However enticing the movie itself may be, the commercialism of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has been oppressive, to say the least. We’ve already discussed the film’s preposterous glut of posters (which, for the record, has ballooned even larger since), and if you walk through Manhattan, you’ll see that the movie has caused the Deco gleam of the Chrysler Building to spread out all over, from subway-stair video ads to Brooks Brothers stores, which have devoted full windows and products to the promotion of Gatsby’s 1920’s style. It’s a whole lotta marketing, but one part of it that’s hardly off-putting is the film’s carefully constructed soundtrack, which is brimming with an embarrassment of aural riches, and is easily the most anticipated album of its kind in years.
Executive produced by Jay-Z (who also holds a producing credit for the film), the Gatsby soundtrack seems, on the whole, to be an extraordinary melding of vintage and contemporary sounds, fulfilling Jay-Z and Luhrmann’s goal to “translate Jazz Age sensibilities” into something that can speak to, and enchant, the modern listener. The undertaking is far more involved than one might think, as the hip-hop mogul and the Australian auteur toiled away for two years, nailing down a tone and compiling an illustrious roster of artists, whose styles range from alt-rock to urban, but are all huddled beneath the unifying umbrella of the Roaring Twenties theme.
As many learned from the trailer that dropped on April 4, three of the album’s tracks come from three of today’s hottest songbirds: Beyoncé (natch), Lana Del Rey, and Florence Welch. Beyoncé’s track, a retooling of Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black” featuring André 3000, is one of four covers on the soundtrack, the others being Brian Ferry’s take on Roxy Music’s “Love is the Drug,” Jack White’s moody rendition of U2’s “Love is Blindness,” and Emeli Sandé’s cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy in Love,” a collaboration with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. Based on an album sampler that was leaked on April 16 (embedded below), the latter sounds like the least successful track, and it’s more than a little arrogant on Jay-Z’s part, for while contributions from him and his all-powerful wife were inevitable (his song “100$ Bill” is the opening number), an ill-fitting retread of their biggest duet is, frankly, pushing it.
But the inclusion of a budding voice like Sandé still affirms the strength of the album’s chic curation, which, additionally, yielded songs from buzzworthy acts like Nero, Goyte, and The xx. Helping to keep up the hip-hop end of things—Luhrmann has said that hip-hop has the energy today that jazz had in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heyday—is will.i.am., whose “Bang Bang” is as brassy as it gets, and Fergie, whose Q-Tip and GoonRock collabo, “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got),” sounds like it singlehandedly encapsulates the time-warp objective, kicking off as if being crooned in a speakeasy before evolving to incorporate today’s trend of ever-building synth energy. In the same vein is “Where the Wind Blows” by Coco O. of Quadron, which has the instrumentals of a Cole Porter classic, but vocals akin to those of Jennifer Hudson. The whole merger is fairly irresistible, and that’s without the album’s two apparent showstoppers.
Rightly chosen as the soundtrack’s lead single, Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” proves itself a sweeping and gorgeous ballad with only a few leaked snippets, ably evoking the romantic drama of Fitzgerald’s classic while taking full advantage of Del Rey as a no-brainer fit for this endeavor. Already possessing a voice that sounds as if it were plucked from the past, Del Rey has made a name for herself by subverting her vocal nostalgia with tawdry, modern flourishes—a “gangsta Nancy Sinatra,” as she herself has said. “Young and Beautiful” leaves the irony at the door and rests simply on two things: the swoony allure of those husky pipes and the artist’s inherent, current mythos. If it’s not the perfect track, its only competition is Florence and the Machine’s “Over the Love,” a florid rafter-shaker that, however literally employed in that trailer (yes, we can “see the green light” too), is as all-consuming and rapturous as anything in Flo Welch’s repertoire. Together, these two songs are reason enough to grab the album, which will be available for purchase and download on May 7, with an exclusive, 17-track deluxe edition hitting the shelves at Target.
Though he’s never undertaken a soundtrack project quite as substantial as this, Luhrmann has long been passionate about his films’ relationships to their music, often merging bygone sensibilities with modern pop flair. For William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet, which was already a bold blend of postmodern stylings and ancient prose, he managed to make a frothy song like The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” complement the stuffy words of The Bard, taking advantage of the famed couple’s adolescence to wildly (and successfully) rope in a whole new generation of fans. For Moulin Rouge, he went so far as to transfer a whole handful of pop standards, from Elton John and more, into the film’s “Elephant Love Medley,” which rather seamlessly took on a life of its own. Ever the era-spanning, pop-culture reconstructionist, Luhrmann—whose Gatsby music also reunites him with Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge composer Craig Armstrong—seems to have once again crafted a tuneful accompaniment to dance to and marvel over. If Romeo + Juliet was his teenage dream, and Moulin Rouge his jukebox musical, then Gatsby looks to be his literate answer to the mash-up, another hip and highbrow upgrade in both sights and sounds.
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Adapted Screenplay
After walking back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing here.
Eric and I have done a good job this year of only selectively stealing each other’s behind-the-scenes jokes. We have, though, not been polite about stepping on each other’s toes in other ways. Okay, maybe just Eric, who in his impeccable take on the original screenplay free-for-all detailed how the guilds this year have almost willfully gone out of their way to “not tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film.” Case in point: Can You Ever Forgive Me? winning the WGA’s adapted screenplay trophy over presumed Oscar frontrunner BlacKkKlansman. A glitch in the matrix? We think so. Eric and I are still in agreement that the race for best picture this year is pretty wide open, though maybe a little less so in the wake of what seemed like an easy win for the Spike Lee joint. Nevertheless, we all know that there’s no Oscar narrative more powerful than “it’s about goddamn time,” and it was so powerful this year that even the diversity-challenged BAFTAs got the memo, giving their adapted screenplay prize to Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, and Kevin Willmott. To bamboozle Lee at this point would, admittedly, be so very 2019, but given that it’s walked back almost all of its bad decisions ahead of this year’s Oscars, there’s no way AMPAS isn’t going to do the right thing.
Will Win: BlacKkKlansman
Could Win: Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Should Win: BlacKkKlansman
Oscar 2019 Winner Predictions: Original Screenplay
This season, Hollywood is invested in celebrating the films they love while dodging the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
You know, if it weren’t for the show’s producers effectively and repeatedly saying everything about the Academy Awards is terrible and needs to be changed, and the year’s top-tier contenders inadvertently confirming their claims, this would’ve been a comparatively fun and suspenseful Oscar season. None of us who follow the Academy Awards expect great films to win; we just hope the marathon of precursors don’t turn into a Groundhog Day-style rinse and repeat for the same film, ad nauseam.
On that score, mission accomplished. The guilds have been handing their awards out this season as though they met beforehand and assigned each voting body a different title from Oscar’s best picture list so as not to tip the Oscar race too clearly toward any one film. SAG? Black Panther. PGA? Green Book. DGA? Roma. ASC? Cold War. ACE? Bryan Singer’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Even awards-season kryptonite A Star Is Born got an award for contemporary makeup from the MUAHS. (That’s the Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild, not the sound Lady Gaga fans have been making ever since A Star Is Born’s teaser trailer dropped last year.)
Not to be outdone, the Writers Guild of America announced their winners last weekend, and not only did presumed adapted screenplay frontrunner BlacKkKlansman wind up stymied by Can You Ever Forgive Me?, but the original screenplay prize went to Eighth Grade, which wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar. Bo Burnham twisted the knife into AMPAS during his acceptance speech: “To the other nominees in the category, have fun at the Oscars, losers!” In both his sarcasm and his surprise, it’s safe to say he speaks on behalf of us all.
As is always the case, WGA’s narrow eligibility rules kept a presumed favorite, The Favourite, out of this crucial trial heat. But as the balloting period comes to a close, the question remains just how much enthusiasm or affection voters have for either of the two films with the most nominations (Roma being the other). As a recent “can’t we all just get along” appeal by Time’s Stephanie Zacharek illustrates, the thing Hollywood is most invested in this season involves bending over backward, Matrix-style, to celebrate the films they love and still dodge the cultural bullets coming at them from every angle.
Maybe it’s just tunnel vision from the cultural vacuum Oscar voters all-too-understandably would prefer to live in this year, but doesn’t it seem like The Favourite’s tastefully ribald peppering of posh-accented C-words would be no match for the steady litany of neo-Archie Bunkerisms spewing from Viggo Mortensen’s crooked mouth? Especially with First Reformed’s Paul Schrader siphoning votes from among the academy’s presumably more vanguard new recruits? We’ll fold our words in half and eat them whole if we’re wrong, but Oscar’s old guard, unlike John Wayne, is still alive and, well, pissed.
Will Win: Green Book
Could Win: The Favourite
Should Win: First Reformed
Watch: Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir, Starring Honor Swinton Byrne and Tilda Swinton, Gets First Trailer
Joanna Hogg has been flying under the radar for some time, but that’s poised to change in a big way.
British film director and screenwriter Joanna Hogg, whose impeccably crafted 2013 film Exhibition we praised on these pages for its “disarming mixture of the remarkable and the banal,” has been flying under the radar for the better part of her career. But that’s poised to change in a big way with the release of her latest film, The Souvenir, which won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Prior to the film’s world premiere at the festival, A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye acquired its U.S. and U.K. distribution rights, respectively. Below is the official description of the film:
A shy but ambitious film student (Honor Swinton Byrne) begins to find her voice as an artist while navigating a turbulent courtship with a charismatic but untrustworthy man (Tom Burke). She defies her protective mother (Tilda Swinton) and concerned friends as she slips deeper and deeper into an intense, emotionally fraught relationship that comes dangerously close to destroying her dreams.
And below is the film’s first trailer:
A24 will release The Souvenir on May 17.