Thursday, November 29, 2012

Battle Of The Oscar Stars: Best Picture 1997

It all started with a giant hat. 

Back in 1997, on a (possibly) crisp sunny day, 4th grade had been let out for an early release, and my dad couldn't wait to bustle me and my schoolmates from the steps of elementary school to the movie theater.

Sandwiched between my dad and two friends, the tale of doomed lovers on a sinking ocean liner was just about to unfold on the screen in front of us for the first time.

All it took was one sweeping shot panning down to a glorious purple hat atop Rose Dewitt Bukkater's (aka Dawson's) head, with that lively James Horner score, and I was lost forever to the Best Picture Winner of 1997.

Titanic, the ship of dreams, where a real man makes his own luck, and the movie of a lifetime.

As ridiculous as it is, that memory of the first time I saw this worldwide blockbuster has vividly stuck all these years. It is as if I always knew I would need a snappy anecdote to comment on Jack, Rose, and the gang. That opening shot is truly genius, and draws me into the movie every time.

Fifteen years later, the cultural buzz has turned to hate, especially as it seems "cooler" to gripe about Titanic these days. I will admit to rolling my eyes at a few cheesy lines. Remember Jack handcuffed to a pipe and his, "I'll stay right here!" quip?

However, a crappy one liner is the only complaint I will ever agree on. Otherwise to me, and many others, Titanic is perfect.

For those questioning my movie taste, I will say; remember the first time you saw that grand ship cruise onto the big screen or heard the haunting score? Blew your mind, right? Take yourself back to 1997 and you will get back on board!

Terrible puns aside, as I don't need to remember that feeling. Each time I sit down to watch Titanic that same amazement is still there. Inside, 10-year-old me continues to rejoice, but really doesn't understand why I now care so much about the piece of hair that gracefully falls over Leo's eye.

When it swept in outrageous popularity across the world, the movie became personal to fans. Each probably have a similar tale of adoration.

We quickly grew attached to Rose's bold efforts to be her own person and the innocent tale of girl meets boy from across the tracks (or Wisconsin). Not to mention the outstanding special effects, the heart-pounding and terrifying historical tragedy as the central theme, and the energy the entire film radiated through the theaters. It was a movie event unlike any other in my lifetime.

The elaborately detailed sets and costumes build on each character and scene. The look is so glamorous in fact, you wish you had been there, until you remember how the story ends.

Every moment still bursts with those bold images and dreamy colors that James Cameron worked endlessly to create. Many of these scenes are now infamous, with due credit to Cameron's staging of them.  Jack and Fabrizio at the bow of the ship screaming, "I'm The King Of The World", with deep blue ocean crashing beneath them, or Jack and Rose in the same spot "flying" across a gorgeous sunset would not have been so widely referenced (and mocked) in our culture if they had not first been magnetic scenes that got our attention.

The greatest scene though, one that I would hop on that ship to join even knowing had I been a third class passenger I would have likely died, involves some serious dancing.

Jack and Rose's, "Irish Party In Third Class",  is not a complex scene, it is just entirely joyful. Rose is freer than she's ever been, drinking and spitting like a man, and with the sinking of the ship imminent, it's the perfect interjection of time simply seeing Jack and Rose have fun. Until that pesky man servant steps in...

People often criticize Titanic for the romance, saying the star crossed lovers bit has been done before. That is all stating the obvious, as it has been done for hundreds of years and in other Best Picture Winners (West Side Story); it is the most classic of all plot devices. Winslet and DiCaprio are just so well suited for each other that it doesn't matter. Even if it's known their romance will have to end in tragedy, we can thoroughly enjoy it while it lasts.

Amongst all the drama and sadness, Titanic is still one of those flicks that always brings a smile to my face. Much of this is because the world  Cameron created is now so familiar, but also much can be said for the enjoyment of boisterous characters like Molly Brown (the always enjoyable Kathy Bates) and the out of control antics of Cal (Mr. Titanic himself, Billy Zane).

I have only just touched the surface on all the fantastic things that are offered (we didn't even get to everyone's favorite rouge Irishman, Tommy!), but since this could go on for days, it has to wrap up somewhere.

Whether or not you appreciate Titanic, it is one of the biggest movies of all time. The impact of the adored story reached around the world, but also played a small part in my own story of falling in love with movies, and will continue to stick with fans and new ones as each generation discovers this grand classic.

I am still always keeping my eyes out for any opportunity to wear a giant purple hat.

(As a side note, it has to be said, Titanic 2: Jack's Back, might be the greatest YouTube video of all time. Mostly for the, "My Heart Will Go On" remix at the end. I would see that movie.)

Up Next: The 90's epic love stories barrel on with Gwyneth and Shakespeare.

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