published in Volume 5, Issue 1 on March 1st, 1998Three years ago, I wrote a column about Forrest Gump and how Eric Roth and Robert Zemeckis hit on all cylinders to deliver a very cohesive, touching, moving story that people around the world connected with.
Three years later, I'm writing about Titanic, a movie that quite possibly has changed my life forever. I don't mean that I've fallen in love with and have devoted my life to Kate Winslet, or that I've necessarily become a "Titaniac". On the contrary, there was something about that movie that struck a chord deep inside of me, and I'm still trying to figure it out.
As far back as I can remember, I've loved movies. During my childhood and teenage years, my father and I didn't get along very well. What teenage boy and father do? He was constantly telling me how I was going to end up like the messed-up kids he saw at his AA meetings.
I wasn't a drinker, nor did I partake of drugs. My "addiction" was to the computer screen. As an only child, I had my make-believe playmates, but I found new, uncharted worlds in the still larval online communities. And this was where my father thought I would become like those zonked-out, drug-addicted kids he saw at his meetings, unable to relate to the "Real World".
But when I wasn't glued to the computer screen, sending e-mail via crude text-based interfaces, or bringing new, programmed worlds to life, I was watching TV. Or going to movies with my father.
It was a safe way for the two of us to spend "quality time" together. We could maintain minimal, "safe" chatter in the van on the way to the theater. We would share in the experience of the concession stand, which always brought Junior Mints, popcorn and a Dr. Pepper. More idle chatter would ensue in the theater itself, and then finally the lights would go down and we could both comfortably spend time together, which meant time together without talking.
The dark theater. The smell of popcorn. The constant crinkling of Twizzler sacks or popcorn bags. The odd seating arrangement dance between male friends and first-time dates. The click-click-click of the projector at the rear of the theater. The previews. To me, it was all magical, and it was the time I got to play at being a real son for 75 or 90 minutes, with a real father who did things with me.
I vividly remember seeing Star Wars for the first, second, fifth and eighth times. My father must have been tired of, "But I was going to go into Toshi Station to pick up some power converters!" I never tired of it, though. Four times in the theater, four times at the drive-in.
Then there was "Stir Crazy" and "The Toy", which I relished because they were R-rated flicks. I think he had a secret admiration of Richard Pryor, because as a rule I wasn't even supposed to watch R-rated movies on cable. There was a huge donnybrook at home when "Porky's" came to cable.
Family movies were a rare event, indeed. As a family, the only movies I can remember seeing are "Norma Rae", "The Verdict" and "E.T." Mom wasn't a huge fan of going to the movies, and I think she understood that they were "quality time" for my father and I.
I certainly lucked out when I met my wife Kris ten years ago in high school. She had been raised in a good movie-going family, so it wasn't too hard to convince her to go to movies on dates.
There were times when we made sure that we had seen every movie at the Q-Cinema 4, which became the Q-Cinema 6 and eventually the Q-Cinema 9. It became more difficult to keep up when it went to 9 theaters, but we somehow managed. It was probably skipping classes occasionally or going to movies instead of studying for finals that helped. Our first date was Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and for our ten-year anniversary last December, we went to As Good As It Gets.
Last December, Kris and I went to see Titanic the Thursday after it was released. We arrived late for the showing and ended up sitting in the second row of the packed theater of the Oak View 24, the newfangled AMC multiplex that has been my main movie hangout since it opened last December. I'm not sure if it was because we were in the second row and the screen totally filled our vision, but as the ship was sinking, I felt as if I was on the ship, with the people of Titanic, going to my watery grave.
As I write this, the movie is well on it's way to becoming the top-grossing domestic film of all time, ahead of my beloved Star Wars. For a movie about a ship that sinks to the bottom of the ocean, it has certainly risen to new heights in the hearts of millions of people around the world.
I've watched plenty of "touching" movies in my time, including movies like Forrest Gump, The Bridges of Madison County (a rare instance where the movie was much better than the book), and even As Good As It Gets. But I've never had an experience like the one I had when I saw Titanic that night in December.
I was able to convince Kris to see it again at the end of January, and it moved me even more the second time. I'm confident enough in my manhood to admit that I cried more than once during the movie.
Even as I write this, I'm still not sure what it is about the movie that touches me so deeply. I think it has to do with equal parts of my admiration for James Cameron's driving vision for his own version of perfection in the directing aspect of the movie, the excellent performances by Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Gloria Stuart and the rest of the Titanic ensemble, and the fact that movie is able to combine a love story, an action film and a historical drama into one cohesive movie.
There are people who walk away from the movie feeling cheated. They wanted to learn more about the rest of the people on the ship. They wanted a more believable love story. They wanted to be moved more than they were.
Which is fine. I don't think James Cameron expected the movie to do as well as it has. I don't think he expected it to become a cultural phenomenon. I don't think he expected it to touch people so deeply. Let's face it, when people are going back to see a three hour and 15 minute movie three or four times, there's something at work here.
Which brings me back to the point I started off with. Titanic, unlike other movies before it, has somehow changed my life forever. For the most part, I wander through life, from moment to moment, not really planning on what I'll do next. Things always seem to work out for the best, whether it's getting a good job straight out of my graduate program, or ending up teaching computer science when I used to be deathly afraid of public speaking.
But now, for the first time in my life, there's something I actually want to do. Something that I actually want to accomplish before I die. And that thing is to make a movie.
During my years as a fan of the movies, I've always caught myself trying to figure out how a scene was put together, how it was staged and blocked, how the camera was used to get the shot. But I've never given it much thought beyond my obsession with figuring out how things work.
Now, however, I see how a movie can touch people. I see how a movie, regardless of your opinion of the love story or the minor anomalies in historical accuracy, can bring a group of strangers together in a dark room to live and die with the characters on the screen. To love the characters. To connect with them, and to connect with the others who have also come to the theater.
I want to do that. I may never make it big as a director. There are thousands of others trying to do the same thing. Which is wonderful. As long as I make the opportunity happen for myself, give myself the chance to try my hand at making a movie, I'll feel satisfied.
Morpo's Fourth Anniversary!
This issue marks the fourth anniversary of The Morpo Review. We published our first issue back in January of 1994 when there were very few electronic 'zines on the Internet. Now we're one of a few hundred, and we're still going strong. Which is a testament to the dedication of the staff here at Morpo and to the talent of the writers we publish.
This year we're moving to a quarterly publication schedule. We've been publishing on a bi-monthly schedule for the last four years, but were never quite able to stick to it. Now that we've had some reorganization in the staff ranks, we're poised to publish issues on the first of March, June, September and December.
We look forward to bringing you the best prose, poetry and essays on the Internet for years to come.
As James Cameron has inspired me to someday direct a film, let the authors in this issue inspire you to write. My movie may never see the light of a darkened theater, and your words may never see publication anywhere. But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to better ourselves by pursuing our passions and entertaining our dreams.
Write. Direct. Compose. Paint. Program. Bake. Build.
Whatever it is that you do, do it. Be inspired.