TITANIC (1997, 3D-2012)

April 8, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. Of course I saw this one a couple of times when it was first released in 1997. Having only watched it once since, I was happy to hear it would get a re-release on its 15th anniversary … even if the marketing hook was the post-production 3D. My thought was with James Cameron working his technical magic, the 3D would be fine, and maybe even add to the spectacle of the sinking ship. After all, he was the mastermind behind Avatar, which with Hugo, are the only two films (in my opinion) that haven’t been weakened with 3D technology.

Unfortunately, I can’t overstate my disappointment in the 3D for Titanic. The colors and lighting are destroyed. When we first see young Rose (Kate Winslet) arrive to board the majestic ocean liner, her lavender hat appears almost gray through the 3D glasses. And later, the stunning crimson Renault, where Rose and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) get to “know” each other, appears dull and darkened. Additionally, so many face shots are darkened, rather than illuminated by the beautiful fixtures that adorn Titanic. I was so saddened to see such dullness on top of such greatness. Sure, there were a couple of times where the 3D gave a boost to a special effect, but the film is so beautifully made and such a technical marvel, that the impact is minimal to the positive.

What I will say is that despite my frustration with the technology, I do hope a new generation is introduced to the film. Personally, I am no fan of the love story between Jack and Rose. However, it is such a delight to see the young, eager versions of Little Leo and Kate as they go about their antics. They were 22 and 21 respectively during filming, and we now know them as mature actors and major movie stars. That wasn’t the case when Titanic first premiered.

The real genius of this film is two fold: the story-telling and the technical achievement. Gloria Stuart stars as 101 yr old Rose and she is used to perfection in telling the personal story of Titanic. Her love story with Jack allows director Cameron to show off the amazing ship from all angles … first class, third class, dining rooms and engine rooms. She also allows the viewer to connect with the characters on a personal level. The technical aspect is even more astounding. Sets, models, CGI, and documentary footage are all blended to form a cohesive presentation of one of the most dramatic events of the past 100 years.

Here are a few notes of interest regarding the movie and those involved. The movie was number one at the box office for 15 consecutive weeks and grossed more than $1.8 billion … a record that stood until Cameron’s Avatar eclipsed it. Cameron was already an established sci-fi director with Terminator I & II and Aliens, but he almost had the plug pulled by the production company due to cost overruns. Matthew McConaughey was the producer’s first choice for Jack, but (fortunately) Cameron held firm for DiCaprio. The elderly couple hugging each other in bed as the ship sinks were based on the Strauss’ who owned the Macy’s department store chain. And yes, there were Astor’s and Guggenheim’s onboard when it went down.  Kate Winslet (Best Actress) and Gloria Stuart (Best Supporting Actress) received nominations for playing the same character (Rose). If you have seen the movie before, pay particular attention to the secondary characters … the wardrobes and acting are tremendous: Frances Fisher as Rose’s mother, Kathy Bates as the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Billy Zane as the fiancé, David Warner as his henchman, Bernard Hill as the Captain, Victor Garber as the architect, and Jonathan Hyde as the sleazy ship owner. Also catch Suzy Amis in one of her last acting jobs before becoming Mrs. James Cameron … she plays the granddaughter to “old” Rose.

This is an historic film version of an historic event and should be seen by all movie lovers. Some of it is a bit hokey, but if you doubt the technical achievement, compare it to A Night to Remember, the 1958 version of the Titanic story.  And depending on your taste, crank up the closing credits and listen to Celine Dion belt out the Oscar winning Best Song.  She is, after all, “the greatest singer in the world” (an SNL gag).

watch the trailer for “the ship of dreams”:


TMI (3-24-12)

March 24, 2012

TMI (Today’s Movie Info)

Oscar trivia

Only two films have received 14 Oscar nominations.

 All About Eve (1950)

Written and directed by Joseph L Mankiewicz, it’s also the only film to receive four female acting awards:

BEST ACTRESS: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Celeste Holm, Thelma Ritter

The film won six (6) Oscars, including BEST PICTURE, but none of the ladies took home an Oscar

 Titanic (1997)

Written and directed by James Cameron, the film won 11 of its 14 categories, including BEST PICTURE. It swept most of the technical categories, but won neither of its nominated acting awards

BEST ACTRESS: Kate Winslet


Winslet was 22 at the time of filming, Stewart was 87

The only other films to win 11 Oscars are Ben-Hur (1959) and The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)



AVATAR (2009)

January 3, 2010

 (12-20-09) Greetings again from the darkness. Any lover of movies has been anxiously awaiting this “next film” from James Cameron. If you have lost track of time, it’s actually been 12 years since Cameron’s “Titanic” became the ultimate mega-box office champion. Finally, people can stop asking him what he’s been up to!

This is a very difficult movie to review or critique, so here is how I will describe it: it is a Film spectacle … I mean that in a good way. “Avatar” is an event similar to “Star Wars” or even “The Exorcist”. Much anticipation for seeing something we had never before seen on screen! And make no mistake, there are MANY things in this one we have never before seen. You will not find the list here because I believe this one should be viewed with as little upfront knowledge as possible.

The star of the film is not the actors, and certainly not the script, but rather the technology and special effects. Be sure to see it in 3-D, the way Mr. Cameron meant for it to be seen. Some segments are breathtaking in beauty and creativity and splashes of color. I was fascinated by Pandora, the planet where most of the action takes place. The plant life, creatures and inhabitants are truly a new world from the mind of Cameron and crew. Wow.

On the downside, the story is ho-hum at best and downright cheesy in more than a few scenes. Fans will easily pick out the influence of “Aliens”, “The Abyss”, the “Terminator” series … heck, even the song over the credits reminds of Celine Dion’s claim to fame. Another negative is Sigourney Weaver’s completely over the top and unbelievable scientist, and Giovanni Ribisi’s mugging corporate puppet. Who would have even imagined the usual laconic Mr. Ribisi was capable of overacting? Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana are actually very good as the leads. Especially Ms. Saldana, who emotes a wide range of emotions despite heavy make-up (an understatement), and is really the best non-technical thing about the film.

In a year of terrific, accessible sci-fi (Moon, Star Trek, Avatar), this one comes up short on story, but makes up for it with awe-inspiring imagery and visuals and sound.