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Australia (#110 of 11)

Arms Outstretched Too Far: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

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Arms Outstretched Too Far: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby
Arms Outstretched Too Far: Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby

If there’s a single scene that speaks volumes in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, it’s the one that unfolds just before Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally reunites with Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) at the home of Daisy’s cousin, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire). In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, the prep for this reunion, which has been five years coming, is as modest as Nick’s digs, with Gatsby, the man next door with the castle-like manse, simply insisting that Nick cut his unkempt grass. In Luhrmann’s incarnation, Gatsby pulls out all the stops, not just having his neighbor’s lawn mowed, but planting gardens, installing fountains, and packing Nick’s parlor with so many flowers and pastries there’s barely room to sit down. On a comedic level, the scene works beautifully, reflecting the lovestruck unease that’s as outsized as everything else in Gatsby’s life, and it’s followed by a wistful glance between Daisy and Gatsby that hits you just as it should—like a firm, shocking punch of yearning and rehashed memories. But it’s also plainly indicative of Luhrmann’s bombastic technique, which involves taking Gatsby’s famed grandiloquence and spinning it into a stylistic hurricane. Surely everyone knew that Luhrmann would go all carnivalesque in playing up Fitzgerald’s decadent party scenes, but not even those glitzy trailers can prepare you for just how loud and large this vision is—a frantic spectacle that tosses off restraint as heedlessly as Gatsby hurls his shirts over a balcony at Daisy, showering her with an expensive cascade of pastels.

Poster Lab: The Great Gatsby

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Poster Lab: The Great Gatsby
Poster Lab: The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann really dropped the boomerang with 2008’s Australia, an ill-fated attempt to resurrect and pay homage to sweeping Hollywood epics of old. Yet, the maestro’s latest effort, a glistening, 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, The Great Gatsby, looks plenty poised to right Luhrmann’s wrongs.

The movie seems to be both class act and sensory smorgasbord, given the early stills, which depict a more-handsome-then-ever Leo DiCaprio as the lead, and the latest champagne soiree of a trailer, which, beyond glamor and intrigue, teases three exclusive new tracks from Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, and Florence and the Machine. (Even the initial news of Carey Mulligan’s casting as Daisy Buchanan, as reported three years ago by Deadline.com, was deliriously chic and enticing: “Mulligan was on the reception line for The Fashion Council Awards in New York when she got the call on her cellphone from Luhrmann. She burst into tears on the red carpet in front of Karl Lagerfeld and Anna Wintour.”) Yes, everything about the project emits pizazz and panache—everything, that is, except its movie poster campaign.

Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2009 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

Lessons learned from the winners in this category in the last decade: gothic is a no-no (just ask Colleen Atwood, who’s only won for Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha); the frilliest attires almost always rule, regardless of whether the film that contains them is an abomination (Elizabeth: The Golden Age); and in the rare cases where the Pre-Frilly and Post-Frilly eras reign supreme, the films must be Best Picture honorees (Gladiator, The Aviator) and boast costumes that are at least as opulent as the Taj Mahal and Sharon Stone’s affections for Dev Patel. Weird that Slumdog Millionaire didn’t manage a nomination here, but that only makes this one of the easiest calls of the evening. Anyone who tells you otherwise doesn’t know Oscar or their Prada from their Pucci.

Understanding Screenwriting #13: Four Christmases, Australia, Ugly Betty, Boston Legal, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #13: <em>Four Christmases</em>, <em>Australia</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #13: <em>Four Christmases</em>, <em>Australia</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Four Christmases, Australia, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Boston Legal, CSI, and the Budd Boetticher DVD Box Set, but first…

Fan Mail: “Tom” took exception to my comments in US#12 about Kim Novak’s performance in Vertigo. He thinks it’s “not bad,” since the character is supposed to be cold and mysterious. He’s got a point, but I think Novak, whom I love it a lot of other films, is more blank than mysterious. A lot of the problem is that the script gives her very little to play and Hitchcock seems happy with that. I have often suggested to my writing students (and to many others) that instead of pulling a Brian De Palma and remaking Vertigo endlessly from the man’s point of view, how about doing a rip-off from the woman’s point of view? What does she think about all this? She’s having fun running around pretending to be the wife, knowing there’s a guy looking out for her, but what does she do when she finds out it’s part of a murder plot? Does she get revenge on the husband? Does she get revenge on the Jimmy Stewart character? So far nobody has taken me up on the challenge of doing that script, probably because, to use John Sayles’s wonderful phrase, you could make the movie, but you couldn’t get it made. What would happen is that, somewhere in the development process, some male executive, producer, or director would insist it be told from the man’s point of view.