ARTS ISSUE: Letter from the EditorPosted on December 5, 2013 | by Jeremy Grossman
One of the biggest criticisms of James Cameron’s “Titanic” is that there’s just so much of it — nearly everything that could possibly happen to Jack and Rose happens.
In addition to being on a sinking ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, which is enough of a problem, the protagonists must endure being hit, slapped, shot at, locked behind a gate and chained to a pole. And they still find time to have sex in a car.
Furthermore, Jack and Rose endure the entire tragic experience of the sinking ship. They’re on the boat when it hits the iceberg, and they’re still on the boat — holding on for dear life — as it makes its final plunge into the ocean.
For many, “Titanic’s” extravagance is laughable, to the point where it doesn’t even feel like a representation of reality but rather a product of the Hollywood machine, matching the size of its director’s ego. They’re not wrong, but it doesn’t matter. Art should take a note from “Titanic” and be unafraid to think big.
I’m not suggesting every film have the budget of “Titanic” — that would be impossible. Instead, films, TV shows, books, music and theater should embrace the possibilities of excess. This lavishness can be accompanied by bold storytelling, characters, art design, marketing, costumes, makeup and performances — not just by financial backing. Extravagance allows artists to fully explore every facet of their creation, resulting in a final product as emotionally rewarding for the artist as it is for the audience.
This year, art has truly embraced the opportunities extravagance affords, from the big screen to the small screen, from MP3s to YouTube and from the stage to the page. What we are seeing is work that’s more willing to take risks.
The outrageousness of “Titanic” is what inspired this issue, because no matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to entertain me. The critics of “Titanic” can take comfort in knowing there will always be films that are reclusive, quiet and maybe a bit more grounded in reality. But there’s also going to be an audience next door enjoying a movie that’s louder, wilder and having a much better time.