Why Titanic does repeat business.

I Find Karma (adam@cs.caltech.edu)
Wed, 11 Feb 1998 14:12:32 -0800

Titanic was nominated for 14 Oscars, including odds-on favorite for Best
Picture. It has now grossed $340 million domestically, placing it at #4
of all time behind Jurassic Park, E.T., and Star Wars. It has been #1
in the box office for 8 straight weeks. And now, it's an LA TIMES
column one story...

Obviously, to some people, this movie is more than entertainment.
It is cathartic and life altering:
> "We don't want anybody's 'this is just a movie' attitude to be
> surrounding us while we're having a moment," Epstein said.

The full text appears below and comes from


> LA TIMES COLUMN ONE -- February 10, 1998
> They Really Love That Sinking Feeling
> By AMY WALLACE, Times Staff Writer -- amy.wallace@latimes.com
> Why are so many returning so often to see 'Titanic'? For some
> it's romance, for others it's just 'something human' in a film that
> could become a cultural touchstone.
> Lisa Epstein saw the movie "Titanic" for the first time on
> Christmas Day. She's seen it four times since, and when she says it
> has changed her life, her voice trembles, rises slightly and then
> sinks.
> Epstein and her friend Carrie Tislow discuss James Cameron's saga
> about the world's most famous seagoing disaster constantly. They
> divide people into two groups: members of "the club" of fans and
> everyone else. Tislow is saving her five ticket stubs as
> souvenirs. She, like Epstein, owns a movie poster, soundtrack and book
> and even a tiny piece of coal (price $10) retrieved from the real
> ship's wreckage.
> In the theater, these two are easy to spot: They're the ones
> carrying the extra coats, which they put on the seats around them as a
> buffer.
> "We don't want anybody's 'this is just a movie' attitude to be
> surrounding us while we're having a moment," Epstein said.
> Tislow agreed: "After the movie, you just sit and you cry. We
> don't want anybody to intrude."
> You could chalk all this up to teenage infatuation with actor
> Leonardo DiCaprio or to the romantic excesses of adolescence--except
> that Epstein and Tislow are grown-ups. The 29-year-old training
> consultant and 30-year-old account representative at Airtouch Paging
> in Atlanta know their obsession with the movie is extreme. They say
> they can't help themselves.
> Most movies are lucky to strike a few emotional chords with an
> audience. "Titanic" seems to be playing a symphony. Eight weeks after
> its release, it remains No. 1 on the box office charts, and is widely
> expected to receive several Oscar nominations today. Despite mixed
> reviews, some which deemed the movie sappy or overwrought, it has
> grossed $337 million, edging out "Forrest Gump" as the
> fourth-highest-grossing domestic film ever and prompting predictions
> that it may be the first film ever to gross $1 billion worldwide.
> With its doomed lovers and its eye-popping special effects, the
> 3-hour, 14-minute epic is a chick flick with muscle. Exit polling done
> by Paramount Pictures (which co-financed the $200-million-plus film
> with 20th Century Fox) shows that 40% of viewers are male. And it's
> not only youngsters who are hooked: Of all those polled who have seen
> the film two times or more, 37% are 25 or older.
> But even broad demographic appeal cannot completely explain the
> current frenzy. In recent weeks, the nation's pundits have evoked the
> sunken luxury liner to symbolize everything from the failure of
> technology to the future of President Clinton's popularity.
> Meanwhile, in cyberspace, Titanic-related chat abounds. And
> although the film's subject matter doesn't exactly lend itself to
> scores of promotional tie-in items, the soundtrack is the
> biggest-selling score since SoundScan began keeping figures in 1991. A
> book about how the movie was made, "James Cameron's 'Titanic,' " has
> topped the New York Times bestseller list for nonfiction paperbacks
> for four weeks, and booksellers report a surge of interest in anything
> related to the ill-fated ship.
> Observers of popular culture, industry analysts and die-hard fans
> say the film has tapped into something, well, deep.
> Throughout history, only a handful of movies have emerged as
> cultural touchstones. "Gone With the Wind" and "2001: A Space Odyssey"
> were so in sync with the hopes and fears of their eras that audiences
> took them to heart, using them as prisms through which to view their
> own lives.
> Could "Titanic" be next?
> Thomas Terashima, a 31-year-old film school technician from
> Vancouver, Canada, thinks so. He has seen the movie four times and
> plans to go at least twice more because, he says, he learns something
> new every time.
> "The movie asks the big question: How do you face a situation of
> certain death?" he said, recalling a favorite scene: The quartet of
> tuxedo-clad musicians bravely playing the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee"
> as the great ship goes down. "Sure, there are special effects. Sure,
> Cameron spent umpteen millions of dollars. But what people actually go
> for is connection or catharsis. For something human."
> That connection is rooted in part in an enduring fascination with
> the real Ship of Dreams, the New York-bound vessel that sank in 1912
> after hitting an iceberg in the frigid North Atlantic. The British
> ship was not carrying enough lifeboats for its 2,200 passengers and
> crew, and 1,517 people died--a tragedy whose scope gives the movie a
> built-in emotional charge.
> "Don't single out the girls. Guys cry too," said Kyle Yauck, an
> 18-year-old freshman at the University of Wisconsin who got teary-eyed
> each of the five times he saw the film. "You know they're all going to
> die. That's what makes it so 'oh my God!' "
> Add to that the fictional love story, between the wealthy Rose
> DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson, a pauper-artist played
> by DiCaprio. Sentimentalists have not had this much to choke up about
> since "The Bridges of Madison County," Robert James Waller's slender
> 1992 novel (which became a 1995 film) about a four-day affair between
> an Iowa housewife and a nomadic photographer.
> Jack, like Waller's Robert Kincaid, is the archetypal free
> spirit, traveling the world to pursue his art. Rose, like Francesca of
> "Bridges," is tied down (she's engaged to a domineering but rich cad
> named Cal). Nevertheless, our heroes can't keep their hands off each
> other: Jack and Rose end up in the back seat of a car (true to the
> period--Cameron is a stickler for detail--it's a Model T.)
> Although "Titanic" is schmaltzy and even dopey at times, fans
> insist that it combines the grandeur and sweep of "Dr. Zhivago" with
> the Cinderella-like themes of "Pretty Woman." And it does something
> else, too, says David Smith, president/entertainment at Frank N. Magid
> Associates, an international media market research firm: It offers a
> new model of a love affair in which the man not only woos the woman,
> he also sets her free.
> "Rose's fiance personifies the constraint of women in society. He
> says, 'Keep in your place,' " Smith said, adding that women he's
> talked to (namely his 16-year-old daughter, Harper) are bowled over by
> Jack because "he empowers Rose to live out her fantasies and break out
> of her bonds. That's what makes my 16-year-old and all her friends
> keep going back."
> DiCaprio's ability to lure teenage girls was proved in 1996, when
> he played the lead in Baz Luhrmann's wild-in-the-streets version of
> "Romeo and Juliet." That is clearly part of the drawing power of
> "Titanic"--so much so that some in the industry have given it a name:
> the "Leo factor."
> Fourteen-year-old Jaime Stuppy, an eighth-grader at St. Brendan's
> Catholic School in Los Angeles' Wilshire district, was so moved by
> DiCaprio's performance that she has seen the movie four times and even
> built a miniature model of the ship. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Erica
> Diem, a seventh-grader at El Rancho Middle School in Anaheim Hills,
> says she and her friends have even incorporated DiCaprio into their
> study habits.
> "We were doing vocab words the other day and one word meant that
> a woman could have more than one husband," said Diem, who has seen the
> movie twice and plans to go twice more. "My friend said that would be
> really great. You could have one that could cook, one that could clean
> and one that was really hot: Leonardo DiCaprio."
> But the pull of "Titanic" goes beyond DiCaprio's pretty
> face. Here is proof: Even people who think the actor looks like a
> scrawny punk next to the womanly Winslet say they are moved by the
> movie's mushy parts. Jim Sadur, a 42-year-old software engineer and
> history buff from Wayne, N.J., saw the movie twice and cried both
> times.
> "If you didn't," he said, "you may not have a pulse."
> Tislow, the account representative from Atlanta, admits that
> DiCaprio, for all his boyish charms, fails to enthrall
> her. Nevertheless, she credits the film with nothing less than
> changing her definition of what it means to be in love.
> "I want what they had," Tislow said of Jack and Rose. "And I'll
> tell you, I'm not going to stop until I find it, now that I know it's
> out there."
> In the end, the runaway success of "Titanic" may come down to
> this: Whether by design or coincidence, it is simply the right movie
> at the right time. As the art critic Deborah Solomon recently observed
> in a profile of painter Chuck Close, people today, weary of risk and
> uncertainty, crave familiarity in their lives and in their art.
> "We want novels that have beginnings and ends, plays that tell
> stories and don't leave us stranded with characters who are passively
> waiting for someone or something that may not exist," she wrote. "In
> art, too, we yearn for plot. . . . This is the '90s and we're all very
> busy, so please, spare us the big cosmic riddles."
> Leo Braudy, an English professor at USC, says "Titanic"--grounded
> in history, chockablock with footage of the actual ship and richly
> told in narrative style--does just that for its audience. And its
> story is particularly compelling now, he says, at the end of the
> millennium when people are seeking "an antidote to the paranoia about
> where the world is going that is keyed up by the coming of the year
> 2000."
> The main engine of that paranoia, expressed in earlier, bleaker
> films such as "Brazil" and "Blade Runner," is the fear that in the
> future individuals will be powerless to improve their lives, Braudy
> said. But "Titanic" is different.
> "This movie says that individual will counts," he said. "You may
> die but you're going to die honorably or dishonorably--and that's up
> to you. That's reassuring: That it's within your power to say
> something about your own character no matter how catastrophic an event
> it is."
> Sign on to the Internet, and that theme is evident. On the
> Countdown 2 Titanic message board, fans with pseudonyms like
> "Titanicholic" compare favorite lines of dialogue and argue over the
> particulars of certain scenes. A spirited debate was waged over whose
> hand--Jack's or Rose's?--smudged the steamy window during the love
> scene in the Model T.
> But under the heading "Personal Impact," scores of people with
> apparent earnestness describe how the movie has improved their
> lives. "After seeing this movie," one fan wrote, "I'm a completely
> different person. I respect life more."
> Not everyone is so serious on-line. One woman, determined to
> break the movie's hold on her, created the Post-Titanic Stress
> Disorder Web site--one of dozens of sites inspired by the film. And
> during nightly chats, fans get playful, discussing whether "Titanic"
> will become a cult movie like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," whose
> devotees go to theaters dressed as their favorite characters and act
> out the movie as it plays.
> "Imagine all the scenes that could be played out in front of a
> live audience: Rose jumping off the ship, the 'I'm flying' scene, the
> sketch scenes, Rose wielding an ax, Rose spitting in Cal's face," one
> man wrote.
> Leigh Grinstead, the director of the Molly Brown House Museum in
> Denver, Colo., says all this is cause for celebration. Her museum,
> located in the 14-room mansion of the Titanic's most famous unsinkable
> survivor, has its own Web site, and ever since the movie opened, it
> has been overrun with visitors. What was once a few hundred hits a day
> has mushroomed to as many as 100,000, and the museum has had more foot
> traffic than ever.
> "All of a sudden," she said, "those people who didn't care about
> history, who just think it's about old or dead people and dusty
> libraries, have discovered that history was filled with people just
> like them--that it's really the tale of all of us."
> Maybe that's why the movie's themes are proving so resonant these
> days, especially when it comes to the subject of the 42nd president of
> the United States.
> A San Francisco critic, questioning Clinton's unswerving faith in
> the power of technology, called "Titanic" a "fable of fallibility for
> the high-tech age." A Minneapolis radio station used the film's
> signature song, Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," to poke fun at
> Clinton's alleged affair with a White House intern, remixing the track
> with Clinton's voice saying, "I did not do that," again and
> again. Still another commentator used the boat's compartmentalized
> structure to describe the way Clinton has tried to separate his
> personal and professional lives.
> Steven J. Ross, a USC historian whose book, "Working-Class
> Hollywood: Silent Film and the Shaping of Class in America," is due
> out this month, published an essay in The Times accusing the movie of
> reinforcing conservative ideas about the inevitability of class
> hierarchies and injustice.
> "Cross-class fantasies have always had a powerful grip on the
> American imagination. This film has the veneer of liberalism--[Rose]
> is willing to give up her class for [Jack]. But in the end it is still
> the poor that die and nothing changes," Ross said. Still, he had to
> admit: His 11-year-old daughter loved the film.
> "She's so thrilled," he said. "Her mom just got her a poster."


I'm on the top of the world!
-- Titanic