Lisa Marie’s Early Oscar Predictions For July


Little by little, the Oscar race is starting to become just a little bit clearer.  It’s still early, of course.  Really, it’s way too early to say anything for sure.  But it’s also hard to deny that certain films are now much more in the conversation than others.

The biggest development this month was the announcement that Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon will not be released until 2023.  That takes it out of Oscar contention …. for now.  (For those who may have forgotten, it was originally announced, halfway through 2013, that The Wolf of Wall Street would not be ready until sometimes in 2014.  Everyone dutifully updated their Oscar predictions, striking The Wolf of Wall Street from their lists of likely best picture nominees.  Then, at the last minute, Scorsese announced that the film actually would be ready for 2013.  If something similar happens this year, Killers of the Flower Moon will go right back to being a huge contender because it’s Scorsese and he’s one of the best, regardless of what certain Marvel fans would have you believe.)  With Scorsese apparently out, it would now appear that Steven Spielberg is going to be the only member of the old guard with a film in the Oscar race.  Considering that many people believe that Spielberg’s West Side Story was snubbed last year when it only took home one Oscar (out of a total of sever nominations), The Fabelmans seems like it will be a major contender.  Admittedly, my hope that David Lynch will earn an acting nomination for playing John Ford in The Fabelmans may be a longshot but it can not be denied that it would be a cool development.

As for the other contenders, Top Gun: Maverick, Elvis, and Everything Everywhere All At Once all seem poised to ride a combination of critical acclaim and box office success into the Oscar race.  Todd Field has finally returned with TarThe Whale has the potential to be a comeback vehicle for the always likable Brendan Fraser.  She Said, Till, and Women Talking all stand to take advantage of the current political climate.  And Babylon will presumably give Hollywood a chance to celebrate itself.

The Oscar picture is still a bit cloudy but, with so many major festival on the horizon, those clouds should be parting soon.

Be sure to check out my predictions for February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Babylon

Elvis

Everything Everywhere All At Once

The Fabelmans

She Said

Tar

Till

Top Gun: Maverick

The Whale

Women Talking

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for Babylon

Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (The Daniels) for Everything Everywhere All At Once

Todd Field for Tar

Sarah Polley for Women Talking

Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans

Best Actor

Austin Butler in Elvis

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

Adam Driver in White Noise

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Harry Styles in My Policeman

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Tar

Viola Davis in The Woman King

Ana de Arms in Blonde

Danielle Deadwyler in Till

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actor

Tom Hanks in Elvis

Woody Harrelson in Triangle of Sadness

David Lynch in The Fabelmans

Tobey Maguire in Babylon

Ke Huy Quan in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley in Women Talking

Patricia Clarkson in She Said

Jamie Lee Curtis in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Sally Field in Spoiler Alert: The Hero Dies

Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans

Lisa Marie’s Way Too Early Oscar Predictions for May


It’s that time of the month again!

It’s time for me to once again try to predict what will be nominated for the Oscars.  If you had to told me, at this time last year, that Top Gun: Maverick would emerge as an Oscar contender, I would have said that you were crazy but here we are.  Admittedly, it is early in the year and I think there’s always going to be some ambivalence towards honoring Tom Cruise.  (You just know that someone is having nightmares about him thanking David Miscavige in his Oscar speech.)  But with the reviews and the box office success that Top Gun: Maverick is getting, it would be a mistake to dismiss it.  After all, Mad Max: Fury Road came out around this same time of year in 2015.  As well, one can be sure that A24 will be giving Everything Everywhere All At Once a heavy awards push as well.  This could very well be the year of the genre blockbuster as far as the Oscars are concerned.

As for Cannes, it’s come and gone.  George Miller’s Three Thousand Years of Longing got some good reviews, even if those reviews didn’t translate into awards at the end of the Festival.  David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future sounds like it’s going to be too divisive for the Academy and really, the thought of Cronenberg winning an Oscar has always been a bit implausible, regardless of how much he may or may not deserve one.  As for James Gray’s Armageddon Time, Gray has always been more popular with critics than with audiences or Academy voters.  If Gray couldn’t break through with something like The Lost City of Z, I doubt he’s going to do so with an autobiographical film about his life in private school.  Steven Spielberg already has the autobiography slot wrapped up with The Fabelmans. 

Of course, there’s still many films left to see and many more film festivals to be held.  Let us not forget that Martin Scorsese is bringing us Killers of the Flower Moon.  Personally, I’m looking forward to Damien Chazelle’s Babylon.  In short, nothing has been settled yet.  For all the acclaim that Top Gun and Everything are getting, who knows how the race is going to look at the start of the Fall season?

Anyway, here are my predictions for May.  Be sure to check out my predictions for February and March and April as well!

Best Picture

Amsterdam

Babylon

Everything Everywhere All at Once

The Fabelmans

I Want To Dance With Somebody

Killers of the Flower Moon

Next Goal Wins

Rustin

She Said

Top Gun: Maverick

Best Director

Damien Chazelle for Babylon

Kasi Lemmons for I Want To Dance With Somebody

Martin Scorsese for Killers of the Flower Moon

Steven Spielberg for The Fabelmans

Taika Waititi for Next Goal Wins

Best Actor

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick

Colman Domingo in Rustin

Idris Elba in Three Thousand Years of Longing

Brendan Fraser in The Whale

Brad Pitt in Babylon

Best Actress

Naomi Ackie in I Want To Dance With Somebody

Cate Blanchett in Tar

Margot Robie in Babylon

Tilda Swinton in Three Thousand Years of Longing

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All At Once

Best Supporting Actor

John Boyega in The Woman King

Leonardo DiCaprio in Flowers of the Killer Moon

Tom Hanks in Elvis

David Lynch in The Fabelmans

Tobey Maguire in Babylon

Best Supporting Actress

Jessie Buckley in Women Talking

Tantoo Cardinal in Flowers of the Killer Moon

Li Jun Li in Babylon

Samantha Morton in She Said

Michelle Williams in The Fabelmans

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday, Spider-Man!


It was 56 years ago today that The Amazing Spider-Man made his first appearance in the 15th issue of Amazing Fantasy.  After being bitten by a radioactive spider, Peter Parker developed super power but it was not until his uncle was murdered that Parker learned what it meant to be a hero.

With great power comes great responsibility and, as these four shots from four films demonstrate, movie stardom!  Over the years, Nicholas Hammond, Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland have all played America’s favorite web-spinning super hero.

In honor of Spider-Man’s birthday, here they are

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Amazing Spider-Man: The Chinese Web (1979, directed by Don McDougall)

Spider-Man (2002, directed by Sam Raimi)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014, directed by Marc Webb)

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017, directed by Jon Watts)

 

8 Deserving Actors Who Have Never Been Nominated For An Oscar


Last year, on Oscar Sunday, I shared lists of 16 actors and 16 actresses who has never been nominated for an Oscar.  On the list of actors was Sam Rockwell.  One year later, Rockwell has not only been nominated for an Oscar but many think he’s the front runner to win!

Needless to say, my list had absolutely nothing to do with this fact.  Still, who knows?  Maybe one of the actors listed below will be next year’s sure-fire winner.

Here are 8 more deserving actors who have yet to be nominated for an Oscar!

  1. Idris Elba

I have to admit that I’m still shocked that Elba wasn’t nominated for his chilling work in Beasts of No Nation.  Elba is one of those supremely talented actors who makes it all look easy.  In fact, that may be part of the problem.  Elba is such a natural performer that sometimes, I think people overlook just how many different roles he played.  Elba seems destined to be nominated someday.

2. Armie Hammer

Armie Hammer has appeared in some truly regrettable films but, at the same time, he’s given really good performances in a handful of memorable ones.  It seems like ever since he played twins in The Social Network, Hammer has been circling Oscar recognition.  This year, he probably came the closest yet to getting nominated, with his performance in Call Me By Your Name.  I would also say that he deserved some consideration for his slyly humorous work in Free Fire.

3. Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac is going to be nominated some day.  It’s all a matter of when.  I would have given him an Oscar just for the way he delivered the line, “I declare him to be an … OUTLAAAAAAAAAAAW!” in Robin Hood.

4. Tobey Magurie

Personally, I think that Maguire has it in him to make a comeback, perhaps even an Oscar-winning comeback.  Right now, his main problem seems to be that all of the good Tobey Maguire roles are going to Edward Norton.

5. James McAvoy

McAvoy deserved a nomination this year for his performance in Split.

6. Ben Mendelsohn

There was some speculation that Mendelsohn’s role in Darkest Hour might result in a nomination this year.  It didn’t happen but Ben Mendelsohn is another actor who seems to be destined to be nominated eventually.  I would have nominated him for his frightening performance in Animal Kingdom.

7. Kurt Russell

A lot of us thought that Russell would receive a nomination for The Hateful Eight but, instead, that film was dominated by Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Walton Goggins.  Everyone loves Kurt but he’s not getting any younger so someone needs to write him a really great role before he decides to retire to Vancouver.

8. Peter Sarsgaard

Peter Sarsgaard is another one of those really good actors who never seems to get as much appreciation as he deserves.  If you want to see how good Sarsgaard can be, track down a film called Shattered Glass.

Here’s hoping that, come next year, at least one of those actors will no longer be eligible for this list!

 

 

Playing Catch Up With The Films of 2017: The Boss Baby (dir by Tim McGrath)


I have to admit that The Boss Baby is an animated film that I have mixed feelings about.

Actually, that shouldn’t be surprising.  The Boss Baby is the epitome of the type of film that is disliked by critics but loved by audiences.  It got fairly dismissive reviews but it also made a ton of money and apparently, there’s a sequel in the works.

It’s a product of Dreamworks Animation, which has always basically been Pixar without the edge.  If Pixar films often seem to be about the animators working out their own personal issues through their work, the films from Dreamworks are often distinguished by just how little is actually going on beneath the surface.  If Pixar specializes in crowd pleasers that challenge you to think, Dreamworks specializes in crowd pleasers that invite you to sit back and relax.

(Of course, that’s a generalization.  Dreamworks is responsible for the Shrek films, the majority of which I absolutely love.  At the same time, as much as I love Pixar, I would warn against giving too much thought to anything in the first two Cars films.)

Anyway, The Boss Baby is the story of Ted, a little baby who wears a suit and tie and who sounds just like Alec Baldwin.  Strangely, only his older brother , Tim (Max Bakshi), appears to see anything strange about any of this.  Everyone just dismisses Tim’s concern as a product of Tim being jealous of his baby brother and, to a certain extent, they have a point.  The older children are always jealous of their younger siblings.  (Fortunately, I was the youngest of four so I never had to be jealous of anyone.)  Still, it turns out that Tim is correct about something being strange about Ted, who has actually been sent into the world on a secret mission.  Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi) is the CEO of Puppy Corp. and he’s conspiring to make puppies cuter than babies.  The Boss Baby has to stop him and he only has a few days to do so before he forgets how to speak and turns into an ordinary baby.

It’s a surprisingly busy plot and a lot of it feels as if it was ripped off from the Toy Story films.  Instead of talking toys, we’ve got a talking baby.  Just as Toy Story 3 featured a lengthy chase scene and a bitter villain, The Boss Baby features a lengthy chase scene and a bitter villain.  Much as how every Toy Story movie ended with a rumination on what it means to get older and grow up, The Boss Baby ends with a rumination on what it means to get older and grow up.  Many times, The Boss Baby feels like a compilation of scenes and characters lifted from other animated films.

At the same time, the idea of a baby wearing a suit and talking like a New York tough guy is undeniably cute.  I’m not the world’s biggest Alec Baldwin fan but, in this case, it’s perfect casting.  As the film itself makes clear, babies are cute.  This is especially true when they’re animated and you’re not the one who has to change their diapers or clean up after them.

There’s a thin line between keeping an audience happy and pandering and, often, The Boss Baby steps over that line.  It’s a very derivative film, one that never reaches either the comedic or the emotional highs of a good Pixar film.  However, the baby is cute and sometimes, that’s enough.

 

Back to School Part II #34: The Ice Storm (dir by Ang Lee)


the-ice-storm

The 1997 film The Ice Storm is kind of a schizophrenic film, which makes sense since it’s set in 1973 and, just from what I’ve seen in the movies, it appears that the early 70s were kind of a schizophrenic time.

It’s a film that deals with two sets of people who all live in an upper class Connecticut community.  One part of the film deals with parents who are freaking out about suddenly being adults.  The other part of the film deals with the children, most of whom seem destined to make the same mistakes as their parents.  It’s a film that is occasionally bracingly realistic and relatable, one that reminds us that being directionless in the 70s isn’t necessarily that different from being directionless in 2016.  At other times, the film feels a bit too studied for its own good.  This is one of those films that features a Tobey Maguire voice-over and, as good an actor as Maguire has always been, he’s always at his worse when reciting a pseudo-profound voice over.  And then there are other times when the film feels a bit too cartoonish for its own good.  Elijah Wood’s a stoner.  Sigourney Weaver walks around with a bullwhip.  David Krumholtz shows up as a character named Francis Davenport.

Fortunately, the film is directed by Ang Lee and Ang Lee is probably one of the few filmmakers who can overcome tonal inconsistency.  Lee is so good with actors and is such a good storyteller that even his lesser films are usually worth watching.  The Ice Storm would just be another silly sin-in-the-suburbs film if it had been made by any director other than Ang Lee.

The main adult in the film is Ben Hood (Kevin Kline).  Ben is married to Elena (Joan Allen) but he’s having an affair with his neighbor, Janey (Sigourney Weaver).  Elena may be upset when she finds out about the affair but she’s still willing to accompany her husband to a key party.  A key party was a 70s ritual in which husbands would throw their car keys into a big punch bowl and then the wives would randomly pick a key and have sex with the owner.  Basically, anytime a TV show or a movie takes place in the suburbs during the 70s, there has to be at least one key party.

And The Ice Storm‘s key party is kind of fun to watch.  Kevin Kline and Joan Allen both give really good performances and Ben is such a loser that it’s fun to watch him freak out when Janey gets a key other than this own.  Elena, meanwhile, ends up going off with Janey’s husband (Jamey Sheridan, pretty much looking the same in this 1997 film as he did in Spotlight and Sully) and they share a really good scene together, one that reveals that none of the film’s adults are really as mature or liberated as they claim to be.

While the adults attempt to play, their children attempt to find some sort of meaning to their empty existence.  Ben and Elena’s daughter, Wendy (Christina Ricci), wears a Richard Nixon mask and enjoys sexually teasing her classmates, especially Janey’s youngest son, Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd).  Ben and Elena’s oldest son, Paul (Tobey Maguire) is in New York, hoping to lose his virginity to Libbits (Katie Holmes) despite the fact that Libbets is far more interested in his boarding school roommate, Francis Davenport (David Krumholtz).  Paul also compares his family to the Fantastic Four so, assuming Paul survived both the 70s and 80s, he’s probably still living in Connecticut and telling everyone who disappointed he was with last year’s film.

And, of course, there’s Mickey (Elijah Wood).  Mickey is Janey’s oldest son and he’s permanently spaced out.  When the ice storm of the title occurs, Mickey is the one who decides to wander around outside and appreciate the beauty of nature’s remorseless wrath.

Needless to say, the ice storm is also a really obvious metaphor for the way all of these very unhappy (but very prosperous) characters tend to view and treat each other.  Despite all the attempts to pretend otherwise, everyone has a frozen soul.  Nobody’s capable of maintaining any sort of real emotional connection.  Of course, someone dies and everyone’s forced to take a look at the sad reality of their lives and the film ends with a sudden and spontaneous display of actual human emotion.  It’s one of those ideas that probably works better as a literary conceit than a cinematic one.

That said, The Ice Storm is flawed but very watchable.  I enjoyed it, even if it did occasionally seem to be trying way too hard.  It’s well-acted and, if nothing else, I enjoyed getting to see all of the amazingly tacky clothes and the interiors of all those big houses.  These people love their wide lapels and their shag carpeting.  The Ice Storm is not Ang Lee’s best but it’s still good enough.

Back to School Part II #31: Empire Records (dir by Allan Moyle)


empire_records_poster

The 1995 film, Empire Records takes place in a fictional record store.  The store is located in a state called Delaware, which I’m pretty sure is fictional as well.  (Have you ever actually met anyone from Delaware?  And don’t say Joe Biden because we all know he’s just a hologram…)  Empire Records is a beloved institution, an independent record shop that’s as well-known for its lively employees as its amazing selection of music!

However, things are not perfect in the world of Empire Records.  The store is owned by a heartless businessman named Mitchell (Ben Bode).  Mitchell hates Empire Records and usually just lets the store manager, former drummer and Scott Stapp-lookalike Joe (Anthony LaPaglia), run the place.  However, Mitchell has decided to sell Empire Records to the soulless and corporate Music Town franchise.  Oh my God!  If Empire Records becomes a Music Town, the employees will have to wear orange aprons!  They won’t be allowed to wear anything too revealing or have any visible piercings!  And nobody will be allowed to dance in the aisles!

Over the course of just one day, can the staff of Empire Records find a way to save their store!?

It would be easier if not for the fact that a hundred other things happen over the course of that same day.  A shoplifter (Brendan Sexton III, who co-starred in the very different Welcome to the Dollhouse the same year that he appeared here) keeps trying to steal stuff and, at one point, he even shows up at the store with a gun!  Is it possible that he just wants to join the Empire Records family and is just hoping that he’ll be offered a job?

And then there’s Rex Manning!  That’s right — it’s Rex Manning Day!  Who is Rex Manning?  Well, he used to star on a show called The Family Way and his nickname is Sexy Rexy.  He has truly memorable hair.  Middle-aged people love him but most young people think that he’s a joke.  Rex is going to signing copies of his latest album at Empire Records and you better believe that he’s brought blue cheese salad dressing with him.  There’s a reason they call him Sexy Rexy and it’s not just that Rex Harrison is no longer around to object.  Rex is played by Maxwell Caulfield.  Caulfield steals every scene that he appears in and it’s hard not to feel that he’s playing a version of who he could have become if Grease 2 hadn’t bombed at the box office.

rexmanningday

And, of course, all the members of Empire Records staff have their own personal problems to deal with.  Fortunately, since this is a breezy and comedic movie, nobody has problem that can’t be solved within ten to fifteen minutes.

For instance, Debra (Robin Tunney) is suicidal and shows up for work with a big bandage on her wrist.  After clocking in, she promptly shaves her head.  Debra is depressed and troubled but guess what?  All she needs is for her friends to hold a mock funeral in the break room.  (And who is taking care of the customers while everyone else is eulogizing Debra?  Probably Andre but we’ll talk more about him in a moment…)

Berko (Coyote Shivers) appears to be Debra’s boyfriend but he doesn’t seem to be that good of a boyfriend.  Berko’s a musician and he wants to make it big.  Solution to his problem: an impromptu concert on the roof of Empire Records!  And you know what?  Coyote Shivers was not the world’s best actor but the song he performs, Sugar High, will stay in your head long after you hear it.

Eddie (James ‘Kimo’ Williams) has no problems, probably because he also works at a pizza place and he makes the best brownies in the world.  Except, they’re not ordinary brownies … hint hint hint….

Mark (Ethan Embry) only has one problem: his character, as written, is pretty much interchangeable with Eddie’s.  But, fortunately, Embry gives such a totally weird performance that you never forget who he is.

Lucas (Rory Cochrane) tried to help Joe out by taking the previous night’s cash receipts to Atlantic City.  Lucas, however, is not a very good gambler and ends up losing all of the money at the result of one roll of the dice.  Lucas’s problem is that Joe is going to kill him.  The solution is to spend almost the entire movie sitting on the break room couch and making snarky comments.

Gina’s problem is that everyone thinks that she’s a slut, mostly because that’s how the character is written.  Fortunately, Gina is played by Renee Zellweger and she brings a lot of depth to an otherwise underwritten role.  One of the film’s best moments is when Gina and Berko perform together because Zellweger really throws herself into the song.  Watching that scene always makes me want to sing along with them.  It’s funny that Zellweger has even a stronger Texas accent than I do and yet, she can really sing while I mostly certainly cannot.

sugar-high

Then there’s Andre!  Andre’s problem is that he ends up getting cut out of the film.  However, he’s still listed in the credits, which is how we know that he was played by Tobey Maguire.

A.J. (Johnny Whitworth) is an artist.  How can you not love a struggling artist?  His problem is that he’s in love with Corey (Liv Tyler) but Corey is obsessed with losing her virginity to Rex Manning.

Actually, that’s not the only problem that Corey has.  Corey, who is in high school but has recently been accepted to Harvard, is a driven overachiever.  Occasionally, we see her popping a pill.  Oh my God, is she using speed!?  Of course. she is.  How else is she going to be able to both study late and maintain her figure?  If I don’t seem too concerned about Corey’s pills, it’s because I pretty much take the same thing to keep my ADD under control.  They’ve worked wonders for me!

But not so much for Corey.  In fact, they cause Corey to kinda freak out and attack a cut-out of Rex Manning.  Fortunately, the solution to her drug problem is pretty simple.  She just has to splash some water on her face.

As for her virginity problem, well … it is Rex Manning Day!  Judging from this film and Stealing Beauty, it would appear that film goers in the mid-90s were obsessed with Liv Tyler losing her virginity.

Anyway, there are like a hundred overly critical things that I could say about Empire Records.  I’ve seen this film a number of time and there are certain scenes that always make cringe — like Debra’s funeral or when Joe starts banging away on his drum set.  A lot of the dialogue is overwritten and the whole things occasionally seems to be trying too hard.

And yet, I can’t dislike Empire Records.  In fact, I actually really like it a lot.  It’s just such an earnest and sincere movie that you can’t help but enjoy it.  Meanwhile, the cast has so much energy and chemistry that they’re just fun to watch.  This is one of those films where it’s best just to shut off your mind, say “Damn the man!,” and enjoy what you’re watching for what it is.

Add to that, I love that ending.  Everyone dancing on top of the store?  Perfect.

Scenes I Love – “You see..I’m Gatsby.”


When Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby came out in 2013, I skipped seeing the movie in the theatre to read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel first. I realize now I missed out, but as the film is on cable, I’m able to watch it at my leisure. One of my favorite scenes in the movie has actually become a meme for celebrations and snarky quips.

A little background. Our narrator, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) receives an invitation to Jay Gatsby’s party, and in true Luhrmann style, it’s extremely grand. Fireworks, jazz bands and tons of liquor all around, but Gatsby (who no one seems to have met) is nowhere to be seen. As Nick makes his way through the celebrations, he finds himself talking to an individual whom the audience only knows by the onyx ring he wears. The camera purposely dances around revealing who he is for a few seconds. It’s here that Gatsby, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, then shows everyone that if you have to introduce yourself to a person, there’s no finer way to do so than to offer them a glass of champagne with Rhapsody in Blue and fireworks exploding in the background.

Nick describes the moment as follows:

“His smile was one of those rare smiles that you may come across four or five times in life. It seemed to understand you and believe in you just as you would like to be understood and believed in.”

Luhrmann and DiCaprio just totally sell that moment. This guy could sell a boat to someone living in the desert. Since no one knows who he is, there’s an air of mystery to him, much like Edmond Dantes when he returns as The Count of Monte Cristo.

Enjoy.

Is The Great Gatsby Great Or Is It Simply Ghastly?


(Special thanks to frequent TSL reader and commenter Dr. Jim for inspiring the title of my review.)

Gatsby

Do you remember when everyone was predicting that Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby would battle it out with The Dark Knight Rises and The Master for Best Picture at the 2012 Academy Awards?

It may be hard to remember but, at this time last year, that’s what a lot of self-styled film divas were predicting.  And who could blame them?  The Great Gatsby was adapted from a great book, Baz Luhrmann was an A-list director, and the film featured actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan.  The flashy first trailer came out and people, like me, were very excited.

And then, suddenly, Warner Bros announced that The Great Gatsby would not be released in December of 2012.  No, instead, it would be released in May of 2013.  This led to a lot of speculation.  Some film bloggers claimed that Warner Bros was just worried that the Great Gatsby would struggle to find an audience if it was released at the same time as other prestige pictures like Lincoln and Les Miserables.  However, I think most people just assumed that the film probably wasn’t that good.  Suddenly, the opulence of that first trailer was no longer something to be celebrated but, instead, it was taken as evidence that Luhrmann had emphasized style over substance.

Last Friday, The Great Gatsby finally premiered on movie screens across the country and we finally got a chance to discover whether Lurhmann’s film was great or simply ghastly.

Before I started writing this review, I debated with myself whether or not I should include a spoiler warning.  You see, I am a F. Scott Fitzgerald fanatic.  I have read and I have loved almost all of his books (even the unfinished Last Tycoon) and I even went through a period where I identified (perhaps a bit too strongly) with Zelda Fitzgerald.  The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books of all time and it’s hard for me to imagine a world where anyone hasn’t read it.

Unfortunately, judging from the reactions of some of the people in the audience at the showing that I attended, apparently I was giving the rest of the world a little bit too much credit.  So, if you haven’t read The Great Gatsby, then you really should stop reading this review and go pick up a copy.

And, if you’re still reading this review, here’s your SPOILER WARNING.

gatsby3

With the exception of a few unnecessary scenes that feature Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is a sanitarium, Luhrmann’s film closely follows the plot of Fitzgerald’s novel.  Nick, a recent Yale graduate, moves to New York City in the 1920s.  He has abandoned his earlier plans to be a writer so that he can concentrate on making money as a bonds salesman.  Needing a place to live, Nick ends up renting out a small cottage.  Living across the bay is Nick’s cousin Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and her extremely wealthy and crude husband, Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton).  And living right next door to Nick, in a gigantic castle, is the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).

While the Buchanans are a part of the old rich and the American establishment, Gatsby is a much more enigmatic figure.  As Nick discovers, nobody seems to be sure who Gatsby is, where he came from, or how he has made his money.  He seems to devote most of his time to throwing massive parties where he is often nowhere to be found.  However, through the cynical golfer Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki), Nick learns that Gatsby used to know Daisy and that he’s still madly in love with her.  Gatsby befriends Nick, attempting to use him as a way to get to Daisy.  Meanwhile, Nick also finds himself unwillingly in the position of being Tom’s confidante, accompanying him when he drives into New York to meet with his mistress, Myrtle Wilson (Isla Fisher).

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To answer the obvious question, The Great Gatsby is not the disaster that so many of us feared but, at the same time, it’s not the triumph that so many of us had hoped for.  Instead, it’s somewhere in the middle.  As with most of his past films, Luhrmann unapologetically embraces style over substance and as such, the film is a lot of fun to watch even though it’s never as intellectually challenging or emotionally captivating as Fitzgerald’s novel.  Whereas Fitzgerald’s novel viewed Gatsby and Daisy with a captivating ambivalence, Luhrmann’s film is content to be a big, glossy soap opera.  As someone who loves the novel, I was frequently annoyed to see how interesting characters like Jordan Baker and Tom Buchanan were simplified for the film version.  But, as someone who loves on-screen spectacle, I enjoyed watching The Great Gatsby even if I could never quite bring my heart to fully embrace it.

One thing that The Great Gatsby definitely gets right is the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby.  DiCaprio’s gives one of his best performances here, perfectly capturing Gatsby’s allure while hinting at the insecurity that lies underneath the confident façade.  Carey Mulligan is well cast in the difficult role of Daisy and Tobey Magurie makes for the perfect Nick Carraway.  (That said, you have to wonder if Maguire and DiCaprio are ever going to start aging or do they both have a picture of Dorian Gray hidden away in a closet somewhere.)

Unlike Fitzgerald’s novel, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is not quite great.  But it’s not exactly ghastly either.  If anything, perhaps it will inspire a few more people to read Fitzgerald’s classic novel.

LIBRARY IMAGE OF THE GREAT GATSBY

Trailer: The Great Gatsby


Here is the trailer for the film that many people are predicting will be the major Oscar contender later this year, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby (in 3D, as all films are nowadays).  I’m not totally sold on the idea of Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby (it seems like such a predictable and safe choice, to be honest) but I think Carey Mulligan is a great choice for Daisy and Tobey Magurie was born to play Nick Carraway.  Judging from the trailer, this film is either going to be brilliant or it’s going to be a huge mess.  Speaking as someone who loves F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and who has often wished that her own voice might sound like money, I’m hoping it will be brilliant.