Day 303: The Great Gatsby (2000)

81UwolMdmTL._SL1500_I’ve never seen this version of The Great Gatsby.

Truth be told, I never knew this 2000 made-for-TV movie existed until I researched the subject for my 1095 Days project.

Mira Sorvino as Daisy?

Hmmm. Worth a shot.

Toby Stephens as Gatsby?

Toby who?

The cast isn’t the most remarkable I’ve ever seen:

Mira Sorvino … Daisy Buchanan
Toby Stephens … Jay Gatsby
Paul Rudd … Nick Carraway
Martin Donovan … Tom Buchanan
Francie Swift … Jordan Baker
Heather Goldenhersh … Myrtle Wilson
Matt Malloy … Klipspringer

But, then again, I just watched two other versions of Gatsby and they were lackluster even with a stellar cast. So I’m not going to turn up my nose at this movie. Not yet, anyway.

What I notice about this adaptation:

* Paul Rudd is a very young Nick Carraway.

* There’s much more narration in this adaptation than in previous versions of the movie.

* Mira Sorvino isn’t as airy as Mia Farrow, nor is she as spacey as she was in Woody Allen’s 1995 movie Mighty Aphrodite. She seems to bring a Continue reading

Day 300: Only 65 Days Left!

It’s hard to believe I’ve invested 300 days – 10 months! – of my life in this venture. I only have 65 days left in Year One.

I’ve discovered something about myself: I prefer listening to music over reading books. Watching movies comes in second. So, I guess that means I like reading books least of the three media – music, books, and movies.

It’s not that I don’t like reading. I love books. I can hardly walk around in my home without stumbling over a pile of them.

But when they’re part of an “assignment” that I have to plow through and then write about, I get bogged down.

I think it’s a matter of discipline.

I can listen to music anywhere, at any time, and do other things (like research online and then write about what I’m hearing) while I listen. I can’t do that with a book. A book requires full-on focus, not to mention having both hands to hold it.

Day 299: The Great Gatsby (1974)

81UmyTUTxWL._SL1500_The main thing the 1974 adaptation of The Great Gatsby has going for it is Robert Redford in the titular role.

That’s really about it.

Redford makes a dashing Gatsby, sporting more of an emotional palette than Alan Ladd was able to muster.

This film – with script by Francis Ford Coppola – has a kind of shimmering, dreamy quality to it. It’s much better than the 1949 version starring Ladd. But it still just kind of lies there, unfolding like petals wilting off a rose.

Again, the cast is competent, even somewhat fascinating:

Robert Redford … Jay Gatsby
Mia Farrow … Daisy Buchanan
Bruce Dern … Tom Buchanan
Karen Black … Myrtle Wilson
Scott Wilson … George Wilson
Sam Waterston … Nick Carraway
Lois Chiles … Jordan Baker
Howard Da Silva … Meyer Wolfsheim
Roberts Blossom … Mr. Gatz
Edward Herrmann … Klipspringer

I’ve never really liked Mia Farrow. And I don’t think she’s a good fit in her role as Daisy, either. She seems like such a ditz, an airy woman that is more of an obsession for Gatsby than anything he’d actually enjoy once he obtained. But maybe that’s it. Gatsby hasn’t obtained her, and he’s wanted to all these years – to the point that Daisy becomes a fixation.

I like Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, and I especially like the use of narration to begin the film. I think that adds substance to the movie.

Edward Hermann, one of my favorite character actors, appears in the movie as 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.

Day 296: The Great Gatsby (1949)

81jfNBbRwOL._SL1500_This 1949 adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famed book The Great Gatsby opens with two people (MacDonald Carey as Nick Carraway and Ruth Hussey as Jordan Baker) standing next to the tombstone of Jay Gatsby reminiscing about the life of the dearly departed.

Methinks it foreshadows the events to come too quickly, and too on the nose.

There’s a lot wrong with this movie, not least of which is the hideously ham-fisted dialogue, which is about as natural as a Beagle in a jump suit. As a result, the movie plays like a melodramatic soap opera, one that hops, skips, and jumps through Fitzgerald’s book, quickly reaching the end without bothering to develop the characters along the way.

It’s an epic cast:

Alan Ladd … Jay Gatsby
Betty Field … Daisy Buchanan
Macdonald Carey … Nicholas ‘Nick’ Carraway
Ruth Hussey … Jordan Baker
Barry Sullivan … Tom Buchanaan
Howard Da Silva … Wilson
Shelley Winters … Myrtle Wilson
Henry Hull … Dan Cody
Ed Begley … Myron Lupus
Elisha Cook Jr. … Klipspringer

But not even talented character actor Elisha Cook, Jr., can save this film.

A blogger wrote a great review of this version of Gatsby on his site The Ol’ Fish-Eye. I recommend it. I agree with every word. Especially his description of Alan Ladd’s characterization of Gatsby.

The ending of the movie – during and immediately following the car accident – is Continue reading