Sunday, May 26, 2013

Jay Gatsby & James Tiberius Kirk: Together Again

The kick-off to summer brings us face to face with two of the last century's big mythologies.

"Gatsby, Gatsby, Gatsby"

Al Pacino's distinctive 1990 comic book Al Caprice voice popped into my head from the moment I saw the trailers.  Perhaps not the association Baz Luhrman was going for, but the stagey, frenetic pace of the "Roaring 20s" party scenes was so cartoonish that it harkened back. And this was ages before I read Matt Zoller Seitz' review which noted the association from the visual side: "CGI cityscapes that visualize 1920s New York by way of Warren Beatty's candy-colored Dick Tracy."

The trailer/commercial cut was either a great strategy or dumb luck: the film has a more human scale than that sales tool hinted at, which is why the most common comment from all level of reviewer is: "not a disaster"  . . . ."

With Gatsby you bring your relationship with the novel as well as earlier versions, the Redford/Farrow being the most well known.

I'm not a big fan of the novel. I'm a Hemingway girl. It's not that you can't like both, but I see it in the Coke/Pepsi; Astaire/Kelly; Beatles/Stones binary world. So I approached the movie with no canon prejudices or particular loves.

Peel Away Stray Observations

•The Cult of the Blowing White Sheer Curtains.

At the Buchanan manse, we first meet Daisy amid a swirl of white sheer curtains, billowing because the tall doors to the patio have blow open.

It's a great image. idealized, pure, angelic, ethereal, highly romantic: bliss. All the things Lieutenant Gatz projected onto the teenage Daisy when he fell in love with her.

It's a motif I noticed in Jane Campion's film about Keats, Bright Star:

"What struck me is the shot of Fanny in her white room with the white muslin curtains softly blowing. It’s a visualization of the “bliss” that overfills Fanny after her first walk out with Keats. It also captures the soft, light feeling that reading Keats’s poetry can create."

•Joel Edgerton is all wrong as Tom Buchanan. A commenter on Vulture said it best: "Joel Edgerton’s Tom Buchanan: wrong wrong wrong. He looks like a LES thug, not a patrician, and plays it as such. Dern at least actually came from a similar background and knew the kind of bastard he was playing."

Am I wrong, or does Tom come in from playing polo, meets Nick, has drinks, AND DOES NOT SHOWER. It then is dark, so time has past, they are sitting down to dinner, and he's wearing the SAME CLOTHES HE PLAYED POLO IN. How does he not shower?  How does he not "dress for dinner?" I understand he's supposed to be a sort of brute, but Baz,  he's not Stanley Kowalski.

•Vulture's Kyle Buchanan polled: Did You Snicker or Applaud at Leonardo DiCaprio’s Introduction in The Great Gatsby? 

Most people liked the over-the-top entrance, because it was by someone who is a MOVIE STAR. I liked it best for the terrific use of Gershwin's glorious Rhapsody in Blue. And it reminded me a little of Jean Dujardin's George Valentin, the other self-consciously movie star, movie star.

•I thought the best thing about the movie is that it expresses more emotion between the lovers than I ever experienced in the book. And most of that is Leo.

Star Trek: The Timelines & Demanding Respect for the Chair

A.O. Scott makes this comment toward the top of his review: "You get a bit of that in the beginning of the new movie, the second in the rebooted franchise directed by J. J. Abrams, which takes place before all the stuff we remember from television and the first six feature films."

KFrost, Chicago corrects him in the comments:
No, it doesn't. It takes place in an alternate timeline. If you didn't get that concept, you probably shouldn't be reviewing the film....

See, I knew the whole timeline reset that took place in the 2009 reboot wasn't all that clear, and I knew that it was going to matter.

There is some clarity in keeping to just one detail of 2009: Vulcan has exploded and Spock's mom is dead. So clearly all the TV episodes where he goes back to Vulcan, and the other episodes when his mom comes to visit, could not have happened. But we know they did, so this storytelling is an alternate trajectory, not continuous prequel, and it doesn't replace or negate the facts of 1960s, because when you make up alternate timelines you get away with things like that.

I really enjoyed Abrams's first Trek, and the emotional connection to watching it in reruns for almost a decade as a kid. This one was less satisyfing, but still fun.

Peel Away Stray Observations

•I agree with all the people who say too bombastic, too many chases and explosions at the sake of good story and dialogue.

•Not a great script. How is it possible that Spock doesn't say "fascinating" even once? It was in his vocabulary in 2009.

•Lots of little twists with the villain. Those I liked. (Can't say more because of spoilers).

•There is one motif that is quite notable: running! Running and running by various characters through various vessels. Clearly, Doctor Who is influencing its American cousin in many ways.

•Christopher Pike demanding "respect for the chair." This is an immediate classic line.

Where do the films go from here? Do they continue to mine (some would say cannibalize) the original, or can they establish their own emotional connections with the 21st century audience?

I enjoyed my time with Jay and Jim, but I need to stay outside of the dark for a while now.