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The Great Gatsby 1974 vs The Great Gatsby 2013

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Carey Mulligan & Leonardo DiCaprio vs Mia Farrow and Robert Redford

Did I in fall in love with director Baz Lurhmann's Moulin Rouge (2001) (starring Nicole Kidman & Ewan McGregor) not really, but I did love his vision - the spectacle, strangeness, musicality and vaudevillian intention.

I anticipated similar pomp and splash for Lurhmann's latest inspiration to remake The Great Gatsby.  And when it comes to the big party scene this is what we get, verve, elaborate costumes, gaiety, circus like atmosphere, whirlwind of camera angles, music and dancing, something resembling a scene from a Ziegfield show!  So, obviously Lurhmann was inspired to recreate the Jay Gatsby parties, but was he inspired by the rest of the book? Or was there a point in which he realized the rest of the story doesn't translate very well into what feels like a staged musical? Not that there's other dance numbers and singing, just Jay-Z's tracks pumping in the background, but the movie looks and feels campy & staged. I thought I was down for this, but it became for me, a cartoonish, ham-fisted, parody of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel. 

Baz Lurhmann Party Scene vs Jack Clayton Party Scene

To make matters worse, the next day I re-watched the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow 1974 version directed by Jack Clayton with screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola. This is a BEAUTIFUL MOVIE! I hadn't seen it since my youth, probably around the same time I read the novel.  Now seeing it as an adult who sees a fair amount of movies, I realized this is a well-crafted, perfectly executed adaptation. The opening pewter colored scene panning over Gatsby's bedroom of a Daisy framed photograph, monogrammed personal items, and oddly, a fly perched on a half eaten egg salad sandwich. Playing over the scene - Irving Berlin's "What'll I do", it all sets the tone perfectly for both the time period and a story of dashed hopes, class and stations, romance and carelessness.


Cut to the opening scene of this 2013 Great Gatsby, where narrator Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) is suffering from depression and regret, as he retells the story to a psychiatrist in some stately mental facility.  The 3D effect in this opening scene is also jarring, the lens is so rounded it gives the impression of a snow globe.

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In another comparison, the scene where Nick invites Daisy for tea at Jay's request - Leonardo DiCaprio is made to play the moment with far too much humor, as Jay loses his nerve, departing in the rain and coming back to the door soaking wet.  Where Robert Redford plays his anticipation and nervousness with subtle amusement; his belief that Daisy won't show even though it's still 5 minutes before her expected arrival, is endearingly humorous, but not played for laughs. And when it comes to throwing around his catch phrase "Ol' Sport",  DiCaprio lays on it annoyingly, with a horrible accent, where Redford throws it in casually, with cultured diction, so much so that when Tom Buchanan (1974 Bruce Dern) challenges him on the "endearment", you can believe it's become so much a part of the invention of Jay Gatsby, that he's unaware of its frequent use. 

Looks the same but Redford/Farrow so much more romantic

I could go on and on, scene for scene, costume for costume, set for set, proving that a remake should never have been attempted. Not unless perhaps it was set modern day; in which case, the contemporary, hip hop soundtrack would have been welcomed. The main issue being, we don't have actors today with the elan, class, and sophistication of Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Karen Black, Lois Chile and Sam Waterston.

Tobey Maguire vs Sam Waterston

The still images that I've juxtaposed unfortunately allow the actors to look comparable, but that's because you can't hear the vast differences between each line lived in the 1974 version, and the same words sledgehammered in 2013. 

Not to mention...

Well, I don't want to completely break my number 1 rule, which is never to pan a movie.  I always try to highlight the positives, while still interjecting my truth or aesthetic. I suppose I've sorta done that, but I feel I should say something else encouraging about the current version...

Oh, I know, Leonardo's JG sends over an awesome looking cake to Nick's little cottage for the tea :)



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is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.
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Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?
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