Magge Smith, Dustin Hoffman and Julia Roberts in it.
- Dracula (1992)
- Heavenly Creatures (1994)
Still love it.
- The Lion King (1995)
- Evita (1996)
Still one of the best edited movies.
- Hamlet (1996)
- What Dreams May Come (1996)
- Titanic (1997)
You did too. And again, James Cameron can sink a boat.
- As Good as it Gets (1997)
- Elizabeth (1998)
I kinda think it’s an obscene film now.
Kate Winslet has the best hands and the best legs that the movies have had for a long time. Not in a Marlene Dietrich-Claudette Colbert sort of way. It’s more of how Kate puts her physicality to work like Buster Keaton. And yes, I just compared a girl to Buster Keaton. As much as I resent that Oscar of hers getting stolen by she-who-must-not-be-named, I understand how the Academy can overlook a performance like this. Be good next time, AMPAS.
One of the best romantic movies of our generation actually de-romanticizes Valentines Day by reminding the audience that the day is smacked within the winter time. It’s hard to really think of your loved one as ‘sexy’ under those drab bomber jackets. Then there’s the consumerism factor that the holiday brings.
Despite of that drabness, the people have character, a bit alone and looking for each other. Clementine (Kate Winslet) is the kind of girl, impulsive, as said too many times in this otherwise flawless final script. I can’t even imagine getting into a stranger’s car so easily. But as the audience knows, Clementine and Joel (Jim Carrey) aren’t strangers. Erasing each other from their memory only messes with their minds and has created a connection that they might not even have had two years ago, when they have first met.
It’s like a Bogie-Ingrid pairing. If you told anyone in 1997 that the girl from Titanic and the guy from Liar, Liar will make one of the best couple in film history, no one would believe you. This movie never ceases to surprise, despite how many times I’ve seen it.
I realized how well April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) is photographed in Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road. She’s often wearing white or bright colours. Summer colours, like she’s on a permanent summer vacation in the Hamptons, or stuck in heaven. Or more than likely sitting or standing near a window. Frank Wheeler (Leonardo di Caprio) has a beautiful wife and so did director Sam Mendes, and the latter wanted to show that off. And it’s like there’s light within her but, as per the movie, I have the feeling that that light in her is clamped down.
Revolutionary Road is gonna be screening at the Revue Cinema at 7 tonight, with an introduction and post-screening discussion led by Toronto critic Geoff Pevere. I’m still wondering whether I’m going or not. I don’t particularly wanna slit my wrists tonight. I also don’t wanna see couples masochistically watching the movie and coming out talking about the performances, because they don’t wanna talk about Frank and April’s relationship. I also think about the numerous casting possibilities if this movie have been greenlighted earlier (Paul and Joanne, Mia and Robert, Jessica and William, Julianne and Dennis). I’ll give the movie another shot, and hopefully, so will you.
This wasn’t a movie, it was more of a session about film by critic Ingrid Randoja. For half an hour, Randoja shattered my Catholic 90’s upbringing as I learned that “Fried Green Tomatoes” was a lesbian film although straight critics are helplessly oblivious to this knowledge, that Kate Winslet had a face of a 40-year-old at 18 and that’s a poorly worded compliment about maturity that showed within a teenager, that “Chasing Amy” sucks because it wanted Amy to be with the Ben Affleck character. The depiction of lesbians has a circular time line since it went from predatory to positive (“Fucking Amal”) and back to predatory (“Monster”). But there’s also linear progression, as the films go from showing young lesbians to lesbian mothers (the up and coming “The Kids are All Right”). And she talked about TV too (“Cagney and Lacey”).
Not mentioned was the Oscar nominated Mulholland Drive, a movie I’ll plug until my death. I mentioned this omission and Randoja assessed the David Lynch film as lesbianism under a straight male lens, and I guess she has a point. I guess I’ll do a second official entry for Mulholland Drive if it catches me again, but the movie, especially the sex scene, was more romantic than it was erotic. At least it wasn’t as erotic as the scene in “Bound.” However anyone interprets it, the relationship between Betty Elms and Rita is either a real thing in some alternate universe or an ideal. Yes, Rita is a bit leachy and Betty asserts herself as Rita’s saviour, but straight relationships are imperfect too. Would the film have been different if say, Lisa Chodolenko directed it?
I can’t even conjugate a sentence now because:
First item. Two days old news, but the paps got a look at the Kate Winslet vehicle “Mildred Pierce.” Haven’t read the James M. Cain source material and the only knowledge I have of the story is the Joan Crawford movie. This new “Mildred Pierce” miniseries covers the titular character’s struggles in the Depression when she leaves her husband. Ballsy move for the character and Todd Haynes who’s directing the project. I don’t know if I should readily assume things by just looking at paparazzi photos, but this homely Mildred looks like a continent away from the glamorous Mildred of Joan Crawford. And wait, the story’s set in New York instead of LA? We’re probably gonna see more snaps in the future, but I wanna see Kate’s version of Mildred get rich. Ad to see the episodes next month somehow.
I also found my way again to Nick’s Flick Picks, who by the way wanted more from Kate in her career best in “Little Children,” and who’ll have a profile on Kate Winslet coming soon.
Second item. I saw a documentary on TV called “Queen Mother: Her Reign in Colour” about the 16 years when King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth ruled England. The focus is both between the Queen Consort and her subjects, as both have to deal with her brother-in-law’s abdication and the Second World War. With the archive footage we hear about her duty towards her husband and country as well as how she charms people in her foreign tours. That doesn’t mean we don’t get the other viewpoint on royalty, as her lavish lifestyle gets criticism from working class Britons. I’m still surprised how republicanism had its early starts. What I know about her is progressive thinking, quick wit and loving the gays, which makes her probably one of the best historical figures ever.
Which leads us to me getting excited about “The King’s Speech.” Some worry that it’s gonna be another bid for the Weinsteins to get Colin Firth an Oscar, which is a weird yet noble obsession of theirs, by the way. But just like the woman who would become Queen Mother, I really hope Helena Bonham Carter steals the show. Weinsteins, don’t screw this one up!
I guess she won’t be polishing Sam Mendes’ Oscar anymore. Some newspapers claim that someone else is doing the polishing, while other newspapers claim that Sam Mendes claims that Kate is too busy polishing her own Oscar. Sadness.