In 1997, “Titanic” won 11 Academy Awards, nine for crafts alone. The film is a grand testament to the world of crafts: its costume design, sound mixing, visual effects, score, cinematography, production design, sound editing and hair and makeup were all nominated that year. Together, these craftspeople transported us back to 1912 and we were on that ship as it sailed off on that fateful trip. A full-scale RMS Titanic was built for the film, at a cost of $200 million. At the time, director James Cameron wanted to raise the bar on visual effects, and he used miniatures, motion capture and digital water to re-create the sinking of the ship.
The film’s score was written by James Horner, who used Celtic melodies to help drive its emotional heart. It starts with jubilation as the boat leaves the port. Synthesized vocals guide us until the tonal shift when the boat hits the iceberg. Horner also gave us Celine Dion’s Oscar-winning song “My Heart Will Go On.”
Peter Lamont designed the boat’s grand staircase, which was constructed in Mexico and serves as a character in itself in the film. The image of Rose descending it, with the clock behind her, as Jack waits at the bottom is indelible.
Russell Carpenter’s cinematography glides along the port of Southampton, showing us the mighty Titanic in all her beauty. The interior shots feature colors that are similar to an Impressionist painting as the camera swoops along. It’s majestic for a while. And then, disaster strikes.
The awards tide swept in for “Titanic” starting with the Golden Globes where it won four awards. The “Titanic” win at the Oscars that year, saw the film match “Ben-Hur’s” win. It was also one of the first films since “The Sound of Music” to win Best Picture without Best Screenplay.