Nearly 30 years after James Cameron‘s Titanic was released in theaters, it remains a cultural powerhouse. This epic Romeo and Juliet-style romance meets historical disaster film is as powerful today as it was in 1997.
The new Off-Broadway musical review Titanique the Musical takes the narrative of the film and lovingly satirizes what can only be seen as a classic. Wealthy Rose DeWitt Bukater (played by Kate Winslet on screen and by Carrie St. Louis on stage) and working-class Jack Dawson (played by Leonardo DiCaprio on screen and Constantine Rousouli on stage) fall in love in spite of the barriers standing in their way. Hijacking her way into the story, Celine Dion (Marla Mindelle, who co-created the show with Rousouli), puts her own two cents in via her decades-long music catalog.
I haven’t laughed this hard at a stage show in a long time. Mindelle’s version of Dion is an SNL-type impression that could have easily devolved into a cheap caricature. Instead, she lovingly parodies Dion as only a fan can.
I loved the pop culture references, I loved the humor, and I loved the respect the creators had for original work. As an old millennial who saw Titanic in the movie theater in 1997, I appreciate this show in many ways.
I don’t say this very often, but I am tempted to see the show again.
Titanique the Musical is playing at the Darryl Roth Theatre in New York City until September 10th,2023. Check the website for tickets and showtimes.
The behind-the-scenes stories of the inspiration of our greatest literary work are fascinating to me. As a reader, it allows for a deeper understanding of the work and the psyche of the author.
The 2004 film, Finding Neverland, is based on the origin story of Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie‘s (Johnny Depp) career as a writer is near its breaking point. The failure of his latest work has threatened to destroy his career. Seeking inspiration, he goes out for a walk.
Randomly he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet). Sylvia is newly widowed with four young sons. Her third son, Peter (Freddie Highmore) has not yet gotten over the death of his father. As J.M. becomes close with Sylvia and her boys, there are two obstacles to their friendship: his wife Mary Answell (Radha Mitchell), and Sylvia’s mother Emma Wightwick ( Julie Christie).
J.M. becomes a paternal figure to the boys and is trying to bring Peter out of his grief. As this is happening, a germ of an idea comes to him. When it seems that Peter is finally turning the corner, his mother gets sick.
This film is lovely. It is well-written, well-acted, and the perfect tearjerker without being too schmaltzy. Winslet, as usual, is gold. Depp is at the peak of his career. Unfortunately, his reputation as an actor and a human being has taken a hit that is of his own doing.
Jake and Neytiri leave their home and find refuge with another Na’vi tribe. Led by Tonowari (Cliff Curtis) and Ronal (Kate Winslet), they rely on the sea for everything. While their children try to fit in and learn the ways of their hosts, Quaritch gets closer. Eventually, it becomes obvious that the only way to stop him is for Jake and the Na’vi to take him head-on.
This movie is incredible. The 13-year wait and the 3+ hours run time are completely worth it. Balancing narrative, special effects, and climate change, James Cameron tells a story that is both effective and powerful.
As he did in the first film, he used the allegory of the Na’vi and the destruction of their world as a warning about ours. I have had to hand it to Cameron. A film of this type, with all of the disparate elements, could have easily failed. The special effects might have overtaken the story, the filmmakers could have gotten on their soapboxes, etc. But they all blend seamlessly together.
What I loved was that at its heart, it is the tale of a family. Parents doing their best to raise their kids, young people trying to find themselves, learning from our mistakes, etc. Cameron also continues with the tradition of strong female characters. Ronal and Neytiri do not wait for their mates to rescue them. They are just as badass and in charge as their partners.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Avatar: The Way of Water is presently in theaters.
One of the things I find fascinating and frustrating as a grownup is that we claim to have the ability to be mature and think things through in an intelligent and reasonable manner. That being said, it is amazing how easy it is to revert back to childish behavior.
Directed by Roman Polanski, this movie reveals what happens when people stop being polite and start being real (to borrow a quote from The Real World). The most interesting narratives are the ones that reveal our shortcomings as human beings. This one has revelations oozing from the core, asking all of us to look at our own imperfections and be honest about the weaknesses we need to work on.
*Warning: the post contains minor spoilers about the narrative and characters in Sense and Sensibility. Read at your own risk if you have not read the book or have watched any of the adaptations.
Two years ago today, the world lost of one this era’s greatest actors: Alan Rickman.
My favorite Alan Rickman performance will always be Colonel Brandon in 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. Playing opposite Kate Winslet as Marianne Dashwood, his character (as it was faithfully adapted from the novel of the same name by Jane Austen), was a man who held the proverbial cards to his chest. When the audience meets Colonel Brandon in the film, he introduced as the good friend of the cousin who is renting a small cottage on his property to the newly widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. A bachelor in his mid 30’s, he is amiable and a gentleman, but his character and his past are a mystery at that juncture in the narrative.
Over the course of the story, Colonel Brandon is revealed to be a man whose past is filled with grief and heartbreak. Rickman played the part with nuance and sensitivity, elevating the character to a new level, reminding Janeites why Colonel Brandon is one of the favorite leading men within the Jane Austen universe. Rickman himself became a fan favorite, gaining new fans and a new level of respect from the Janeite fan base.
RIP Sir. While your physical remains are gone, your spirit and your body of work will live on forever.
Titanic is basically the story of a fictional upper class Juliet and a lower class Romeo set on the real ship. Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a poor artist who wins a ticket on the Titanic over a game of cards. Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) is a socialite who is unhappily traveling with her mother and fiance back to America. Fate brings them together, but can fate and love keep them together as the ship sinks and issues of class and wealth get in the way of a happy ending?
I was a teenager when this movie hit theaters. Like many teenagers back then, I thought the movie was, well, perfect. There was romance, drama, class politics, beautiful period clothing, and on top of it all, one of the most infamous naval disasters in modern human history. When I look back at the film through the eyes of an adult, the luster is slightly gone, but this film will always have a place in my heart. While James Cameron is not the best screenwriter, the narrative and dialogue could be much worse. Of course, it helps that Leo and Kate’s on-screen chemistry (and off-screen BFF relationship) is indisputable.
Titanic is one of those movies that 20 years later, I still know by heart. There are some movies that will always mark certain times in our lives. Titanic will always be a reminder of my teenage years.
I think I may watch it again, not just for old time’s sake, but because it’s still a pretty good movie.
There nothing as exciting as a forbidden romance, especially on the big screen. For a film where the basic narrative is a forbidden romance to not only initially succeed at the box office, but to last long after it has left theaters, well, it has to be pretty special.
While some films within this narrowly defined narrative have failed and have been forgotten, both Titanic (1997) and Dirty Dancing (1987) have gone on to not only become classics, but also generational markers. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Titanic and the 30th anniversary of Dirty Dancing, I’d thought it was time to celebrate these remarkable films that have stood the test of time.
Loosely based on the sinking of the actual Titanic, the film combines real events with real people who were on the ship with the fictional romance of upper class girl Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and lower class boy Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). Told in past tense by Rose in her twilight years (Gloria Stuart), Rose is traveling on the Titanic back to America with her mother, Ruth Dewitt Bukater (Frances Fisher) and her unwanted fiance, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).
Rose and Jack have a near immediate connection, but the difference in their class nearly keeps them apart. Then Titanic hits the iceberg and everything changes.
I think many writers (including myself) will agree that James Cameron is not the best at writing dialogue and the plot is predictable, but that is the fun of this movie. It is also to progenitor of the fictional story within a real historical event genre. And who could forget the film’s theme song, which no one could get away from in the late 1990’s.
Set in the early 1960’s, Frances “Baby” Houseman (Jennifer Grey) is a young woman going up to the Catskills with her family for summer vacation. Lacking in confidence, Baby is young, idealistic and naive. She falls for Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), the hotel’s lead male dance instructor who is technically off limits to her. When Penny Johnson (Cynthia Rhodes) is no longer able to join Johnny on the dance floor, Baby steps up the plate. But she is not a dancer and is aware that both she and Johnny are breaking the rules by not only dancing together, but falling in love.
What can one say about Dirty Dancing? The music is danceable (and singeable), Baby is an every woman and Patrick Swayze was not too bad on the eyes either. It’s basically a coming of age story combined with a forbidden romance, which elevates the movie to a higher plane of character and story development.
And course, Dirty Dancing has it’s own iconic theme song.
The fact that both of these films have lasted as long as they have is a testament to the power of love, the dangerous excitement of forbidden romance and the fact that both films are incredible.
P.S. The inspiration for this post came from the reboot of Dirty Dancing, which will be airing on ABC on Wednesday. Look for my review later in the week.
Chaos is not always a bad thing. It leads to change, which leads to new opportunities.
A Little Chaos is about the creation of the garden of Versailles and the landscape artists who helped to build the garden.
Alan Rickman pulls triple duty on this film. Director, co-screenwriter and stars as Louie XIV. Matthias Schoenaerts is Andre Le Notre, who is trusted with the task of building the gardens. Kate Winslet is Sabine De Barra, a widowed gardener who works with Andre to build the garden.
As Andre and Sabine work together to create the garden, forces are plotting to prevent the garden from being completed. Andre’s spiteful wife, Madame Le Notre (Helen McCrory) sees Sabine as a rival and is more than eager to sabotage her success. Louie is willing to take a gamble on garden, but will the vision become reality?
This movie is phenomenal. Twenty years after Sense and Sensibility, the chemistry between Rickman and Winslet is still there. In the lead roles of Sabine and Andre, Winslet and Schoenaerts have the solid chemistry that makes a historical romantic drama believable. And for my fellow Janeite’s, the Austen connection goes beyond Alan Rickman and Kate Winslet. Jennifer Ehle (Pride and Prejudice), Rupert Penry-Jones (Persuasion) and Phyllida Law (Emma, Miss Austen Regrets) all have roles in this film.
The romantic comedy genre (shortened to rom com) is a pretty basic genre. Two people meet and something sparks between them. But there are boundaries, acted out in a light and funny way, to what may be their happy ending. While there are many rom coms that are formulaic and predictable from the get go, thankfully there are a few movies within the genre that are not.
In The Holiday (2006), Amanda (Cameron Diaz), who lives in Los Angeles and Iris (Kate Winslet), who lives near London, are having relationship issues. Needing a break from their lives, they meet on a house swapping website and agree to live in each others homes during the holiday. In England, Amanda meets Iris’s brother, Graham (Jude Law). In Los Angeles, Iris meets Amanda’s 90 year old neighbor, Arthur (the late Eli Wallach) who helps her to regain her confidence while she starts to fall for Miles (Jack Black), one of Amanda’s colleagues.
While I normally don’t care for Jude Law or Jack Black, both are charming in this movie. Jude Law, playing a Cary Grant-esque Graham and Jack Black, without resorting to his usual man boy clownish acting are genuine in their parts.
What I like about this movie is that it is simple and sweet without being too predictable. We can all agree that every genre has it’s standard plot markers. But this movie reaches those plot markers without the audience feeling like they saw it comes a mile away.
In Somethings Got To Give (2003), Erica Barry (Diane Keaton) is a successful playwright. Her thirty something daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) brings her much older boyfriend Harry Sandhorn (Jack Nicholson) to her mother’s Long Island home for the romantic weekend. Marin does not know that her mother and aunt Zoe (Frances McDormand) are there. After suffering a heart attack, Harry is rushed to the hospital where he is treated by Dr. Julian Mercer (Keanu Reeves) who develops a crush on Erica.
At the time of the movie’s release, there was a bit of a kerfuffle in regards to the brief frontal nudity of Diane Keaton. But it was so brief that the audience had to blink or they would miss it. That aside, what I like about this movie is that Keaton and Nicholson, for once, are age appropriate for on screen romantic couple. Adding Reeves and Peet to this very odd love square was a wise touch by the screenwriter.
The 1950’s are often viewed with the lenses rose colored glasses. Television programs like the Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best presented the image of the perfect Caucasian middle class family where the problems were simple and solvable with 30 minutes. Life is never that perfect or that easy.
Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates’s novel about the imperfections beneath the surface, was published in 2000.
Frank and April Wheeler are living what seems to be the perfect suburban middle class life in the 1950’s. But there are issues bubbling beneath the surface the threaten their marriage, their family and the image that they have cultivated for their friends and neighbors.
In 2008, the book was adapted into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
The book and the movie are both incredible. Despite it’s glossy image, the 1950’s was a very complicated and dark decade. Like any couple, Frank and April had problems that are not always obvious to the passerby, but upon further inspection, reveals large issues that are unresolved. The end is unflinchingly heart breaking.
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