The first time I set eyes on my wife of now 30 years, Cindy, it was 11/9/76. My family went to Papa Luigi’s, Waterbury to celebrate my parents’ 30th Anniversary and Cindy was our waitress. I decided immediately I had to have her but would be patient since my friend Steve got me a job there as a dishwasher starting New Year’s Day. They were dating…sort of. Through my annoying persistence & the nature of the restaurant business, we became best friends…but that was all. Then 11 months to the day after we met, I got the nerve to ask her for a date the following afternoon: A hike to its namesake at the top of the mountain in Black Rock State Park, Watertown. “It’s been 37 years, and I can still see the fall foliage from that day; the fresh paint on the picnic tables. The trail was rarely used. Black Rock was almost never set foot on.” When we got to the Rock, we talked a good deal & decided to go back to school together. “‘You know, my dream was always to run away & become an artist, living in a garret – poor but free’”, she said. ‘But I’m rethinking that position.’ I leaned over & tried to kiss her for the first time, worried that my advance would be rejected, but thinkin’, “‘When ya got nothing, ya got nothin’ to lose’”. It was not rejected. I was elated! I jumped up, stood on top of Black Rock, “world at my command” & shouted from the mountaintop, “‘I’m King of the World!’”. And because of my Princess, I still am.
I opened my introduction to James Cameron’s 1997 masterpiece, Titanic, with a love story because that’s what this film is – a love story…set to the backdrop of a horrific tragedy: One of the worst nautical disasters ever. We all know the tale: The unsinkable ship – the largest in the world – did just that on 4/15/12, on her maiden voyage, having struck an iceberg just hours earlier. Titanic shines a spotlight on the bigoted upstairs-downstairs culture through the ship’s accommodations & the unlikely love story of Rose (Kate Winslet) & Jack (Leo DiCaprio). And how disaster is a titanic equalizer. It’s incredibly moving & brilliant: The winner of 11 Oscars in 1998 at the 70th Academy Awards. That tied the record for the most Oscars ever by a motion picture. It was nominated for another 3, tying the record for nominations as well. Kathy Bates’ fantastic portrayal of The Unsinkable Molly Brown was overlooked for a nomination. Gloria Stuart, in her Supporting Role as Old Rose, was not! Rose’s granddaughter Lizzy is played by Suzy Amis, Cameron’s wife since 2000. Titanic’s reception at the box office was equally titanic: The first film to gross $1 billion & the 5th highest grossing ever, when adjusted for inflation. The initial ticket sales frenzy was due in no small measure to recidivism by American teenage girls, a demographic not considered scholarly with respect to critical analysis as a rule. Titanic is the exception that proves it!
Movies about major tragedies, be they natural or manmade, are called disaster films. They were very popular in the ‘70’s. Generally, the disaster is a sub-plot as it is in Titanic – a romance where Jack & Rose’s love escalates as time runs out. Great cinema is usually more about the human condition than plot, which is why you can see movies over & over. Other important disaster films: Fire! from 1901, probably the first; Ronald Neame’s The Poseidon Adventure; the original King Kong; The Towering Inferno; 1975’s The Hindenburg; and The Perfect Storm. “Ladies & gentlemen, it has been a privilege writing to you today” about the best disaster film ever made, James Cameron’s Titanic. Watch the trailer below then stream it Netflix for the first time, or the first time again! 4 Stars!