TITANIC (1997)

On this week's episode, The Unenthusiastic Critic is going down with the ship, as we discuss Nakea's first viewing of James Cameron's Titanic (1997).

Though widely predicted to be a career-ending, studio-sinking flop, Cameron's risky, romantic disaster flick ended up breaking every box-office record, and tying the all-time records for Academy Award nominations and wins. For months after its December 1997 premiere, teen-age girls were going back to the multiplexes three, four, or fifty times over to re-experience Kate and Leo's doomed love affair, but Nakea—a teen-ager herself at the time—somehow never even saw it once.

Now—on the film's 25th anniversary—will The Unenthusiastic Critic's frozen heart go on this journey? Or will she just be rooting for the iceberg?


0:00: Prologue: from Titanic
01:18: Cultural Osmosis: Pre-Viewing Discussion
29:10: Interlude: Original Trailer
31:22: The Verdict: Post-Viewing Discussion
1:05:12: Outro and Next Week's Movie
1:06:52: Outtake

Notes and Links

—Movie Reviewed: Titanic (dir. James Cameron, Paramount & 20th Century Fox, 1997)
—Links and Sources: "Going Down with the Ship?" Sharon Waxman and Paul Farhi, Washington Post; "When Titanic was Expected to be a Huge Flop," Jake Rossen, Mental Floss; Review by Todd McCarthy, Variety; "Who's Lining Up At Box Office? Lots and Lots Of Girls; Studios Aim at Teen-Agers, A Vast, Growing Audience," Bernard Weinraub, NY Times; "Fan Sinks Into Titanic Obsession," Associated Press;  "Titanic Sinks Again (Spectacularly)," Kenneth Turan, LA Times; Review by Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com; "James Cameron: From Titanic to Avatar," Christopher Godwin, The Sunday Times; "How I Learned to Surrender and Love Titanic," Sean Burns, WBUR; Review by Dana Stevens, Slate; "Fifteen Thoughts on the Anniversary of Titanic," Sarah Wexler, Vulture; The Good, the Bad, and the Multiplex: What's Wrong with Modern Movies?Mark Kermode, Random House UK, 2012.
—Find additional episodes, leave a comment, or make a donation to support the podcast at unaffiliatedcritic.com.
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—"Warm Duck Shuffle" by Arne Huseby is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

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1 thought on “TITANIC (1997)”

  1. Much has been written about the manic pixie dream girl trope. But, in "Titanic", Leonardo DiCaprio embodies the manic pixie dream boy.

    I think you're onto something with the question of whether Cameron is implying that Rose and Jack's lovemaking, along with the sinking of the Titanic, ushered in the social changes of the 20th century, since he shows the lookouts distracted by the two lovers spilling out onto the deck to continue making out, just before they see the iceberg.

    The Unenthusiastic Critic may not have approved of Rose braving the water in the bowels of the ship to rescue Jack, but that was my favorite sequence in the movie. (Was that one of the times Kate Winslet reportedly got hypothermia? She looked it in the scene where she was trying to aim the ax.)

    Some of Cameron's shots are identical to those in the British film, "A Night to Remember", including the one of Mr. Andrews standing in front of the clock, one of the Captain returning to the wheelhouse to go down with the ship, and, earlier, one of kids gazing at the distress rockets.

    About those rockets. As long as Cameron's "Titanic" is, it nevertheless has some glaring omissions. With the exception of a deleted scene, he completely leaves out the subplot of the Californian, the nearby ship that had shut down for the night and was the reason the Titanic was firing the rockets, to try and get its attention. In "A Night to Remember", that led to some scenes on board the Californian that would be darkly funny if they were not so tragic.

    Cameron got in trouble for vilifying the first officer, Murdoch, and had to apologize to his family. He made the second officer, Lightroller, who was the hero of "A Night to Remember", considerably less heroic, but the evidence seems to back up Cameron on that one. However, the needs of the love story apparently caused Cameron to partially defame Molly Brown, who famously commandeered the lifeboat she was in to search for survivors and threatened to throw the crewman overboard if he tried to stop her. Cameron, instead, has the crewman threaten to throw Molly overboard to make her shut up. He made this change, apparently, because had Molly been the one to find Rose, then Rose would not have been able to change her identity. That bothered me more than anything else in the film.

    About the elderly Rose returning the diamond to the sea, there's an alternate ending, where the explorers catch her about to toss the diamond and try to talk her out of it, but Bill Paxton has an epiphany and agrees that the diamond belongs there. As silly as that sounds, I think it works better, in context, than the theatrical version.

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