Is the Controversy Over ‘Titanic’ Unsinkable?
I was appalled by James Cameron’s embarrassingly wrongheaded attack on Kenneth Turan’s livelihood. Turan has not forgotten “the role of a senior film critic,” but it appears Cameron did. As he repeatedly asks for the head of the man who simply didn’t like his movie and dared to say so, I ask myself: What kind of a world (and what kind of newspaper) bows to such a blatant and egotistical abuse of power?
Is it not the duty of a “large urban newspaper” to ensure that a critic can be of the opinion that the emperor has no clothes? Turan did not disdain “all movies” nor the “entire output of Hollywood.” What he (and many of us) objected to is the major studios’ heavy-on-effects-and-violence, light-on-story-and-logic, over-produced extravaganzas, of which “Titanic” is the latest (and biggest) example.
Granted, crowds do line up to see some of those movies, but I assure you there is a large segment of the public that would gladly do without any of them. Some of us enjoy movies as an art form, and if Jim Cameron thinks that means choosing Godard over “The Godfather,” he’d be wrong again.
Questions that arise when Cameron writes to Turan, “Your misguided flock bray past you, like lemmings”:
Since when does “flock” take a plural verb when it refers to a group (of lemmings or anything else) considered as a whole?
Since when does a flock (of lemmings or anything else) “bray” as a form of locomotion?
Since when does a lemming (whether as an individual or as flock member) “bray” at all?
Since when is Mr. Cameron someone to be trusted anywhere near a word processor?
Is anyone else appalled by the idea that the self-styled “king of the world” not only wants Kenneth Turan’s neck for daring to lambaste “Titanic,” he now seems to want to rally public support to get him fired?
If we’re going to the barricades over this issue, count me in Turan’s camp, welcoming everyone who believes in a critic’s right to say what he thinks without having to kowtow to public opinion or risk losing his job because he steps on somebody’s toes.
Perhaps Cameron needs to be reminded that Turan is a movie critic, not a film business lobbyist. As such, I know I can rely on Turan’s well-argued reviews for honesty and high-mindedness. Even though I don’t always agree with his point of view, I support his right to express it 100%.
By the way, Mr. Cameron, no one is infallible--not even pouty movie monarchs.
I have come to have deep respect for Kenneth Turan’s writing and his person. A few years ago we organized a faculty-student discussion of film as part of a campus forum. I called The Times to see if someone would come to Pomona to speak, and to my surprise Mr. Turan responded personally. He made the 100-mile round-trip for a lunch talk at no fee. He was patient, kind and very smart.
I am appalled at the vitriol other readers and Cameron have displayed because they do not like his positions. Turan is not only a film critic, he is also a film scholar. Should he stop observing and caring and remaining an independent thinker if the sales at the box office appear to disagree with his appraisal? No. He knows and loves movies, and I am grateful for his passion, intelligence and his trust that we all want not only entertainment but true beauty, truth and goodness for our hard-earned dollars. Remember, he loved “Babe”!
Let’s see now if I have this straight: James Cameron, whose film won 11 Academy Awards out of 14 nominations and who directed the first billion-$$$ movie in film history, is unhappy because Times film critic Kenneth Turan didn’t give “Titanic” a rave review.
What does it take to satisfy this “king of the world”?
Ta da!! You have won, James Cameron! Well done. Good show. And all of that. Please! Sit back in your leather chair and feel justified that the world is good and true and that you have been rewarded with riches, while silly ol’ Kenny struggles on a newspaperman’s salary.
A good sport would recognize his victory and simply leave it at that.
Enough, Mr. Cameron! Enjoy tootling around the Westside in your darkened-windowed Suburban, driving from bank to bank as you count your money. Laugh at Hollywood parties over Kenneth Turan’s “ineptitude” and “denials.” And check your teeth for any misplaced spinach in your new, gleaming Oscars.
But please, Mr. Cameron, leave us be to our tastes and be satisfied in being a great technician.
It’s impressive. The director of the biggest-moneymaking movie of all time, winner of more Academy Awards than any other movie save one, still takes time to say “Nyah nyah nyah!” to a newspaper film critic. I guess that’s what they mean by “attention to detail.”
Since when does somebody with such a successful career need to prove anything to anybody? This situation is starting to resemble a “Larry Sanders” episode.
What is that sickening scrunchy sound I hear?
It’s Jim Cameron’s ego scraping against the icy tip of criticism.
Does this mean James Cameron won’t get the Sportsmanship Trophy?
After the most accolades, the most money and certainly the most self-indulgent publicity and merchandising machine, Cameron feels compelled to attack one of the lone dissenters. Jim, sometimes you have to navigate around obstacles instead of bulldozing through them. Relax. Savor your victory. Chill, dude!
Beware of a “king of the world” who can not allow a critical voice to be heard in his kingdom.
JOANY T. LANE
Can you imagine directors such as John Ford, Sidney Lumet, John Huston, Roman Polanski or even George Lucas wasting their time with the type of puerile attack against a single critic--full of personal barbs, mind you--that Cameron launched against Turan with his letter to The Times?
At the end of its three-hour, 14-minute running time, it’s still just a movie, not the Second Coming. Unless, of course, that’s what James Cameron is contemplating as a sequel.
Thank you, James Cameron, for speaking out in defense of the public and movie-making. Stay near your word processor please!
I find it fascinating that a number of the anti-"Titanic” letters were written by people who have not seen the movie! Clearly their reasons for being against the movie have nothing to do with the movie’s merits and make their objections valueless.
And what’s so great about “Gone With the Wind’s” script anyway? The only line everyone remembers is remembered because it included the word “damn,” the inclusion of which was a big deal back then.
After plodding through Kenneth Turan’s long and dreary articles on “Titanic,” can you imagine if he had written the screenplay? An SOS would have gone out immediately: Save Our Script!
Cameron was right. Year after year, Turan has become further and further removed from the simple joyful experience of movie watching. The best critics keep that joy alive. Please let The Times replace Turan with that critic.
Turan does not like what the public likes. For all the years I have followed the advice of this film critic, I have rarely agreed with his perception of value or lack thereof in most of the films he has reviewed. In fact, of late I have used a “reverse psychology” of sorts to determine which film to see: If Turan likes it, I most likely will not go to see it.
If Turan’s bashing of “Titanic” is any indication of how far he has traveled down the path of the bitter ineffectual observer, then it may be time for a change.
James Cameron writes, regarding Mr. Turan, “How do we impeach him?”
Simple. Take your income from “Titanic,” buy controlling interest in the L.A. Times and “terminate” him.
Cameron, Turan and all the readers and friends who have attacked them both have taken it all too personally.
I question from where this sudden insecurity has arisen, so that everyone feels they must justify loving or hating “Titanic.” Perhaps it’s the result of a movie that, indeed, has touched off obsessive manias for a historical event and the film’s attractive young stars.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The issue is simple, requiring a “yes” or “no” answer, without explanation: Did you, dear moviegoer, enjoy “Titanic”? ‘Nuf said.
So I’m reading Jim Cameron’s diatribe and I think to myself, maybe the guy can write after all!
DEBORAH SCOTT STUDEBAKER
It seems to me Kenneth Turan still doesn’t “get it.” James Cameron is a genius when it comes to filmmaking. Why can’t Turan grasp this singular fact? The argument isn’t about the quality of a given script; it’s about the nature of movies.
I may only be 15 years old and haven’t received my high school diploma yet, while Turan has years of experience with movies. But I’m positive hundreds of people will agree that his incessant reviews were immature and egotistical. “Titanic” has remained afloat as one of the best movies of all time despite Turan’s attempt to sink it.
Wrapping It Up
How can Kenneth Turan possibly say that the screenplay to “Titanic” is the worst screenplay ever written? Neither Kevin Costner nor Joe Eszterhas had anything to do with it.