As always, my ratings below are what I think the films should be rated on IMDb. In 2013, I've been catching up on westerns, so expect mini-reviews of those in July. I''ll be contributing a top 10 to Letterboxd Community’s Favourite Westerns poll(before the deadline July 31st.)
Paradise: Love (2012)
The first installment in Ulrich Seidl's Paradise trilogy, a project first conceived as one film with three parallel stories. The first film concerns European women who seek out African men selling love to earn a living. You could say it’s a necessary film, rather than an entertaining one.
What we get in the film is a hybrid, which mixes documentary methods and fictional elements. The filmmakers researched it as a documentary-filmmaker, and several of the black actors are in fact playing themselves. The locations are taken from real life, so the filmmakers are able to see how this behavior takes place, and likely the characters are based on this research.
Austrian director Ulrich Seidl has been called cynical for his portrays of characters on film, but there is some complexity there. I’ve read that as with the director’s other films, there’s a blurring of hero and villain, blurring of power. In Paradise Love, both parties benefit from the situation. There’s a feeling of the white man is to blame for the black man’s troubles, and that we owe them something.
Frequent nudity, but maybe the core of the film is about emotional nakedness. To me, the main character Teresa is a contradiction, she wants real love, yet she is in a foreign country in a sex tourist area with men who are manipulating her. She insists on lying to herself that the men care. Probably she just wants to be appreciated and feel attractive, as men in her home country no longer give her attention. Director Ulrich Seidl in Sight and Sound interview calls Teresa both "a victim and a perpetrator".
As Thomas4cinema wrote, it depicts “the ways in which people who at home never experience the feeling of power, dominance, of being at center stage suddenly realise they can have all that for a fistful of dollars.”
I saw a reviewer write that the title should have been Hell: Loneliness, because the film is about a lonely woman and her desperate need for love. Her own daughter basically ignores Teresa’s messages.
As Sight and Sound magazine write, "the film's provocation lies largely with it's sympathetic depiction of female sex tourists."
Akuna matata=no problem in Kenya
To The Wonder (2012)
It was what I expected. Asks big questions, is it because God has left us, or we have left God? Not as great as Tree of Life. While it is a beautiful film, I didn’t see anything new in terms of visuals, that I haven’t already experienced in Malick’s previous films.
Favorite quotes: “Weak people never bring anything to an end themselves. They wait for others to do it.”
“I find two women inside me. One, full of love for you. The other pulls me down towards the earth”
On first glance, this almost plotless film appears rather pointless and overrated. The main character (David Jennings) is not particularly interesting nor is he likeable. He leads a shallow life as a photographer, having occasional flings with models. Whether the film celebrates or condemns his way of life is open to debate, I feel the director is saying the guy’s life is hollow. You could watch it as a satire of the 1960s, seen through the eyes of a foreigner (director Antonioni).
The murder mystery feels unresolved, and did it even happen, or only in his drugged mind?
Favorite quote, perhaps ironic: “I’ve gone off London this week, it doesn’t do anything for me”
Blow Out (1981), directed by Brian De Palma– which alludes to Blowup – used sound recording rather than photography as its motif.
Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
Acclaimed animated drama. The scenes with the brother and sister are my favorites, which takes me back to moments in my own life. Not often that an animated film can affect me on an emotional level, and this one succeeded.
About the silent victims of war, the innocent children who are left to battle for survival.
My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) (1988)
Animation. Feels a little bit like Alice in Wonderland, where you are not sure whether it is the person’s imagination, or the events are actually for real.
Heartwarming story and characters.
Whisper of the Heart (1995)
A coming of age story of a bookish teenage girl. It feels quite formulaic, yet it kept me interested due to main characters you care about. The antique store with the cat in a suit was quite memorable and my favorite part. The ending was a bit rushed.
John Denver – "Take Me Home, Country Roads" is featured several times, in a similar way that Chungking Express (1994) dug up an old classic with "California Dreamin" by The Mamas & the Papas. The difference is Country Roads kind of annoys me, while California Dreamin I love, but I still liked the film overall.
The only film to be directed by Yoshifumi Kondō, who died in 1998. Studio Ghibli had hoped that Kondō would become the successor to Miyazaki and Takahata.
Favorite quote: “I dreamed of living alone, but fearless. A secret longing to be courageous. Loneliness kept bottled up inside.”
The Lion King (1994)
A wonderful animated film from Disney, which does have formulaic elements, sidekicks as comic relief, and the obligatory songs, yet for a change I actually enjoyed the Disney soundtrack. The film also has characters you remember and care about.
I liked the message, about identity, and finding your place in life.
Favorite quote: “I never get to go anywhere.” “Oh young master, one day you will be king, then you can chase those slobbering mangy stupid poachers from dawn until dusk”
All About Eve (1950)
Nominated for 14 Academy Awards. Talky drama, which honestly was quite of a chore to get through. As with The Philadelphia Story (1939) I also watched in June, I was bothered by the screenplay, which is so overstuffed with dialogue, that I wondered why they didn’t cut some of it out. Perhaps that’s how it was in those days?
The performances were good. The movie is supposed to be funny, is it just me who didn’t get the humor? It’s also supposed to be smart yet I must have missed that too. I guess this is a classic that just wasn’t for me. The theme of ageism, especially when it comes to female stars, is still relevant today.
As they described on the chicks with accents podcast: “Margot (Bette Davis) is deeply flawed, and mostly remembered for her bad personality traits. But she had something really good, she is so determined to get what she wanted, a fierce personality, she was so strong, and unafraid to do what she had to do, and speak her mind. And we should all learn something from her inner strength that she had to be fierce all over”
The Room (2003)
Often cited as the worst movie ever made, so I watched out of curiosity. A flop when released, but has since gained a cult following. Definitely poor acting from the lead Tommy Wiseau, he’s the worst actor I’ve ever seen. Way too many sex scenes and scenes of throwing a ball. That laugh Johnny has, “ha ha” is too funny. How the hell did this cost $6 million? :)
Just about the only positive is the photography of San Francisco in the intro.
If you enjoy so bad it's good movies, an essential watch.
Favorite, unintentionally funny quote: “You’re tearing me apart!!!”
The Philadelphia Story (1939)
Nominated for six Academy Awards. For me, dated and overlong drama/comedy with K Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant. Appears to be a lot of unnecessary dialogue in this movie, so I’m surprised it won Oscar for Best Writing Screenplay. Was it supposed to be a comedy? Didn’t like it, nor did I care what happens to the characters. I guess I’m in the minority who didn’t love it. If you like this film, I’m sorry for dissing it, just an opinion.
Favorite quote: “The time to make up your mind about people, is never”
The Lady Eve (1941)
Screwball comedy written and directed by Preston Sturges.
For me, the best part of the movie is the first 50 minutes with the hoax on the boat, the last 40 minutes has a couple of funny moments, but implausible that he (Henry Fonda) would think she (Stanwyk) is someone else. When you’re in love, then I guess reason goes out the window.
Favorite quotes: “I’ve always loved you, I mean I’ve never loved anyone but you. I know that sounds dull as a drugstore novel, what I see inside I’ll never be able to cast into words, but that’s what I mean“
“They say a moonlit deck is a woman’s business office”
Dial M for Murder (1954)
Directed by Hitchcock. Suspenseful crime drama with Grace Kelly. I didn’t guess the twist.
Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)
About a domineering father, who has plans for his son(Buster Keaton). I liked it, but based on the lack of daredevil stunts, and the formulaic script, I didn’t think it was as great as Sherlock Jr, The General, or One Week. The destructive storm near the end was quite something, how the buildings fell apart and such. The hat purchase scene was memorable too.
The film was named after a popular Arthur Collins song, "Steamboat Bill".
Written, directed and starring Charlie Chaplin, he even composed the score.
Overlong, and not as funny as Chaplin’s best work. Talking during the sketches isn’t as effective as when he’s silent. Part of the problem is the sketches are intentionally supposed to be bad, because Chaplin in playing a washed-up comedian, who the audience shun. The strength of the movie are the characters, who you want to see lead a happy life, and that was mainly what kept me watching to the end. The ballet sequences kind of washed over me.
It’s always easier to give advice, than take advice, is the message I got. And that encouragement is important as a performer/artist.
It was pretty special to see Buster Keaton and Chaplin together, despite both quite old, their piano/violin sequence near the end was probably my favorite scene of the entire movie.
In 1973, twenty years after the film’s first release, Chaplin and his musical collaborators Raymond Rasch and Larry Russell were awarded an Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score. It was the only competitive Academy Award Chaplin ever received. (He had previously received two Honorary Oscars.)
A star-studded cast, and a fine oscar-nominated performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin.
The not so good things, some scenes feel a bit too forced and unnatural, and it feels a bit like a tv-movie.
Maybe some of the time, Chaplin is an unreliable narrator, as his co-biographer even says “bullshit and you know it”
East of Eden (1955)
Directed by Elia Kazan, with James Dean as the lead. Adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, and a retelling the story of Cain and Abel. A son wants to find out about his family and consequently about himself. About parent’s expectations, family secrets, fathers and sons, and what it is to be good or bad. Kind of an old-fashioned The Place Beyond The Pines.
Blood Simple (1984)
Directorial debut of Joel Coen. None of the characters are especially likeable, and they do make pretty stupid decisions, particularly the wife who barely hides her infidelity. But an effective, suspenseful, edgy crime thriller, where we know more than the characters do. I kept waiting and waiting for the police investigation. The ending was simple and thrilling. It didn’t provoke any deeper thought, I guess it is, what it is. Liked it a lot more than Miller’s Crossing.
The way the camera moved around, at the bar, and other scenes, was unexpected and well-done.
Nice soundtrack, going to look that up. A highlight is The Four Tops' It's the Same Old Song
Favorite quote: “What are you smiling at, I’m funny? I’m an arsehole? No no no. That’s not funny, what’s funny is her”
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Wow, this Coen brothers film noir was boring, a bunch of guys talking, the chit chat scenes go on way too long, and nothing really happens. I had a tough time even finishing it, and didn’t care about the characters. Critically acclaimed, yet a box-office failure. Overrated if you ask me.
2-3 scenes are imprinted in my memory from the woods, the first one with Gabriel Byrne and John Turturro, and the contrast in their demeanor is striking, Byrne ice cold, John Turturro hysterical.
Favorite quote: “Is there a point, or are you just brushing up on your small talk?”
Gone with the Wind (1939)
You know you are in for an epic with those giant main titles, big memorable Tara's theme. and beautiful photography. Often in conversation as one of the best films of The Golden Age. But all those cousins marrying eachother, my oh my...
The turbulent relationship between Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) is probably my favorite thing about the film, as you never quite know how they feel about each other.
The film has been criticized for its historical revisionism, and glorification of slavery, but nevertheless it has been credited for triggering changes to the way African Americans are depicted on film.
Favorite quotes: Rhett Butler: “I never give anything without expecting something in return, and I always get paid”
Rhett to Scarlett about Mrs Molly: "There's just too much honor in her to ever conceive of dishonour in anyone she loves. And she loves you. But just why she does I don't know"
The Movies Begin, Volume 1 (2002)
About the genesis of the motion picture medium. Depicts random situations in late 1800s and early 20th Century. The 1 minute clips are tough to really critique, many feel meaningless, because so short, and only of interest, because using a camera.
My favorites are Comic Boxing, now that I need to try! Also, Transformation By Hats was fun. The Luminere classic Trip To the Moon is included.
Perhaps the most interesting of the lesser-known clips is of the fish market in Moscow, where people are unsure what a film even is, and are curious.
The Great Train Robbery (1903) features the iconic moment of a cowboy firing at the camera (image above)
Overall, it didn’t fascinate me enough to watch volume 2, 3, 4 and 5.
Ben Hur (1959)
Winner of 11 oscars, it looks very expensive, especially the ship battles, the horse and cart race, and all the extras in Rome.
A powerful and visually striking epic in the same mould as Lawrence of Arabia.
The Christianity elements in Ben Hur don’t really stand out, though, other than the setting, and I feel like they are added on to give the story a profound quality. What lingers for me are the action scenes, and the story of revenge.
Spoiler: It goes on maybe 20-30 minutes too long. For me, the "miracle" near the end doesn't fit with the rest of the film.
I’m not really a big fan of Scorsese’s violent, profanity-filled films, only watched because in IMDb top 250.
When the majority of the “highlights” are extreme violence, a man getting stabbed with a pen, a guy getting his hand busted with a hammer, a fellow with a head in a vice, then I’m repulsed. But I was ok with all the killings in Django (1966)-so it depends.
My favorite scene probably was when Sharon Stone character throws chips up in the air and gives Robert de Niro character sidelong glances. Plus the soundtrack is full of golden oldies.
The Bourne Identity (2002)
I don’t know if I’m alone think this, for me the first hour is the most suspenseful part, especially the escape and car chase. Once a revelation is revealed, it’s still good, but has a tough time maintaining that same high level of intensity.
To me, the woman remaining by Bourne's side was a bit implausible, because she knew he was trouble. I think many women would take the money and run, but I guess then we wouldn’t have had a story. Seems love and danger appeal to her. Maybe she didn't have anything to go back to.
Forbidden Planet (1956)
A sci-fi film, which is considered among the best of the 50s. Pretty good special effects for the time. Leslie Nielsen in an early serious role.
The set pieces were more impressive than the story. Not bad, just felt they could have done more with all the technology that was introduced, in terms of action scenes and storytelling, but maybe the budget wasn’t there for that.
Spoiler: It’s a valuable message that our worst enemy can be ourselves, that we shouldn’t try and be God, and that technology out-of-control is a threat. Apparently inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
Singin in the Rain (1952)
I should start by saying musicals, with exceptions, are not really my thing. The violin two-man act Fit as a fiddle was impressive. The singing in the rain scene is obviously iconic, which if you’ve watched Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange has sinister undertones, Gene Kelly was reportedly disgusted when it was used in the film and walked away from Malcolm McDowell at a party.
A colorful, dazzling, and well-choreographed movie, yet Singin in the Rain is also quite exhausting to sit through in one sitting. Like a 100 minute music video, but I suppose you could say that about a lot of song/dance musicals.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
One of the most well-known and financially successful midnight movies of all time. A glam rock cult classic full of bizarre characters. Not quite sure if it is a parody or tribute to horror and sci-fi movies, I guess it doesn’t really matter?
Interesting how we at the mysterious castle feel as uncomfortable as the two visitors. I’m honestly quite scared of Tim Curry, he also freaked me out as Pennywise in Stephen King’s It (1990)
Perhaps the most iconic from soundtrack is Time Warp
For me, Meat Loaf’s song “hot patootie, bless my soul, really love that rock n roll” was the best of the other songs.
Eddie's Teddy was pretty cool, in that a verse is sung by Eddie from beyond the grave.
What’s with Eddie’s uncle, who looks like Richard Nixon :)
For what it lacks in story, it makes up for in energy. You could call it an empowering movie, that encourages us to seize the day. Especially the song: "Don't dream it, be it"
Not a film I genuinely can say I liked, but I appreciate how original and over-the-top it is, and I’m glad I finally crossed it off the list.
Was Fritz Lang's first sound film, Lang considered M to be his favorite of his own films because of the social criticism in the film. In 1937, he told a reporter that he made the film "to warn mothers about neglecting children."
Great performance by Peter Lorre.The suspicion and hysteria reminded me quite a bit of Vinterberg’s The Hunt (2012), the community taking the law into their own hands. Though the difference is the suspect is a presumed child killer in the 1931 film. M is also about how the system of the law is a problem for the families of the victims, no punishment can repay what they have lost.
Spoilers: You could say the community’s efforts are superfluous, as the resources Schranker brings to the search are essentially of the same kind available to the police. Yet the desire for justice perhaps outweighs logic. We are spared the savagery of the attacks, for this reason, the audience is not energized by the blood lust of the citizens. His pain may be more acute, because as perpetrator of those atrocities, he must be more offended than they can be, and to the extent that he is powerless over his compulsion, he is a victim. The assembly thirsts for vengeance and blood. For the first time in the film, the will to violence which makes murder possible is evoked. His struggle is revealed to be as much against himself as it is against his captors.
The structure of the film employed two modes, the movement from simple identification of the murderer to the revelation of the unseen life within, parallel to the progress from the expanse of the city to the confines of the locker and the subsequent descent down the stairs to the astonishingly cavernous warehouse. The Shining (1980) also used this method of the space gradually becoming more and more confined.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Won Oscar for best foreign language film. Surrealist film directed by Luis Buñuel. A bunch of people have their dinner interrupted, this happens several times for various reasons. The sets and acting are ok, but kind of a pointless film I thought. My favorite scene is the curtain and audience.
Buñuel once joked that whenever he needed an extra scene he simply filmed one of his own dreams. The film includes three of Buñuel's recurring dreams: a dream of being on stage and forgetting his lines, a dream of meeting his dead cousin in the street and following him into a house full of cobwebs, and a dream of waking up to see his dead parents staring at him.
The Last Picture Show (1971)
Nominated for eight Academy Awards, it won two for acting. Coming-of-age drama that does a great job of transporting you back to a different time and place, 1950s Texas.
I’ve read that Bogdanovich went for black and white to emulate the classical Hollywood Era Westerns (Hawks, Ford, etc.) he admires. It's as much an aesthetic decision to evoke tradition and nostalgia as it is a thematic one, since the film gradually becomes about the degradation of an old way of filmgoing.
The director has said the decision of b/w is because color was too pretty for a dreary and sad town.
Favorite quote: “Being crazy about a woman like her is always the right thing to do”
Seen anything great this month? Have you watched any of the above films? Agree or disagree?
My Top 5
1.) Grave of the Fireflies (1988) (8.5)
2.) M (1931) (8.5)
3.) The Lion King (1994) (8.2)
4.) Dial M for Murder (1954) (8.1)
5.) Gone with the Wind (1939) (8.0)
6.) The Last Picture Show (1971) (7.9)
7.) Whisper of the Heart (1995) (7.9)
8.) Blood Simple (1984) (7.8)
9.) My Neighbor Totoro (Tonari no Totoro) (1988) (7.8)
10.) Singin in the Rain (1952) (7.8)
11.) Ben Hur (1959) (7.7)
12.) The Bourne Identity (2002) (7.5)
13.) The Lady Eve (1941) (7.5)
14.) Paradise: Love (2012) (7.5)
15.) East of Eden (1955) (7.5)
16.) Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) (7.5)
17.) Casino (1995) (7.4)
18.) Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928) (7.4)
19.) Forbidden Planet (1956) (7.4)
Monthly links from the blogosphere: June
On FILM PASTURE EPISODE 9: 1001 PODCASTS BEFORE YOU DIE, listen to Jay from Life vs. Film and Steve from 1001 Plus talk about their experiences with the 1001 Films to See Before You Die list. What’s good, what’s bad, and what’s missing from the popular compendium of films.
Andina's Top 10 Movies of 2012
Michaël Parent's summer of 2013 will be tainted with the films directed by Preston Sturges
Lisa Thatcher's Sydney Film Festival Round up
thomas4cinema wrote a thoughtful review about Ulrich Seidl's Paradise: Love (2012), a film I'll be reviewing myself at the end of June.
Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon return as IFC picks up sequel: The Trip To Italy.
Celebrities that turn 50 in 2013: Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, Johnny Depp, Helen Hunt, Brad Pitt, Mike Myers, Jet Li, Elisabeth Shue, Lisa Kudrow, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Tori Amos, George Michael, Seal, Michael Jordan, Conan O’Brian
Lambcast Movie of the Month had an interesting discussion about American Psycho, and I even added a few things they said to my review
Nick at To The Escape Hatch writes about Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist of The Doors, who died May 20.
SONIA on How to cope with the death of Google Reader on July 1
Keith & The Movies on That Odd Thing Called Taste
Jaina kicks off her 365 photo project
Dan Heaton, for his 500th Post, shares a 2001 interview he did with Julie Delpy
Steven's latest Auteurs piece is about Woody Allen (Part 1)
Alex Withrow lists Top 10 Movies Booed at Cannes
Mette, Nikhat and Sofia continue their new podcast with a discussion about The Great Gatsby
George Lucas got married
Lauren at Man I Love Films discusses what she calls The Obsolete Critic
Niels85 liked Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
Courtney wrote an article about Bling Ring, including quotes from director S Coppola.
Fogs asks, Who do YOU think is the most annoying Movie Character?
Graffiti with Punctuation, ask, What’s your favourite film adapted from a novel?
Natasha about YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE FROM ANY MOVIE
Sati wrote a thoughtful review on Stoker (2013)
Lights Camera Reaction's appreciation post for Nicole Kidman
3guys1movie ask, What Happened To Director M. Night Shyamalan?
Pete analyzes his favorite film, Fight Club
Eric reviews John Woo's Hard Boiled , a film that I hope to see soon.
Cinematic asks, What Movies Are You Looking Forward to This Summer?
Space Commander Chris Hadfield sings a cover of Space Oddity by David Bowie, in space...
3guys1movie ask, Why Did You Start Blogging About Film?
Josh lists his Top 10 Most Rewatched Films of the 2010s So Far
3guys1movie ask, What is Your Take On Product Placement In Film?
SDG reviews his June blind spot The Breakfast Club (1985)
Nostra dedicates his latest Many Faces of to James Gandolfini, who tragically died at the age of 51.
Neal at Top10films writes about his top 10 James Gandolfini films
Alex also showed his respect by writing his latest In Character piece on James Gandolfini
I can't include everyone, so don't feel left out, if I didn't link you! That's all for now, from Chris (the tricenarian)
Album review: Trouble Will Find Me - The National (2013)
“You don’t know when shit’s going to hit the fan,” says Bryce of the album’s title.
Don't Swallow the Cap
I Should Live in Salt
This Is the Last Time
As with High Violet (2010), it mostly continues the mellower approach, and to me is equally as good. The three opening tracks are powerful, on an album with few weaknesses. What struck me is the remarkable honesty of the writing, which is also somehow universal.
I love the lyrics of I Should Live in Salt, how friends/family should know us enough to predict our reactions, it really is something everyone can relate to. According to Berninger in NPR interview, it's a song about the tour for High Violet, when his younger brother made a film about The National called Mistaken for Strangers, and how they have different personalities as brothers.
Demons is a highlight(I actually misheard the chorus lyrics, thinking it was “I stay down, with my ideals/ideas).
Don’t Swallow The Cap is a change of pace and possibly my favorite, with what seem like very introspective, personal lyrics.
On Fireproof, it’s as if he’s admitting he’s sensitive.
About the song This Is the Last Time, says Bryce: “There’s this idea of not hiding, and accepting some of the awkward, weird things about yourself. That’s healthier than burying it. On this record, we feel the most comfortable in our own skin.”
The less prominent album tracks on the second half of the record you could argue are not as impacting, yet the lyrics speak of different stories and emotions, so you shouldn’t write them off, Humiliation, and I Need My Girl are pretty good.
Apparently Sufjan Stevens and Sharon Van Etten are guests, though I honestly couldn’t tell. There are some obvious and less obvious homages to other music, such as “she wore blue velvet”, and the lyric “kiss off into the air”, the later which may or may not be a shout-out to Violent Femmes.
But it’s not for everyone, if you like upbeat music, you may want to pass on Trouble Will Find Me. The only thing I wish is that lead vocalist Berninger would experiment a bit more with his signature sombre vocal, but you can’t have it all. The band don’t reinvent themselves, but I would be surprised if it isn’t in my top 10 albums of 2013 at years end.
Oh, when I lift you up you feel
Like a hundred times yourself
I wish everybody knew
What's so great about you
"I have only two emotions
Careful fear and dead devotion
I can't get the balance right"
"I'm tired, I'm freezing, I'm dumb
When it gets so late I forget everyone"
"There's a time to leave, there's a time to think about
What I wanna say to the girls at the door
I need somewhere to be
But I can't get around the river in front of me"
"Think about something so much
You should know me better than that
Start to slide out of touch
You should know me better than that"
While writing Trouble, Berninger was struck by an irrational fear of death—not so much for himself, but the idea that he would no longer be there to take care of his wife and child. Imagined deaths and what comes after crop up all through Trouble, treated with total fear, absurd humor, and curiosity. In an attempt to put off death for as long as possible, the singer quit smoking (a habit he’d kept since his teens) in 2011 and now looks twice when crossing the street in the two cities he calls home, Brooklyn, and more recently, L.A. He describes himself as “a secular humanist” who doesn’t believe in heaven, and is only just becoming an adult, but this newfound responsible behavior is his way of assuring what he sees as his afterlife—the part of you that lives on in other people. “Having a child made that so much clearer,” Berninger says. “You can’t control everything, whether it’s serotonin, chemicals, whatever-- there's no way you can make sure your child is going to be happy. My parents are wonderful, but I went through some phases of total despair and sadness. But I see afterlife in my daughter. It’ll be better for her if I don’t go anywhere for a long time. I never had that anxiety before.” (…) But where “Fake Empire” was about closing the blinds to the Bush years, the band’s political affiliations barely manifest on Trouble. “For this record, we wanted to put all that stuff away,” says Berninger. “These songs were coming from a completely different place; a subconscious, non-strategic, non-academic place.”
Have you listened to the new album, agree or disagree with my verdict?
Mini-reviews of 2013 albums
Album: Stoker soundtrack
Thoughts: Two amazing tracks, and a beautiful score by Clint Marshall, can’t wait to see the dvd in July! If you are thinking of getting hold of this disc, I would seriously recommend buying the songs seperately, as the soundtrack has dialogue by the actors mixed with the music, which is slightly annoying.
Summer Wine - Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazelwood
Becomes the Color - Emily Wells
4 out of 5
Album: Bling Ring soundtrack
Thoughts: I think I prefer Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette, and Somewhere soundtracks.
Bling Ring I don’t like all the musicians, quite different style to S Coppola's other soundtracks, so is an album I’ll pick out a few.
A good chance Brian Reitzell score tracks(Cotton Candy, Dans Beat, & Bling Ring Suite) will be my taste, which haven’t been released as audio on youtube.
Favorites so far:
Ouroboros - Oneohtrix Point Never
Freeze - Klaus Schulze
Locomotion - Plastikman
Halleluwah - Can
Avicii - Levels
Bankrupt - Phoenix (the end of the track is the best part)
3.5 out of 5
Album: Ice On The Dune - Empire of the Sun
Thoughts: It’s an ok sophomore LP, and does grow on you on repeat listening. Even though it lacks a prominent single like Walking On A Dream (2008), the new release does have a number of pretty good tracks. You can currently stream the new album for a limited time only here.
Favorite tracks: LUX, DNA, Old Flavours, I’ll be around, Keep a watch, Alive.
3.5 out of 5
Album: A - Agnetha Faltskog
Thoughts: The lyrics are boring and cliche, and the music is not even close to the level of ABBA. I can’t understand why she would tarnish her legacy with this forgettable new album. Hated it.
No liked tracks
1 out of 5
Album: The Ballad of Boogie Christ - Joseph Arthur
Thoughts: The album is a little too obsessed with religious connotations for me to really get into the lyrics. Couple of stand-outs:
Saint of Impossible Causes
All The Old Heroes
3 out of 5
Album: Immunity - Jon Hopkins
Thoughts: I quite liked the tracks Open Eye Signal, Immunity, and Form by Firelight. For me, on his latest record, a bit too many techno beats, yet also beautiful ambient sprinkled in. I prefer his earlier work. It will be interesting to follow which movies he will do score for in future.
3 out of 5
Album: Once I Was an Eagle - Laura Marling
Thoughts: To me, the strongest part of Laura Marling’s latest album are the lyrics, which have a timeless quality. A positive is it can be listened to as one long song, and has the feel of a complete album. While I’m not personally enthralled by her voice, which for me lacks a bit of variation and passion, she is definitely one of best contemporary singer-songwriters in the UK. For the patient listener a rewarding experience, even though she circles around the artist-having-trouble-with-being-in-a relationship-dilemma a bit too often. Perhaps reading the lyrics while you listen is the best way to go about it. There’s even an interlude instrumental mid album, in case you find it heavy-going. However, part of me feels some of this material would be better suited as a collection of poems instead.
Favorite lyrics: “Undine you live for the sea, you cannot you cannot, love me”
“I look at people here in this city and wonder if they're lonely
or like me they're not content to live as things are meant to be”
“My vote was never counted, so who upon this earth knows what it is that I believe?”
Where Can I Go
Pray For Me
When Were You Happy
3.5 out of 5
Album: Extended Play - Fleetwood Mac
Thoughts: For a while, I was undecided whether I liked this 17 minute EP, or not. The more I listen, the more I feel drawn to it.
4 out of 5
Album: After Dark 2
Thoughts: A compilation of dreamy music, some new, some older. Cherry, and Warm in the Winter, both I shared last year, are the stand-outs. But other than those, there is a lot of weak new stuff on here that I only wanted to listen to once. My favorites of the new material are Into Eternity – Farah, and Redheads Feel More Pain - Glass Candy
I still haven't listened to Symmetry - Heart of Darkness, or The Magician - Mike Simonetti, so maybe those would change my verdict.
2.5 out of 5
Heard any of these albums yet? Which new music are you listening to? Share your opinions in the comments. I'll have a review of The National's new album up this weekend.
Posted by Chris at Thursday, June 20, 2013 15 comments:
Labels: Songs from 2013
Book review: The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
Spoilers occur, this review is intended for those who already watched the film/read the novel
I read the novel earlier this year, it isn’t a book I can say I loved, but I did quite like it, and it really is an essential book if you are into classics. A novel that has continually proved itself larger than its many critics, which is perhaps what we mean when we speak of a masterpiece.
As Jessica Roake points out at Paste Magazine: ”There are layers of irony, nuance and symbolism that give the story great depth, even though most of the characters appear to be quite shallow. It's enduring appeal may be due to its ability to tap into the romantic dreamer in all of us, as well as the way it imaginatively depicts a bygone era of American culture, through the lens of an author who experienced and embodied that period so well.”
The Great Gatsby is about what you do, when you already have a lot of money. For Fitzgerald, wealth is a symbol of youth, with its optimism, thirst for success and recognition, its magical possibility of the impossible. But Fitzgerald’s view of the Twenties was serious and complex, for he recognized the glamour as well as the waste, the charm as well as the self-destruction. In “Early Success” (1937) Fitzgerald wrote: “All the stories that came into my head had a touch of disaster in them, the lovely young creatures in my novels went to ruin”
Fitzgerald drew upon his life, family, friends, and favorite locales for his novels and stories, but his purpose in doing so was not to expose real people and events but to recreate them in fictional forms capable of conveying truths as he saw them.
The Great Gatsby is a critique of the American Dream. It’s a time capsule depicting what would be known as The Roaring Twenties, or the Jazz Age. “It was an age of miracles, it was an age of art, it was an age of excess, and it was an age of satire,” Fitzgerald wrote in “Echoes of the Jazz Age.”
The point-of-view is Nick (Tobey Maguire), he is the unreliable narrator, who observes the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). Nick the narrator differs from Nick the participant in events. He is looking back, and more mature and insightful. The wonderfully maintained vagueness is an essential part of the magic of the book.
While Nick is trying to write Gatsby, we are also reading Nick. Nick is a spectator in search of a performer, yet Gatsby is also a spectator of sorts. There is a strong tendency on Nick’s part to identify with Gatsby and to make him a hero. This is why it is so important for him to be able to feel that the account Gatsby gives of his life is all true. In Nick’s hypothesizing, speculating, imagining, there is something sympathetic in Nick’s keenness to give Gatsby the benefit of the doubt. How much this is promoted by (homosexual?) attraction to the man, or revulsion towards the others, is left unsaid. Gatsby’s grandiose plans seem to have dubious grounding. Nick prefers to erase whatever might be the dirty side of the story, either by omission, denial, over-writing, reinterpretation, though, of course, it is part of the brilliance of the book, that we keep getting glimpses of what Nick is trying to keep, and write, out.
Nick and Gatsby established the bond of war experience between them before they even learned each other's names, and the restlessness that Nick has noticed in Gatsby ("He was never quite still") (p.64) at the outset of their journey recalls again, like Nick's own restlessness, the agitations of the combat veteran.
It is also confirmed by Nick himself in subsequent narrative when he admires Gatsby's career: "He did extraordinarily well in the war. He was a captain before he went to the front, and following the Argonne battles he got his majority and the command of the divisional machine-guns" (p.150).
But is the whole book about Nick Carraway who invents a fascinating figure to compensate for the dismal Middle West to which he has retreated? Is Gatsby’s war record another lie?
Nick has delivered a work of art, and there can never be any unraveling of the motives for creating art. Nick: "I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life" (p.40)
Because we diverge from Nick--sometimes hesitating at his reactions, sometimes moving beyond them--we feel, even as we too are compelled with fascination, a firmer objectivity.
After Gatsby's death Nick comes to realize that, despite his unsavory reputation, Gatsby was the best of the lot. He was willing to take the blame for the death of Myrtle Wilson, Tom's mistress, even though Daisy had been driving the car.
Nick asks what part of the Midwest Gatsby is from. Gatsby replies that he is from San Francisco, to which Nick's response is a simple 'I see' (p.71). What is surprising about this exchange is not so much that San Francisco is not a Midwestern city, but that Nick offers little reaction to Gatsby's blatantly obvious 'mistake'. Even if he were not from the Midwest himself, anyone with a basic knowledge of American geography would know that San Francisco is on America's west coast. Indeed, it seems impossible that Gatsby (also from the Midwest) would not realize it too. So why does he tell such an obvious lie, and why does Nick let it pass without comment? The only plausible explanation is that Gatsby wants Nick to know that he's lying, to show Nick that 'Gatsby' is a fictional creation. Nick's response of 'I see' implies that he is aware of the lie (he 'sees' the truth), but the fact that he neither challenges Gatsby nor points out the lie to the reader suggests that Nick chooses to be complicit with Gatsby's lies. It seems clear from the San Francisco incident that Nick is not interested in exposing the real Gatsby.
It takes Tom, who bothers to investigate Gatsby's past, to reveal Gatsby as a liar and a criminal. What Gatsby's San Francisco lie does is to allow Nick to see behind the scenes, to see that 'Gatsby' is a role with a more or less convincing back-story and with a set on which to perform.
It is possible, that Nick identifies with and admires Gatsby and wants to believe in the possibility of a man with little or no inheritance (like Gatsby and himself) becoming wealthy and successful in America.
Nick seems to want to believe in the democratic ideal that anyone can make it in America, Gatsby's life suggests to Nick that the mythic 'American Dream' is impossible (or extremely difficult) to achieve --he knows that a farm boy cannot become a member of the social elite, but he hopes that the Oxford-educated Jay Gatsby can achieve James Gatz's dream. A person from any social background could, potentially, make a fortune, but the American aristocracy—families with old wealth—scorned the newly rich industrialists and speculators.
The clash between “old money” and “new money” manifests itself in the novel’s symbolic geography: East Egg represents the established aristocracy, West Egg the self-made rich. Meyer Wolfshiem and Gatsby’s fortune symbolize the rise of organized crime and bootlegging.
Gatsby’s dream of loving Daisy is ruined by the difference in their respective social statuses.
Gatsby is a shadowy, elusive, non-drinking, self-isolating spectator at his own parties. He appears to experience and enjoy his desire and his dreams better at a distance. Perhaps he is afraid of being found out about his questionable business ventures, perhaps Gatsby is shy, and just happy to be the host and see others enjoy themselves at his parties. What is sad is his generosity goes almost completely unappreciated, especially at his unattended funeral. Gatsby has been used. No thanks for covering for Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), which cost Gatsby his life. For there is pathos about Gatsby, his aura of loneliness and isolation, an emptiness that seems to flow from his house. A somewhat childish ambition of trying to recreate a past romance by impressing Daisy with his wealth, without even getting to know her properly, and naïvely and blindly following his passion without contemplating Daisy’s situation, and disregarding whether she still has feelings for Tom.
Gatsby’s lavish and hedonistic lifestyle is a construct, we quickly learn, erected in order to seduce Daisy, the lost love of his youth, who is now married to Tom Buchanan. If I can just get what I dream of (Daisy), then I’ll be happy, is what Gatsby believes. What recommends Gatsby to Nick is not the quality of his judgment but the intensity of his longing for Daisy. He got rich quick out of a sense of urgency and desperation and crazy hopefulness, out of refusing to get over a broken heart and give up the love of his life. But Gatsby forgets that every time we get what we wanted, we want more.
Gatsby has accumulated all this wealth and throws these parties, not necessarily because he finds them meaningful, but because he hopes it will attract Daisy’s attention. Gatsby’s dream of Daisy doesn’t have a happy ending, revealing the corruption that wealth causes and the unworthiness of the goal, much in the way Fitzgerald sees the American dream crumbling in the 1920s, as America’s powerful optimism, vitality, and individualism become subordinated to the amoral pursuit of wealth.
It has been suggested whether Gatsby is in love with Daisy, or in love with money. He stares towards the green light which is also in the direction of her expensive mansion. If this is true, then Gatsby is a phony, which is a legitimate interpretation, given the questionable nature of his income presumably from bootlegging. From that point-of-view, Nick has misread Gatsby, and Gatsby’s quest is not heroic, but greedy and false. But either way, is Gatsby really to blame, or is it society with its American dream corrupting the innocent Gatsby?
Fitzgerald wrote: “Gatsby turned out all right in the end, it was what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams.” You could say dreaming is a universal goal. As a reviewer wrote, the tragedy isn’t in dreaming, but in chasing an unworthy dream. Gatsby's dream girl is hardly worthy of his romantic quest. Perhaps he’s naively in love with the quest more than Daisy. In love with love, than with his beloved.
Gatsby on one level succeeds in portraying himself as this dashing rich guy, but he is pursuing a dream of restoring the past to create a beautiful future that can never be fulfilled. He wants to return to the happiest time in his life, when he felt safe, and wasn’t affected by corruption and the burdens of adult life. The irony is Gatsby’s pursuit of that dream leads only to more corruption and violence.
Gatsby wants to erase his past, change his name, and become a completely different person. Hell, he even wants to erase Tom Buchanan, by requesting Daisy to admit she never loved Tom. This can be read on a macro level. According to Emerson, fathering countries, like England, are to be forgotten. Emerson, and many writers who followed him, stressed self-reliance and self-inventing. The term The Self-Made Man was introduced in 1800s. There is ambition and courage in trying to become Mr. Somebody. The American dream of rags to riches is to be admired, because of how difficult it is to succeed. But to the extent that Gatsby is excessive, foolish and foredoomed, so the whole book suggests, is America. As history has shown, the Wall Street crash was not long after in 1929.
In confession, 11-year-old Gatsby rebels against his father, by saying he is guilty of not believing he was the son of his parents. For the dismalness of being a normal boy he substitutes by imagining himself to be someone important. A fantasy the author Fitzgerald himself owned to. But he keeps
the lie in the confessional to himself, the secret lie, the secret fantasy, comes to constitute his essential self. This is the American Dream that Fitzgerald takes on: the idea that with enough money and will, one can simply undo the past. And the novel is beautiful in how it allows the audience to yearn with Gatsby and the “colossal vitality of his illusion.”
The title “The Great Gatsby” is reminiscent of billings for such vaudeville magicians as “The Great Houdini” and “The Great Blackstone,” suggesting that the persona of Jay Gatsby is a masterful illusion.
An America full of Jay Gatsbys would be a disordered place to live. But an America with no one like Gatsby, no such heroes in its life or fiction, would be, in its way, unendurable, too. To miss what is great about Gatsby is to miss something essential to what is great about America.
Gatsby’s dream is probably the dream of Everyman, not only for the young man searching for his lost love, but for all of us who yearn for more time, perhaps for that bright future, and regret wistfully what has been lost. That final image of the individual pursuing his destiny, however fruitless that pursuit may prove, is perhaps the greatness of Gatsby, and maybe of us all.
You could say Gatsby's greatness lies in his capacity for illusion. Had he seen Daisy for what she was, he could not have loved her with such single-minded devotion. He comes to recapture Daisy, and for a time it looks as though he will succeed. But he must inevitably fail, because of his inability to separate the ideal from the real. Gatsby is playing a role he think Daisy wants to see, rather than just being himself. Gatsby prefers the dream over the reality. For all Fitzgerald lets us know, Gatsby dies with his dream intact.
Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) is married to Daisy, and he is shown to be a crude and adulterous husband. Tom derides Jay Gatsby as Mr Nobody from Nowhere, the phrase does pose the implicit question, can anybody in this book be said to be Mr or Mrs Somebody from Somewhere? All are restless nomads from the Midwest with more or less money. Restlessness is the predominant mood of the novel, and the word and its variants occur frequently.
Tom has to protect his privileged position from the threat of 'new money' and he does so by destroying Gatsby, both literally and metaphorically. Tom's revelation of Gatsby's true origins signals the beginning of the end for him, and soon after the scene in the hotel, Gatsby is killed by Wilson, who mistakenly believes that he was responsible for Myrtle's death. It is no coincidence that Tom is the one who makes sure Wilson has the wrong culprit, effectively ensuring that Gatsby will no longer be a threat to his status or his marriage.
Gatsby seems committed to an idea of Daisy that he has created rather than to the real woman she is. She is capable of affection (she seems genuinely fond of Nick and occasionally seems to love Gatsby sincerely), but not of sustained loyalty or care.
Daisy is in love with ease and luxury, is self-absorbed, has a sense of entitlement, and an inability to make difficult choices. You could say these are things we all struggle with during our life, and can make us unlikeable to others.
Daisy is one who lives for the moment, and for whom glimpses of tomorrow and the day after that and the day after that, are terrifying lapses of a willful blindness to such matters (and blindness is one of the novel's themes). Gatsby has his own willful blindness in the form of his enduring ideals and the dreams these ideals have created. In classical mythology, which the novel draws on, the goddess Fortune is also blind in that she favors no one (she is often figured with one eye open and one eye closed, winking like Daisy herself) as she turns her wheel about, thereby deciding the fates of human beings.
Early in his career Fitzgerald had acquired the popular reputation of having created the "flapper”, but this image is misleading. Fitzgerald's female characters are not trivial, immature, dumb beauties; instead, they are independent, courageous, and determined. Fitzgerald: "I had no idea of originating an American flapper when I first began to write. I simply took girls whom I knew very well and, because they interested me as unique human beings, I used them for my heroines."
Parallels to author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s own life:
There are literary echoes, "The Story of the Gadsbys" (1888) by Kipling. Or the series of compositional parallels with Heart of Darkness (1902): the narrator (who both participates in events and later recounts them), and is captivated by the "magic" of a powerful individual.
Elements of The Great Gatsby mirror Fitzgerald’s own life, a self-made man from a poor background, who joins the army during World War 1.
Fitzgerald’s life coincided with the rise of new technology that created public personalities who, once in the public arena, often lost control of their carefully cultivated images. Similarly, the Gatsby character created a public image, that lead to rumors about his behavior.
Fitzgerald’s St Paul friends (the private school in which he was enrolled in 1908) , were not Catholics, and this difference heightened a lifelong sense he had of always being the outsider. Further, Fitzgerald’s embarrassment over his mother’s eccentric behavior, and his father’s failure also contributed to his sense of being an outsider. Fitzgerald made friends, but was always self-conscious because of his parents’ peculiarities and his families continuing financial dependence on the McQuillans. Gatsby also seems embarrassed by his parents, by wanting to be someone else.
Although Fitzgerald lived in a pleasant rented row house, the large homes of his wealthy friends were in adjacent blocks, and the mansion of railroad magnate James J. Hill was a short walk from his home. The young Fitzgerald was thus, like Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby, both a part of their world, and at the same time, an onlooker.
Fitzgerald’s courtship of Zelda Sayre during the war and his desperation when she broke their engagement probably inspired Gatsby’s feelings about Daisy. Fitzgerald knew that he had to achieve success that would allow Zelda to accept his proposal. He had bought her an engagement ring, but she was unwilling to accept him as her prospective husband because of his limited prospects, and they quarreled frequently. This Side of Paradise was published in 1920, and Fitzgerald and Zelda were married in April of that year. The photographs of the handsome young novelist and his beautiful wife, along with tales of their antics, filled the newspapers and magazines, and the Fitzgerald’s did everything possible to live up to their celebrity which coincided with the start of the ‘Jazz Age’. Zelda saw herself as the new flapper, and her own interviews and articles reinforced the public’s perception of the couple as overgrown children having a riotous good time – diving fully clothed into the fountain at the Plaza Hotel (Fitzgerald noted he was sober at the time); riding down Broadway in open cars, attending parties that lasted until dawn; drinking and dancing until they collapsed. Their friends included several from Fitzgerald’s Princeton days.
Daisy’s comment: “and I hope she’ll be a fool, that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool” apparently are the exact words Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda uttered following the birth of their daughter Frances Scott "Scottie" Fitzgerald.
Visiting Long Island's north shore and attending parties at mansions may have inspired Fitzgerald's setting for the Great Gatsby. Today there are a number of theories as to which mansion was the inspiration for the book.
The green light:
The green light could be interpreted as a symbol of desire, a desire that is out of reach. Something at a distance we strive towards. A symbol of hopes and dreams. Because Gatsby’s quest for Daisy is broadly associated with the American dream, the green light also symbolizes that more generalized ideal. In Chapter 9, Nick compares the green light to how America, rising out of the ocean, must have looked to early settlers of the new nation.
The eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg:
The eyes that watch over the world of the novel are those of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg on an old billboard in the valley of ashes. After Myrtle's death, her husband George Wilson is looking at these when he says God sees everything. Nothing seems able to intervene in Gatsby's own inexorable fate.
The eyes may represent God staring down upon and judging American society as a moral wasteland, though the novel never makes this point explicitly. Instead, throughout the novel, Fitzgerald suggests that symbols only have meaning because characters instill them with meaning. This lack of concrete significance contributes to the unsettling nature of the image. Thus, the eyes also come to represent the essential meaninglessness of the world and the arbitrariness of the mental process by which people invest objects with meaning.
The Valley of Ashes resembles something dark and lifeless. As a result of fire ashes stand for destruction and death. Furthermore the death of Myrtle Wilson in the Valley of Ashes stands for the pain associated with this valley. Also the fact that the Wilsons live in the valley shows that they are not of such high social standards as the other characters in the novel. By having to pass through the Valley of Ashes in order to get to New York, the other characters have to betake themselves to this lower status.
The use of colors in the story:
Andre Le Vot has traced the various subtle ways in which Fitzgerald deploys colors, above all blue and yellow. As Le Vot points out, blue is water, the sky, twilight, cool, restful, inviting.
Yellow is wheat, sunshine and fertility, but also whisky, gold (lucre), and dead, combustible straw, and is thus ambiguous, for what seems attractive and warm may turn combustible, violent, too hot. (Tom is straw-haired).
Ideally the two colors, and all they evoke, should be in harmony with each other, as in Nick’s odd but suggestive phrase ‘the blue honey of the Mediterranean’. But in this book they seem to drift apart and tend to opposition.
Misleadingly, perhaps, Gatsby’s car is yellow (though it is part of the dubiety that surrounds him that people disagree about the color: one describes it as cream-colored, another light green, like its owner, it appears differently in different lights). While Tom’s convertible is blue. But appropriately, they exchange cars, at Tom’s insistence, when their struggle over Daisy heads for climax and show-down.
How is the The Great Gatsby still relevant today?
Director Bazz Luhrmann: “I knew I had to do it, that book, because it’s always relevant, but it was particularly relevant now. The 20s was a period of a golden orgy of money, skyscrapers went up, everything was going up, the stock market was going up, airplanes, cars, and it looked like it would never fall. But Fitzgerald in his book, which is published in 1925, he predicted it was all going to crash.”
Nick Gillespie sees The Great Gatsby as a story "about the breakdown of class differences in the face of a modern economy based not on status and inherited position but on innovation. (…)This interpretation asserts that The Great Gatsby captures the American experience because it is a story about change and those who resist it.
Fitzgerald portrays the 1920s as an era of decayed social and moral values, evidenced in its overarching cynicism, greed, and empty pursuit of pleasure. The disintegration of the American dream in an era of unprecedented prosperity and material excess.
The novel is about the fleetingness of money and beauty, from the parties to the fame, to the love Gatsby has for Daisy - it's all superficial. Not just for those living in America during the Roaring 20's. The unrestrained desire for money and pleasure surpassed more noble goals.
Gatsby’s dream is ruined by the unworthiness of its object, just as the American dream in the 1920s is ruined by the unworthiness of its object—money and pleasure. Like 1920s Americans in general, fruitlessly seeking a bygone era in which their dreams had value, Gatsby longs to re-create a vanished past—his time in Louisville with Daisy—but is incapable of doing so.
The book cover:
Francis Cugat’s painting for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is the most celebrated and widely disseminated jacket art in twentieth-century American literature, and perhaps of all time.
Under normal circumstances, the artist illustrates a scene or motif conceived by the author; he lifts, as it were, his image from a page of the book. In this instance, however, the artist’s image preceded the finished manuscript and Fitzgerald actually maintained that he had “written it into” his book. Cugat’s rendition is not illustrative, but symbolic, even iconic: the sad, hypnotic, heavily outlined eyes of a woman beam like headlights through a cobalt night sky. Their irises are transfigured into reclining female nudes. From one of the eyes streams a green luminescent tear; brightly rouged lips complete the sensual triangle. No nose or other discernible facial contours are introduced in this celestial visage; a few dark streaks across the sky (behind the title) suggest hairlines. Below, on earth, brightly colored carnival lights blaze before a metropolitan skyline.
It has been alleged that Fitzgerald’s symbolic billboard eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg derived from Cugat’s jacket. Fitzgerald describes them as “blue and gigantic, their retinas are one yard high. They look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a nonexistent nose.”
Verdict on the book:
In conclusion, perhaps the message of the book is that wealth isn’t simply good. It hardly seems possible that criticism will exhaust the novel. The characters aren’t especially likeable, yet you are still fascinated by the mysterious Gatsby, because Nick is fascinated by him.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
The film has been receiving mixed reviews. It may be impossible to make a truly great adaptation of the book, but they did a pretty good job, though, especially with the production design. I think the genius of the novel is that we never see Gatsby, only from Nick's unreliable narration. For me, revealing Jay Gatsby in person, and explaining his past takes a lot of that vital mystery away. For that reason, maybe it is unfilmable.
Unfortunately, by displaying the characters in a one-dimensional way, and spelling out for us their problems, it means we are never really in doubt what to think of each character in the film. This is in contrast to the book, where the characters have a more unpredictable and enigmatic nature. I never really trusted the movie characters had a full life outside of the camera, while in the book it was more believable that things are happening elsewhere, even when Nick is not present.
I gave the new movie a 7/10
Other review outtakes:
According to Rodrigo Perez at The Playlist, ”the movie’s overblown style chokes the life out of any substance the story may have.” and ”With the sound off, Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” surely looks as radiant and extraordinary as some of the most dazzling movies ever committed to celluloid, but with the sound up and the experience on full volume, the movie is mostly a cacophony of style, excess and noise that makes you want to turn it all down a notch”
Sam Fragoso at moviemezzanine: "Unfortunately, Luhrmann doesn’t attempt to penetrate the hearts and minds of these people. Every character and every emotion is at arm’s length. At a distance, like the green light transplanted on the dock of the Buchanan mansion that, night after night, Gatsby becomes more and more obsessed with. For you see, the light radiating across the water is merely a mirage like the illusory and unattainable love Gatsby wishes to reclaim with Daisy."
Michael C at Serious Film:
“The fundamental problem is that Luhrmann tried to force Gatsby to his style, rather than adapt his bag of tricks to Gatsby. This method worked so well with Moulin Rouge because with that film the spectacle and the meaning were one and the same. When applied to Fitzgerald’s masterwork the result is a film that keeps the audience on the outside, admiring the fireworks from a distance.”
Bemis at cinevistaramascope:
The conventional reading is that the many bad things that happen by the story's end are a cynical comment on the essential emptiness of the excesses of Gatsby and his world; where Luhrmann departs, fascinatingly, is to treat this as a tragedy, a loss of innocence for Gatsby as well as his narrator. The movie celebrates Gatsby's essential optimism - it's done a little clumsily, and I'm not sure I agree with the interpretation, but it's a valid reading of the text that Luhrmann is able to support, and I honestly prefer a unique approach to the book that makes me raise an eyebrow to a reiteration of musty received wisdom.
“One could easily say the entire enterprise is overwrought and as excessive in its depiction of excess as its subject matter, but I believe that’s part of the appeal. We’re smothered by this world and this time just as the players fall victim to its promises.”
Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of The New Republic, understands that we’re drawn back to “Gatsby” because we keep seeing modern buccaneers of banking and hedge funds, swathed in carelessness and opulence. “But what most people don’t understand is that the adjective ‘Great’ in the title was meant laconically,” he said. “There’s nothing genuinely great about Gatsby. He’s a poignant phony. Owing to the money-addled society we live in, people have lost the irony of Fitzgerald’s title. So the movies become complicit in the excessively materialistic culture that the novel set out to criticize.” (…) and that filmmakers “get seduced by the seductions that the book itself is warning about.”
Was my review useful? Any thoughts on The Great Gatsby book or movie? As always, share your opinions in the comments.
The Great Gatsby / F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
F Scott Fitzgerald / Ruth Prigozy
F. Scott Fitzgerald in His Own Time: A Miscellany, ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli and Jackson R. Bryer. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1971. p. 265.
The Metaphor of History in the Work of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Author(s): V. M. Tolmatchoff, 1992
Nick Carraway as an Unreliable Narrator / Kent Cartwright (1984)
All men are [not] created equal: F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby / Claire Stocks (2007)
An overview of The Great Gatsby / Casie E. Hermanson
Gatsby and the pursuit of happiness / William Voegeli (2003)
Lost in Books: The Great Gatsby review
60 MINUTES interview The Great Gatsby
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