The Great Gatsby

To start things off, we will be taking a look at The Great Gatsby, recently released on DVD and originally in theaters in May of 2013. Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge!, Romeo and Juliet), it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton and Tobey Maguire. It is rated PG-13 for sexual content, smoking and drinking, violent images, and brief language.

Set in 1922, the story follows Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a World War I war veteran from the Midwest, as he travels to New York, taking a job as a bonds salesman. Carraway also serves as the narrator of the story. Soon after he arrives, he visits his cousin, the beautiful Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), who is married to his former classmate at Yale, Tom (Joel Edgerton). Nick has rented a small house on Long Island, next to the grand mansion owned by the illustrious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is known solely for his large, exciting parties that are thrown week after week.

Shortly after, Nick meets and befriends Gatsby. Gatsby has been in love with Daisy for five years, and desires to meet her once again, asking Nick to invite her to tea. The two slowly rekindle their love, and Gatsby attempts to steal her away from Tom.

7.0 out of 10

On the surface, this film is enjoyable, and interesting. But when you dig deeper, it is more glamour and style and less F. Scott Fitzgerald and actual content, something that truly disappointed me in the end (even if i have not read the book).

DiCaprio is the best thing about this film. He has the charm, the looks, and most importantly, the hope to play Jay Gatsby. Obsessed with Daisy, Gatsby refuses to lose hope, insisting she must leave Tom. And what helps is his chemistry with his cast mates, especially Carey Mulligan. Their relationship was intimate and loving, and without this bond, the film would have fallen apart. The rest of cast does a very solid job as well, with surprisingly strong performances from Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher, and newcomer Elizabeth Debicki (Jordan Baker) has a solid performance as well. We will get into Tobey Maguire’s performance a little bit later.

The film is shot using a 3-D camera, thus bringing out the bright colors and sights. The use of computer graphics is something that this film hasn’t been credited for in its first few months of release. Not many people realize how much of this film really is CGI. The city, Gatsby’s mansion; it’s pretty remarkable. This, along with the extravagant sets and costumes provide beautiful scenery. Luhrmann also utilizes colors very well, making the first half very bright and lively, in comparison to the darker second half, which is sadder and more dismal in tone.

The only problem is, the film concentrates too much on making it look good instead of actually It is not the appropriate music for this film. I like the idea of translating the era of jazzy music to modern day hip hop, but it stills concerns me to hear ‘Empire State of Mind’ while Gatsby and Nick are driving through the city. Now, being completely honest, it works. They somehow make it work. But this film is not a modern-day retelling. It is not Romeo + Juliet. So the choice to have modern music in a non-modern film is a bit odd. It doesn’t allow the viewer to actually get a feel of the time period when Jay-Z and Beyonce are blaring in the background. Again, this is just an opinion.

Tobey Maguire does a fine job as Nick Carraway. He is smart and sharp, playing the character with the right amount of innocence. But him as a narrator? Not so great. His designated narration scenes were boring and unconvincing. I don’t blame this on him, though. The storytelling was questionable in general. Having Nick write a book as a recovering alcoholic was unnecessary. Nick commonly recited passages from the novel and then those passages were written out while he was speaking. To me, this was just annoying. It was messy and unappealing and did nothing to advance the story. It constantly interrupted the flow of the film and gave us unwanted scenes with Maguire talking to some therapist. Not to say he does a bad job, it’s just unneeded and stupid. It’s unfortunate that is was a weak point, especially since it’s such a huge part of a movie. The storytelling really lets this film down.

Overall, this film was solid. It was nothing memorable, but it’s worth a watch if you have nothing else to do. The movie is far from perfect, but after multiple sub-par attempts at creating a movie that meets the expectations Fitzgerald set, this one is definitely at the top of the ladder.


6.5 out of 10

Like the title character, Gastby seemingly has a lot going for it. However, both are ultimately brought down by the glitzy, superfluous excess of the world that surrounds them.

But, at the risk of sounding undecided, the things that are good about this movie are very good. It’s simply that, as mentioned previously, those things do not delve into the deepness that’s to be expected. Besides that, the few great emotional moments, the ones that strive to go beyond the visuals that are seemingly expected to carry the weight of the entire movie, are too few and far between. But, we’ll get to that later.

I am going to try not to touch the story so much with this adaption simply because everyone has their takes on the Gilded Age and Fitzgerald’s commentary on it. I’m focusing on the style over substance in this case because I really think that’s what the director is exclusively about: visuals that dazzle and distract. And when Empire State of Mind blasted over the glitzy world of the roaring twenties’ Long Island, I couldn’t help but be taken out of the period it presented to me (Or tried to, at least).

That’s where, to me, the main problem lies and I’m certainly going to keep harping on it. I’d much rather be taken away by cinematography, music and scenery that really captures an era (See films like Glory, Catch Me If You Can or, heck, Forrest Gump) rather than a film that constantly takes breaks from the time to try and draw connections between said age and today.

Would F. Scott Fitzgerald himself be pleased with it? I guess I am not quite the one to say. However, if the lesson of the source material is that materialism cannot fill the emotional gaps in one’s life, is it not blasphemous to the book that the film seems more focused on the parties and fashion then the thought and lost-ness of a generation?

F. Scott Fitzgerald

As far as acting, I really did enjoy every performance put out. But DiCaprio will forever be listed as a tragedy as long as he goes without an Oscar simply because he tragically suffers from what I like to call the Morgan Freeman-effect. When an actor is in the game long enough and has such established characteristics, the MF-effect is that nagging part of your brain that points directly at Leo, no matter how much he’s giving to the role, and says: “THAT’S &@$&ing LEONARDO DICAPRIO!” . He’s suffered from it a lot (See his puddy-covered face in J. Edgar) but I know he’s smart enough to escape it. The rest of the supporting does a nice job of sucking you far enough in to the story at times when the visuals detract you.

So, overall? I wasn’t particularly kind to the movie when I first etched it but now it’s been promoted to a hard “Meh.” but I guess I’d recommend seeing it since its polarizing nature continues to divide everyone who’s viewed it.


Bonus Video! A breakdown of the use of CGI in this film.
IMDB: 7.3
Metacritic: 55
Rotten Tomatoes: 48%

Thoughts on… Our Top Five

Just for the sake of sentimentality, here are our top five films of all time- What are your top five? Let us know!

Number 5

The Usual Suspects
To start if off, I’ve got an exception thriller known for its shocking ending, to me one of the greatest twist endings in history. The Usual Suspects doesn’t have one of most star-studded casts ever, Kevin Spacey and Benicio del Toro being the only known stars. However, everyone does their part in making everything so convincing and enticing. The set-up to the twist ending is simply incredible storytelling by Bryan Singer (director of X-Men) and the way that the ending unravels is slow, exciting and full of tension and excitement. Kevin Spacey also won the best supporting actor, and deservingly so. He is the centerpiece of the film and is a big reason it is so great. 
The Dark Knight
I have a full-fledged belief that absolutely no one dislikes this movie. Everything about it is awe-inspiringly entertaining and provoking. It’s an experience that drags you out of the fact that you’re watching a comic-book film and propels you into a dark, complex drama. I can’t say anything about Ledger that hasn’t been said beyond the fact that he embodies chaos perfectly while still squeezing all the love you could have for the character. That’s not to forget an excellent supporting cast which carries the weighted scenes with ease. The cinematography and shots just pull off what I think Nolan’s trying to say so well also. Long live Ledger. Long live Nolan. Long live Gotham’s dark knight (Just maybe not as Ben Affleck)

Number 4

Singin’ in the Rain
Ah. It’s a classic! THE original movie musical and Gene Kelly’s masterpiece, Singin’ in the Rain. I am a director in my school’s theater program, so I hold musicals close to my heart, and this is probably the greatest movie musical I’ve ever seen. The songs are great, the dancing is great, the acting is great. I truly adore this movie. I only watched it for the first time this past summer and fell in love with it. I’ve actually woken up singing “Good morning, Good morning!” before. I’ve heard Gene Kelly’s a real ass-hole, but, hell, does he dance well. 
Another Nolan one. When Inception’s on TV, I can almost never bring myself to turn to it. This is, in my way, the biggest compliment I can give to a movie’s intensity and impact. I’m never quite mentally prepared to leap through turning halls with Arthur, be regaled of Mal’s suicide with Dom, and to be swept into the cathartic final 10 minutes. I remember watching this with headphones on the first time and being able to hear every piece of dialogue and every little sound personally, it’s a great way to watch it. Plus you’ve gotta love a movie that completely delivers on the title.

Number 3

The Shawshank Redemption
Though the movie wasn’t a hit when it first came out (thanks to Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump being released the same year), it became much more popular as the years went on. It’s now thought of as an all time great, and rightfully so. While everything about this film is good (the direction, the acting, the writing) what most people take away from this film is it’s extraordinary message. The movie is about perseverance, belief, and, hence the title, redemption. I’ve heard many times people say that, when they’re sad or depressed, they watch this movie and it picks them right up. It’s just that kind of film. Prison movies are America’s least favorite type of movie, but the Shawshank Redemption manages to get around that and create a masterpiece.
The Departed
I love Boston. I love gangster movies. I love DiCaprio, Damon, and Nicholson. So what was the next logical step after I became a fan of these things? This movie. It’s kind of an out of place item on my list given that I tend to like relatively fast paced, direct plots and this movie can meander. But I don’t care. I love how it slows down, it takes its sweet time with the talented actors it has to give the audience suspenseful, foul-mouthed lines from the surprisingly personal characters immerse themselves in the violent environment they inhabit. And when a rat scurries across the Boston skyline in the final shot, you may feel a lot of things but emptiness over the film certainly isn’t one of them.

Number 2

The Departed
Essentially an adaption of Hong Kong’s 2002 film Infernal Affairs, The Departed didn’t fail to disappoint me. It was exciting from beginning to end, and I was very satisfied afterwards. Martin Scorcese is not known for plots. In fact, after winning, he said that this was the first movie he had done with a plot. And it was a good one. This is my first pick on the list that doesn’t really have a deep message, but instead it’s just… Fun. The plot is exciting, the action is engaging. The movie is just so exhilarating to watch, and keeps you on edge the entire time. It entertains you like an action movie, but is also really well written, and this equates to one of the best movies of the decade. It’s a shame Martin Scorcese hadn’t won best director before, but he definitely deserved it for this film.
It’s A Wonderful Life
I know how weird it is that in this list of particularly gritty, recent films I have an upbeat, Christmas movie. But really, after watching the movie year after year, it has grown on me. When Bailey resists temptation to give into Mr. Potter’s enticing offer, I feel every bit of emotion Jimmy Stewart throws out there. It says a lot about a scene that you feel the same impact you did the first time every single time you watch it afterwards. I could actually watch it anytime of the year, and it does get me how it gets thrown in the Christmas column exclusively even though it actually trails a man through a large part of his life. In fact just talking about it just makes me want to watch it now. It’s feel good and genuinely emotional without being forceful, a quality a lot movies wish they had nowadays.

Number 1

Forrest Gump
A movie that you can quote constantly, recite lines from, or be able to answer all the trivia questions at Bubba Gump shrimp restaurant correctly is definitely deserving of being number one on your list. I’ve see this movie many, many times, and it never get’s old. The charm, the plot. Everything. Tom Hanks delivers one of my favorite acting performances of all time as the titular character, the idiot who still manages to accomplish… well everything! The plot is one of the most outrageous, impossible stories but really, who cares? It’s such a heartwarming, humorous tale that sticks with you. It has it’s funny moments, it’s sad moments, it’s romantic moments. It even utilizes an extraordinary amount of computer graphics, if you haven’t noticed. It’s a movie made for everyone, especially me.
Pulp Fiction
I want to ask you something. What part of the movie has to be the best? The opening? The climax? The end? When asked that, I think Quentin Tarantino often chooses none of the above. Instead, he decides to throw a bunch of off-beat characters, action and somewhat pointless dialogue at you in a film that has been toned perfectly and expects you to like it. You know what’s insane though? It all works. The characters could be talking about a burger in France and still be developing. The film could structure in a way that is totally non-chronological and still work. I feel like in an odd way this film has something almost anyone can enjoy. Every time I see it, I notice something different, laugh at something different and, most importantly, absorb it all over again. Thank you, Tarantino, for making me perpetually want to walk the earth and maybe, meet someone as cool as one of these characters.