When I was a teenager, one of the more pathetic things about me was that I let my sense of being “cool” affect the music I listened to. Even if I liked a song, I would talk myself out of it because it wasn’t “cool.” And yes, I realized that I wasn’t alone in that regard. Fortunately, as we get older, most of us grow out of that stage. That means we can admit enjoying things a lot even if they’re ridiculed by others.
My last blog-post involved two movie directors (Kubrick and Tarentino) whose movies are, most assuredly, cool. People who don’t like their movies almost have to apologize for “not getting it.” By contrast, many
From a critic’s standpoint, Titanic is easy pickings. Let’s begin by the fact that there has to be something seriously wrong with any movie about a horrible human tragedy that a TV network (TNT) could show three times on Thanksgiving weekend. (What are we giving thanks for – not being on that boat?) Titanic is a little too artificially upbeat for my taste, given the situation. I’ve always been put off by
I also can’t help but mention the singer of the anthem that is played at the end of the movie. If I had to be honest about my taste, I find Celine Dion’s music generally nauseating. Her singing alone makes the movie uncool. And yet … I have to admit that I really like that one song. In fact, playing that tune on the trumpet while standing on the back porch of my house during the remnant of a hurricane a few years ago was one of the best little pleasures I’ve had in a decade.
Yes, “my heart could go on” insulting the movie. Too much romance. Too much schmaltz. Too much
The portion of the movie that I loved the most was the time after the boat hit the iceberg. That’s when the human drama truly unfolded. There were so many images that show people at their most disgusting as well as at their best – and for the most part, I found those moments delightfully realistic.
My favorite moments in the movie involve the shots of the elderly couple lying in bed, holding hands, surely knowing that in a few minutes, they were about to drown. Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually can imagine people in that position behaving just the way they were behaving – as if the only thing they experienced in life is a romantic love devoid of all ephemeral infatuation and nourished almost entirely by the understanding of, respect for, and contentment in, each other’s spirit. Of course, if it were me on the boat, I’d be way too neurotic to be able to peacefully lie with my wife. But not everybody is a type A personality, thank God.
A similar, but wonderful moment involved the mother reading to her children – all of whom were about to drown. Yes, that’s a shame that she didn’t run for the lifeboats, as the three of them presumably would have survived. But I mention the example because it was another situation where we saw a person being willing to live the rest of her life expressing nothing but love for other human beings. Pure love. And it’s totally realistic that a mother in that situation would feel not a selfish bone in her body until she breathes her last. Sorry, but I find those last two sets of images pretty damned moving.
And what about the conduct of Jack and Rose when they were floating on the surface of the water after the boat sank? Realistic? In a sense, yes. Jack hadn’t met Rose until a day or so before, but I could imagine teenage infatuation being so strong that all a young man would think about is saving the life of his beloved girlfriend. She personifies beauty to him, and to save her would not only affirm his self respect but reflect a love of beauty that all healthy people have in spades … if only they allow it to flourish.
Still another magical moment of love involves the string quartet. Do you remember when the leader of the quartet mentions that “It has been a privilege to play with you tonight.” What a great word choice: a privilege. Dude is about to drown, and the combination of his affection for music and his appreciation for finding other likeminded people makes him feel privileged. What a cool thought – Spinoza and Nietzsche would love it! If we’re truly enlightened, we could find a positive emotion for any occasion. And then there is the designer of the boat – never resentful, always classy, and unlike the bumbling but ultimately decent captain, never without a modicum of poise. His character was also well done.
OK. There were dark characters in the movie too, and you better believe they lent the flick some realism. Rose’s fiancé was a total schmuck and, for the most part, believable. True, it was an inappropriate Hollywood-like touch to make him try to shoot his fiancé and her new boyfriend with a gun … and similarly unnecessary to tell us later that he put a gun in his mouth and shot himself during the Depression. But it was hardly unrealistic to show him ignoring a crying baby until he realized that the baby would be his ticket to survival.
Similarly, I loved (to hate) the character who demanded that the boat speed up in order to break some record. Yes, in this tale, he was primarily responsible for the sinking of the Titanic, and he knew it too. Yet that SOB couldn’t bring himself to go down with the ship. Even realizing that there were only enough lifeboats for a fraction of the passengers to use, he weaseled his way onto a lifeboat. And the look on his face was perfect: “Yeah, I know I’m a weasel. But I don’t have the courage to die. And if that means I’m a classless bastard, so be it. I’d rather be ugly, truly ugly, then dead.” Again – very realistic.
Is Titanic one of my all-time favorite movies? No. It was too flawed, too Hollywoodish, for that. But few over-the-top
I forgot how old I was when I started to resent the concept of cool. But I remember that it was one of the most liberating feelings I ever had. And then it hit me: what cool really means is to not give a damn about what others think is beautiful. The sooner you do that, the easier it is to open your eyes to beauty … and enlightenment.