James and The Giant Boat

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I saw James Cameron’s “TITANIC”on a Saturday night soon after it opened in December of 1997. I was a 16-year-old middle-class white male with no girlfriend, but there were multiple reasons that I wanted to see it anyway, despite the more male-oriented aversion to what was thought of as “a chick flick we know the ending of.”

1). I was a proper movie geek by that time and pretty well-versed in Cameron’s previous blockbuster outings like “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

2). I had read Walter Lord’s non-fiction novel, “A Night to Remember” (about the sinking of the Titanic) just a few years before in 7th grade.

3). I’m a sucker for a well-made tragedy.


So when my mother asked me to see it with her in the theater (because my father was more of the Braveheart ilk), I was perfectly happy to do so. When we got home afterwards, my older sister (by 3 years) asked me for my opinion. My response was something like, “And the Oscar goes to…” My foresight was proved correct, but that was at the Academy Awards about 2 months later.

For many months before it’s release, fueled by an escalating budget and pushed-back release date from July to Christmas, the media speculated that “TITANIC” would not only be the biggest disaster in film history, but also signaled the director’s (and perhaps studio’s) crushing, public demise. Despite only making $28,000,000 on its opening weekend, and owing largely to repeat viewings by teenage girls in love with Leonardo DiCaprio, “TITANIC” would gross over a billion dollars worldwide.


It was a phenomenon… and it seemed to never go away. It was everywhere, and it got annoying to a lot of people really quick. Around this time I got my first job – the movie section of the now defunct Media Play franchise. There were TVs running throughout the entire place and they were all on the same feed. The music video of the movie’s theme song “My Heart Will Go On,” written by the score’s composer James Horner and sung by Canadian diva Celine Dion, seem to be the only song played in the store during that Christmas season. And then that spring. And then summer. Over and over and over.

When the movie was released on VHS in September, 9 months after it’s theatrical release, the song was still playing – as was the movie, which played for almost 300 days. By then only teenage girls wanted it to still be around. People were ready for James and his giant boat to just sail away and never come back.


It was during this time that I started to read stories about James Cameron. Stories people in Hollywood had known about for years. Stories about a man with an ego the size of the ship he sank…

Next week, Part Two: James and The Giant Ego!