Tag Archives: Titanic

The Films That Made Us — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

By Steven Moore

 

 

In the spring of 2004 I was a college student having an existential crisis. I know it’s hard to find sympathy for a college student with first world problems, but the world had not turned out to be what I thought it was. I had been raised in a Southern Baptist home, not strict but strong in their beliefs. Every ethical and epistemological question I had was answered by this upbringing. Four years of  questioning, and reading philosophy texts, literary texts, critical texts, and any other text I could find, had brought me to a point where I wasn’t sure what or why I was. I’m sure Jim Carrey felt the same.

He had been having a good run. The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, The Majestic, and even Bruce Almighty were great films that tapped more into his sense of drama and the human condition than his comedy. He had to be questioning who he was as an actor and entertainer. Did he want to be important or just funny? That spring, amid all of the chaos of being a college student with a growing family, the questions about my future, and my questions about life, came this little movie about memories. When Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind came out in theaters, I only went to see it because the title was taken from an Alexander Pope poem. I didn’t even know Jim Carrey was in it.

I saw it three times in the theater. The only other movie I’ve seen more than twice in the theater is Titanic, and that’s because I was trying to get on the good side of my then-girlfriend, now wife. It turned out to be the exact kind of movie I love: small and quirky with a touch of magical realism. The message of the film is summed up in a simple exchange toward the end of the movie. The two main characters, Joel (Carrey) and Clementine (played by the most beautiful and talented actress alive, Kate Winslet), have been losing their memories through a procedure that erases bad memories from their brains. When Joel changes his mind about it mid-procedure and makes various attempts to stop it, he can’t. Eventually, the realization comes that he is slowing losing an entire part of his life, the woman that he loves, and that it’s inevitable. He can’t change it, can’t question it; it will simply be gone, and he’ll never know it was there. In defeat, Joel asks, “What do I do?” Clementine’s response: “Just enjoy it.”

What’s so incredible about this scene is that Joel is not asking what he should do to stop the inevitable process of loss; he is asking what he should do now that he has accepted its inevitability. How can he find purpose in something he has no control over, something that will vanish entirely without a thought. What do you do when nothingness is inevitable? The only thing Joel and Clementine can do is enjoy each other in the time they have. The subsequent scene of Joel and Clementine playing like children in an old beach house and reminiscing about things they should and shouldn’t have done is the most romantic scene in film history. It is pure longing and connection on an emotional level. They acknowledge the mistakes they made and love one another for those mistakes. Joel realizes that without Clementine he has to face the void alone, and his terror at the prospect eventually drives him back to her.

 

 

Throughout the film, Clementine helps Joel face the unfaceable. He is able to face loss, shame, and helplessness as long as she is with him. By the end of the movie you realize that she gives him purpose, and that should be enough. His crisis in the film is that he doesn’t realize that she holds him up, that his crisis is only a crisis without Clementine. She helps him make sense of the world just enough that he can enjoy it instead of critiquing it.

With my wife the world makes as much sense as it needs to, and that’s enough. I am able to just enjoy it.

A Quick Rant — Titanic 3D

By Tom Kapr

I didn’t mind the fact that James Cameron was re-releasing Titanic using post-conversion 3D. Most films released in 3D through post-conversion look awful, because they were not actually filmed in 3D. But this is perfectionist James Cameron we’re talking about. His films are always on the front lines of technological advancement, and, with a few picky exceptions (obvious Schwarzenegger stunt doubles in True Lies), they hold up over the decades. And Avatar was one of the first films to really show what 3D technology can do for a film artistically.

Mainly, I just really wanted to see Titanic on the big screen, 3D or not.

Having now finally seen Titanic in the cinema for the first time ever, in 3D, I have to say, it is one of the most beautiful, visually stunning, emotionally gripping, and technically immaculate films ever made. The 3D, however, is a mixed bag. Here’s the good first: the depth of field is phenomenal. As far as pure dimensionality goes, it does exactly what 3D should do. It makes the world on-screen look as if you could step right into it. This is really only a next logical step in terms of cinema as a visual medium; it has always been a medium that created the illusion of depth (foreground, background, etc.). 3D just takes that illusion to the next level. And this is, without a doubt, the best-looking post-conversion 3D ever. No surprise for cinematic pioneer James Cameron.

But here’s the bad thing: You still have to wear those glasses, and even worse, in the case of Titanic, they darken the picture. I noticed this about halfway through the film when, just out of curiosity, I removed the glasses and looked at the film through my own eyes (well, my own prescription lenses, anyway). It was on a close-up of Kate Winslet. All of a sudden, without the 3D glasses, her skin looked much healthier, with more color, more red in her cheeks, and her hair was much redder. I went back and forth a couple times. The glasses made her look much grayer — almost sickly, in direct comparison.

Throughout the rest of the film, I would occasionally compare the picture with and without the glasses. The color was always much richer without. More reds, more blues. Especially during night scenes — so, for like, the entire second half of the movie — I was able to discern much more color detail without the 3D glasses.

I enjoyed the film immensely, and I actually have a much deeper appreciation of it than when I first saw it on full-screen VHS all those years ago. I would call it a masterpiece, even among Cameron’s higher-than-average number of near-perfect films (including Aliens and Terminator 2); and I would, in a huge change of opinion, say it deserved all the accolades it received back in 1998, including its Best Picture Oscar.

I am very glad I finally had the opportunity to see Titanic at the cinema. But I would much rather have been able to watch it without those 3D glasses, in glorious, illusory 2D.

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A few thoughts on Leo, Titanic, and middle school

By Nathanael Griffis

It takes me back to think it has been 15 years since Leonardo DiCaprio’s smirking face and unseemly stiff-gel-parted hair graced the big screen in Titanic. So much has changed. I never saw the movie in the theater because, well, there was a scene that involved inappropriate painting, I was told. Also, I was suspiciously certain there was a significant amount of kissing, which I wanted little to do with when I was ten. Yet despite having never seen it in the theater, I knew of the film and I knew of Leo. Oh how I hated his blue eyes and skinny little neck. I honestly don’t know why, but I despised him simply because he was in Titanic, and eventually, to protect my rep, I would brag about not having seen it.

I finally got a chance to watch the film on television, which was an enormous disappointment as a three-hour movie became a five-hour foray that was all the more disappointing for its lack of exposed breasts. I naturally blamed Leo and continued down my confused road of hatred. I begrudgingly enjoyed Catch Me If You Can, but didn’t watch Gangs of New York. Once I graduated high school, though, I realized that maybe I should have given Leo a break. It seemed that he had realized the error of his ways and was doing cool, gritty movies. Remember when your one friend was dating that awful bitch that you told him to dump, but he kept dating her, then they broke up and he came stumbling around and was always buying you pizza to make up for being such a dick? I feel like Leo’s career has been like that.

It’s as if he directly wanted to gain my approval. Like in some bizzaro universe, I was the father Leo never had, and despite all the accolades and praise he’d won for one of the greatest films of all time, I was never satisfied. Since Titanic, he’s made film after film that I love and has become one of my favorite actors. He’s worked with Scorsese, Spielberg, Nolan, Zwick, Scott, and Mendes. He basically could not have picked a more Nate-centric group of directors. Somehow he spoke directly to my heart and apologized for Titanic, how could I not forgive him? So in my forgiveness, after watching his face explode in The Departed, I sat down to watch Titanic during my sophomore year of college. I loved it, and came to realize that I had been simply jealous.

Looking back, I realize that it’s insanely foolish of us to hate teenage heartthrobs out of sheer jealously. What if it was my face that was plastered over every notebook? I’m not nearly as handsome. I didn’t sink down into the icy waters for love. I can’t sketch nearly that good, but I’d be willing to try. It’s taken 15 years, but I’ve come around and am excited to see Titanic in theaters, if only to finally see it on the big screen. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

Leo, if it means anything, I think I speak for all us middle-school haters out there: we forgive you. And I for one will gladly spend $14.50 on a revamped 3D version of your classic if only to thank you for the awesome career you’ve delivered post-Titanic. Here’s to you, Leo. You can sleep soundly now that your bizzaro-world father accepts you and is proud of you.

I love you too, Nate...

Now about this Zac Efron character. I hate that guy…

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)

James Cameron, Part III: The Future of 3D & Visual Effects

by Nathanael Griffis

So I’ve talked about James Cameron’s past, and Avatar, his present; now is the time to consider his future. He has prophetically spouted his greatness across the land. As annoying as that is, it is hard to deny. The evidence stands undeterred by the critical masses hoping that 3D is not the wave of the future, hoping that movie studios will just make normal films, hoping that we’ll still have money in our wallet at the end of the year. I hate having to pay four dollars more just because the movie is in 3D, and I have only seen two 3D movies (Avatar and Resident Evil: Afterlife) for that reason. Yet, I found myself regretting at times that I was so cheap and didn’t suck it up for, say, How to Train Your Dragon.

You’d think for a million-dollar camera they would have included red-eye removal.

3D is here to stay as long as it keeps making money, and there is no sign of it slowing. Some 3D films are losing at the box office, but others are taking in massive profits. Cameron’s Avatar would have kept on going if it hadn’t been for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, which stole the 3D screens from him. There is another reason 3D is here to stay, and the reason is simply James Cameron himself.

Seven years ago Cameron decided he wanted to develop a 3D camera that allowed for better control of the depth of field. The issue with most 3D cameras is that they use side by side images. The idea comes from the way our eyes perceive depth, which works when something has actual depth, but film does not. Cameron realized the old red-green filtered images of 3D were stagnant and did not show continuous depth of field. What he needed was a camera that allowed one to adjust the focal point exactly. Enter the Cameron/Pace 3D Fusion camera, and by “enter,” I mean walk down a seven-year-long hallway.

Two cameras for the price of... two cameras.

The Fusion camera differs in that it does not film two side by side images. It utilizes a beam-splitting 50/50 mirror that cuts the actual singular image, giving it depth. It places one camera lens inside the other, essentially. The most amazing thing about the technology is that it is not some massive rig. It’s a small 28-pound camera that’s silent and handheld. The cameraman has complete control of the 3D focal point as he films, and he has to be aware of how he’s filming, because the point needs to shift as the camera moves.

Cameron explaining to his cast something that proves he’s smarter than them.

It’s fascinating stuff, and what’s all the more amazing is that, from everything I’ve researched at least, it was Cameron who worked on it. It wasn’t someone under him; it was him. He also did all the handheld shots in Avatar to make sure the focal point was where he wanted it. (This is not unusual for Cameron, who did most of the camera work for The Abyss, Titanic, the Terminator films, and Aliens as well). The innovation he’s developed has reinvigorated the technological presence of 3D. It’s not a false pseudo-3D with the red-green image. Yes, it still requires glasses–I’ll get to that. There is an actual focal point in the film that our eyes adjust to. This focal point is the main cause of discomfort when you’re watching a 3D film. Your eyes see the depth of the screen and the depth of the image. They are then confused by the fact that there are two conflicting focal points, making your head hurt.

Owwies and boo-boos aside, these innovations will matter, mainly because it will open the door for more innovation. Already, Nintendo is risking a 3D handheld system that eliminates glasses. Televisions are being released with 3D capability. Would any of this have been possible without Avatar? No. Avatar was the movie that the industry was waiting to use as a litmus test for how they should move forward with 3D, and it blew the door down. A note on the glasses: I think they will eventually be eliminated because that is still the major complaint of viewers. Will Cameron be the one to do it? I don’t think so. Too many companies are interested and invested in this technology now. Cameron had seven years without much competition to develop the Fusion camera; this is not the same environment now.

The beauty of Avatar is that the 3D is used, not forced. It never felt like a movie that had to be in 3D. A sword didn’t fly out of the screen at you. It shows the difference between gimmick and technique. It made audiences, and filmmakers, aware of the proper usage of 3D and encouraged a demand for the non-gimmicky display. Cameron’s place in film has long been solidified as a director. Now, unless unexpected events crop up in the next few years, we’ll have to accept that his place as a technological innovator is all but solidified as well. He started off in special effects, and it’s to his credit that he’s never left that behind but improved the entire art form.

–Nathanael Griffis

30 Days of Madness, Day 8: Zombies of Mass Destruction

Zombies of Mass Destruction (2009) Co-written & directed by Kevin Hamedani.

That tagline says, "A Political Zomedy."

This is the second movie I’ve turned off part-way through. While it is nowhere near as offensive as that other zombie movie I watched that I don’t feel magnanimous enough to give the distinction of calling by its title, I’ve pretty much decided at this point that if a movie makes me feel physically ill during scenes where it’s trying to be funny–like with hilarious stuff like a guy getting his face slowly peeled off or a little girl getting hit and dismembered by a speeding pickup (yes, these are the funny scenes)–I’m just gonna go ahead and hit stop and waste no more of my time on it.

I don’t feel up to going into another diatribe, especially since I said quite a lot in my review for that other zombie movie that shall not be named, so I’ll just share my notes with you. Here they are, word-for-word, as written in my notebook during my viewing:

“Another ridiculous caricature of a Christian preacher and church. Thank you! Nobody notices zombies walking down the sidewalk in broad daylight? Frida’s really attractive. [Editor's note: Boy howdy. I realize I'm breaking into my own writing here just to reaffirm actress Janette Armand's hotness, but... I'm a guy.] Holy Moses, this gay couple is annoying. So far the only characters that seem to be getting a fair shake are the Iranians. [Editor's note: I'm all for a fair depiction of a Middle Eastern Muslim family, but when they're surrounded by a sea of cartoonish white Protestants, it kinda loses its meaning for me, y'know?] Oye, that wallpaper’s tacky. I am sooooo boooored. [Editor's note: Yes, I counted the o's.] Are there any likeable characters in this movie? Gosh, these Middle East puns are hilarious. Graphic violence played for laughs. This is some of the worst dialogue ever. He kills his boyfriend’s mother before he knows she’s a zombie, and they’re both okay with it, and then he makes a joke. Then a little girl gets hit by a car and her arm rips off in Frida’s hand. Hilarity! And… I’m done.”

Making light of the horrific death of a little girl crosses a certain line for me. Funny anecdote: I heard this director on the Flick Fights podcast being very forceful about his obviously superior opinion of what is and is not a bad movie. Titanic? Terrible. Zombies of Mass Destruction? Awesome!

Here is the Netflix synopsis of Zombies of Mass Destruction: “Set in a paranoid post-9/11 America, this nerve-wracking horror movie offers witty social satire as well as an abundance of blood and guts.” Replace “nerve-wracking” with “headache-inducing,” swap out “witty” for “stale and uninspired,” and add “a cartoonish version of” between “Set in” and “a paranoid post-9/11 America,” and you’ve got my synopsis. I don’t know how I can be more clear than that.

By the way, this movie is already being remade–I assume with a bigger budget and a cast of name actors. I can’t wait!… to not see that.

My Nateflix rating: 1 star (out of 5)

–Tom Kapr

James Cameron, Part I: An Overview of the Career of a Visual Effects Auteur

By Nathanael Griffis

With the re-release of Avatar into theaters this past summer, to the simultaneous groans and cheers of fans and critics alike, I found myself thinking about James Cameron. Perhaps he forces me to think about him by loftily describing his personal achievements as world-shaking. The hubris of the artist, though, is not enough to retract my fascination. To some this might feel too late, Avatar was last Christmas, but I believe distance from the film will lend itself to more honest criticism. And so, I want to take a look Cameron’s influence on visual effects throughout his earlier work and implications of such on the resurgence of 3D technology in film.

James Cameron is not exactly a prolific filmmaker–although not as slow as, say, Terrence Malick. Still, Cameron’s films wield such influence that it is worth one’s time to look at each. It all started with The Terminator, about as good a debut as one can have. Utilizing Harryhausen-esque stop-motion, makeup courtesy of Stan Winston, and a perfect combination of models and stuntwork to create the final robot, Cameron delivered chilling action scenes. (Luckily for him, a robot jostling forward in stop-motion looks natural.)

With Aliens, which some content is an improvement over Ridley Scott’s original Alien, Cameron showed a mastery of physical effects. He did simple things, like turning the camera upside-down to make the aliens appear to climb across the ceiling. Actual weather was used on massive, detailed models. Add all that to the magnum opus of expert puppeteer work and foreground miniatures in the final battle with the alien queen. These amazing special effects are perfectly combined with beam- and film-splitting and rear projection.

Cameron’s early work demonstrated a penchant for action choreography that arguably will never be matched, especially in Terminator 2. But before we reach that monumental film, let us not forget The Abyss. Cameron showed us the wonder of the world around us and the mysteries it could hold in this tense underwater thriller. The film developed new facial recognition techniques for the pseudopod sequence that revolutionized CGI (computer graphics imaging) and paved the way for future effects auteurs, especially Peter Jackson and his Gollum. The film also showed that Cameron hadn’t yet abandoned practical effects. He built an entire underwater set in an unused nuclear reactor and accomplished underwater shots that have never been re-attempted in over 20 years.

Terminator 2 was next and and provided a visual feast for the eyes both in terms of physical stuntwork and CGI effects. The film’s numerous chase and fight scenes flawlessly blended Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance with a CGI liquid terminator, countless explosions (actually, you could probably count them), and excellent makeup from Stan Winston. The film still stands as one of the best uses of CGI and doesn’t merely rival modern techniques but in many cases shames them.

Titanic is a similar example of physical and CGI effects perfectly combined. The sinking cruise ship is amazing to watch, as CGI people tumble off and plummet into the sea below. It is equally engaging as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet race through the sinking ship with hundreds of gallons of water bursting through elevators and unsealed shafts.

On the whole, Cameron has most assuredly changed the landscape of film and visual effects. He’s shown a talent for taking action-thrillers and elevating them to a finer level of art through a meticulous concern for the visual. His films have not been overtly resonant thematically, with the exception of Titanic, but they resonate on some other level inside us. It’s good entertainment; it’s intrinsic quality; it’s viewing an exciting, beautiful image; it’s a dedication to accomplishing the impossible. In these, Cameron is a master.

The question remains, though: Does Avatar improve or impair an already amazing filmography?

–Nathanael Griffis

DiCaprio’s Crappy Prose

By Tom Kapr

Ten years ago, if you told me you thought Leonardo DiCaprio was a good actor, I would have laughed in your face. Right in your face. I would have tried to make you feel bad about your life for having such an opinion. Granted, at that time, I was basing my opinion almost solely on his performance as Jack Dawson in Titanic (of which my opinion has not much changed).

DiCaprio in Shutter Island

DiCaprio in "Shutter Island"

Now, I have to somewhat sheepishly admit that DiCaprio has become one of our best actors. I wasn’t on board until late 2002 when I saw Catch Me If You Can. His performance as master counterfeiter Frank Abagnale Jr., whose daddy issues got him in way over his head with the law in several countries, was astonishing. (I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the credit due to director Steven Spielberg and co-stars Tom Hanks and especially Christopher Walken, who played the senior Frank Abagnale and had some genuinely moving scenes with his on-screen son.)

DiCaprio has since given some of the best star performances of the last decade, mostly in great Martin Scorsese films like Shutter Island (one of this year’s best), The Departed, and The Aviator, in which he gave arguably his best performance to date as Howard Hughes.

But I’m not here to talk about how great Leonardo DiCaprio is. I’m here to take him down a few notches. He is gonna be so burned when he reads this, man.

There seems to be a pattern emerging wherein no matter how great one of his films is, DiCaprio has that one line of stand-out cheesy dialogue that makes me want to throw Macadamia nuts at the screen. (I keep a handful in each pocket at all times for just such an occasion. If you want to follow my example, then also remember not to throw them at actual people who say stupid things. Stupid people have a tendency to react violently when pelted with nuts.)

My favorite example of what I like to call “DiCaprio’s Crappy Prose” is from Titanic, when Jack Dawson overhears that the ship is going down. Leo wrinkles his brow and flatly says, “This is bad.” Really, Jack? Are the impending deaths of 1,517 people bad? Because so is that line reading. (Incidentally, I asked Kevin Costner how he felt about the matter. All he said was, “My boat.”)

Here are a couple more gems (which I already realize might not be verbatim, so chill out):

“You want him to chop me up and feed me to the poor?” We’ve all heard this line about a thousand times, in every single piece of advertising for The Departed over the last four years. Somebody in that marketing campaign either really dug that line, or really hated DiCaprio.

“In America, it’s bling-bling, but out here, it’s bling-bang.” I heard DiCaprio came up with that one himself. I don’t know, maybe it’s more poetic in Afrikaans. But it’s anachronistic in any language. Blood Diamond takes place in the 90s, before that term was popularized.

“Come back with me, so that we can be young men together once more.” I know I’m butchering that line. I guess it’s not so much a bad line, as it is a line that draws more attention to what is already the most nonsensical part of an otherwise amazing film. Here’s my burning question about Inception: Why, in that scene, does DiCaprio’s character still appear so young while Ken Watanabe’s character looks like a mummy? If you’ve seen the film, you understand why I’m asking the question.

And here is the cheesiest line of them all, from the film at the center of the Incidental Dog review crew’s most recent podcastBody of Lies. DiCaprio plays a CIA agent trying to catch a high-ranking member of Al-Qaeda. He’s looking for a patsy to play up as a competing terrorist mastermind, and here is his description of who he wants for the unwitting job:

“Someone between Osama and Oprah.”

You know, I think I actually saw that job listing on Craigslist, and strangely enough, I believe I fit that description. Less militant than Osama bin Laden? Check. More militant than Oprah Winfrey? Check. When do I start?

Keep an ear out for more of DiCaprio’s Crappy Prose in your future film viewings. I will be.

(Enjoying the Rant Pad? There’s more! Visit our podcast home page at BuriedCinema.com. Then you can also Like us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, Friend us on Flickchart, and Subscribe to us on YouTube!)