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Titanic

Titanic  

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  1. 1. Does "Titanic" belong on the AFI List?

    • Yes
      5
    • No
      10

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  • Poll closed on 03/01/19 at 08:00 AM

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I held very negative opinions about this movie for a long time. I didn't see it in a theater, and I'll admit that some of this was probably motivated by sexism -- I didn't want to go see a "girls' movie," though of course I willingly paid to see Roland Emmerich's Godzilla later that summer (and by the by, I think sexism towards something teenage girls liked also accounts for some of the extreme Internet hate directed at Titanic). I then later saw it on pan-and-scan VHS (because I guess I "had to" now that it had won all the awards). I hated it because of the dialogue and the rote narrative, and also I was 18 and supposedly knew everything.

 

Those things I disliked are still problems, but that was also entirely the wrong attitude to take into this movie and entirely the wrong way to see it. This is a spectacle. It's really good spectacle, as James Cameron is wont to deliver. Seeing it on a big screen is best, but at least get a high-quality widescreen version if you're seeing it at home. You need to see the visual storytelling (ALL of it) for the movie to work. The story delivers very familiar beats, but it is structured well so that they are all adequately foreshadowed and delivered with clarity (as Paul and Amy pointed out, as stilted as the framing device might initially seem, it's also doing a great job presenting you with the geography of the ship and the circumstances of the sinking).

 

One of the callers criticized the movie for reducing a disaster where thousands died to a dopey love story, but in watching it again I was struck by the ways in which it does NOT do that. The movie spends a good deal of time on the Captain's story, on the architect's story, and so forth. You can track random passengers' storylines as the movie goes on, if you're watching carefully in the background and catching the small moments in between the main plot. It's actually pretty impressive how this movie foregrounds the stars but also gives a sense of the variety of experiences had by people on the boat.

 

As I've gotten older, I've also kind of given up on criticizing narratives for being too "cliched" or whatever. Some tropes just work; that's why they get used so often. No need to be snobby about it. The problem is when a film isn't committed to doing what it's doing or keeps trying to apologize. Titanic doesn't apologize for being big and melodramatic, and Cameron is nothing if not committed. The only thing that slightly throws me out of it is that Cameron's dialogue often sounds too modern for the period, particularly what he gives to Jack and Rose (and Cal . . . oh, Cal). But on some level that works too, given that the narrative is about Rose being a more modern and adventurous woman than society wanted her to be.

 

So hey, now I'm in your corner, Titanic. It's not in my Top 100, but I get why you were so popular.

 

That said, I still have no defense for the Billy Zane character or performance. He feels like some teenage actor trying to do a "posh" accent in a high school production of a period drama. The character is one-note to the extreme. Cameron's villains are best when they're monsters or killer robots, but his human antagonists are blah. I could do without Cal Hockley.

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By the way, The Simpsons also did a riff on what if Roger Corman had made Titanic.

 

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(and by the by, I think sexism towards something teenage girls liked also accounts for some of the extreme Internet hate directed at Titanic).

DING DING DING! We have a winner!

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One of the callers criticized the movie for reducing a disaster where thousands died to a dopey love story, but in watching it again I was struck by the ways in which it does NOT do that. The movie spends a good deal of time on the Captain's story, on the architect's story, and so forth. You can track random passengers' storylines as the movie goes on, if you're watching carefully in the background and catching the small moments in between the main plot. It's actually pretty impressive how this movie foregrounds the stars but also gives a sense of the variety of experiences had by people on the boat.

I think three is a little bit of validity to this. Cameron went to the level of detail to get the actual wallpaper for the Titanic and then fabricated a love story. There's a part of me that thinks there's enough real life stories on the Titanic to make a movie without Jack and Rose. As I recall, A Night To Remember stays fairly accurate but it's not half the spectacle Titanic is.

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DING DING DING! We have a winner!

 

I'm surprised Amy didn't bring up the sexism angle! Maybe she didn't want to be seen as biased, given that she was once a superfan.

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That said, I still have no defense for the Billy Zane character or performance. He feels like some teenage actor trying to do a "posh" accent in a high school production of a period drama. The character is one-note to the extreme. Cameron's villains are best when they're monsters or killer robots, but his human antagonists are blah. I could do without Cal Hockley.

I think you hit on a good point here. Arguably Billy Zane's Cal is the next biggest character after Rose and Jack and yet you'll notice not once was he brought up in the entire episode. Well, Danny Nucci brings him up but that's it. I found it very curious and I think the reason why is his character and performance is one of the weakest parts of this movie. They can't easily dismiss this as "nitpicking" but I guess they could try to defend it by saying it has to go back to old fashion story telling/melodramatic story notes. Does that excuse it? Again this comes down to the weakness of Cameron as a writer. I'm just going to be repeating other people but yes he does some clever things, but the dialogue is horrid and characterization of supporting characters is weak. Both those things come to a head in Cal. So while it is nice that in the back half you have these excellent done little scenes that have these minor characters in moving scenes, but at the same time you have a cartoonish and over the top Billy Zane running around.

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One of the callers criticized the movie for reducing a disaster where thousands died to a dopey love story, but in watching it again I was struck by the ways in which it does NOT do that. The movie spends a good deal of time on the Captain's story, on the architect's story, and so forth. You can track random passengers' storylines as the movie goes on, if you're watching carefully in the background and catching the small moments in between the main plot. It's actually pretty impressive how this movie foregrounds the stars but also gives a sense of the variety of experiences had by people on the boat.

It's funny but I totally agree with you and yet I have such a clear memory of my grandpa saying the exact same thing as the caller. I remember Pearl Harbor coming out and my WWII vet grandfather going to see it and coming back cursing up a storm about how they fucked up the war with a dumb love story "just like that Titanic did." I shit you not apparently some people genuinely just want to watch the terror. Although in my grandpa's defense Pearl Harbor did fuck up the war with a dumb love story.

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Did anyone else think it was weird that we got so many scenes of Jack alone when Rose was narrating?

 

“So he was down on the deck where the rich people let their dogs shit and he was looking at me. Like, *looking* at me, you know? Then some Irish guy, um, Tony? Tommy? I don’t know. Some dude. And he says to Jack, ‘She’s out of your league, bro.’”

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I had a fascination with all things Titanic way before the movie. There was a lot of press about trying to find it before they did, then we got the photos of the actual thing doled out slowly. I have a life-long general fascination for things like famous fires and explosions, and disasters where man played a big role, so the Titanic story fit into that. I went to the movie with big expectations as I had loved several of Cameron's movies and felt that it was a labor of love for him, even though he was getting terrible press. (In addition to reading books about disasters like the Circus Fire, I also read a lot of books about movies that didn't turn out well like Heaven's Gate and Bonfire of the Vanities--seriously read the Devil's Candy ASAP)

 

When I saw the movie in the theater, I was happy with the way it started, because I wanted to see the actual wreckage on a big screen. For me, Kate Winslet was a draw because she was brilliant in Heavenly Creatures, a movie that shouldn't have hit home with me because I've never had homicidal fantasies but setting that aside that movie totally captured the sort of relationship that two girl best friends can have. I knew Leo had good press from a couple of big movies but I hadn't seen his movies. I was surprised that the movie ticked all the boxes for me. I recognized real people characters from history, and was waiting to see the band play on etc. I thought it was amazing. It's not a movie I wanted to revisit because sometimes a movie is so big and fulfilling I feel like I don't need to.

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BTW, I saw the movie with a good friend from work. She went because she went to all the big movies and she had a thing for Leo. Partway though the movie, my friend gets up to go to the restroom and I say "hurry back, I think they're about to hit the iceberg." She replies, "They're going to hit an iceberg?!?!"

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Did anyone else think it was weird that we got so many scenes of Jack alone when Rose was narrating?

 

“So he was down on the deck where the rich people let their dogs shit and he was looking at me. Like, *looking* at me, you know? Then some Irish guy, um, Tony? Tommy? I don’t know. Some dude. And he says to Jack, ‘She’s out of your league, bro.’”

 

Rose is omniscient, you must have missed that part

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DING DING DING! We have a winner!

 

Do we though? Movies like Clueless and Mean Girls were movies teenage girls loved and I don't think there's internet backlash over them.

 

Anyhoo, I didn't like Titanic when I saw it in the theater, but when I rewatched it yesterday, I was surprised by how much I had apparently retained. I can't say the same about many movies I saw only once more than 20 years ago. However, I ended up putting this below Swing Time. Minus *that scene* in Swing Time, I enjoyed it more and would absolutely rewatch it over Titanic.

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I really didn’t care for this line from Rose:

 

“It was the Ship of Dreams to everyone else.To me it was a slave ship taking me back to America in chains.”

 

I mean, I get that Cal’s the worst, and I’m not trying to minimize Rose’s situation, but comparing marrying an (admittedly) dickish, rich man to actual human slavery was no bueno for me. Pick a better metaphor, Old Rose! It’s the 90’s for god’s sake!

 

I also hated the exchange where Rose was flipping through Jack’s sketches, and when she accuses him of having a love affair with one of them, he assures that he just loved the woman’s hands. He goes on to explain, “She was a one-legged prostitute.” They both laugh and put it behind them.

 

Oh! I’m sorry. She was a prostitute AND an amputee? I had no idea. That certainly answers why you couldn’t have possibly had a love affair with her. What a monster she must have been. How silly of me.

 

Like couldn’t he have just been like, “I liked her hands” and left it at that? It kind of reminded me of this scene from Futurama:

 

actually-she-wasnt-my-girlfriend-she-just-lived-next-door-and-never-closed-her-curtains-fry-remember.jpg

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Do we though? Movies like Clueless and Mean Girls were movies teenage girls loved and I don't think there's internet backlash over them.

 

Yeah, I have to agree. Saying a lot of the hate for Titanic comes from sexism against “things that [women] enjoy” kind of presupposes that all women love Titanic and couldn’t possibly find fault with it for themselves. I know a ton of women who don’t like it. Women who downright hate it. In fact, when I asked my wife if she wanted to watch it with me for the podcast, she flat out refused and called it “fucking garbage.”

 

Like, I’m sure there are assholes who hate it for that reason, but is there really so many that it created a backlash? Or is it maybe more possible that the movie just isn’t perfect, and regardless of gender, people who were overwhelmed with the spectacle at first blush might have had a change of heart once they got some distance from the initial experience?

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Sorry to write three posts in a row, but I was wondering, is there anyone who absolutely LOVES this movie who didn’t see it in the theater or when they were a teenager? I’m curious if hardcore Titanic love might be another example of the “Goonies Conundrum.”

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Or is it maybe more possible that the movie just isn’t perfect, and regardless of gender, people who were overwhelmed with the spectacle at first blush might have had a change of heart once they got some distance from the initial experience?

That last question works oddly well with another high grossing James Cameron movie...

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Sorry to write three posts in a row, but I was wondering, is there anyone who absolutely LOVES this movie who didn’t see it in the theater or when they were a teenager? I’m curious if hardcore Titanic love might be another example of the “Goonies Conundrum.”

I can't stomach that comparison and find it insulting. Goonies was a crappy movie that some people loved and remember fondly. Titanic was a well crafted movie that was difficult to make and had many qualities that make movies good. It might not be everyone's cup of tea and that's okay, but it deserved oscars. (I saw Titanic once in a theater as an adult, and saw it again about a year ago. I have always hated the song. I'd bet the song was responsible for some of the backlash as it assaulted people who didn't even see the movie :))

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I can't stomach that comparison and find it insulting.

 

wvvFV.gif

 

I wasn’t actually comparing Titanic to Goonies. Titanic is clearly better made. The “Goonies Conundrum” is something we’ve come up with which posits that if you watch a movie (ANY movie) at an impressionable age and/or under specific positive circumstances, you tend to have more affection for it than it might otherwise deserve. We use Goonies as a model specifically because it’s *not* a very good movie, but a lot of people love it because of their association of watching it as a kid. Many times, if you show The Goonies to someone for the first time as an adult, because they don’t have that childhood association, they typically don’t like it. At best, they might say it’s “okay.” (I would argue much of the love Star Wars movies receive is a result of the “Goonies Conundrum” as well. We remember playing with toy lightsabers as a kid and tend to forget the cheesy dialogue, the simplistic story, or that the first 20 minutes or so of A New Hope is watching two, slow-moving droids shuffle through the desert.)

 

My point regarding Titanic is that every time I hear someone talk about how much they love it, it is usually wrapped up in a story about their experience seeing it in the theater with friends and family. I haven’t really ever heard anyone say, “I watched it for the first time when I was 34, in a room by myself, on my iPhone...in SD. And It. Blew. My. Mind.” I just wonder (not stating as fact) if hardcore Titanic-love has more to do with that than with the movie itself.

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Do we though? Movies like Clueless and Mean Girls were movies teenage girls loved and I don't think there's internet backlash over them.

Yeah, I have to agree. Saying a lot of the hate for Titanic comes from sexism against “things that [women] enjoy” kind of presupposes that all women love Titanic and couldn’t possibly find fault with it for themselves. I know a ton of women who don’t like it. Women who downright hate it. In fact, when I asked my wife if she wanted to watch it with me for the podcast, she flat out refused and called it “fucking garbage.”

 

Like, I’m sure there are assholes who hate it for that reason, but is there really so many that it created a backlash? Or is it maybe more possible that the movie just isn’t perfect, and regardless of gender, people who were overwhelmed with the spectacle at first blush might have had a change of heart once they got some distance from the initial experience?

I don't think some women disliking Titanic doesn't necessarily negate its reputation as a movie "for teenage girls." There are a lot of "guy movies" that a lot of guys don't like. People don't have to like a movie because they are the perceived target demographic of the movie.

 

I definitely remember a ton of flak thrown toward Titanic specifically because it's "for teenage girls." I think what really made a lot of people double down on it because it was the highest grossing movie of all time. Whatever is #1 is automatically drawing some criticism of some kind as we see with Citizen Kane. "Is this really deserving of being the best" kind of analysis where people over scrutinize whatever it is.And I definitely remember a big criticism at the time being "it's only the highest grossest movie because so many teenage girls saw it multiple times." We don't see that kind of criticism toward highest grossing movie in the USA, The Force Awakens, where teenage boys and adult men saw it multiple times on opening day.

 

So, yes, I definitely think being a movie loved by teenage girls at the time is part of the backlash. That doesn't invalidate people's opinions who don't like it because Billy Zane is cartoonishly evil or the dialogue is repetitive and bad. It's not the only reason that there is a perceived backlash. It's definitely part of it.

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I don't think some women disliking Titanic doesn't necessarily negate its reputation as a movie "for teenage girls." There are a lot of "guy movies" that a lot of guys don't like. People don't have to like a movie because they are the perceived target demographic of the movie.

 

I definitely remember a ton of flak thrown toward Titanic specifically because it's "for teenage girls." I think what really made a lot of people double down on it because it was the highest grossing movie of all time. Whatever is #1 is automatically drawing some criticism of some kind as we see with Citizen Kane. "Is this really deserving of being the best" kind of analysis where people over scrutinize whatever it is.And I definitely remember a big criticism at the time being "it's only the highest grossest movie because so many teenage girls saw it multiple times." We don't see that kind of criticism toward highest grossing movie in the USA, The Force Awakens, where teenage boys and adult men saw it multiple times on opening day.

 

So, yes, I definitely think being a movie loved by teenage girls at the time is part of the backlash. That doesn't invalidate people's opinions who don't like it because Billy Zane is cartoonishly evil or the dialogue is repetitive and bad. It's not the only reason that there is a perceived backlash. It's definitely part of it.

I agree with Grud here. Saying a movie was intentionally trying to pull in a certain demo does not at all say that everyone in that demo likes that movie or that anyone out of that demo didn't like that movie. Romantic comedies get labeled as "chick flicks" but I really am not the person to jump into those seats and I have a male friend that absolutely would, but regardless that's still how they're labeled. And there absolutely is a pushback on things that are labeled as being "for women" or teenage girls even. One Direction? Hated by many because they are a boy band meant for teenage girls. The new Ghostbusters? Hated before it even came out because it was for women.

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I enjoyed this episode despite finding Amy and Paul's glowing words about this movie incredibly frustrating. Look, it's fine if people like this movie - I don't happen to agree with them, but even its supporters have own up to its flaws to sound credible, which neither host does here. I also take issue with being labeled as an internet hater for not enjoying Titanic.

 

There are many and varied perfectly valid film making reasons to dislike this film that have nothing to do with whether or not Jack can fit on a plank. For the sake of keeping this post short, I won't go into them here, but know that they're easily Googleable and that I agree with ALL of them.

 

There are things to enjoy about this film - the chemistry between its young stars, the sets and costumes, the scale of the production, Billy Zane - all of these things come to mind, but for me they are not enough to keep Titanic afloat, and it is this humble viewer's opinion that it, along with any of Cameron's films, do not belong on the AFI list.

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I don't think some women disliking Titanic doesn't necessarily negate its reputation as a movie "for teenage girls." There are a lot of "guy movies" that a lot of guys don't like. People don't have to like a movie because they are the perceived target demographic of the movie.

 

I definitely remember a ton of flak thrown toward Titanic specifically because it's "for teenage girls." I think what really made a lot of people double down on it because it was the highest grossing movie of all time. Whatever is #1 is automatically drawing some criticism of some kind as we see with Citizen Kane. "Is this really deserving of being the best" kind of analysis where people over scrutinize whatever it is.And I definitely remember a big criticism at the time being "it's only the highest grossest movie because so many teenage girls saw it multiple times." We don't see that kind of criticism toward highest grossing movie in the USA, The Force Awakens, where teenage boys and adult men saw it multiple times on opening day.

 

So, yes, I definitely think being a movie loved by teenage girls at the time is part of the backlash. That doesn't invalidate people's opinions who don't like it because Billy Zane is cartoonishly evil or the dialogue is repetitive and bad. It's not the only reason that there is a perceived backlash. It's definitely part of it.

 

With all due respect, i may be misreading your post, but I feel like you just changed the topic of the debate just to make the same point I made. Neither Tom nor I ever suggested that the movie wasn't targeted to teenage girls. Tom's point (im pretty sure) was if there is a sexist backlash against it just because it was targeted toward teenage girls, we should logically see that same backlash against movies like Clueless and Mean Girls which were also targeting teenage girls.

 

My point had nothing to do with it's target audience either. My point was based on Sy's post (which, admittedly, I should have quoted) that said a lot of extreme hatred was a result of sexism. I never denied this. I even said that I agreed with it - to an extent. My point is that there is also extreme hatred of the movie from people who clearly aren't sexist. I just question saying it's "because of sexism" when that's only applicable to a portion of it.

 

Tom and I are aware that sexism exists, it's terrible, and there are certainly people who don't like Titanic because of it. I'm just not sold on that it was a significant factor in the backlash. Just because sexism exists doesn’t mean that because someone doesn’t like something it’s because of sexism.

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I think Amy Nicholson needs to turn in her critic's credentials after this. Titanic is a cliche riddled, 1 dimensional archetype heavy, bucket of treacle. Cameron is a great technician, but his writing comes straight out of Syd Field (not a compliment). He has written some of the worst lines in cinema history;

 

Abyss: "You have to see with better eyes than that."

Titanic: "You see people, Jack." "I see YOU, Rose."

Avatar: "Killed for the paper in his wallet."

 

Nicholson can be forgiven for loving the movie at the time when she was so much younger, but to still tout it as amazing, and believe Cameron is our best director, boggles the mind (Spielberg is far from our best director, but that's another rant).

 

Titanic is a 200 million dollar Tommy Wisseau movie.

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With all due respect, i may be misreading your post, but I feel like you just changed the topic of the debate just to make the same point I made. Neither Tom nor I ever suggested that the movie wasn't targeted to teenage girls. Tom's point (im pretty sure) was if there is a sexist backlash against it just because it was targeted toward teenage girls, we should logically see that same backlash against movies like Clueless and Mean Girls which were also targeting teenage girls.

 

My point had nothing to do with it's target audience either. My point was based on Sy's post (which, admittedly, I should have quoted) that said a lot of extreme hatred was a result of sexism. I never denied this. I even said that I agreed with it - to an extent. My point is that there is also extreme hatred of the movie from people who clearly aren't sexist. I just question saying it's "because of sexism" when that's only applicable to a portion of it.

 

Tom and I are aware that sexism exists, it's terrible, and there are certainly people who don't like Titanic because of it. I'm just not sold on that it was a significant factor in the backlash. Just because sexism exists doesn’t mean that because someone doesn’t like a movie it’s because of sexism.

I think sexism is a notable part of the backlash though probably not all of it.

 

I think the reason movies like Clueless and Mean Girls don't suffer the backlash is because Titanic is deemed important and was the highest grossing movie of all time. If Clueless and Mean Girls won Oscars and made Titanic money, there would be some kind of backlash. But they are lesser in some way so people don't feel the need to take them down.

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I'm not accusing anyone here of disliking Titanic because lol teenage girls. There is valid criticism of Titanic and certainly James Cameron. It's totally valid to dislike Titanic regardless of age and gender.

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