Forget all the darkly whispered rumors of the sinking of the hundreds of millions invested in the latest bigscreen retelling of the Titanic catastrophe. The joint studios Fox and Paramount can now be grateful that this release, postponed from its original summer opening, will be fresh in the minds of voters.
Even given a relatively weak field, “Titanic” is probably the sine qua non Academy movie, a spectacular marriage of technology and passion, special effects and romance.
Nominations in all fields will probably sail in, from Russell Carpenter’s versatile cinematography to perennial nominee James Horner, who may not have delivered one of his strongest scores, though he still should be caught up in “Titanic’s” Oscar swirl.
“Titanic” looks like it will pull into a best picture berth, and James Cameron could steam in the noms in the writer and director fields. The helmer’s branch will appreciate the physical challenges of the production while the scribe’s will identify with the daunting task of putting human faces on a project that is essentially a disaster movie in period drag.
Billy Zane as the snobby jilted fiance, Brit vet thesp David Warner (“Straw Dogs,” etc.) as a thuggish family guardian, Frances Fisher as a cold yet vulnerable mother watching her fortune drift away, and Kathy Bates as an Unsinkable Molly Brown erasing all memories of Debbie Reynolds may be considered long shots in supporting acting slots and Gloria Stuart as the ship’s elderly survivor will win strong Academy sympathies.
Supporting actor nom (for “Gilbert Grape”) Leonardo DiCaprio has a deck chair for his first best actor nomination and Kate Winslet could cozy up to a best actress nomination following her supporting actress nom for “Sense and Sensibility.” Winslet also registered strongly with critics’ groups for her less-known turn in Peter Jackson’s “Heavenly Creatures.”
Classic Oscar credentials: 8 (epic tragedy meets human scale)
Cause celebre: 2 (class war subtext)
Vanity elements: 8 (Cameron plus $300 million negative and distribution cost)
The David vs. Goliath Syndrome: 1 (if you identify with the iceberg)
The feel-good movie of the year: 5 (love is hot until they hit the ice)
The unavoidable, inexorable buzz: 7 (suits’ lives hang in the balance)
Idiot savants have more fun: 0
Timing is everything: 10 (boat is sailing right at winning time)
OQ total: 41