Posts Tagged ‘f. scott fitzgerald’

The Great Gatsby 3D (2013) – Baz Luhrmann (Dir.), Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Elizabeth Debicki

Huh. I didn't realize Christmas was in May. Welcome to Obama's America!

Huh. I didn’t realize Christmas was in May. Welcome to Obama’s America!

The American dream. Such an ephemeral, changing, yet eternally constant concept. We all have our own goals, loves, ambitions and needs. We all reach for the distant green light of emotional and financial success so that we might taste, if only momentarily, that sweet nectar of fleeting happiness and that, maybe, at the end of our lives we flitter from consciousness with a smile on our lips. The American Dream is fragile, complex and futile. It has driven people mad since the founding of this nation 250 years ago. It is the subject of countless existential novels, all drenched in longing and stewing with disillusionment.

So who more appropriate to make it into a 3D movie than an insane Australian famous for giving my epilepsy a fucking heart attack?

Yes, Baz Luhrmann, the man, nay, the god responsible for obliterating both my cones and rods via ocular over-stimulation during the course of the shockingly non-mathematical Romeo + Juliet, the strictly-chromatologically insane Strictly Ballroom, and the lives-its-punctuation Moulin Rouge!, has decided to take on perhaps the most celebrated of the purported ‘great American novels’…IN THREE DIMENSIONS! That’s right, see the ennui come right at you! You can practically taste the crushing defeat of hopefulness! So, the question is, does the American Dream come alive? Does Luhrmann take us to the seventh level of glittery insanity? Does he capture the essence of the book and elevate it to a new and dizzying level of clarity?

Nope, nope and fucking no way in hell.

I imagine this is what the inside of Hugh Hefner's penis looks like.

I imagine this is what the inside of Hugh Hefner’s penis looks like.

My lovely girlfriend and I, knowing that one of our favorite novels of all time was about to be more ravaged than my pride on prom night, smuggled in an entire jug of prosecco in a water bottle. As we donned our 3D glasses, the lights dimmed, and the gorgeously over-wrought art deco gate sprinted towards our unprotected eye testicles, we took a dive into the depths of mild jovial inebriation. What occurred was bizarrely apt for our current state. The Great Gatsby 3D is two movies, in essence. The first movie is a Dionysian epic detailing the absurd excess of the roaring twenties, fully equipped with Jay-Z soundtrack, slow motion, garish colors and sparkle-shooting Moet bottles. Amelia and I reveled like the poor suckers on screen, all about to feel the hit of the greatest stock market crash in all of US history. We drank and giggled and squirmed and drank some more, completely inured to the nonsensical narration torn from the pages of Fitzgerald’s great book. It was a party and we were the guests of honor. More pizzazz shot at my face than at a Jazz-hands convention. It reached an aptly-termed climax when Gatsby is finally revealed, lost in his party amongst the glitterati, to the building sound of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and the screen, I shit you not, literally ejaculates fireworks into your face. This shot, in essence, was the reason why Baz Luhrmann exists. From now on, I decree, whenever Leo Dicaprio is in a movie, his entrance better be a visual money shot, a cinematic cum-in-the-eye, if you will, or I want my goddamn money back.

But then…the second half began. Gatsby and Daisy begin their affair and the parties end. As the world of West Egg sobers up, so too did Amelia and I. I wasn’t sure if it was my diminishing blood-alcohol content, but the movie ground to an absolute halt. What happened? Where was the Baz Luhrmann I loved to despise? The man too afraid to hold a shot longer than a millisecond in fear of his actors exploding or something. The man more ADHD than a two year-old injected with pure sucrose and adrenaline. Suddenly, we have lingering shots, people talking, lack of slow motion, even, and I am appalled that I might even write this, scenes that had NO CGI AT ALL. It wasn’t until the actual climax of the movie that I realized I had been watching a bunch of tepid thespians talk in a single room…in 3D. That’s like doing A Room With a View: The IMAX Experience. Sure…you caaaaaan make that. But I don’t think when Daisy starts lamenting the choice between husband and lover we need to fear her tears slapping us in the face.

I think this was in 3D to give their performances depth. OH! DIMENSIONAL BURN!

I think this was in 3D to give their performances depth. OH! DIMENSIONAL BURN!

In the end, almost everything about this film is wrong. Not necessarily bad…but incorrect. Firstly, there is the increasingly puffy and Jack-Nicholson-esque Leo playing essentially his detestable villain from Django:Unchained, Calvin Candy, simply with feigned hopefulness and a lack of extreme-racism. After that, we have the utterly vapid Carey Mulligan who encourages about as much chemistry with the rest of the cast as a cardboard cut-out of a bored rock. Finally, the coup de grace, is the horribly miscast and painfully drab Mr. Maguire. I’ve never been fond of the man who made Peter Parker seem like a talking horse with mental difficulties. Here, he wanders from scene to scene like a lobotomy patient, seemingly amazed by the concept of oxygen. The boy is also tasked with delivering some of the finest prose known to the English language. He fails miserably, though it is difficult to truly embody the idea of emotional ‘without and within’-ness while glitter-titties (or glitties) fly past his head in 3-dimensional slo mo. Only the striking Elizabeth Debicki and her strangely proportioned super-model body comes off as actually playing a character.

The greatest failing here, however, is not a single performance or even the miserable ensemble as a whole, but rather it’s Mr. Luhrmann’s. Perhaps what is most unfortunate is that Baz seems to be working his way from the land of visual excess and towards that of pathos. Over and over, he pummels both the imagery of the green light and the eyes of oculist into our skulls. Yes, we fucking get that the green light is a metaphor. You don’t need to tell us that it’s a metaphor. Nick Caraway moves from passive observant outsider to that asshole reading the IMDB trivia page out loud while you’re watching the movie (yes, I am aware that I am usually that asshole). Not to mention that the framing device of having him locked in the nut house and working through his issues with a psychiatrist doesn’t say much for Luhrmann’s appreciation of Fitzgerald’s quality of thought.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate Luhrmann’s attempt at higher art, but forcing him in that direction is like asking a piglet to play Gershwin on a piano. At first, it’s cute to watch, hoofing all over the black keys. Then it just drones on into pointless cacophony. Pigs wallow in mess. That’s what Baz does best. He more adept at crafting hot messes than Lindsay Lohan at an all-you-can-drink buffet. Ultimately, The Great Gatsby falls between two extremes. It neither realizes the subtly of the novel (seeing as its imagery is more hamfisted than Hammy the Baconator) nor does it blow our eyeballs out of our fucking brains. I give it credit for the attempt, though I found myself yawning as sobriety reared its ugly head in the final act. It commits perhaps the greatest sin that Baz could ever perpetrate…it becomes boring. Like…check your watch every few minutes, god-when-is-my-next-gas-bill-due brain-numbing blahness. And so Luhrmann beats on, boat against the current, borne ceaselessly back into the past.

And, of course, by ‘past’ I mean a forest of penile, climaxing, mylar champagne bottles. Le sigh.

Ladies and gents, time to get a face full of Leo!

Ladies and gents, time to get a face full of Leo!

Midnight in Paris (2011) – Woody Allen (Dir.), Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Tom Hiddleston

Mr. Wilson was woefully unaware that a Van-Gogh instigated apocalypse was following his every step.

Art’s a funny thing. So many people around the earth connect with these disparate and distant works, created by minds that we shall never truly know, inhabiting bodies of humans that will forever be a mystery to us, no matter how deeply and thoroughly we research, read and examine. By reading a book, watching a film, observing an oil work, scouring a poem, engorging on piece after piece of literary brilliance, we attempt to drink up these geniuses of our emotional affection. We fall in love, word by word, thinking that we are delving into the soul of a great person, a person we shall never attain, never tarnish, never let down, never upset, affront or hurt. We think we know them in their purest forms to the point that curling into bed with their pages is almost akin to embracing a true love before tumbling into peaceful sleep. I’ve had heroes. I’ve had literary lovers. I’ve had filmmakers, playwrights and artists I would marry given half the chance. But that’s only on the merit of their work. We meet them… we read about their abuse, their sordid love affairs, their opinions on politics, on others’ works and we realize, for the most part, they’re all assholes.

The fantasy shatters. The books don’t taste so sweet. We gently drift away, not immediately supping on their newly released works promising that ‘I’ll get to it later’ and yet, day after day, the rift grows until the affair is ended. Finally, they flitter off, simply another slot in the mosaic of our lives, dissolving into those memory-tomes of relationships past, essential to who we are but no longer current or immediate.

It looks like the poster for a Hemingway/Stein version of Ocean’s Eleven called ‘Hemingway’s Two: And I’m Not Talking About His Balls”

Midnight in Paris was two things for me. On the one hand, it was a delightful, funny, ‘what famous person are we going to meet next?’ romp through a city I haven’t seen since I was a wee lad and, on the other, it was a black hole of artistic sadness. As someone who has only begun to cherish wonderful works of art after college, I feel as though I’ve missed so many opportunities to fall in love and obsess over the creations of greats. We have Owen Wilson, a hollywood writer who is attempting to find a little more. He falls in love with Paris as he falls out of love with his shrewish, incessant, negging and nagging fiancé (Rachel “This is What Regina George Would Be at 30” McAdams), hoping to rediscover the true artist within himself and finally finish his first attempt at a novel. While on a midnight stroll, he gets in a 1920s-era vehicle (like you do) and is immediately transported back in time. The rest of his evenings are spent listening to Cole Porter compose, F. Scott Fitzgerald get drunk (a woefully not-loki version of Tom Hiddleston), Hemingway spout inebriated/charming dickishness and Gertrude Stein reviewing Picassos (made exponentially better than she could have EVER been in real life by Kathy “Move Bitch, Get Out the Way!” Bates). He also happens to fall for Marion Cotillard because, well, guess what? She’s Marion Mutherfucking Cotillard. If you don’t fall in love with her (I don’t care about your gender/preference) you have no soul. I mean, COME ON. Even Maggie Thatcher would get a boner for that babe! (Side note: new porno idea – call it, ‘Trickle-Down Bonernomics’)

Is he time-traveling? Is he suffering from a brain tumor? Is his wife sleeping with the really pretentious and I-want-to-punch-him-in-the-face-repeatedly werewolf from the Underworld series? Can Carla Bruni act? Also, I hear there are naked pictures of her? Can anyone hook a brother up? All of that aside, this is a Woody Allen flick so, no matter how much he tries to escape the event horizon that is his early film career and the fact that he is Woody ‘Creepy Uncle’ Allen, subtlety can pretty much go hang. There is no doubt where the movie is headed. In terms of theme, he doesn’t allow you to pick it up for yourself, but rather has Owen Wilson spout anything underlying as super-liminally as possible. This is a movie about being stuck in the past, be it a past era, a past relationship or any other nostalgia-trap. It’s about always looking back to a finer time and never being pleased with the present. It works, it’s affecting, it’s sweet and sad and, well, it’s Woody Fucking Allen. Unless Scarlett Johansson is taking her top off, you know the plot and you know the end.

Even that duck is thinking, “Yep, I’d quack it.”

So let’s tie this thing together, shall we? While it’s almost infuriating to see Allen almost Disney-fy certain detestable aspects of certain literary figures, smushing them all together in this pie of cutesy famous people (side note: reality show idea – Celebri-Pie!), he’s making a decent point. This is how we see these past. All famous people know each other. They all get together in parties, where no plebs are invited, and discuss brilliant topics, the likes of which we normies will never witness. It only pushes the thesis further that this past is so fantastically perfect for Mr. Wilson and his stunted artistic growth. But the key word is ‘fantastic’. It’s all a fantasy. While midnight might be the sweetest point of night, the witching hour during which anything and everything might and will occur, we are never privy to the next morning and the inevitable hangover that drags this fairytale into the realm of the real. Yes, it’s hilarious to see Adrien Brody’s Salvador Dali constantly repeating the word ‘Rhinoceros’ or crazy, crazy Zelda Fitzgerald drunking herself all over the place (played to perfection by the ugly chick from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), but, like all Allen films, this isn’t about life. This is about the idea of life, a perfected vision and the cracks illuminated by the hyperbole. We see the plight of being engaged to a rich bitch with nothing better to do than shop for $18,000 chairs, buy out Christian Dior, and slobber over assholes in suits who believe themselves qualified to critique the works of the Louvre (*shudder*). While some of his movies are too, for lack of a better term, bougie-as-fuck, this one manages to cut into the golden intersection (also a favorite sex position involving, well…use your imagination) of high-minded ideas and normal people. Everyone is affected by nostalgia. It’s that virulent beast that sneaks up on you on cold nights when the whiskey is flowing and you see that one episode of that one show and suddenly you’re remembering your last five years, over and over again thinking, ‘Man, shit used to be better’ before waking up the next morning feeling like a French person violated your cerebral cortex with a baguette, six cloves of garlic and the entire cast of Moliere’s Tartuffe and thinking ‘What the fuck was I thinking?’ Nostalgia happens. When it happens over and over again…go see a doctor.

I can’t tell if Dali is making a point or taking a shit. Well, it’s the surrealists, so there’s a pretty good chance it’s the same thing.

It’s a beautiful movie; it’s funny; it’s cutesy; it’s all the things you could want from a Woody Allen movie (except having the decrepit form of Allen himself who, juxtaposed against the beautiful people he insists on hiring, always looks like the nebbish shadow of death ready to remove them all from the mortal coil, one by one). Perhaps an unintended consequence of casting Mr. Wilson, who, in the past, has always seemed exasperated with the concept of breathing (he could win awards for how high his voice gets), has the added pathos since his reported suicide attempt a few years before. Seeing a man frustrated with his lot in life and searching for higher meaning has a weight that otherwise would have been lacking. Once again, we have the personal life of the artist intersect with that of their work. The dream of a care-free Owen Wilson, giggling and messing about with his sophomoric and grating buddy Ben Stiller, is over. We’ve awakened to a human with darkness lying beneath the surface. Not sure what I’m trying to say, but seeing a lost soul wandering through an idealized city that he might never own is an image that will never die no matter in what time period we happen to be stuck.

All I’m saying is this, if I do magically get transported back in time to meet my favorite artist, I’d tell Buddy Holly to get on that airplane because, holy shit, paradoxes and time travel are terrifying things and I might blow up the universe. Better be safe than sorry.