After reading yesterday’s riff about Matt Drudge appearing as a character in Impeachment: American Crime Story, a filmmaker friend wrote the following: “I remember seeing you with Drudge on the Paramount lot at that early Titanic screening. I think you were in the front row? Or maybe I was.”
HE reply: You were in the front row. Drudge and I were sitting with the late Marvin Antonowsky around the middle of the orchestra. The screening happened on or about 11.21.97, and it was raining when I arrived.
Remember when it used to rain in Los Angeles? Two or three times a year, mostly between December and March.
Gregg Brilliant was the Paramount publicist with whom I spoke on the way out. (I think.). I was very emotionally affected by Gloria Stuart’s death-dream finale. As was Drudge. The current was palpable. The physical and technical achievements aside, I knew in my heart of hearts that 93% of Titanic was only good (or pretty good), but that the last 15 or 20 minutes were heartbreaking, and that the finale was levitational.
A day or two later Drudge wrote that he’d just seen Titanic, and had “left the show in total tears.”
Because of the heavy rain and dark clouds during my drive between People headquarters to the Paramount lot, I had naturally turned my lights and windshield wipers. Upon parking I killed the wipers but forgot to turn the lights off. So when I returned to the car three and a half hours later, the battery was drained. Hello, AAA!
Nobody will ever feel the Titanic vibe the way a lot of us did back then. It was ruined, in a sense, by the worldwide mob loving it so much. The more popular it became with K-Mart Nation, in fact, the less affection I was able to feel for it. Or express my feelings for with any freedom.
The hip backlash kicked in a month or two later, and for the last 24 years it’s all but impossible to find anyone who will admit to even liking it. Even to this day, the hip intelligentsia despises it almost as much as they do Green Book.
Titanic didn’t make more money than any film in the history of motion pictures because it provided cheap emotional junk-food highs to teenage girls swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio. It was because it touched people (including my cranky, emotionally shut-off father) in a way that, like it or not, was extremely primal and shattering. When a film connects this strongly and deeply, it has done something right.
At the very least Titanic provided a payoff in such a way that the first 90%, some of which was merely sufficient and some of which was admittedly mediocre, served as a mere preamble or build-up. The most affecting films always do something like this. They simmer and marinate and take their time with the various ingredients and themes, and then along comes the last 15 minutes and it all starts paying off like a slot machine.