So today is an ACTUAL bank holiday Tuesday! Wow, these don’t roll around often. So as is often my wont, I spent the morning lying in bed, watching the 1997 disaster-histori-romantic-epic that is Titanic. I have a little maxim which is- If you enjoy something, have the moxie to enjoy it sincerely. I’m not into this ‘I love it ironically’ business. if you’re enjoying something for it’s badness, then that means you don’t like it- you can enjoy things you don’t like, and you can recognize that the things you do like are flawed and problematic in places. So I enjoy Titanic. I enjoy it sincerely, as a decent film, and yet I can also LOLz along at the sillier aspects of the production. So here I present both my drinking game rules and my sincere fondness for Titanic.
I’ve been obsessed with Titanic since I was little; I am a bona fide hobbyist, growing up in a house filled with books all about the wreck and the social history surrounding it. I spent many’s a long day playing in the park next to the old White Star line office in Cobh, co. Cork, and seen the rotted old pier from which the passengers of Titanic fetched their boat. When I was five (which is the point around which I start remembering news events and film releases) the James Cameron film came out. Back in the day, my parents went to cinema maybe once in five years and we had a collection of about 10 movies on video tape, so my nostalgia is pretty narrow from that era. I clearly remember the night my parents went with my grandparents to see it in the pictures, and I remember countless evenings sitting down to watch the cassette tape because it was basically the only non-Disney film we had.
So I have seen Titanic countless times, from the age of 5 to 20, and I have to admit I have always wondered why it gets as much hate as it does. I mean, I’ve heard people call it a shit movie. I’ve heard people call it the worst thing they’ve ever seen. I really don’t get this. I will hold up my hands and admit that it isn’t my favourite film or the best film I’ve ever seen, but I don’t think it gets it’s dues. So here are three broad things I like about Titanic
1. The Special effects
The special effects in Titanic blew my mind when I was a kid and while they have aged, they’re still stunning. I would call Titanic the first film of the 21st century style- I know it was pre-2000 and pre- 9/11 but it has the sort of scale and ambition you see in a lot of later films like Lord of the Rings and particularly Chris Nolan fare. Here the special effects are for spectacle but I think they stand out because they’re based in a familiar world and reality- one of the reasons Avatar didn’t strike me as a special effects MASTERPIECE is because that’s *all* it was. Once you marvel at the blue people running through a CG forest for a few minutes, it gets boring. Contrast with say, the motion capture performance Andy Serkis gave for Gollum in Lord of the Rings- the fact that Gollum is inhabiting a world that we can somewhat recognize makes it so much more effective.
2. The performances
Titanic does have something in common with Avatar in that they both have stock stories- Avatar is Pochahontas, and Titanic is a basic inter-class romance that happens to be set on the worlds most ironically marketed ship. Where they differ is in how these stories are executed and on the basis of screenplay, Titanic blows Avatar out of the water. It’s just a better told story, performed with better actors. The cast here all fill their purpose- baby Leo di Caprio idealism-ing it up as the romantic lead, Kate Winslet being all repressed and suicidal, Billy Zane being fantastically evil.
3. The Screenplay
I will defend this mother fucking script. Fuck everyone I will.
A lot of people get hung up on the love story element of Titanic and I’ll admit, I’ve never seen why. Sure, it’s a love story. Is that the only reason it’s bad? Because if it’s decently performed by an excellent cast, I don’t see the problem. The tension of a love story usually lies on ‘will they or won’t they get together’ but here the tension is the fact that the audience knows there’s a cosmic deadline of sorts- and so the story becomes not just ‘will the forces of class and society tear them apart’ and rather ‘who’s gonna die, are they gonna live, FUCK an iceberg! etc.’
I have heard the complaint that the film only focuses on two (fictional) people and not on a selection of passengers, like ‘A night to Remember’ does. Well, firstly if you wanna see a Night to remember, watch freaking a Night to Remember. (no really do it’s a classic film). I don’t mind anchoring the story on a few people out of 2200 passengers; having an inter class romance also serves to show us the contrast in conditions and lifestyle on the ship. I’ve seen other movies based on real life disasters and histories that followed just one person- The Pianist, Life is Beautiful, Schindler’s List, the English Patient, Gladiator- and they’re all fine. I don’t see the problem with focusing on just one set of people. Besides, the film does have a massive recognizable cast of extras and it’s a bit of a punch when you notice each of them dying as the film goes on.
Now, saying I like the movie, I don’t deny it is FULL of bad lines, cliches, tropes and memetic moments. Keeping this in mind, in the spirit of good fun, I created a drinking game to go along with the film. Here it is in it’s entirety
THE TITANIC DRINKING GAME
Every time the title of the film is mentioned in Dialogue, everyone must cheer and down their drink
Drink every time Jack or Rose get wet
Men- take a drink every time Rose says ‘Jack’
Women- take a drink every time Jack says ‘Rose’
(They say each other’s name a lot; please only play this rule if you want to get really wankered)
TAKE A SIP EVERY TIME-
The movie passes the Bedchel test (2 named women have 1 conversation about something that is not a man)
The Heart of the Ocean theme plays
The modern framing characters say something cynical
There is an ironic ‘this ship will never sink’ line
Frabizio ‘Italian-izes’ a swear word (e.g. ‘Bastardo’, Mother Funkolo’)
a real life character is portrayed on-screen (Bonus points for shouting ‘OH HI <Character’s name>!’ and waving)
You laugh out loud at a cheesy line/Old Rose says something sentimental
KATE WINSLET SHOTS (take a shot of your choice whenever the following happens:)
Kate Winslet’s American accent slips
Kate Winslet has a topless scene (Applicable to any Kate Winslet Movie)
Rose’s mother/Billy Zane say something sexist to Kate Winslet
FINISH YOUR DRINK WHEN
the script has social commentary
you hear trad music on the soundtrack
There is an epic panning shot of the ship as the music swells
I won’t go a long way to defend Titanic as the best movie of ALL TIME- I do think it’s got a lot of silly 90s sentimentality on it (Mostly personified by Billy Zane) but it holds up. I can only ever see the backlash for this movie coming from the fact that it’s a love story, and I just don’t get that. It’s a decent, if cheesy, movie, and it looms quite large in my personal nostalgia. Maybe that’s why I’ll defend it and be fond of it, due to childhood nostalgia goggles, but in recent years I’ve still enjoyed it.
If nothing else, the drinking game is fun.
Niamh ‘You’re not the king of the world, you’re just on the front of a boat’ Keoghan