Tue. Jan 21st, 2020

Worst Picture/Best Picture: Postman and Titanic (1997)

“I’m sure postal workers like it though, as it gives their job a very flattering impression of being important. But if you’re not a postal worker – stay away!” – kjempeintens, IMDb.com

“James Cameron’s 194-minute, $200 million film of the tragic voyage is in the tradition of the great Hollywood epics. It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted and spellbinding.” – Roger Ebert, The Chicago Sun Times

Poor Shipping and Handling

Here it is, 1997, the year of the biggest romantic, disaster epic of all time, directed by Kevin Costner. And across the pond is the little tugboat Titanic. Two tales of people in search of a better world facing countless struggles in the process. And after two previous years of having to talk about showgirls and stripteasers, finally I don’t have to deal with women taking off all their clothes and posing for men. No, this time we’ll be dealing with a double feature of three hour masterpieces, one that made a killing at the box office and one that made a killing at the post office.

After Terminator 2 and True Lies, James Cameron was getting tired of Arnold Schwarzenegger, so he thought he’d take it easy and make a movie about the largest ship every built and spend a couple hundred million dollars to do it. Luckily, James didn’t get tired of his man Bill Paxton, and at the start of Titanic, Paxton’s character Brock Lovett is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, wandering through the actual Titanic wreckage in search of a missing diamond that’s supposedly lost somewhere in the rubble. After surviving a bunch of twisters, Lovett has a keen eye for finding things in disaster areas. However, the safe he finds in one of the rooms doesn’t contain the Heart of the Ocean, but it does contain a drawing of a naked woman wearing the jewel. Well, it’s a start.

After Waterworld, Kevin Costner was getting tired of movies about a lone survivor wandering through a post-apocalyptic world in search of a rumored paradise, so he decided to make a movie about a lone person traveling across a wasteland looking for a reported Eden. And after the failure of Waterworld, Costner wasn’t going to make that mistake again. I mean, hell, what kind of movie starts with a guy pissing in a cup so he can turn it into water? Anyway, at the start of The Postman, Kevin Costner’s character, nicknamed Shakespeare, is in search of water. It is set in the future in the year 2013. It has been nearly two decades since America had become desolate after the riots and uprisings caused by the military hate groups led by Nathan Holn. The cities and civilization had mostly died off and now people struggle to survive in new areas, fearing for their lives from the evil Holinst militia. Costner is called Shakespeare because he wanders from village to village as a travelling performer putting on one man one mule Shakespeare plays to entertain the locals in turn for food and shelter. Because as we all know, Costner can put on one hell of a British performance.

Seeing the drawing on the TV, a hundred-year old woman named Rose (Gloria Stuart) contacts Lovett claiming she’s the woman in the picture. So, she goes to the Titanic wreckage and though seeing the crash brings back difficult memories, she decides to tell them the story of the voyage to the treasure hunters. While the morphing of the sunken ship into the original version isn’t as impressive as the morphing of the deserted 76 gas station into the previously working 76 in The Postman, at least we’ve got an idea of what Rose is seeing. We are introduced to the young Rose (Kate Winslet) a socialite accompanying her fiancé Cal (Billy Zane) and her mother (Frances Fischer) onto the doomed ship. Elsewhere in town, the penniless young Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) wins a hand at poker and gets a couple tickets to the Titanic, so he brings his pal Fabrizio with him and the ship sets sail. I guess Jack and Rose couldn’t cut it in England playing Romeo and Ophelia so they figured they should follow in Costner’s footsteps and play Shakespeare in America.

Speaking of Shakespeare, the travelling actor enters his newest village and performs some Macbeth with his mule for the crowd. But before the townspeople can enjoy the show, the Holnists enter the village, led by General Bethlehem (Will Patton). After taking all their food and supplies, they also force several of the men to become soldiers in their army, including Shakespeare. But unlike Forrest Gump at boot camp, this training isn’t a walk in the park. Bethlehem is a madman and follows the strict Laws of Eight, which includes such rules as No Mercy For the Weak, Death is the Only Penalty, and Anyone Fellow Clansman Can Challenge To Be the New Leader. They’re tough rules to follow, but at least in the evening the soldiers get to watch a movie, their favorite being The Sound of Music. I wish I could make a joke about this because it’s a Best Picture winner and that the soldiers would have preferred watching the Razzie winner instead, but unfortunately 1965 predates the Razzies, so I’ll just guess and say they would have preferred something like Beach Blanket Bingo or Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine.

While Shakespeare was getting chummy with his prison pals, Jack was getting settled in on the ship of dreams. He was having fun, meeting fellow third class passengers, saying hi to the dolphins, and whooping he’s the king of the world. But all that energy stopped dead in its tracks when he got a glimpse of Rose standing on the upper deck and instantly fell in love with her. Unfortunately, she wasn’t having as much of a good time as Jack was. Sure, she’s been drinking the champagne, eating the caviar, and being given priceless diamond necklaces by her cruel Cal, but inside she felt trapped. So, while Jack was leaning against the bow of the ship yelling nonsense earlier that day, that evening Rose decided to one up him by leaning off the stern of the ship ready to jump off. No, it wasn’t because she was sick from eating too much PCP laced clam chowder for lunch, it was because she wanted to end living the lifeless lifestyle. But luckily Jack managed to save her from leaping into the freezing water, though he unfortunately wasn’t able to save her from making The Life of David Gale.

Though Rose felt like she was a prisoner, back at the Holnist house, Shakespeare actually was a prisoner. And unlike Rose who wanted to escape from her trouble by jumping 100 feet into the water, Shakespeare actually did escape and jumped 100 feet off a bridge into the water and fled into the forest. He managed to hide from the bad guys searching for him by seeking shelter in an abandoned mail truck and stealing the jacket from the skeleton postman to keep warm. At least the corpse makes better company than a stray wolf who keeps asking for food. The two talk over a fire, reading letters and playing tic tac toe on the steamed up windows, because what else are you gonna do with a steamed up window?

Like Shakespeare, Rose managed to escape death that night. And to thank Jack for saving his fiancé’s life, crooked Cal invited Jack to have dinner with them at the rich people’s table the next evening. In the meantime, Jack hangs out with Rose for a bit and she makes a better companion than a bag of bones, so they hit it off quickly. After a few strolls around the deck and promises of things they’ll do together once they land in America, the two part ways to get ready for dinner, but not before they have fun spitting off the ship, most likely landing on people instead of landing in the water because the ship is so vast. And luckily, thanks to the once poor but now powerful Unsinkable Molly Brown (Kathy Bates), Jack didn’t have to go searching for skeletons to find better clothes, she gave him a nice tuxedo to wear to the dinner. At the fancy dinner, Jack was able to charm all the first class passengers just as easily as he charmed Rose, after they were told he was actually a third class passenger they all agreed that that was the best acting they had ever seen in their whole life. So, after dinner, Jack fucking Dawson wanted to have a real party with Rose so he took her to the third class passage where they drank beer and danced to some Irish music. Moving in mysterious ways, it was Rose’s turn to charm her unfamiliar crowd by standing on her toes.

Meanwhile, back on his fake postal route, Shakespeare decided to follow Jack Dawson’s lead and pretended to be someone he wasn’t. So after surviving that cold night with the stiff, from that day on, Shakespeare was The Postman. He arrives at a new town and immediately the head of the town turns him away for fear of making them suspicious to the Holnists. But, with his new jacket and cap and bag of letters, the Postman put on a convincing act and won the townsfolk over. He told them a bunch of lies and gave them a false hope that America was on the verge of recovery by creating a new government and getting a new president, a supposed “President Richard Starkey”. They’re all so happy calling him a savior, who is he to tell them that in the 2010’s he’s just lied about there being a fake president who’s trying to make America great again? So he just goes with it. Continuing with this fake identity, he has dinner with the town and charms them all with his stories and afterwards he joins in on the party and dancing to music. One of the female locals Abby (Olivia Williams) takes a quick shining to him and asks him to dance. And, after a quick little introduction, she asks if he has good semen and tells him “I want you to make me pregnant”. Apparently, she and her husband have been trying for 3 years to have a baby but he had mumps when he was young and can’t do it, so she wants the Postman to put his package in her mailbox. Well, it took him 15 years, but finally The Postman can take over for Kevin Kline and father someone’s baby rather than be a corpse for about 30 seconds who gets put in a suite and gets his hair combed.

After a fun night of drinking and partying, Jack and Rose had to go back to their old ways, he a poor drifter and she the caged heavenly creature. Unfortunately for Rose, the conniving Cal found out about her little pow wow with the street rat and he wasn’t too happy about it. So, she regretfully gives in to crude Cal and gives Jack the cold shoulder when he tries to say hi to her again. However, after a couple more hours of caviar and napkin folding, she can’t take it anymore so she goes back to Jack again to apologize. At sunset, Jack takes her up to the bow of the ship and raises her up, making her feel like she’s flying. The king of the world made her feel like the queen of the night and the two embraced. Take that Kevin Costner. To top off their romantic evening, Rose takes her top off as well as the rest of the clothes and has Jack draw her in the nude wearing the diamond. As payment for the drawing, Rose tells Jack to put his hands on her. Well, it’s not quite “make me pregnant”, but it’s a start.

You’d think after giving the woman he just met his good sperm, the Postman would wanna stick around and settle down, but he had to continue on with his fake route. Unfortunately, shortly after he left, the Holnists arrived to the newly uplifted town and General Bethlehem was pissed off seeing all the happy townsfolk and even more pissed off when he was told about this heroic Postman. Along with burning down a lot of their buildings and stealing most of their food and supplies, Bethlehem also declared prima nocte, which led to him killing Abby’s husband because he wouldn’t let him sleep with her. Of course, little did Bethlehem know that the Postman already gave her something to deliver in about nine months. The actor/director of this three hour epic was pretty clever to have prima nocte cause a big uproar in the village leading to a rebellion against the villains. Taking her hostage, Bethlehem and the Holnists went onto the next town to cause more carnage, but didn’t have any time to sleep with the village wives because the Postman showed up and saved the day. Or rather, he showed up to save Abby, and the two escaped, once again, fleeing into the forest for survival.

You’d think after giving the woman he just met his good sperm, Jack would wanna stick around and settle down, but the Titanic had to continue on with its route. Unfortunately, that route had an unscheduled stop right into a giant iceberg. At first most of the passenger didn’t think much of the big shake that had just taken place, especially the first class passengers, but soon enough they were getting a bit worrisome, especially when they were ordered to start getting into the lifeboats. But Jack and Rose were too busy causing trouble amongst the upper class to consider getting into the scarce lifeboats. In fact, Jack made such a mess of things that he got handcuffed to a pipe in one of the lower floors, which wasn’t very smart on his part since the ship was falling apart. Luckily, Rose came to save the day with her trusted axe and cut him free so the two could run around the sinking vessel. Good thing she didn’t have an axe in Revolutionary Road.

Though Jack was handcuffed, the Postman had it a little worse and was shot while escaping with Abby. And just like Rose, the woman had to rescue her hopeless man, so while hiding out in the forest through the cold winter she had to nurse him back to health. When the spring arrived things were turning out for the better. The Postman was feeling good and fit and clean shaven, for a second I thought I was watching Dances With Wolves. Everything was going great, so of course Abby decided to burn their shelter and keep moving, because why would you wanna stay at your cozy cabin when you could go to other villages and be attacked by the Holnists? So off the two went, searching for a new place to survive, but on their travels they bumped into a horseback riding woman in a postal uniform. Apparently over the winter break, the Postman’s visit to Abby’s village became a thing of legend and caused a wave of people wanting to be postal workers, as one normally dreams of being. She took them to the base where all the newly formed postmen and postwomen resided and he became their leader, joining them in sending out all the letters to distant towns, telling them everything is getting better. Though I’m not sure how they’re able to do it, after all, it’s still a wasteland in most places, and I’m sure they can’t find stamps anywhere nearby.

Back on the flooded deck, pain and panic has broken out and everyone was running for their lives with nowhere to go. Though Rose’s mom, Molly Brown, and even cowardly Cal managed to nab a lifeboat, Jack and Rose weren’t as lucky and were stuck with the rest of the passengers on board the rackety ship. They managed to stay above water as long as they could, but soon the Titanic’s dipped down so much underwater that the rear stuck up so high that it split in two and quickly went completely underwater. Well, all the 1,500 or so people who didn’t make it to the lifeboats had to float in the freezing water hoping that someone would come back to rescue them. And, with no bear carcass nearby to keep him warm, Jack had to resort to using a broken doorframe, but unfortunately Rose literally gave him the cold shoulder again and hogged all the room, so he floated in the water next to her dry island paradise.

Now with an army of mailmen to deal with, General Bethlehem was getting furious, especially because there were so many of them he couldn’t find the original postman who started the uprising. As battles were taking place back and forth between the postmen and the Holnists, the villagers were getting stronger and the General was getting angrier, killing as many people as he could. The Postman took a pit stop at a new town to bring more faith to more villagers, and unlike the first time he visited in postal uniform, this time they didn’t tell him to come around here no more. With Prince, Wayne Newton, and the Village People busy elsewhere, Mayor Tom Petty was the head of this town and welcomed him in with open arms. Luckily this village had lot of artillery, so now the Postman and his fellow carriers were seriously packing.

Things weren’t looking as hopeful back in the Atlantic. One of the lifeboats decided to turn around to pick up any of the survivors they could find in the great wide open but instead they arrive in sea of frozen bodies, it was a real heartbreaker. As the boat rowed through the corpses, a barely breathing Rose caught a glimpse of their flashlight in the distance. Trying to wake up Jack to tell him there was a boat, she saw that he too had frozen to death, and with a final goodbye, she let him go so she could live on like she had promised him she would. With the boat traveling away and Jack free falling to the ocean floor, Rose leapt off her wood, swam to a dead passenger who had a whistle, and blew it, getting the rescuers’ attention and surviving. Finally, a few days after the disaster, the rescue ship arrived to New York and Rose was an American girl.

Meanwhile, with guns and letters in hand, the Postman and his co-workers decided to finally end things and meet the General and his Holnists for one last battle. To the General’s delight, he finally found his Postman and was ready for the slaughter. However, catching the General off guard, the Postman wanted to prevent a bunch of death and called on one of the Laws of 8 and challenged him to a fight to become the new leader. At first he objected because the Postman wasn’t a fellow Holnist and thus there wasn’t any room at the top, but suddenly everything clicked with the General and he realized he was looking at Shakespeare, so he decided he won’t back down and accepted the challenge. After quite the clash, the Postman was victorious and the General was dead. As the new head of the Holnists, his first act was to disband the entire clan and declared a state of peace. Now nothing could keep the Postman and his fellow carriers complete their duties. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor iceberg stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Back in the present day, while Kim Basinger is dancing with Mayor Tom Petty and winning an Oscar, the old Rose finishes her story on how she survived the sinking of the Titanic and gave a nice eulogy to the departed. Her tale moved them all so much that they forgot they had hauled the hundred-year old granny to the wreckage so they could find the diamond. That night, when everyone else was asleep on the boat, old Rose went to the bow, and in a similar fashion to when she did it with Jack, she was learning to fly again. Looking out at the water, she pulled out the Heart of the Ocean, the diamond she had the entire time, and dropped it into the water so it could be returned to the Titanic. And in the closing scene of the film, old Rose goes back to sleep on the boat, and we travel back to the Titanic as if it was brand new and the young Rose is reunited with Jack and the rest of the fallen passengers. As the credits role, the smash hit “My Heart Will Go On” is sung by the five time Grammy winner Celine Dion. Sorry Diane Warren, you picked the wrong year yet again to try to win that Oscar.

Meanwhile, back in the present day (2043 that is), The Postman’s daughter Hope is all grown up and is giving a eulogy to her father who had just passed away. Since his defeat of the Holnists, America had rebuilt and become a better place. Because of his actions, a statue was put on display in honor of his memory. As the credits role, the not so smash hit “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” is sung by the zero time Grammy winner Kevin Costner. Sorry Diane Warren, you picked the wrong year yet again to try to win that Razzie.

So to sum it up, we had two epic disasters displayed on the big screen for all to see. We saw a monstrous ship sink before our very eyes and we saw a directing career sink before our very eyes. Come Oscar time, one film tied for the most nominations ever and tied for the most wins ever, and one film’s Oscar FYC got a return to sender. But in the end, The Postman had the last laugh. Because after the Titanic sank, nobody travels by boat anymore, they just take a plane. Yet in The Postman, in the future America was saved by people sending letters to each other. And as we all know, today, the entire world still communicates with each other by writing letters.

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