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The Great Gatsby (#110 of 28)

Review: Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

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Review: Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures
Review: Maureen Corrigan’s So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures

While teaching her undergraduates at Georgetown, Maureen Corrigan often points to her own family name, wedged between Russel Betty and the Kellehers, “in that long, screwball, pages long-list of all the people who went to Gatsby’s parties.” The introduction to her new book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, includes this anecdote, as she suggests a “personal excursion into the novel [she] loves more than any other.” Despite the minor solipsism, her close reading displays a poignancy and humor that’s otherwise absent in the rest of her unfocused work. Corrigan’s main problem, even in the opening, is that she can’t quite decide on the scope of her project. Her own experiences, coupled with several disassociated analyses, muddle what could be a convincing cultural assertion about why, now, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby thrives, when it flopped at the time of its publication.

Though not anything revolutionary, her deconstruction of the novel in the context of noir, or “hard-boiled” detective fiction, offers a refreshing perspective, a well addressed and easy-to-understand alternative to reading The Great Gatsby as a love story, or as a comment on the American dream. As does, too, her understanding of Fitzgerald’s narrative as steeped, inherently, in “New York,” a city where “roughly 80 percent” of her college students hope to move after graduation. Yet this thorough account also doesn’t award anything wholly original. New York isn’t alien to Fitzgerald. Although it’s often attributed to Joan Didion’s “Goodbye to All That,” one of Fitzgerald’s most well-known essays, “My Lost City,” essentially starts the tradition of writing about loving and leaving Manhattan. And framing a discussion around the city isn’t a stretch, since whole collections, like those of Henry James or Edith Wharton, immediate predecessors to Fitzgerald, are organized around the borough. Even at her best, when Corrigan provides deft literary criticism and research, either after combing through artifacts at Princeton or leafing through archives in the Library of Congress, she unearths interesting points without nearing adequate conclusions. While she might dwell too long on the motif of water, or Fitzgerald’s view of class, the effect World War II and paperbacks had on The Great Gatsby, and its appearances on high school syllabus, are important trends to note. However, Corrigan doesn’t dedicate enough space to wondering what those things might imply.

Single Review: Fergie, “L.A. Love (La La)”

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Single Review: Fergie, “L.A. Love (La La)”
Single Review: Fergie, “L.A. Love (La La)”

Fergie has taken her sweet time following up 2006’s The Dutchess, squandering the pop capital she earned from her multi-platinum solo debut on two new albums with the Black Eyed Peas and a couple of soundtrack cuts that barely made a blip—though last year’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” played a vital part in one of the most exhilarating moments from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. “L.A. Love (La La),” then, is the official reintroduction of Stacy Ann Ferguson Duhamel, and it’s not unlike her previous solo coronation, “London Bridge,” what with its heavy hip-hop beat and braggadocious rapped verses (her faux-Southern patois, it should be noted, sounds a hell of lot like Iggy Azalea’s). This time Fergie swaps London for, despite the song’s title, “every city, every state, every country you know,” and at one point even crams three terrible accents—British, Jamaican, and French—into one bar. While the DJ Mustard-produced track is a definite earworm, hopefully the singer, ever the crossover-pop diplomat, has some more multi-format tricks up her sleeve.

Oscar 2014 Composite Winner Predictions

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Oscar 2014 Composite Winner Predictions
Oscar 2014 Composite Winner Predictions

Below is a complete list of our predicted winners at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Picture: Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity
Actor: Matthew McConaughey, Dallas Buyers Club
Actress: Cate Blanchett, Blue Jasmine
Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, Dallas Buyers Club
Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Original Screenplay: Her
Adapted Screenplay: 12 Years a Slave
Foreign Language: The Great Beauty
Documentary Feature: Twenty Feet from Stardom
Animated Feature Film: Frozen
Documentary Short: The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Animated Short: Mr. Hubolt
Live Action Short: Helium
Film Editing: Gravity
Production Design: The Great Gatsby
Cinematography: Gravity
Costume Design: The Great Gatsby
Makeup and Hairstyling: Dallas Buyers Club
Score: Gravity
Song: “Let It Go,” Frozen
Sound Editing: Gravity
Sound Mixing: Gravity
Visual Effects: Gravity

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Costume Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Costume Design

It’s still no Drag Race, but the contest for costume design (i.e. the Oscar category most likely to send me headed to Wikipedia to even remember what won last year) just got a little bit more interesting over the weekend. And if the Costume Designers Guild’s award for Patricia Norris’s desiccated plantation line from the House of Mason-Dixon is to be taken seriously, then Amy Adams’s milky, sleek sternum is simply not as eye-catching an accessory as the funk of 40,000 lashes. (And I’m not talking the Maybelline kind here.) That Norris this weekend pranced past Michael Wilkinson’s chesty silhouettes in American Hustle wasn’t a major surprise, but that those drab rags left Catherine Martin’s flip-flap frippery from The Great Gatsby face down in the pool does arch one’s eyebrows. Or maybe that’s not such a surprise. The Costume Designers Guild have never much warmed up to Martin’s work; her Oscar-winning feathers and ruffles from Moulin Rouge weren’t even invited to the guild’s dance back in 2001. Perhaps they, like many of us hardened vets who experienced that Oscar season in real time online, were simply weary of the squealing zealousness of those “kicking up their heels” (and writing those same noxious words ad nauseam) over Baz Luhrman’s over-performance that year.

Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions Production Design

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Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design
Oscar 2014 Winner Predictions: Production Design

In 2010, we asked, “How do you solve a problem like Avatar? How do you hold a fluorescent, floating anemone in your hand? Well, you can’t. Because it exists in hexadecimal code on a hard drive somewhere in Silicon (or is it Uncanny?) Valley.” So we threw our vote to Sherlock Holmes and shook our heads on Oscar night when James Cameron’s Epcot Center diorama was awarded. The lesson? That Gravity, even though it’s the Mission: SPACE to Avatar’s more elaborately designed Universe of Energy: Ellen’s Energy Adventure, shouldn’t be too quickly discounted. Two years earlier, we thought the category would break toward Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood’s Wild West City attraction only to see it (rightfully) lose to Tim Burton’s Broadway-ed Dickens funhouse Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Meaning that the benefits of being a Best Picture frontrunner in this category are negligible. And so we put our money on Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina last year only to see it toppled by the Lincoln Logs of Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. Meaning that being a politely revered or disliked Best Picture nominee is also negligible.

Box Office Rap Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap

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Box Office Rap: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap
Box Office Rap: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and the 2013 Wrap

Adam McKay’s Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues opens on Wednesday and looks to become the eighth live-action comedy of 2013 to gross over $100 million in its domestic run. That’s a significant jump from only three comedies in 2012 which made that benchmark—a doubling in margin that suggests, by all conventional accounts, that it was a “good” year for comedies. Yet, upon further inspection, we find the titles of these moneymakers to be Bad Grandpa, Grown Ups 2, The Heat, and The Hangover Part III, which are among the laziest, if not the worst, Hollywood films of the year. Instead of “good,” we should say it was a profitable year for comedies and leave any such evaluative adjectives out of box-office summations.

If live-action comedy hits were aplenty, so were their animated counterparts, with Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, The Croods, Frozen, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 all meeting or exceeding financial expectations. The same could certainly be said for nearly every endeavor into superhero territory, as audiences still prefer cinema that transports them from the confines of reality and into a playground of fantasy-infused triviality, with a treatment of characters that ranged from tongue in cheek (Iron Man 3) to bombastic (Man of Steel) to hopelessly imitable (The Great Gatsby).

Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video

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Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video
Katy Perry Pays Homage to Dangerous Liaisons, Anna Karenina, & The Great Gatsby in “Unconditionally” Music Video

Directed by Aya Tanimura, the understated lyric video for Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally,” the second single from the singer’s fourth album, Prism, is an evocative black-and-white effort that features actress Janell Shirtcliff professing her unconditional love for androgyne Erika Linder. But, perhaps inspired by playing dress-up for the ad campaign for her latest fragrance, “Killer Queen,” Perry clearly had something grander and more mainstream in mind for the track’s official music video, which, in a move that’s almost as retro as the corsets she sports in the clip, she premiered on MTV tonight. Inspired by the 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons and Anna Karenina, the video is ironically free of much in the way of a narrative or coherent period detail. Instead it’s composed of a hodgepodge of imagery—including a flying owl, a burning bed, and some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it homoeroticism—intended to, according to Perry, evoke the “power of love and beauty.” The video was directed by Brent Bonacorso, whose previous credits include Elton John’s recent “Home Again” and lots of slick car commercials—which may explain the inclusion of a Gatsby-esque slow-mo sequence in which Perry ostensibly meets her end.

Box Office Rap Thor: The Dark World and the No-Marketing-Required Blockbuster

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Box Office Rap: Thor: The Dark World and the No-Marketing-Required Blockbuster
Box Office Rap: Thor: The Dark World and the No-Marketing-Required Blockbuster

Although Thor: The Dark World doesn’t hit North American theaters until this Friday, it’s already amassed $109.4 million from 29 overseas territories in just its first weekend. Opening Hollywood films internationally before debuting them stateside is a trend that’s existed in some capacity for a number of decades, but it’s only become a more common practice in the last few years, beginning with Iron Man 2 in 2010, which saw release in nearly 70 foreign territories weeks before domestic theaters.

The prevalence of American films in foreign markets has existed essentially since the start of World War I; as film scholar David Cook tells it, European studios were forced to shut down production since the same chemicals being used to manufacture celluloid film were needed to make gunpowder, while the American film industry faced no such problems, making over 90% of the world’s motion pictures by 1918. Nearly a century later, little has changed, with mega-budget, Hollywood actioners now dominating the global marketplace. Lynda Obst discusses these trends in her recent book Sleepless in Hollywood with what she calls the “New Abnormal,” where Hollywood studios are heavily reliant on foreign markets to see profits and now produce content with dozens of marketplaces in mind. Thus, international casts in spectacle-driven vehicles are preferred, while U.S.-specific blockbusters are becoming a rare breed (look to White House Down, The Lone Ranger, and R.I.P.D. for recent failings on this front).

Oscar Prospects The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins

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Oscar Prospects: The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins
Oscar Prospects: The Great Gatsby, Young, Beautiful, and All Dressed Up for Eye-Candy Wins

Even more than Foreign Language Film, the category of Original Song is Oscar’s most fickle, rewarding Three 6 Mafia over Dolly Parton one year (2005), crowning a track from a documentary the next (2006), and, just two years ago, screwing over songs from every film save Rio and The Muppets. Last year, Adele’s titular, crossover ballad from Skyfall scored a somewhat sanity-restoring win, becoming the first James Bond theme to ever claim the trophy, and standing as the most popular victor in the field since Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” from 2002’s 8 Mile. While no one will ever be able to explain away the stupidity of 2011’s two-tune lineup, one of the things that makes this category so tricky, particularly in the guessing-game stages, are the many stringent nuances of song eligibility. Does the track start early enough during its movie’s closing credits? Does it have a sliver of previously released material that might taint its “originality?” So layered are these oft-excessive provisos that many Oscar pundits won’t even bother making their predictions until the Academy announces its official list of potential candidates (you’ll notice Original Song is one of the few categories not yet accounted for over at tracker site Gold Derby). But if there’s a single song that stands out with anything close to the in-the-bag ubiquity of Adele’s triumph, it’s Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful,” the wistful love theme from Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby.

15 Best Performances of 2013 So Far

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15 Best Performances of 2013 So Far

Sony Pictures Classics

15 Best Performances of 2013 So Far

Today, Cate Blanchett makes a vibrant return to capital-A acting in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, a zeitgeist-y star vehicle the Oscar winner expertly pilots. To mark the occasion, and to acknowledge that more than half of 2013 is behind us, I’ve compiled a list of the finest film performances delivered by actors this year, at least until this point. For me, the 15-wide roster grew into something eclectic and surprising, and here’s hoping you share the feeling. Ace turns that came close to making the cut include Gael García Bernal in No, Carey Mulligan in The Great Gatsby, Greta Gerwig in Frances Ha, and Miles Teller in The Spectacular Now, while Mud’s Matthew McConaughey and Berberian Sound Studio’s Toby Jones are among the possible contenders whose work I didn’t see before publication (and, yes, I saw Fruitvale Station). What remains is a mix of triumphs both male and female, lead and supporting, all of which set the bar high for the performances still to come this year.