March 29, 1998
Itís official. Titanic is now the best movie ever made. James Cameron himself told me so. I guess if Cameron really is "King of the World," then Titanic is the best movie ever Ö until his next one.
(Memo to Jim -- Humility is a much better emotional peg for an Oscar acceptance speech.)
Yes, Titanic took home eleven Oscars. Yes, itís one hell of a great film. Yes, I cried.
No, itís not the greatest film of all time.
Come on. You know itís true. But youíve been afraid to say that Casablanca or Gone With the Wind or Citizen Kane is better.
Donít be afraid. Yell out from the top of your lungs. "Yes, I enjoyed To Kill A Mockingbird more than Titanic!" Doesnít that feel better?
Itís way, way too early to start judging Titanicís place in history. Will it eventually contribute a "Hereís looking at you, kid," or a "Frankly, my dear, I donít give a damn," or a "Rosebud" to our collective culture? Years from now, will people turn to each other and say, "Oh, Iíll never forget Jackís last words to Rose Ö "Gurgle." How romantic!"
What makes a movie memorable? My vote is for the characters. We remember Rick and Ilsa, if not every detail of Casablancaís complex political situation. We remember Scarlett OíHara and the dashing Rhett Butler. Will Jack and Rose join that pantheon? It seems unlikely.
No, what we have with Titanic is sheer spectacle. Itís emotionally involving enough to make you care, enough to make you cry. But thirty years from now, will you remember even one line from the film?
This isnít supposed to be a big knock against what Iíve admitted is a great film. Itís just a rumination on how films earn a place in our heart. And, to coin a phrase, I think my heart will go on without a Titanic-sized hole in it.
Yay, Jim Cameron. Yay, Leonardo DiCaprio. Yay, Kate Winslet. But my heart still belongs to classics that have stood the test of time. I look forward to seeing whether or not Titanic is still "see-worthy" in thirty years.