Day 306: The Great Gatsby (2013)

2949000564366_p0_v1_s600Now this is a great Great Gatsby.

I’m not even a fan of Baz Lurhmann, who directed this 2013 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel. Lurhmann is a hyper-kinetic director whose style often becomes a distraction.

You see, that’s my biggest pet peeve when it comes to movies.

When the director’s camera becomes another character in the film (for example, when hand-held camera work makes a movie so jerky one gets nauseous attempting to watch it), I immediately lose interest. I walked out of The Hunger Games for that very reason. It was impossible to watch.

In Lurhmann’s case, his fanciful, over-the-top settings, quick cuts, and boisterous music make movies I would never number among my favorites.

Except for this one.

This adaptation of The Great Gatsby offers the best Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), the best Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), the best Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), the best Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), the best Jordan Baker (Elizabeth Debicki), and the best George Wilson (Jason Clarke).

It also offers the best acting, the most compelling cinematography, the best costumes, the best lighting, and the best narration of any of the previous three Gatsby adaptations.

Lurhamnn’s Gatsby is electric. It crackles with a palpable energy that permeates every scene.

In short, it is Continue reading

Day 297: The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

Spoons_CoverI really didn’t think much about Gatsby today, except for this excerpt from The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons, the latest novel from brilliant mystery writer Lawrence Block.

If you’re not familiar with Lawrence Block, please acquaint yourself with him. He’s my favorite mystery writer (well, with the possible exception of John D. MacDonald, author of the 21 Travis McGee novels). Block’s Bernie Rhodenbarr books are delightful. I read all of them at least once per year. They’re that good.

In this excerpt, Bernie (a book store owner who moonlights as a burglar) is having a conversation with a man who obsessively collects buttons, and would like to enlist Bernie’s help stealing something for him – Fitzgerald’s book The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Stories (because of the name “Button”). The man and Bernie get to talking about The Great Gatsby:

“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s nothing. I gather you don’t think The Great Gatsby is—”
“The Great American novel ? No, hardly that. The puzzle of Gatsby is how so many otherwise perceptive people can find so much to admire in it. Do you know why Jay Gatsby is such an enigma? It’s because Fitzgerald himself never had a clue who the fellow was. An arriviste, a parvenu, an upstart if you will, a man who made big money in a hurry and got his hands just a little dirty in the process. Hardly a rarity at the time, and there was a fellow in Boston with a similar story who got his son elected to the White House. Fitzgerald didn’t know what to make of Gatsby, and the literary establishment has responded by enshrining his bafflement. So no, I don’t think much of Gatsby, or your Mr. Fitzgerald.”
I chose silence as preferable to stammering.

Block, Lawrence (2013-12-25). The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons (Bernie Rhodenbarr) (p. 55). Lawrence Block. Kindle Edition.

I can’t say I can argue with the man’s opinion.