Titanic (1997)

Image result for titanic

My only fond memory of Titanic is from a student exchange trip to Russia, when I saw a middle-aged Russian man rocking a Titanic-themed t-shirt plastered with Leonardo DiCaprio’s face.

Back when I was in high school, and this movie was all the rage, and Celine Dion was inescapable, and I was cynical of anything pop culture, I vowed to myself that I would never watch Titanic.  And until now, I’ve been able to keep that promise.

I knew the obvious plot points, of course – the boat sinking, the doomed love story, something about a naked drawing, old lady framing device.  I recognized some other random moments thanks to various parodies or references in other media, such as the Irish jig replicated in Battlestar Galactica or that episode of Futurama, or that other episode of Futurama.  But I finally had to see the whole film to truly appreciate how stupid it is.

You would think that a movie about a massive ship sinking would carry enough drama and gravitas on its own, but no:  this movie also has to add a ridiculous MacGuffin to explain why some guy would be sending submersibles to search the wreckage, and why a little old lady would travel by helicopter to the middle of the ocean to tell her granddaughter and a bunch of strangers about the time she lost her virginity.  What happened to the giant valuable diamond?  Who cares, because its existence and disposal is completely meaningless!

Right around the time a normal movie would be wrapping it up in time for the closing credits, the iceberg finally strikes.  Trivia point:  both in real life and on film, the impact took 37 seconds, which happens also to be the 37 seconds that I stopped paying attention.  I actually liked the way people mostly didn’t really get the severity of the situation for a while; that felt genuine based on every disaster I’ve been witness to.

But what didn’t feel genuine was the way Jack and Rose decide to go traipsing back and forth through flooded sections of the ship, completely impervious to the cold temperatures.  And the absurd gun fight when Billy Zane decides he’d much rather shoot Jack than hop in the lifeboat.  When the stern splits off from the bow and slams back into the ocean, the people on deck suffer little more than a faint shudder, because physics.  While I’m complaining about inanities, I’d also like to point out how stupid it is that a charcoal drawing survived 80 years in a waterlogged safe.

Did cold-hearted Bridget get emotional watching this film?  Okay, I’ll admit that I did – but it was when they showed all the second- and third-class passengers who clearly weren’t going to make it out alive, not when Jack was cheerfully turning himself into an icicle.

At least Rose finally gets to share her story of lost love.  “He exists only in my memory, which is why I like to imagine him looking like Leonardo DiCaprio.”

Thank God I took on this project, because otherwise I never would have experienced the pure face-palming that is Titanic.  And with that, gentle readers, I’m finished!  Next week, I’ll do a summary post or two, along with a ranking (of either the whole list, or maybe only part, depending on how lazy/busy I am.  Thanks for joining me on this journey!

 

Theme:  On a Boat

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  I have a sinking feeling…

All the King’s Men (1949)

Image result for all the king's men

“If you yell ‘foul’ long enough, hard enough, and loud enough, people believe you.”  If I suspected Trump might have done some research while preparing for his run for president, I’d say that he watched this film as a primer.  And if I’d watched this film a few months earlier, I wouldn’t have cringed in recognition at every scene.

Willie Stark is an everyman who sees corruption in the political world around him and vows to run for office to stop it.  He fails, but attracts enough attention so that a vaguely Hugh Laurie-looking guy follows him around to write about his campaign.  Then he tries again, encouraged by more powerful figures using him to steal away votes from their favored candidate’s opponent.  Instead, he rallies the uneducated masses to join him in a populist upheaval and suddenly finds himself with more power than he’s ever had.

Obviously, he uses that power to improve humankind and champion important causes, right?   If you believe that, you probably voted for Bernie Sanders.

The funny thing is, without knowing much about this film, I initially believed Willie Stark to be more of a Bernie-type character.  He runs on a platform of improving the conditions of his fellow “hicks,” the local farmers and working class folks who don’t have a voice in government.  With that plan comes free medical care, free education, no tolls or taxes – and an end to rampant corruption.  Who exactly will pay for this grand vision with all of these social services and no taxes is a crucial question, but fortunately we don’t need to find out, because is as corrupt as they come!

That’s where the movie takes a turn from #FeeltheBern to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain.  Willie surrounds himself with minions and Mafioso-style heavies primed to do his bidding, whether it’s a judge who ignores his son’s drunk driving incident or the mysterious death of a political rival.  It’s like looking into the future of America.

What happens when the public gets duped?  I understand this film (and the book it was based on) was written about Huey Long, a political figure from the 1930s.  As always, when I’m seeking wisdom in a post-apocalyptic world, I turn to Battlestar Galactica:  All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.  Leaders of any kind are at risk of the power going to their head, or of convincing people that they will do something and then do something else.  It happens in oligarchies and in democracies.  The question, left mostly unanswered in this film, is how much damage will be wreaked before the people realize their mistake and take measures to correct it?

 

Theme:  King

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  They say he’s an honest man

Patton (1970)

Image result for patton

Is this America enough for you?

Okay, I’m going to be perfectly honest:  I only half-watched this movie.  I’ve certainly done that before in this project, where I play poker on my phone or fold laundry or something while the movie plays in the background.  I figure, whatever, it’s not like I’m writing a proper review or something, so if it doesn’t grab me, then I might as well do something useful with my time.  But Patton was another thing entirely.  I definitely sat through the whole three hours, but I can’t say I gained anything from it.

If you want to actually learn something about World War II, I’d recommend reading a book.  If you’d prefer to watch a bunch of explosions and see a guy who’s kind of an asshole depicted as a hero, you can watch this film – or, really, just about any war movie from the past fifty years.

Now, I’m the first to admit that I struggle to follow movies with large casts of hard-to-distinguish characters or films that attempt to dramatize a swath of real-life events.  Though I’ve read quite a bit about WWII in my time, I didn’t know much about Patton’s role in the war.  This movie didn’t clarify a lot, except that his big “claim to fame” was that he mocked soldiers he believed weren’t courageous enough in battle, which almost cost him any lasting glory.  The film chose to overlook entirely his expressed views on Jews and blacks (spoiler alert:  not positive).

I don’t often mention topical issues in conjunction with my Oscar project, but I couldn’t help seeing the parallels here between Patton’s near-fatal mistake and Trump.  Patton slapped a soldier in hospital for “battle fatigue” – the era’s euphemism for what we now think of as PTSD – because he considered it to be cowardice.  Apparently, soldiers are meant to be mindless killing machines in his world.  Fortunately, instead of ruining his career, it merely redirected his command to Operation Fortitude, the phantom army at Dover that was meant as a diversion from the real invasion at Normandy.  Most of this I learned from Wikipedia rather than the movie.

There were a couple of interesting moments that sparked my attention.  At one point, someone says, “I shaved very closely in anticipation of being smacked by you,” which sounded startlingly familiar.  I should have guessed it, considering my memory for quotes is limited to those scenes I’ve seen many times.  Turns out, it was used on Battlestar Galactica, when Tom Zarek encounters Laura Roslin in a moment of political rivalry.  Apparently, the writers of BSG really loved this movie, because another line features prominently, as well.  Patton makes an off-hand comment about needing soldiers who are razors, once again echoed in a storyline on BSG.  Admiral Caine apparently has a crossover kinship with General Patton.  Imagine the fanfiction.

My attention to this film project has been flagging a bit recently, probably in part because I have a fair number of films like this to get through that don’t inspire me much.  That’s okay; I’m in the home stretch, and there’s definitely a trilogy or two of movies that I can look forward to binge-watching in the near future.

 

Theme:  General

First Time Watching?  Yup

Final Verdict:  Not as funny as Patton Oswalt