'Titanic' foes won't abandon ship

September 01, 1998|By Julia Gorin | Julia Gorin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As video shelves around the country make room for boxes and boxes of "Titanic" this week, two things are certain: One, it will do well; two, it will do well with the same people it did well with at the box office.

In other words, the only people renting the 2 1/2 -hour epic will be the same people who've seen it already. That's because anyone who hasn't seen it by now is a Titanic Holdout -- someone who is purposely avoiding it on principle.

There are a few categories of Titanic Holdouts: those people who prefer not to help the living capitalize off an international tragedy; those who don't like a story in which the majority of the characters' fates end in death; and those for whom the persistent sight of Leonardo DiCaprio would ruin any real moment the picture had to offer.

These are all valid reasons to stay away from a movie despite recommendations from every friend, relative, co-worker, acquaintance and stranger who's seen it. They remain valid reasons despite the fact that John Jacob Astor IV's granddaughter thanked the filmmakers for relating a real sense of what it was like in the final hours aboard the great ship.

But the segment of the Holdout population that I find most recurrent -- and most interesting -- is the one that abstains from seeing any movie that doesn't have subtitles, any movie that takes fewer than six viewings to understand, any movie that has a budget over $1.50.

These are the foreign/artsy movie snobs, and they believe that if Hollywood gives you a big budget to make a movie, then you can't possibly be a true artist. In fact, you're unquestionably a sell-out. And they will unfairly compare your piece of mainstream entertainment to Fellini's "The Balloon."

They believe that because they decide to wrinkle their noses at a movie everyone else loves they instantly become independent thinkers. The Holdouts can't bring themselves to see something that everybody else is seeing and liking. Because God forbid they, too, should like something the masses have fallen for. And God forbid a movie should bring them to the edge of their seats.

These are the same people who don't watch television. But just in case an annoying guest pops it on, the TV is permanently set to PBS -- just don't look for the cable box.

I asked my friend Lana why she's bent on not seeing "Titanic." I mean, surely she must be at least a little curious about what all the fuss is over.

"I don't like all the publicity it gets," she explained. "I don't like to be told what to see. And I just don't like big movies. American movies don't appeal to me -- and I refuse to be manipulated by advertising."

In other words, unless she has to comb through 65 alternative listings in magazines no one's heard of, then make 20 phone calls just to find out that a movie exists and will be playing for a day-and-a-half at a theater someone built last week out of an old church, she's not interested.

She added: "I like smaller films."

Exactly. The likes of Lana go for independent films -- exclusively and indiscriminately. Any two-bit independent feature, no matter how poorly constructed, is better than any big-budget movie, no matter how well constructed.

But they should lighten up: Yes, "Pi" is a good movie. But so is "Titanic." Just like Parker Posey is terrific, so is Heather Locklear. One is not the other. They shouldn't be compared. It's time for these people to see "Titanic" and admit what we've been telling them all along: that it's just a good, good commercial film.

Have fun for once.

On second thought, maybe they don't deserve all that fun.

Julia Gorin, a former Baltimorean, is a stand-up comic and free-lance writer living in New York City.

Other 'Titanic'

"A Night to Remember," the 1958 version of the Titanic sinking, airs tonight at 8 on AMC.

The Video Top 10

Here are the top 10 best-selling videos to date. The numbers represent how many copies were shipped.

1. "The Lion King": Disney, 1995, 27.5 million.

2. "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs": Disney, 1994, 27 million.

3. "Aladdin": Disney, 1993, 25 million.

4. "Independence Day": Fox, 1996, 22 million.

5. "Jurassic Park": Universal, 1994, 21.5 million.

6. "Toy Story": Disney, 1996, 21 million.

7. "Beauty and the Beast": Disney, 1992, 20 million.

8. "Men in Black": Columbia Tristar, 1997, 18 million.

9. "Pocahontas": Disney, 1996, 18 million.

10. "Star Wars Trilogy": Fox, 1995,15.3 million. Source: Video Store Magazine market research

Pub Date: 9/01/98

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