Friday, May 17, 2013

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Today - after a 1 year wait - I finally watched The Great Gatsby (cue: "Gatsby? What Gatsby?").  After a 5-hour intermission since le fin du film, I've decided that it satisfies my general expectations.

Firstly, the the casting was perfect. Excuse me for the following run-on sentence: Tobey Maguire was a spot-on bystander/narrator-Nick, Elizabeth Debicki (and her meter long torso) absolutely encapsulated Jordan's essence, Joel Edgerton (aka Owen Lars) and his slitted snake-eyes embodied Tom Buchanan, Isla Fisher was a classic, wild and pitiful Myrtle (I'll never watch Confessions of a Shopaholic the same way ever again), Jason Clarke was a horrifyingly terrific Wilson (kudos to the makeup artist), Carey Mulligan WAS stunning as the beautiful and foolish Daisy (she also pulled off the accent really well), and finally, Leonardo Dicaprio (or as my family likes to fondly call him: 'Leo Dicap') stole the entire show as Gatsby. Gatsby's initial proper appearance is one of the top 10 best moments of the entire film; fireworks were going off behind him, he looked dashing in his suit - Luhrmann executed it perfectly. Is 'Leonardo Dicaprio' not one of the most beautiful names of all time?

Luhrmann treated the COSTUME DESIGN of the film with the respect and prudence it deserved, so the costumes unsurprisingly turned out as one of the most satisfying aspects of the film. The set design, too, was quite spectacular - that golden harpsichord! The opening credits of the movie are just incredible (Gatsby's logo!) - trust Luhrmann to find some way to incorporate some modern and extravagant embellishment any adaptation of a classic. The trailer itself already gives us a generous dosage of the flamboyance of the jazz age.

Luhrmann certainly did everything in his power to emphasize the green light (a bit overdone, honestly), Dr. Eckleburg (chilling!! "towards death" *and we see Eckleberg*) and most of the stellar quotes (again, literally spelling them out was a tad trite), and all the actors did a swell job. All in all, I'm content with this adaptation, in terms of loyalty to the book; nonetheless, I suppose this story is one I prefer to see in print, told in Fitzgerald's masterful prose, rather than on screen. There were undeniable perfect-moments, though, including the one depicted in the still below. In 143 minutes, we are amused, dazzled and broken-hearted all at once. Try not to melt everytime Gatsby looks at Daisy.

Personally, I was not very much affected by the fact that Luhrmann decided to film The Great Gatsby in 3D, and I know that there would be an omission of certain fabulously filmed and custom-made-for-3D scenes had Luhrmann decided to stick with 2D (the film would have been a booming hit anyway).

Sadly, the soundtrack was a letdown. Too much Lana Del Rey (seriously... lana del rey + intimate Gatsby-Daisy scene = wrong) and too little jazz - classic for Baz Luhrmann to edge towards Jay-Z (well, Jay-Z's music would be the soundtrack to all of a 21st century Gatsby's parties, and plus Jay-Z himself produced the film).

The Great Gatsby is a profound tale, regardless of how it is told, and has/will touched/touch generations. We are ultimately all, to some extent, believers in the green light.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

All my beautiful lovely safe world blew itself up here with a great gust of high explosive love.

There was a hint in the air that the earth was hurrying on toward other weather; the lush midsummer moment outside of time was already over.
^In Fitzgerald's words, literally what life feels like now.

I found Tender as the Night not as magical or memorable as The Great Gatsby due to the impactful brevity and established legacy of the latter and the lack of lovable characters in the former. Whereas I felt empathy for Gatsby, seldom during reading Tender is the Night did I find myself feeling genuinely sorry for Dick, Nicole or Rosemary.

Here's a quick 30% compendium of the story: Whilst holidaying in the South of France with her mother, Rosemary, a young, blooming actress, gets sucked into the exquisite and mysterious world of the Divers' (Dick Diver and his wife Nicole Diver). Diver is charming and well-mannered, so it is not long before Rosemary becomes slightly infatuated with him, and the two eventually begin a little affair... an affair that Dick originally objects to, but delves into anyway (esp. when encouraged by the stress he faces in his marriage). It is later revealed that Nicole suffers from neuroses (due to the bad relationship she had with her father when she was young) and that Dick was the doctor who attended to her back in the days. The story goes on - Nicole deteriorates and Dick deteriorates with her. Rosemary goes back to her actress-hollywood-glamorous life and Dick becomes a drunkard (by this point, needless to say, their little fling is sort of over). And... I've decided not to ruin the ending.

One writes of scars healed, a loose parallel to the pathology of the skin, but there is no such thing in the life of an individual. There are open wounds, shrunk sometimes to the size of a pin-prick but wounds still. The marks of suffering are more comparable to the loss of a finger, or the sight of an eye. We may not miss them, either, for one minute in a year, but if we should there is nothing to be done about it.
Rosemary's mother is a fascinating character;  "so long as the shuffle of love and pain went on within proper walls Mrs. Speers could view it with as much humor as a eunuch." Dick's complacency is also equally intriguing, especially in his deterioration; his politeness, as he puts it, is "a trick of the heart."

Here are the rest of the quotes:
“We are seldom sorry for those who need and crave our pity - we reserve this for those who, by other means, make us exercise the abstract function of the pity.”
Rosemary, half in the grip of fashion, became a little self-conscious, as though she were displaying an unhealthy taste for the moribund; as though people were wondering why she was here in the lull between the gaiety of last winter and next winter, while up north the true world thundered by.
He felt so intensely about people that in moments of apathy he preferred to remain concealed; that one could parade a casualness into his presence was a challenge to the key on which he lived.
"She clung nearer desperately and once more he kissed her and was chilled by the innocence of her kiss, by the glance that at the moment of contact looked beyond him out into the darkness of the night, the darkness of the world. She did not know yet that splendor is something in the heart; at the moment when she realized that and melted into the passion of the universe he could take her without question or regret."
“Most people think everybody feels about them much more violently than they actually do - they think other people's opinions of them swing through great arcs of approval or disapproval. ”

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May the 4th be with you

I must do this post every year - I'm stressed, halfway through practicing my scales and revising for the SATs, but... MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

"She felt the nameless fear which precedes all emotions, joyous or sorrowful, inevitably as a hum of thunder precedes the storm."

I'm up to my eyeballs in work (SATs, violin exam, schoolwork and this Ayn Rand essay) but I feel obliged to publish a 1-minute post informing you all that:
  1. I am alive
  2. It is once again the MONTH OF MAY (rejoice)
These are the posts I owe you:
  1. Review of Tender is the Night
  2. Review of Silver Linings Playbook
  3. Review of Beasts of the Southern Wild
  4. Review of the Lord of the Flies (reading it now)
  5. Review of Cathedral by Raymond Carver
On a side note the A-major scales I've just been practicing are still running through my head... I'll post more in the distant future...