Wednesday, December 19, marked the fifteenth anniversary of the James Cameron epic weepie Titanic. Here are fifteen thoughts, small and large, personal and not, on the occasion.
1. Originally, James Cameron wanted Jared Leto to play Jack (Leto wouldn't audition) and Claire Danes to play Rose (who turned it down because she'd “just made a romantic epic,” Romeo + Juliet). Guys, we could have had My So-Called Life With Nicer Clothes on a Boat. Also, imagine the manner of cry faces that Danes could have pulled here. The mind reels.
2. Titanic clocks in at three hours, fifteen minutes. This marks the first movie where I left the theater twice for pee breaks. My parents saw it near Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and the theater had an intermission so that people could go to the restroom. (And smoke.) Titanic is not Lawrence of Arabia — it doesn't have an actual intermission; they just stopped it at a random time because it was that long.
3. The first time we see Kate Winslet's face, it's from underneath a giant purple hat. She was 21, Leonardo DiCaprio 22, and she somehow looks a decade older than him.
4. I thought the scenes showing the engine room were so sexually charged — sweaty, sooty guys shoveling coal, the oiled machines churning in rhythm. But maybe that's because I was 16 and everything is sexually charged at that age.
5. I remember thinking, who wants to take a maiden voyage of anything? I’ll pass! Let someone else make sure it works, and I'll take the fifth voyage. We had just done a unit on Greek tragedies in school, so I was very proud to review the movie to my parents by saying, “The hubris!” over and over again.
6. The movie cost a ton to make — they created a full-size replica of the ship and floated it off Mexico to film — but it was also the first movie to gross over a billion dollars. When you add in the worldwide earnings from its April 2012 rerelease in 3-D, it adds up to more than $2 billion to date. The only movie to earn more than that is Avatar, another James Cameron movie, which is crazy because I'd rather watch Titanic every day than sit through that FernGully rip-off again.
7. Did Billy Zane unintentionally kick off the guyliner trend?
8. When the scene of Jack having dinner in Rose's world, all caviar and proper stuffiness in the first-class cabin, is juxtaposed with her in his world, busting out a jig at the Irish dance party in third class, it really makes you think the poor life is so much richer, amirite? Still, it’s not.
9. As Kathy Bates, who plays the Unsinkable Molly Brown, helps Jack navigate first class, even telling him which fork to use, I kept thinking about how the nice guy from the hotel also does that for Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, and how they could team up and do some kind of reality show where they teach straight-talk etiquette classes, because I would definitely watch that. Why isn’t there an etiquette teacher reality show yet? Is there an etiquette teacher reality show I don't know about?
10. Oh, the jewelry. To me, that jade and gold butterfly hair comb was always more covetable than the Heart of the Ocean necklace, but half the girls in my high school in the D.C. suburbs wore knockoffs regardless. There was even a Heart of the Ocean battle at the 1998 Academy Awards — Celine Dion wore a $2.2 million version of the necklace and champ Gloria Stuart (she played old-age Rose) wore a $20 million one. The necklace is a blue diamond, not a sapphire, surrounded by white diamonds, but it looks a lot like Kate Middleton's engagement ring, which is weird because the $2.2 million necklace was auctioned off to benefit Princess Diana's charity after she died.
11. Jack is from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. He's the second greatest fictional Chippewa Falls resident, after Annie Hall.
12. Cal's mean British valet/assistant guy is named Spicer Lovejoy, perhaps one of the best character names of all time. If this is not a name currently used in porn, can any of the porn actors currently reading this piece please make that happen?
13. Those flares they shoot off are so pathetic, especially considering the captain knows the nearest ship is four hours away. Seriously, Pi's life raft had better flares. This was the moment in the movie when I started weeping. I’d had a knot in my stomach because I knew the ship was going down and it wasn’t going to end well, but I hadn’t cried yet. So here’s where I snot-face, gasping-cry lost it. All those people trying to get in the lifeboats, and there's only enough room for half of them? And the poor lady with an infant has to stand there so a rich guy can take the last spot? And the musicians are willing to die playing their instruments to calm the crowd? Weeeeeeping.
14. In my memory, Celine Dion belts out “My Heart Will Go On” during a few emotional moments in the movie, like after the “I'm the king of the world” scene on the bow, and definitely when Jack dies. Get ready to be shocked: There is no Celine until the end credits. The only singing voice heard during the film is from Norwegian soprano Sissel Kyrkjebø.
15. I have made it a point in the fifteen years since to not see movies in a theater if I know they are going to make me sob in public. I'm talking things like Schindler's List (or really any Holocaust film), Hotel Rwanda, or that new tsunami movie The Impossible, the trailer of which made me cry. Thanks to Titanic, I now save such intense displays of emotion for the privacy of my living room.